Recognizing the signs of unhealthy relationships

Learn the signs of unhealthy behaviors in a friendship or romantic relationship.
Dependence, clocking, violence, control, disrespect, harassment, dishonesty, intimidation, hostility 

Unhealthy characteristics

It is important to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships before they escalate. This includes:

  • Control. One person makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. They are jealous, and/or try to isolate the other person from their friends and family.
  • Dependence. One person feels that they “can’t live without” the other. Or they threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
  • Digital monitoring or “clocking”. One person uses social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat to keep tabs on the other person. They constantly message or text the other person and demand quick responses.
  • Dishonesty. One person lies to, steals from, or keeps information from the other.
  • Disrespect. One person makes fun of the other or talks about them behind their back.
  • Hostility. One person picks a fight with the other. This may lead to one person changing their behavior to avoid upsetting the other.
  • Harassment. One person uses unwanted, unwelcome, and uninvited behavior to make the other feel unsafe. They may use cat calls to make inappropriate comments about the other's body or make physical advances without consent.
  • Intimidation. One person tries to control the other by making them fearful or timid. They may attempt to keep the other person from friends and family or threaten violence or a break-up.
  • Physical violence. One person uses force to get their way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).
  • Sexual violence. One person pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against their will or without consent.

(Adapted from

Make hostility history. Fighting isn’t right.

Additional resources

Do you recognize some of these signs and think you might be in an unhealthy relationship? Learn what you can do.

If you’re not sure whether your relationship is healthy, you can take this healthy relationship quiz or learn how to define healthy relationships.

Find more tools on our healthy relationships resources page.

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