Skip to main content
Campus Resources

The Relationship Spectrum

All relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy, unhealthy (toxic), to abusive.

relationship spectrum
Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships are based on equity, trust, and respect. Partners make decisions together, have open discussions about relationships problems, and sexual choices. All parties feel supported, comfortable setting boundaries, and respecting their partners boundaries. Healthy relationships don’t mean that conflicts never arise, but when they do they can be navigated through compromise, understanding, and respect. Characteristics include respect, good communication, trust, honesty, accountability, and equity. 

Unhealthy (Toxic) Relationships

Unhealthy or Toxic Relationships involve disrespect, distrust, and struggle for control. In an unhealthy relationship there may be pressure and communication issues. A person may feel like they are not an equal to their partner, and may not feel supported. An individual may refuse to see or acknowledge how their actions impacted their partner. Characteristics include pressure, dishonesty, gaslighting, inconsiderate behavior, and struggles for control. 

Abusive Relationships

Abusive relationships are based on destructive behaviors that are used to exert power and control over their partner. One person is making all the decisions such as sexual choices, friend groups, boundaries, where you can go, what is true or not, etc. An abusive partner can make their partner feel fearful and unsafe. An abusive partner may isolate their partner from their support system, and only spend time with each other. Abuse can come in different forms such as physical, mental, emotional, financial, sexual, and more. Characteristics include isolation, manipulation, accusations, blame shifting, power and control. 

Relationships can be exciting, but it's important for our wellbeing and safety that we are able to navigate them in a healthy way. 

If you feel your partner is exhibiting unhealthy or abusive behaviors, it is important to listen to yourself and trust your instincts. Being able to identify red flags is an important first step in setting boundaries, communicating, getting support, or leaving the relationship. There is support available to help you navigate your relationship, check out the best option for you here (link our resources page). To learn more about relationships and red flags visit 

Conflict will arise in all forms of a relationship, but there are ways to navigate conflict in healthy ways. Validating someone's feelings and experiences, being accountable for your actions, compromise, and respect are all elements to healthy conflict resolution. You should never feel unsafe, belittled, or violated when conflict arises. 

Whether you are casually hooking up, just started dating, or in a committed relationship, setting and respecting boundaries are an important part of a relationship and everyone should feel comfortable setting boundaries without fear of what another person will do in response. Every person in the situation should feel comfortable expressing their needs, wants, goals, and limits, and everyone's boundaries should be respected.

It’s not always easy to navigate relationships, but there are supportive options to help. Whether you need help for yourself, or you are supporting a friend there are supportive resources available. Check out what option is best for you (link resources page).