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We stan an independent Queen or King (or whatever royalty you identify with), but let’s face it, we still need people in our corner! 👑

Knowing how to create healthy relationships with the people who matter in our lives is an important life skill that can help us build more meaningful connections and support our mental health to make us feel happier, stronger, and more fulfilled.

Still, all relationships aren't perfect and there will always be ups and downs. We all bring our own stuff and unique pasts into relationships, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to be working on themselves, with the goal of growing together.

Every relationship is different,  and they rarely look like the ones we see on TV or in the movies… even though there is sometimes a bit of drama along the way!

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Source:

“Healthy Relationships: Know the Signs,” https://students.usask.ca/articles/healthy-relationships-know-the-signs.php.
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Remember, all healthy relationships are about reciprocity
– mutual fulfillment, or SHARE.

Let’s face it, healthy relationships will not always be rainbows and sunshine. Conflict is inevitable – and can even be healthy! — and when handled with respect and compassion can be a chance for everyone involved to take responsibility for themselves and to grow together.
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Hold Up! Let’s Set Some Boundaries

When we like someone (as in like like them), it’s easy to let things slide and let the other person cross our boundaries (even when we know they’ve been crossed). We may do this because we think it could make them like us more, or we don’t say anything out of fear of being rejected by them. We might even worry about getting hurt or harmed if we set our boundaries, and that’s a sign of an unhealthy relationship—and a potential sign of abuse. Read more about that below.

Remember: you deserve to be with people who respect your boundaries.

In all relationships, it’s important to know what your limits are so that you can ask for what you need from the other person. It’s also important for you to know what the other person’s boundaries are so that you can respect them and support them in the best way for them.

We can think about boundaries in four different ways:
physical, material, time, and emotional.
  • Physical boundaries are about your needs for personal space, privacy, and your comfort with touch (e.g. handshakes, hugs, kisses).
  • Material boundaries are how you feel about lending/borrowing items (e.g. money, clothes), sharing possessions, etc.
  • Time boundaries are about knowing your limits on how you spend your time with different people (and on different things), so that you can protect your time and energy.
  • Emotional boundaries are about knowing that your feelings are separate from another person’s (and vice-versa). It’s important to understand that you should not let someone else’s feelings dictate your own, or take responsibility for other people’s feelings, and that you need to accept responsibility for your own feelings too.

Thinking About Boundaries in Sex

In intimate and romantic relationships, it’s important for you to know what you’re comfortable with and communicating that to your partner(s). Remember, all relationships should be about enjoyment! Knowing what makes you feel good and relaxed can help you maximize your enjoyment from the relationship. This process might mean learning about yourself. (Check out our section on Personal Pleasure.)

If you’re thinking about having sex, you could ask yourself these questions:
  • Do I want to have sex? Why do I want to have sex?
  • What do I want to do? Oral, penetrative/anal, touching?
  • What is my HIV/STI status? How do I know?
  • Should I get tested?
  • Am I planning on using condoms?
  • Are my partner(s) and I on the same page about using forms of protection?
  • How am I going to start a conversation about safer sex if the other person doesn’t?
  • What will make sex feel good right now, and what will make me feel relaxed about sex after I’m done?
Even though it can sometimes be awkward, the best way for you to find out what one another wants is for each person to talk about their expectations.

If you’re honest, careful, and communicate with one another, things can go way smoother. Instead of assuming what the other person likes or needs, take the time to communicate with each other and ASK.


#ConsentCulture



If someone refuses to listen to your boundaries, they’re probably not worth your time and don’t have your best interests in mind. If someone crosses your boundaries even after you’ve told them what your limits are, they are violating your consent. Read more about that here.

At the end of the day, respecting one another's boundaries is a way we can show how we care for each other and make each other feel safe.
EXAMPLES OF BEHAVIOURS

Here are some examples of different behaviours we might see in our relationships. Does anyone come to mind when you read these? Is it you?

HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Asks me how they can help me when I’m going through a hard time
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Tells me to “snap out of it” when I’m feeling anxious or depressed
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Listens and is fully present when I want to talk about something
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Calls me “too sensitive” when I say I’m upset
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Occasionally has arguments with me to help us talk through our disagreements and respects my opinion even when it’s different from their own
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Gets angry easily and yells at me when they get upset, but later apologizes
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HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Understands and respects my commitment to my friends and other people in my life
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Makes me feel guilty for spending time with other people instead of with them
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HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Has conversations with me about what makes me feel good sexually and respects my boundaries when engaging in sexual activities
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Pressures me into not using condoms or birth control
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Respects my privacy (my diary, messages, phone calls, etc.)
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Reads my conversations on my phone since “there is nothing I should be hiding”
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Spends quality time together doing things that are fun for both of us
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Makes all the decisions about what we should do
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Reminds me that I am not alone if I am going through something difficult
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Starts talking about themselves when I’m trying to tell them about something stressful that happened to me
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Makes me feel comfortable being myself, including when I’m being silly or goofy, and ensures I feel safe when I’m with them
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Makes fun of me, or makes me feel bad or look bad in front of others, but says they’re just kidding
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Expresses interest in learning about my culture, religion, or beliefs
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Frequently criticizes my friends or family
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Understands that I need some alone time
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Gets upset if I don’t text them back right away
HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Encourages me to seek help from a teacher, guidance counsellor or therapist if I need help with something
UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOUR
Tells me that at least my problems aren’t as bad as someone else’s when I tell them I’m struggling with my mental health

Self-Reflection Time

None of us are perfect, but the key is recognizing when we are the ones who are responding in unhealthy ways that are actually not beneficial and even harmful to ourselves and our relationships. When we know we are the ones who are potentially causing harm in relationships, what will we do about it to improve our behaviour and live more honestly for ourselves and others?

It’s important to not sit in feelings of shame or self-judgment! Give yourself grace, forgive yourself, and try and do better with the knowledge and tools you have.
Not all of us have had healthy relationships modelled to us but becoming aware of our past and how it impacts our own behaviours can help us to heal and grow, especially in safe relationships. In this process, we may find that we need some help healing our relationships wounds and patterns (shoutout therapyyyy👏).
Our relationship with ourselves impacts our relationships with others. How we feel about ourselves on the inside changes over time, and it’s a constant growing process.

Ultimately, creating healthy relationships is just as much in our own hands as it is in the hands of the other people we choose to have in our lives.

What Type of
Communicator are you?

Healthy communication is essential to maintaining healthy relationships. Do you know what communication styles you use? Take our Quiz now!

Unhealthy Relationships vs. Abuse

It’s hard to tell when a relationship is unhealthy or abusive. The main difference comes down to how much power another person has over you and if they are trying to control you. Are you both equally respected in the relationship? Are you able to trust your own emotions when you are in this relationship, and do you have the freedom to make your own decisions and act independently? If you answered no to any of these, you may be in an unhealthy relationship, and you may even be experiencing forms of abuse.

Abuse can look like many things. It’s not just physical – and often times, can be hard to recognize. Abuse can show up as physical violence, verbal violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, coercion, and financial abuse.
It’s hard to tell when a relationship is unhealthy or abusive. The main difference comes down to how much power another person has over you and if they are trying to control you.

  • Are you both equally respected in the relationship?
  • Are you able to trust your own emotions when you are in this relationship?
  • Do you have the freedom to make your own decisions and act independently?

If you answered no to any of these, you may be in an unhealthy relationship, and you may even be experiencing forms of abuse.


Abuse can look like many things. It’s not just physical – and often times, can be hard to recognize. Abuse can show up as physical violence, verbal violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, coercion, and financial abuse.

Physical ABUSE

Physical abuse can look like hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, strangling, or physically restraining someone against their will. It can also include other ways of making someone feel physically unsafe, such as invading their personal or physical space.

Verbal abuse

Verbal abuse can look like name-calling, shouting or yelling, or saying mean or personal things with the intention of hurting the other person.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse involves patterns of behaviour that try to influence how a person feels about themselves as a way to control them.

Emotional abuse can look like constantly putting someone down, making them feel inferior, unworthy, or undeserving of love. What’s so tricky about emotional abuse is that it can be hard to spot or prove when you’re in it. Even as an outsider, it can be hard to recognize when emotional abuse is happening. That’s because emotional abuse involves manipulating and controlling how you feel, making it less clear to you what you actually think and feel, and negatively influencing your ability to trust yourself. (For more info on signs of emotional abuse, check out this article by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.) Emotional abuse and the impact on the person experiencing the abuse are very real.

If you have or are experiencing emotional abuse, know that it is NOT your fault and NOT okay. You are worthy of love, respect and support at all times. Seeking help (whether through friends, family, a counsellor, or a therapist) can help you start the process of healing to regain the strength and trust in yourself that you deserve.

psychological abuse

Psychological abuse often involves making a person doubt their own sanity, experiences and emotions. This is sometimes called gaslighting. Gaslighting can look like someone telling blatant lies, or denying they ever said or did something even though you have proof. Other examples can be that their actions do not match their words, or they tell you or others that you are crazy. This is a way of gaslighting you to undermine your emotions and control you.

sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can range from rape or sexual assault to forced sexual acts, to withholding or using sex as a weapon. It’s important to remember here that none of these are about sex, but like all abuse, it’s about power and control. Sex should always involve consent and mutual respect, and if it doesn’t, what you are experiencing could be sexual abuse or sexual violence. Read up on our consent page here.

financial abuse

Financial abuse can look like someone with more access to resources (e.g. money, assets, opportunities) controlling how you spend your money, how much you spend, controlling your access to finances, etc. Financial abuse leaves a person dependent on the other person as a way to control them.
The Cycle of Violence and Abuse
Abuse shows up as a pattern of behaviour—not one-time hiccups or problems. Getting into an occasional fight, argument or disagreement is NOT the same as abuse. But when these conflicts keep coming back, and you are experiencing the same forms of physical or verbal violence, or emotional manipulation, it may be a sign of abuse.

Abuse often follows a pattern called the cycle of violence. This cycle is marked by 4 phases:
1
Calm Phase

This is the initial state of the relationship where you feel a strong connection with the person and know why you are interested in wanting to have this relationship.
2
Tension Building

Friction in the relationship starts to build, tensions increase, communication breaks down. If you are the person who has less control in the relationship, you might feel scared or unable to speak up, fearful of the other person’s reaction, and may even try to appease them to keep the peace.
3
Eruption

This is the phase where verbal, physical and/or emotional violence occurs and is the most visible part of abuse/violence. It can look like anger, blaming, yelling, arguing, threats, intimidation.
4
Make-up/Honeymoon Phase

After an eruption of violence or incidence of abuse, the person in control or with more power (i.e. the abuser) may apologize, give excuses, deny that any abuse or violence occurred, blame you for it (as a way to control you), or even say that it wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be (gaslighting). They may shower you with gifts and affection in attempt to rebuild or cover up the previous phase. This is what binds this process into a cycle that repeats over and over again.
The make-up/honeymoon phase is what to look out for in recognizing patterns in someone’s behaviour. This phase is crucial in getting the other person to be reminded of how they felt in the initial stages of the relationship so that they can return back to that state. But it’s important to recognize that things in the relationship may have changed due to unresolved conflict, violence, or abuse that occurred, and the initial state of the relationship is never really the same without a process of healing or true change. Abuse is wrong and never okay, and this cycle repeating in a relationship is unhealthy.

Abuse is not just limited to relationships with intimate/romantic partners but can take place in any relationship we have with anyone in our lives at a certain moment.

It’s important to always be considering the level of power and agency you have in a relationship. If you feel that you do not have autonomy (the ability to make decisions for yourself), you might be in an unhealthy relationship that could become, or already is, toxic and abusive.
We tend to feel like abuse and violence are easy to spot because we think they look like hatred or anger, but often, abuse and violence are disguised as love, care or affection by the very people we choose to love and keep in our lives. No one deserves to be abused or to experience violence, no matter what someone else calls it.
 
It’s important to not question what you're feeling because your emotions are valid, honest and real. Listen to your gut because you know what’s right for you in a relationship. Remember, healthy relationships are rooted in mutual respect, honesty, safety, acceptance, and enjoyment.
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