Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
A relationship is the connection between you and another person. It is how you get along, communicate, spend time together, and share interests. Relationships can be healthy or unhealthy.
Around puberty and the teen years, relationships outside your family become more important. You have relationships with your friends. You will probably also become interested in romantic or sexual relationships. But healthy relationships do not have to include sex, especially if you do not feel ready. If you are having sex, see You and Your Sexuality. It has more information on staying healthy when you have sex.
A healthy relationship include:
You feel physically safe in a healthy relationship, and you are comfortable just being yourself. You have other friends and hobbies or interests, and you can enjoy being together and spending some time apart. You and the other person both enjoy the relationship.
An unhealthy relationship is one where you do not feel respected. You may feel the other person is not being honest with you. Unhealthy relationships also may include the following:
Control, such as making all the decisions or keeping you away from other people
Physical abuse, such as pushing or grabbing
Teasing that is mean or makes you feel bad
Dramatic statements, like saying you cannot live without someone
Pressure to do things you do not want to, including sex
In an unhealthy relationship, the other person may want to know where you are all the time. They may text or call you constantly, act jealous, or accuse you of flirting or cheating. They may criticize how you look, or tell you how to dress and act. They may use social media to spread information about you that is untrue or makes you feel uncomfortable. And they may act violently and threaten physical acts.
If you are you wondering if your relationship is healthy, text LOVEIS to 22522 or call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474 to talk with a counselor. See the Resources section below for more details and ways to get help. You also can talk with your parents, your doctor, or any trusted adult who cares about your well-being.
Setting boundaries means having limits. We all need to have them. You decide what you will or will not do, and you tell other people what they can and cannot do around you. When a person crosses your boundaries, it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Healthy boundaries allow you to protect yourself and respect others. For example, you might need to spend some time by yourself every day. That is a normal boundary. Another example of a boundary is not wanting certain kinds of teasing. It is OK to speak up about your likes and dislikes and set boundaries in your relationship.
You also can set boundaries for sex. You might be comfortable touching and kissing, but not having sex, and that is fine. You decide where your boundaries are. In a healthy relationship, the other person should not make you feel bad and should respect your boundaries. They also should have boundaries that you need to respect.
Sex in a healthy relationship is your choice. Both people need to feel comfortable with sex, and no one should pressure you into it. In a healthy relationship, no one forces sexual activity on a person who does not want it.
There are many different kinds of relationships, and you can have a healthy relationship without having sex. Deciding to wait to have sex is fine. No one has the right to tell you that waiting is the wrong choice. Learn more about sex, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex, with You and Your Sexuality.
Condoms give the best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but they are not the best protection against pregnancy. It is best to use condoms and another method of birth control, such as an intrauterine device (IUD), a birth control implant or birth control pills, to protect against pregnancy and STIs. See Birth Control for information on all birth control options. In a healthy relationship, you and the other person talk and plan for how to stay safe and healthy.
Consent means you agree completely to something. In relationships, it is often used to mean that you want and agree to have some type of sex or sexual touching. Consent is about saying openly that you are OK with the specific sexual activity that is happening.
You are not consenting in these situations:
Someone forces you to do something that you do not want to do.
You feel uncomfortable with the sexual activity, but you do it because you do not want to make the other person mad or hurt their feelings.
Consent is an important part of a healthy relationship because it shows respect. The other person respects your feelings, needs, and wants. You create a boundary when you say some things are OK and others are not. A person who respects your consent is showing respect for you, your boundaries, and your choices.
You can talk with a parent or a friend you trust. You also can talk with a teacher, counselor, doctor, or other health care professional. You may want to ask what they can keep private before you talk with them. Some professionals are required to report rape or abuse if they hear about it. This is so that they can help get you the protection and resources you need.
You also can call or text a help line. There are many free help lines that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can get information or talk with a counselor without giving your name. See the Resources section to learn more.
Doctors ask about relationships because they can have a major effect on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. For example, breaking up with someone can affect your mental and physical health. Having sex means you need to make choices about birth control and avoiding STIs. Unhealthy relationships also can affect your health.
If you talk honestly and openly with your doctor, they can help you understand if your relationship is healthy. And they can help get you the resources you need to stay healthy and safe.
Call 911 if you think you are in danger right now. Focus on yourself and staying safe. Stay near other people if you are breaking up, and let others know what is going on, including trusted adults.
You can call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474 to talk with a counselor and get advice. You can also text LOVEIS to 22522 to reach a counselor. See the Resources section below for more places to find help.
Birth Control: Devices or medications used to prevent pregnancy.
Birth Control Implant: A small, single rod that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm. The implant releases a hormone to prevent pregnancy.
Intrauterine Device (IUD): A small device that is inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
Puberty: The stage of life when the reproductive organs start to function and other sex features develop. For women, this is the time when menstrual periods start and the breasts develop.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Infections that are spread by sexual contact.
866-331-9474 – National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
Text LOVEIS to 22522 for help
Relationship information and a free, anonymous help line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Text TEEN to 839863 for help or download Teen Talk, the iPhone app
Talk with another teen about any concern. Free and anonymous, available 6 am to 10 pm Pacific time.
I Wanna Know
Information on sexual health for teens and young adults, including healthy relationships.
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Published: October 2020
Last reviewed: October 2020
Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
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