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Unhealthy Relationships

It's important to recognise when someone is in an unhealthy relationship so they can get support, make changes, and feel better about themselves.

Healthy relationships are all about respect, communication, and compromise. It's important that everyone knows what makes a relationship healthy, and how to recognise the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

Keeping an eye out

In healthy relationships people feel safe, supported, and loved. Healthy relationships are based on equality and respect, unhealthy relationships are based on power and control. Unhealthy relationships can become abusive and unsafe.
 

Worried that someone is being hurt in a relationship? You might notice they:
 

  • Fight often with their partner, or their partner threatens them, says mean things or puts them down
  • Receive a lot of messages or calls from their partner asking where they are and what they are doing
  • Start behaving or dressing differently
  • Worry about making their partner angry 
  • Look sad, have low energy or are depressed or anxious
  • Cancel plans or stop going out with friends or family
  • Stop doing things they used to love

Worried that someone is being hurtful or abusive in a relationship? You might notice they:
 

  • Are jealous or possessive
  • Try to control what their partner does, such as not letting them see certain friends, or telling them what to do or wear 
  • Message or call their partner all the time to check up on them
  • Say mean things about their partner or put them down 
  • Get angry or upset easily
  • Fight often with their partner
  • Blame, criticise, or threaten their partner

Or you might have noticed a change in them, but it’s something you can’t pinpoint. Maybe they’ve said something about the relationship, or done something that doesn’t seem quite right. Trust your instincts and start a conversation about how things are going.

Healthy conversations

If you’re worried about someone, talk to them. You can’t force someone to change who they are with, and you won’t be able to fix their relationship for them, but you can tell them you are concerned and you want to help.

  • Ask them if they are okay and let them know you are worried about them
  • Tell them what you’ve noticed them or their partner doing. Talk about specific behaviour you think might be hurtful or unhealthy
  • Speak calmly and be non-judgemental. If they don’t feel like they are being judged or told off, they’re more likely to open up about the situation
  • Tell them that any kind of abuse or violence is not normal, or part of a healthy relationship
  • Talk about what makes a healthy relationship. What do they want in a relationship? What do they not want? Are they happy with the way things are?
  • If you know someone is being hurtful in a relationship, ask them what’s going on. Tell them their behaviour is unacceptable, talk about why they are behaving that way, and support them to get help

Taking action

It can be frustrating and upsetting to know someone you care about is in an unhealthy relationship.  Here are some ways you can support them to get help: 

  • Get them to contact one of the support agencies below. Youthline gives young people a chance to talk about anything that’s on their mind and is completely confidential
  • Suggest going to see a counsellor. You can offer to go with them or to book an appointment for them
  • Stay in touch and keep building your relationship with them. Do things you both enjoy together. Think of things that will make them happy, build their self-esteem, and take their mind off things
  • If they are being hurt or threatened, help them to make a safety plan including who they can talk to and where they can go if something happens. In an emergency, if you believe their safety is at risk, call 111
  • Know when you can and can’t give support. Sometimes it’s too much to be talking about relationship problems all the time. Set boundaries, talk about and do other things, and get support for yourself too

Resources

YOUTHLINE

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. It's website has information for youth dealing with challenging situations including how to recognise abuse and get support.

ARE YOU OK?

Confidential Helpline: 0800 456 450

This website has information about family violence, what it is, where to get help and how you can help if you know someone affected by it.

WOMEN’S REFUGE

Confidential Helpline: 0800 733 843

Women’s Refuge helps young people identify, escape and shelter from abuse, so you can be safe, love life and experience all the world has to offer – including real love.

SEX’N’RESPECT

Sex’n’Respect works to create communities free of sexual violence; where young people are enjoying positive, respectful and pleasurable experiences of sexuality and relationships free of pressure, coercion, harm or violence.

YOU, ME, US

You, Me, Us is a resource for queer, trans* and takatāpui people about having healthy relationships with each other, and what to do when things go wrong. You can also read more on Common Ground about sexual orientation and gender identity.

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