What is a healthy relationship?

There are many kinds of relationships people have in their lives – friendships; family and whānau relationships; relationships with colleagues; romantic relationships; sexual relationships; platonic relationships; relationships with pets... and the list goes on! Within all of these relationships, everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Romantic and sexual relationships can be awesome if we’re at a stage in our life where we feel ready to have them. They can be really fun, pleasurable and supportive. Within these types of relationships, there can be respectful behaviours and disrespectful behaviours. Read on to find out more.

Kinds of behaviours

Respectful behaviours

  • Making a partner feel safe and supported
  • Having time and space away from a partner and not being made to feel guilty for alone time
  • Getting consent every time sexual stuff happens
  • Actively listening and having open communication with one another
  • Being honest, trustworthy, and caring
  • Setting boundaries and both/all parties respecting these boundaries
  • Respecting a partners’ pronouns
  • Respecting the ways’ a partner chooses to spend their money, and doesn’t tell them how to spend their money
  • Being honest (unless someone is unsafe and needs to be dishonest in order to get themselves safe)
  • Freedom to talk to or text whoever you want
  • Being made to feel good about yourself
  • Freedom to change your mind
  • The amount of effort put into the relationship is even – give and take.

Disrespectful behaviours

  • Constantly checking up on a partner to see where they are and who
    they’re with
  • Making a partner feel guilty for seeing friends and family, which can lead to isolation
  • Coercing, forcing, or pressuring a partner into having sex
  • Making a partner feel guilty for not wanting to have sex
  • Threatening to “out” a partner to their family
  • Physically abusing a partner (hitting, slapping, scratching, etc)
  • Not respecting a partners’ pronouns
  • Putting a partner down in front of other people
  • Hiding or throwing away a partners’ hormones, clothes, or other gender affirming items
  • Being jealous, possessive and accusing a partner of being unfaithful
  • Snooping on a partner’s phone, internet activity or social media Behaving erratically and/or blaming a partner for your behaviour
  • Threatening a partner, their family, or their pets; threatening suicide.

Abuse and disrespect in relationships in marginalised communities:

Abuse and disrespectful behaviours within relationships can affect people no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, and ability, and relationship abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial. However, it’s important to note that some groups of people experience relationship abuse at higher rates. In NZ, 1 in 2 Maori women (58%), 1 in 3 Pakeha women, and 1 in 3 Pacific women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. [i]

Although violence in queer/rainbow/LQBTQI+ relationships can  be exhibited in similar ways to that of other relationships, there are some unique abusive behaviours specific to relationships in this community (e.g abusive partners in queer relationships using societal factors like homophobia, to maintain control over their partner). Abusive behaviours in relationships are also more likely to be experienced by people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities. [ii] [iii]

There are specific services to support people who are in disrespectful/abusive queer relationships, including OUTLine NZ: 0800 OUTLINE and RainbowYOUTH: (09) 376 4155.


If you or someone you know of, is or has experienced abuse in a relationship, there are lots of support options, including specialist support from trained professionals. This is not something you need to go through alone, and there are many free and confidential services available to you. The decision is up to you - you may want to access specialist counselling, medical services, receive financial or accommodation support, or explore options of academic adjustments and support.  

Abusive relationship specific support:

  • 0800 733 843 Women’s Refuge crisis line - free from any phone, 24 hours a day, every day.
  • 0508 744 633 Shine Helpline - free from any phone, 9am to 11pm every day.
  • 0800 456 450 It’s Not OK info line - free from any phone, 9am to 11pm every day - for help/support if you are experiencing or witnessing family violence.
  • Family Services Directory - provides contacts in your area that can help if you’re dealing with family violence.

[i] Fanslow, J. L., & Robinson, E. M.(2011). Sticks, Stones, or Words? Counting the Prevalence of Different Types of Intimate Partner Violence Reported by New Zealand Women. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 20, 741-759.

[ii] Dickson, Sandra, and Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura , Issuing Body. Building Rainbow Communities Free of Partner and Sexual Violence. 2016

[iii] Veale, Jaimie, Byrne, Jack, Tan, Kyle, Guy, Sam, Yee, Ashe, Nopera, Tāwhanga, Bentham, Ryan, and Transgender Health Research Lab, Issuing Body. Counting Ourselves : The Health and Wellbeing of Trans and Non-binary People in Aotearoa New Zealand. 2019. Print. 

Additional research was gathered from the following sources:

- Ministry of Justice. (2019). Attrition and progression - Reported sexual violence victimisations in the criminal justice system. Wellington: Ministry of Justice.  

- Thursdays In Black. (2017). In Our Own Words - student experiences of sexual violence prior to and during tertiary education. Wellington.