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What makes a relationship healthy

spotting red flags & setting boundaries

We’ve talked a lot about relationship struggles, toxic relationships and how to spot toxic behaviors in others and how to spot them in ourselves. Today, we’re focusing on how to identify, nurture, and maintain healthy relationships, how to spot red flags, and how to set effective boundaries, because we all deserve to cultivate happy, healthy relationships!

To begin understanding healthy relationships first consider what you know about love and relationships. What are your early memories of relationships? Think back to your parents or other partnerships you witnessed growing up. Do you have a current definition of a working relationship? We can gain valuable information about ourselves by reflecting on past observations and patterns.

Second, consider your level of self-worth. How do you treat yourself? How do you talk to yourself? Do you believe you are worthy of love, kindness, and respect?

Next, take time to understand your attachment style. Knowing our attachment style can be a helpful tool in developing and maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves and others. Take an attachment style test here!

Can you have a healthy relationship if…

  • You have been wounded

  • You have been abandoned

  • You have unhealthy behavior patterns

YES! It is our nature to give and accept love. Everyone is capable of this through self-work, healing, growth, and knowledge.

What makes a relationship “healthy”

  • Common interests, goals and shared values

  • Consistent dependability and reliability: are you there for each other?

  • Gentle conflict and arguments

  • Emotional connection and ability to repair disconnection – secure attachment

  • Healthy dependence

  • Affection (connection through touch and words)

Alert & Aware: Red Flags

  • Emotional unavailability & unwillingness to communicate

  • Lack of ownership, minimization, blaming (gaslighting)

  • Unpredictable behaviors (e.g. reactive, untrustworthy, aggressive)

  • Insecure and unsafe in a relationship: emotional or physical

  • Lack of trust; jealousy as a sign of love

  • Intimidating and controlling behaviors; possessiveness and domination

  • Humiliation

  • Unhealthy sex life. Sex is used as a weapon (e.g. force)

  • Progression of disrespect

  • Losing yourself (loss of identity)

  • Give too much or work too much in the relationship. Don’t know when to stop giving.

  • Deception: feelings, relationships, past, personal preferences, or reality itself (factual lies) such as:

    • Lying about whereabouts

    • Lying about finances

    • Lying about substance abuse

    • Lying about seeing or being with someone else

    • Lying about their achievements

  • Love bombing

  • Co-dependency

  • Score keeping

  • Overall chaos and drama

  • Romanticizing

  • Equality Wheel vs. Power Control Wheel

Equality wheel vs. power Control wheel


Relationship checkup

Similarly to how we evolve individually, our relationships are constantly developing. Use the following points to facilitate a relationship checkup at any point in your relationship:

  • Intimacy (relationship satisfaction, romance, admiration, emotional engagement, breakup proneness)

  • Stability & commitment (trust, chaos, commitment, and emotional philosophies)

  • Conflict management & stress

  • Connectedness (shared rituals, values, and goals in a relationship)

  • Areas of concern: individual risks, safety, sex depression, drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, anxiety, and other psychological or psychiatric issues requiring attention

Boundaries: what are they and what they do

What are they

  • Internal and external structure and limits

    • Not barriers or selfishness

    • Personal property line: what belongs to you or someone else

When we don’t have clear limits, we can expose ourselves to unhealthy and destructive influences and people


  • Powerful and helpful tools to help and protect us

  • You are responsible for your boundaries. If someone else is controlling your love, emotions, or values, they are not the problem. Your inability to set limits on their control is the problem

    • What will you tolerate?

  • Good boundaries will help you choose better quality people

Poor boundaries lead to:

  • Resentment, anger, burnout, mental distress, etc.

  • Chronic unhappiness, toxic or dysfunctional relationships

  • Too many boundaries (too rigid) causes problems too

poor boundaries can look like:

  • Putting up with behavior that is disrespectful

  • Giving in to things that are not in accord with your values

  • Settling for less than you know you really desire or need

  • Staying in a relationship that you know has passed its deadline

  • Going back into a relationship that you know should be over

  • Getting into a relationship that you know is not going anywhere

  • Smothering the person you are dating with excessive needs or control

Types of boundaries

  • Emotional

  • Physical

  • Intellectual

  • Sexual

  • Material

  • Time

3 steps required for a boundary to be effective

Step One: Identify your need

Ask yourself:

  • What are my triggers?

  • What is something that doesn’t work or serve me anymore?

  • What patterns or cycles am I trying to break?

Example: I say “Yes” when I really meant to say “No”. I need to say no to things I don’t have the capacity, time, or desire to do.

Remember, “No” is a complete sentence.

Step two: set the expectation

Communicate and express your needs and boundaries.

Example: I will say “No” when I need or want to say no. I will decline without over explaining myself, making excuses, lying or apologizing.

This sounds like: “Thanks for thinking of me, I am unable to take any more tasks at the moment.”

Step three: honor the boundary

  • Do what you said you would do (i.e. don’t take any more tasks until you’re ready).

  • Be consistent.

  • Don’t be too flexible to make other people comfortable and happy.

  • Remember why you’re setting the boundary in the first place.

Do you have “toxic” behaviors? Take the quiz to find out.

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