What does an unhealthy relationship look like?

An unhealthy relationship is one where someone is mean, controlling or abusive. People can be abused in a number of different ways, and people of any gender can either be abused or be the abusers.

An unhealthy relationship can involve:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Isolation
  • Lack of communication

Physical Abuse

This would be someone hurting you in a physical way such as being hit or slapped. Find out more about physical abuse.

Emotional abuse

This is when someone puts you down all the time, calling you horrible names (this is called verbal abuse) and trying to control everything you do (this could be controlling your finances or what is known as coercive control).

Sexual Abuse

They make you do sexual things that you don’t want to do or have said no to. Find out more about sexual abuse.


The other person does things that make you afraid like sending frightening text messages or threatening to hit you. Find out more about coercive control.


This involves the other person using things like guilt or jealousy to try to control you or do things you don’t really want to do. It could involve them saying things like “If you really loved/liked me you would do this…”. Find out more about coercive control.


The other person doesn’t allow you to see other people, or controls who you talk to. Find out more about coercive control.

Lack of Communication

This could be the other person keeping secrets or lying to you, or just not being willing to talk about things that are going on. It might be tempting to explain away violence, anger or controlling behaviour as a way of them showing that they care about you. If it doesn’t happen all the time then it might be easy to just put up with it.

Abuse like this is always wrong. You have the right to be safe and to be treated with respect and kindness.

What should I do if my relationship isn’t healthy?

If you feel that you’re in a situation where your relationship isn’t a healthy one, or you experience or recognise any of the signs of an unhealthy relationship listed above, it is important for you to speak to someone. Contact ChildLine, to speak to one of their advisers who can help you access support and be safe.

%d bloggers like this: