What is Love? Defining a Healthy Relationship

June 1, 2022


What is Love?  The answer to that question can vary widely, so let’s watch this video to get a better perspective…


It may be easier to answer that age-old question another way… instead of “What is love?”, we can ask “What isn’t love?” Love is definitely NOT the control, anger, isolation, and intimidation we saw in that video.

Did you know that 1 in 3 teens in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse? That is why it is so important to be able to differentiate between the defining characteristics of a healthy and unhealthy relationship.

At Options Health, we believe that relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy, to unhealthy, to abusive.  Let’s define what that looks like…

Healthy Relationships.  A healthy relationship includes open communication, mutual respect, and healthy boundaries. In a healthy relationship, your partner will treat you with respect and won’t make fun of things you like or want to do.  They won’t put you down or call you names. They won’t get angry if you spend time with your friends/family; in fact, they may encourage you to spend time with others. They will listen to you and be supportive of your interests and goals. They will share their thoughts and feelings with you, be comfortable around your friends and family, respect your boundaries, and won’t pressure you.

Unhealthy/Abusive Relationships.  Unhealthy/abusive relationships are based on power and control, and they do not include equality and respect. In an unhealthy/abusive relationship, your partner will control how you spend your free time. They will be uncomfortable around your friends or family and isolate you from them. They will check your cell phone or email without your consent and flirt with other people in front of you. They will put you down or call you names. They will force or pressure you to have sex, force you to take sexual pictures, and touch or kiss you when you don’t want them to. They will be extremely jealous or insecure and have mood swings often. They will physically push, pinch, slap, or hit you, and have explosive anger.

Let’s do a quick activity to see how good you are at diagnosing the health of a relationship.  I am going to give you a few scenarios and you decide if the relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or abusive…

You and your partner agree to take the night off from texting or calling each other, but while you’re out with your friends your partner calls and texts you multiple times to say they miss you. This may seem sweet and harmless, and your friends may even think that your partner loves you so much they can’t stand being away from you… but what this scenario is showing is that your partner is not respecting your wishes and continuously violating your boundaries… so this is an example of an UNHEALTHY relationship.

After an argument, your partner blocks the doorway and takes your keys to prevent you from leaving. This scenario is showing that your partner is controlling the situation, making you feel unsafe, and not respecting your desire to leave the situation. I hope it is clear to you that this relationship is ABUSIVE.

Your partner uses a name or pronoun for you that you don’t like but stops using it once you correct them or ask them not to. Although your partner did something to offend you, they promptly corrected their behavior, listening to you and showing your respect and kindness, honoring your boundaries.  This relationship is very HEALTHY.

If you can learn to determine where different behaviors fall on the relationship spectrum, you can start to be a good judge of a relationship’s health. This can help you to judge your romantic relationships as well as your friendships. This relationship quiz is a great tool to assess the health of your current relationship. A healthy relationship involves open communication, respect, trust, honesty, equality, support, and enjoyment of time that is spent apart. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship where you are safe and respected. Emotional, verbal, or physical abuse is never your fault.

If you find yourself in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, there is help out there for you. Please reach out to STAND! or by calling their crisis line at (888) 215-5555. If you need help defining your relationship, please reach out to loveisrespect.org by calling their National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at (866)331-9474 or text “LOVEIS” to 22522.

Options Health is a safe place where you can confidentially come and discuss sexual health, pregnancy, and relationship issues with one of our patient advocates.  Feel free to contact us today to take advantage of our free services, including pregnancy testing, ultrasound, pregnancy options consultation, STD testing, and abortion aftercareCall us or text us to schedule an appointment. We are here for you and ready to listen!