May 1, 2020

Red Flags and the Relationship Spectrum

Prevention at Home Video Education Series

YWCA Spokane staff have joined together to create a unique online engagement opportunity focused on cultivating increased community education and awareness surrounding issues related to intimate partner domestic violence. The eleven-part video series presents engaging, educational content for individuals from any background or current knowledge base. The videos and blog posts also offer watchers an opportunity to get to know YWCA Spokane advocates on a personal level; each contributor brings their own personality into their writing and presentation style. Each topic within the series has its own blog post, like this one, including a video. All of the other topics in the series are linked below. As you watch these videos and read the blog posts, we hope that you will gain more knowledge, explore topics that you may not have been exposed to, and empower yourself and those around to be in healthier, happier relationships. Thank you for taking the time to further your education, awareness, and understanding surrounding these critical issues. 

Red Flags and the Relationship Spectrum


Hi! I’m Brit, an Advocate and Associate Therapist at the YWCA Spokane Alternatives to Domestic Violence Program. I thought that since we’re all cooped up in our houses, it’s a great time to talk about one of my favorite subjects: relationships! Specifically, healthy ones, of course.

Relationships, just like many things, exist on a spectrum. One of my favorite tools to use to talk about the relationship spectrum is a stoplight. I made my own as an example. You can watch the vlog I made where I go through each section, and/or keep reading! I like to start with the bad and end with the good, so we’ll be going bottom-up. These are just some examples out of many possibilities, and with relationships being so deeply personal, there are bound to be some things I didn’t include or that you might say differently.

I would definitely encourage you to make your own if you’d like. You can color-code it however you wish, and use whatever terms feel right to you. This is an especially great activity for kids and teens, and can be modified however you see fit. This is also a great tool for talking about all sorts of relationships, not just romantic ones!

Red Light: Signs of an Abusive Relationship

I especially like the idea of “red light” for abusive behaviors because it lines up nicely with the concept of “red flags” that many people already understand. Some examples I came up with of things that indicate an abusive relationship:

  • The person insists on controlling who you talk to, where you go, how you dress or wear your hair, your social media account, your reproductive health, or other things that are important to you. Making decisions about things together is fairly normal in a relationship, but it is not normal to constantly feel like you do not have any say in important aspects of your life.
  • The person is violent towards you, whether that means they cause you physical harm directly, threaten violence against you/your children/your pets, or cause physical harm to property.
  • If the person intentionally sabotages you or hurts your feelings.
  • If you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells or cannot do anything right.
  • If they use things against you that you told them in confidence.
  • If any improvement in these aspects of the relationship are only ever temporary. Abusive relationships are typically cyclical in nature–whether that cycle restarts every hour, twice a year, or anywhere in-between.

Yellow Light- Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

Now to the yellow light zone. These are signs that a relationship might not be as healthy as it can be. In my experience, abusive signs are much more concrete–but once we get into unhealthy vs healthy, things can get a lot more personal. This was probably the section I had to spend the most time thinking about! Here’s a few examples I came up with:

  • All or nothing communication. This could also be called inconsistent communication, or just communication that doesn’t meet your needs. Some people need to talk to their partners more constantly, some need more space. If you can’t find a balance that works, it can make the relationship hard to navigate.
  • Someone who pushes your boundaries instead of respecting them. Just because someone isn’t obviously bulldozing through your boundaries, that doesn’t mean that they respect them. This can look like your boundaries regularly being questioned or not being taken seriously.
  • Codependency can create unhealthy relationship dynamics. Our needs can fluctuate over time, and sometimes we do have to depend on our partners. Codependency happens when that need for each other goes into overdrive, and those boundaries we talked about earlier are getting blurry.
  • If you struggle to find things in common, such as interests, conversation topics, etc.
  • If your goals, values and/or love languages don’t coordinate. We don’t need to be the exact same as our partners, but some core things about us do usually need to cooperate with core things about them. (More about love languages later!)
  • Typically, unhealthy aspects can be improved upon or changed in a meaningful way. This can be done by working on our current relationships, or realizing that this may just not be the right relationship for us. Sometimes we just aren’t compatible with someone, and that’s ok! It is totally possible to end a relationship in a way that is healthy and kind, and sometimes that’s better than dragging on a relationship that isn’t healthy.

Green Light: Signs of a Healthy Relationship

We’ve made it to green! After all the don’ts, how about some do’s? While a healthy relationship might look different for each person, there are some patterns I’ve noticed in my own life as well as in my professional experience. 

  • Steady communication is key! Being intentional about our communication, making sure everyone is getting what they need, and checking in with our people regularly is so important.
  • Respecting each other’s boundaries is a huge way to show someone you love them.
  • Everyone is going to have their own desired level of independence in a relationship. I personally like having a lot of independence, but it may look different for you! I think the most important thing is to remember that a relationship is individual people coming together because they want to. Maintaining independence can look like having your own friends, interests, hobbies, or whatever you need to stay grounded in who you are.
  • Being supportive of one another’s goals, feelings, and needs.
  • Knowing each other’s love languages, aka how you feel loved or show your love to others. Your love languages certainly don’t need to be the exact same, but being mindful of them can go a long way. You can find more information here.
  • Your life is generally better because that person is in it.
  • Relationships will never be perfect, and we will never be perfect. What matters most is that we’re doing the best we can and are willing to learn and be flexible to a healthy degree.

What would be in your relationship spectrum? Is there anything you would add to or change about the stoplight?

I would highly encourage you to make your own! I talk about relationships all the time and still found this to be a great exercise for myself. Everyone will have their own experience of relationships, and there is always room to grow in self-awareness and healthy habits. Whether we’re talking about dating, friendships, family, professional, or otherwise, healthy relationships are possible and incredibly important.

Written content and video for this topic within the Prevention at Home series provided by YWCA Spokane staff member, Brit Wilson.

Continue Learning with Prevention at Home!

Explore more topics on your journey empowering yourself and those around you by visiting the following blog posts and watching the other videos in our prevention at home series.

  1. Services at YWCA Spokane
  2. What is Intimate Partner Domestic Violence
  3. Red Flags and the Relationship Spectrum
  4. Respect, Boundaries, and Consent
  5. Teen Domestic Violence
  6. Why Do They Stay or Go Back
  7. Trauma and the Brain
  8. Safety Planning
  9. Self Care
  10. Self Regulation
  11. How to Help a Friend

External Resources for Continuing Education

YWCA Spokane staff members have collected the following external links for you to further your education.


If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing, or texting 509-220-3725. 

To learn more about accessing additional services through YWCA Spokane during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Thank you!

By: Mia Morton

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