A healthy, loving, and respectful relationship demonstrates equality and mutuality. That means that the needs, feelings, and opinions of both partners are valued and are respected. Both individuals should feel free to share their opinions, boundaries, and hopes without fear.

Depending on the faith tradition you were raised in, you may have heard teachings on how women are to submit to their husbands and how men are the head of the household. Too often the words of the New Testament have been used to justify abusive and controlling relationships. For a deeper understanding of the meanings of biblical passages dealing with gender relationships and marriage, please see the resource “Created Equal.”

Jesus taught the way of non-violence, compassion, and love. And Paul, in Colossians 3, calls all people to live lives that reflect humility, patience, gentleness, compassion, and love. Controlling and abusive behaviours, such as those listed below, have no place in love. Christ calls us to treat one another with honour and respect; this includes how we treat our spouse, partner, or significant other.

Healthy Relationships

The health of a relationship exists on a continuum from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. In an unhealthy relationship partners may not know how to communicate or listen well, disagree and resolve conflict, or address concerns in respectful ways. Couples that have unhealthy ways of communicating and addressing conflict can benefit from couples counselling and learning relationship skills. A relationship moves from unhealthy to abusive when one partner’s actions become controlling, scary, violent, or manipulative.

Signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship

  • Put-downs, name-calling, blaming
  • Minimizing your feelings and experience
  • Verbal threats
  • Silent treatment
  • Feel like you are walking on eggshells; fear your partner’s reactions
  • Jealousy, preventing friendships
  • Controlling activities and money
  • Guilting
  • Unwanted physical or sexual contact
  • Pressuring or guilting you into sex
  • Pushing, grabbing, choking, shoving
  • Public or private humiliation
  • Lack of respect for your feelings and opinions

Signs of a healthy relationship

  • Support and encouragement
  • Freedom to have your own opinions
  • Freedom to connect with friends, socialize, and pursue personal interests
  • Trust and mutuality
  • Honesty
  • Shared decision making
  • Physical and emotional safety
  • Respectful consensual sex between intimate partners
  • Kindness
  • Respect for privacy
  • Mutual care and nurturing
  • Acceptance for who you are
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