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Mental Health and Wellbeing

What is a relationship

In basic terms a relationship is the connection between two, sometimes more, people and it can be positive, negative, neither or both. Relationships can be difficult to put just one label on. For example, you could work with someone who you do not get along with and have a negative relationship with but you are able to work well together, highlighting positivity. There are several different categories that relationships can fall into and often these can overlap:

  • Casual
  • Co-dependent
  • Open
  • Platonic
  • Romantic
  • Toxic

Casual Relationships

Casual relationships often involve an element of a sexual style relationship, without the expectations of either party to commit to the other. Casual relationships can evolve from a platonic friendship or develop on its own. These casual relationships have the ability to grown into a romantic relationship due to the physical connection both parties have with each other. Casual relationships can often include situations including:

  • One night stands
  • “Sex” buddies
  • Friend with benefits

These relationships are most common among young adults, but it is vital that both parties have open communication and consent to the relationship and various other activities. These types of activities have several positive benefits for both parties as it can satisfy the physical needs for companionship, intimacy and sex without the need to fulfil the emotional connections of a more serious relationship.

Co-Dependant Relationships

Co-Dependant relationships are often seen as an imbalanced reliance on a person from someone else for mental, emotional or physical support. Mutual co-dependency, were both parties alternate the role of caregiver and receiver is also common in these forms of relationships. Co-dependency can affect all types of relationships and sadly they can turn toxic. Some characteristics of a co-dependant relationship are:

  • Acting as the giver while the other person is the taker
  • Doing something that makes someone happy even if it makes the other uncomfortable
  • Feeling lost and not knowing who you are in the relationship
  • Going to great lengths to avoid any form of conflict with the other person
  • Having to rescue the other person from their actions
  • Not being able to do something without having the permission from the other person first
  • Putting the other person on a pedestal even if they have done nothing to earn it

Open Relationships

An open relationship occurs when 2 people in a relationship decide to have relationships or sex with other people, both parties must agree and they will have certain conditions in place. It doesn’t matter if the parities are in a casual, dating style relationship or married, as long as both parties honestly agree this can be seen as an open relationship. There is some stigma surrounding the idea of open relationships with more people who identify as LGBT+ admitting they are in open relationships. There can be positives of an open relationship but this depends on what the people involved are looking for. Sexual freedom and the ability to seek out new and exciting urges can be liberating for some but it can bring in the negative side with jealousy. In order to have a successful open relationship, couples need to be able to communicate their feelings clearly and honestly; as well as setting boundaries that are mutually agreed on.

Platonic Relationships

Platonic relationships occur when people develop a close bond without sex or romance and can occur in a wide range of settings, and can involve friendships made up of same-sex or opposite-sex people. Platonic relationships can occur in various settings, from a classmate at school to a colleague at work. The characteristics of a platonic relationship can include:

  • Acceptance
  • Care
  • Closeness
  • Fondness
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Support
  • Understanding

Platonic relationships are vital in providing social support and can help to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety and even boost immunity. It is entirely possible for platonic relationships to evolve into a romantic or sexual one, this happens usually over time.

Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships are characterised when the people involved have feelings of love and attraction. The love people feel in a romantic relationship can vary and often can contain feelings of commitment, infatuation and intimacy. Romantic relationships can often start out with intense feelings of passion and infatuation; the brain can release certain neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and serotonin, giving the person the feeling of being in love. Over the course of time, this settles down and the relationship will mature as the involved parties develop deeper levels of emotional connection and intimacy. These relationships are often two committed people but there is no limit as to how many people can engage in a romantic relationship, this is called Polyamory.  

Toxic Relationships

A toxic relationship is any kind of personal relationship where the emotions, physical or psychological well-being is threatened or undermined by the other party. This could be anyone in a romantic relationship, friendship or a workplace relationship. People in a toxic relationship can often be left feeling ashamed, unsupported and even humiliated at the hands of the other person. Toxic relationships can be characterised by:

  • A lack of support
  • Blaming
  • Competitiveness
  • Controlling behaviours
  • Disrespect
  • Dishonesty
  • Gaslighting
  • Hostility
  • Jealousy
  • Passive-aggressive behaviours
  • Poor communication
  • Stress

In some cases, both the parties involved in the relationship can play a role in creating a toxic environment. For example, someone who may feel insecure or negative about the relationship may project his or her feelings on to the other. In some cases, one person in the relationship may behave in ways that inflict toxic feelings onto the other. For example, one person not trusting the other after being cheated on in the past. They control their actions to ensure that the other person will not cheat on them and this creates a toxic environment for the other person. Toxic relationships can take a serious toll on the physical, emotional and psychosocial well-being of the other person involved.  


In recent years, Gaslighting has become a widely used term, and it is loosely defined as making someone question his or her own reality. This term can also be used to describe someone who may present with a false narrative to someone else, which can lead them to doubt their own perceptions and feel misled, disorientated or distressed. Most often, a gas lighter will create this false narrative for their own gain. Examples of Gaslighting:

  • Countering. This is when someone questions the memory of another person saying things such as “I think you are forgetting what really happened”.
  • Denial. This occurs when a person refuses to take responsibility for their actions or refuses to acknowledge that the event or conversation happened.
  • Diverting. This happens when a person tries to change the focus of a discussion by questioning the credibility of the other person. They may say something like “That’s fake news; it is just nonsense you’ve read on the internet”.
  • Stereotyping. Some people use negative stereotyping to gaslight a person. They may use anything from race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age or nationality to attempt to gaslight them for various reasons. An example could be an abuser saying to their victim “No one will believe you, you are nothing but a fragile old woman”. 
  • Trivializing. This is when someone’s feelings are completely disregarded and being accused of being “too sensitive” or overreacting to a situation where their feelings are completely valid.
  • Withholding. This happens when a person is pretending that they do not understand the conversation, making the other party doubt themselves and what is happening. An example could be that they may say, “I don’t know what you are talking about” while being fully aware of the conversation.