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How to end an unhealthy relationship

Wendy Robinson is the service head of Childline. She talks about what steps you can take to get out of unhealthy relationship.

Relationships can be confusing – especially if you really like someone but they do things you’re not comfortable with.

It’s important to think about what feels right for you.

Read more: How to spot the warning signs when your relationship doesn’t feel right

Being in a new relationship can make you feel excited, happy and in control. It’s normal to enjoy getting compliments, feeling special and safe or like you’ve got more confidence.

But relationships can sometimes change and it can be hard to know when things are starting to go wrong.

Saying what you want

In a healthy relationship, someone shouldn’t try to control you.

Controlling or threatening behaviour can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological. If your relationship doesn’t feel right, it may be time to end it.

You have the right to say how you feel and to be respected. Consent in relationships is about feeling in control and saying yes or doing things because you choose to, not because someone is pressuring you to.

If someone is pressuring you to have sex, do something sexual, dangerous or violent, this is wrong.

If you ever feel unsure, unsafe or get that sick feeling in your stomach, it could mean you’re not comfortable with what’s happening.

Being in an unhealthy relationship can mean that you’re being exploited or abused, and this is never OK, so it’s important to listen to yourself and get support at any time.

Ending an unhealthy relationship

Ending a relationship can be really difficult, and there are some things could put extra pressure on you.

These could include grooming, blackmail or emotional pressure.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend makes you feel scared in your relationship, it’s important to get support. Try talking to a responsible person you trust or to a helpline counsellor.

Having a safety plan can also help. Make sure you keep your plan in a safe place where your partner won’t see it.

Tips for ending an unhealthy relationship

  • Plan what you want to say – focus on your feelings but remember to clearly say that you
    want to end things.
  • Pick a neutral place with other people around – this is important for staying safe.
  • Plan how you’ll get home safely before you meet up – it’s also a good idea to let a friend or family member know where you’re going.
  • Talk to people – getting support from your family, friends and people you trust can really
    help you to feel better.
  • Distract yourself – spend some time doing things that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Find out what you like, what you’re good at or try joining a club.
  • Look after yourself – for instance trying not to drink too much. You may be tempted to
    contact your ex or feel vulnerable.
  • Remember it’s not your fault – if they contact you again, remember this isn’t fair and
    remember they should respect your decision. If they pressure or threaten you, talk to a
    responsible person you trust.

Worried about a friend?

If you’re supporting a friend in a difficult or dangerous situation, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself too. Although you might want to help, you’re not responsible for them and the situation may be out of your control.

Asking someone trustworthy for help and encouraging your friend to get support will help you both to stay safe.

Things you can try

  • Tell them you’re worried and that you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk.
  • Get advice about helping a friend.
  • Look out for each other when you’re out.
  • Make a plan to keep them safe.
  • If you are under 16, ask an adult for help like a parent or teacher you trust.
  • Talk to a Childline counsellor for support.
  • Call 999 for urgent help from the police if you think they’re in danger.

Useful information

From 2017-2018 Childline delivered 15,766 counselling sessions where the young person’s main concern was sex, relationships, puberty and sexual health (six per cent of all counselling sessions).

For more information about how to stay safe online, visit www.childline.org.uk or to speak to a counsellor free and in confidence, call 0800 1111.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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