All relationships exist on a continuum, ranging from healthy to unhealthy, with abusive at the extreme end. Relationships are not stationary. Rather they evolve and change depending on different situations or stressors.
Intimate Relationships Continuum and Chart
A couple may naturally move back and forth between the healthy and struggling zones. If relationship issues are in the unhealthy zone they may need external support or intervention like therapy to help them get better. Unhealthy relationships can quickly escalate to an abusive situation.
The Intimate Relationships Continuum is modelled after the Mental Health Continuum color spectrum. However, it does not imply that being injured or ill (orange/red zone) necessitates that your relationship is the same colored zone. It is important to understand that no matter what zone you may be in on the Mental Health Continuum, it does not provide justification for engaging in unacceptable behavior or mistreating a partner. If you are engaging in these types of behaviors, or believe yourself at risk to do so, seek help immediately.
If any part of the relationship is in the abusive zone, a person’s physical safety is the priority.
External support and intervention is critical.
If you feel you are in immediate danger, reach out to the authorities or call 911.
Intimate Relationships Continuum
Intimate Relationships Chart
Lack of communication
Guilt and shame
|The relationship supports each partner’s balance, well-being and sense of self. There is joy, peace, predictability and self-esteem. Partners have similar feelings about their relationship.
||The relationship changes from a place of relative stability and predictability to a place of tension and uncertainty. There are growing gaps between each partner’s feelings, needs and goals about the relationship. If action is not taken to restore the relationship’s balance, it can progress towards the orange and red zones. Examples of actions that can help include spending time alone or as a couple, attending a communication workshops, etc.
||The relationship affects and disrupts a partner’s balance, well-being, and sense of self. There is isolation, guilt, shame, unpredictability and low self-esteem. The relationship may follow repeated cycles of escalation, outburst, forgiveness and honeymoon. The relationship may quickly escalate to an abusive situation.
||Within the relationship, emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, financial, and/or social harm are occurring. This is known as intimate partner violence. The relationship is unhealthy and unsafe. It is important to protect physical safety before addressing the relationship.
WHERE DOES MY RELATIONSHIP STAND?
Download the file Intimate Relationships Continuum and Chart
|How does the
|How do we talk to
Cold or distant
Isolating or avoiding
|How do we treat
Caring for self
|How are we intimate
with each other?
|No clear consent
Degrading and shame
|How is our social life and network?
||Network of friends
Pursuing own interests
|Tense with friends and family
Withdrawing from social
|Friends and family are concerned
Avoiding social interactions
Isolating from friends
Surveilling (social media, in-person)
|Preventing social engagements
Family and friends feel unsafe
|How does our family get along?
Involvement in each
Strong and clear
|Limited engagement and time for family
Comparing and criticizing children
Uninvolved in each other’s lives
|Scolding and intimidation
Harsh verbal punishment
|How do we handle
resources and decisions
decisions and spending
Limiting/not sharing financial information
|Moving money to prevent access
|How do we
|Talking out problems
Taking a break
|Indirect violence (breaking things, destroying property, slamming doors) Threatening violence (property, pets)
||Direct violence (shoving, grabbing, shaking, hitting)