Relationship Spectrum

Abuse doesn't happen right away in a relationship. Like all relationships, abusive relationships start off seemingly well. It's not abusive and violent behaviors that make someone develop feelings or want to be in a relationship with another person.

Over time, seemingly healthy and happy relationships might not seem so great anymore. You might start to notice things like jealousy, dominance, or isolation from friends or family members. One partner might cheat on another partner. The relationship might no longer seem equal, or one partner might not be respectful of the other. In any relationship, these are unhealthy characteristics.

All relationships fall somewhere on a spectrum of healthy to abusive, with unhealthy in the middle. Everyone deserves healthy relationships, but too often the relationships fall somewhere on the unhealthy or abusive sides.

The unhealthy characteristics listed below serve as warning signs that the relationship may turn abusive. Unfortunately, if you are experiencing these unhealthy traits in your relationship and things are not getting better, it may be time to break up with your partner. It can be extremely hard to leave a relationship once it turns abusive, so being aware of what makes healthy and unhealthy relationships is important for everyone.

The Relationship Spectrum

Communicating - You talk openly about problems and listen to each another. You respect each other’s opinions and are willing to compromise.

Respectful - You value each other as you are. Culture, beliefs, opinions, and boundaries are respected.


Trusting - You believe what your partner says.


Honest - You are honest with each other but can still choose to keep certain things private.


Equal - You make decisions together and hold each other to the same standard.


Enjoying personal space- You both enjoy spending time apart and respect when one of you needs time apart.


Make consensual sexual choices - You talk openly about sexual choices together. You both consent to sexual activity and can talk about what is OK and what isn’t. If you are having sex, you talk about possible consequences, such as unplanned pregnancy or STIs. You discuss using condoms or other birth control methods.


Not communicating - When you talk about problems you often fight, or you don’t talk about problems in the relationship at all. You often don't listen to each other or try to compromise.

Disrespectful - One or both of you is not considerate of each other. One or both of you does not treat the other in a way that shows they care.


Not trusting - You don’t believe what your partner says. There is suspicion that one partner is doing things behind the other partner's back.


Dishonest - One or both partners is telling lies.


Trying to take control - One or both partners feel their desires and choices are more important.


Feeling crowded or not spending time with others -Only spending time with your partner. So much time is spent together that one or both partners do not have time for friends, family, or other things that used to be important to them.


Ignoring the consequences of sex - The partners are having consensual sex with each other but are not talking about possible consequences, such as STIs or unintended pregnancy.


Communicates abusively. Communication that is that is hurtful or insulting. During disagreements, there is screaming, cussing, or threatening.

Mistreats the other -One or both partners does not respect the feelings and physical safety of the other.

Accuses the other of flirting or cheating when it’s not true - The partner that accuses may hurt the other in a physical or verbal way as a result.

Doesn't take responsibility for the abuse - The violent or abusive partner may try to blame the other for the harm they’re doing.

Controls the other -There is no equality in the relationship. What one partner says goes.

Isolates the other partner - One partner controls where the other one goes, and who the other partner sees and talks to.

Pressures or Forces sexual activity - One partner tries to convince the other that they should have sex, or more sex. One partner forces the other to have sex.

This Relationship Spectrum was adapted from and loveisrespect.org1,2

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