*This piece was written by Brandon R., a youth member of the University of Michigan’s Adolescent Health Initiative’s Teen Advisory Council*

Relationships with others have a big impact on who we are. Healthy relationships between friends, partners, family members or significant others all have a few important traits.

All relationships involve tolerance, patience, and understanding. But despite our best efforts, everyone makes mistakes. No relationship is going to be that perfect Cinderella-esque tale of romance and love. Arguments and disagreements happen.

But sometimes, those rough patches can go too far. Then, a relationship can go from healthy to unhealthy. Here are some warning signs to take note of, so you can recognize if you’re in an unhealthy relationship. (Remember, “your partner” can refer to anyone with whom you have a relationship, including friends, family, and significant others.)

  • Your partner has physically harmed you out of anger or frustration, either on purpose or accidentally.
  • Your partner has verbally harmed you—he or she has used words to make you feel hurt or depressed
  • Your partner forces you to cut off relationships with other friends or family members
  • Your partner makes you change an aspect of yourself in order to be with them. They may pressure you to wear different clothes, get new hobbies, or change your beliefs.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, you can (and should) try to get help. You can talk to a counselor at school, speak with a trusted adult, or even seek out therapy with you and the other person where you both sit down and discussing what challenges you face.

Sometimes, these problems can’t be fixed. Unfortunately, breaking up or ending relationships is sometimes the best option for relationships that just aren’t working out. Everyone has the right to end a relationship that they no longer want to continue. If you’re having trouble ending a relationship, talk to a parent or trusted adult.

If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, there are ways to address the challenges you’re facing. The most important part of a healthy relationship is communication. One of the biggest reasons relationships fail is because of people not expressing their problems. And it makes sense—it’s sometimes difficult and awkward to talk about personal things, even with somebody really close.

Similarly, it is important for two people in a relationship to be open-minded and tolerant. Friends and partners never intentionally hurt each other (and if they do, it’s likely that they aren’t truly a friend or partner) so a compassionate attitude is essential to a long-lasting relationship. When communicating with your partner, have compassion and try to imagine yourself in their position. It may be challenging at first, but it’s a good first step towards working to keep your relationship healthy and strong.

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