Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Breaking up

Ending an unhealthy relationship

In a free and equal relationship, shared action must be negotiated with the other person.

In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, this shared negotiation is absent. One person wants the power to make decisions on behalf of the other person. One person wants to exercise control over the other person and the relationship.

Wanting to exercise power and control over another person is not healthy or respectful.

An unhealthy or abusive relationship ignores the fundamental principle of the relationship Field Model that accepts one person can’t just take what they want from another person or do what they want to them.

When one person imposes their will on another person, they are moving the YES line over another person and breaching their individual rights.


The Field Model diagram with one character Yes and one character No. The Yes character moves the Yes line all the way past No and bowls over the other character and turns the whole field into the Action Zone.


Relationship red flags

Making the decision to end an unhealthy or abusive relationship often involves a lot more than managing someone else’s hurt feelings.

It could be that one person is concerned about some controlling behaviours that have crept into the relationship:

  • you can’t tell me when I can and can’t see my friends!
  • I earn my own money so why should you control the finances?
  • I love my job why would I want to quit?
  • I don’t care if you don’t like my family, they’re important to me.


Disrespectful and abusive behaviours can take the form of:

  • emotional manipulation: withholding of kindness or contact to get their own way
  • constant arguments: all disagreements, even small conflicts, end up as a major argument - to avoid arguments one person might become afraid to disagree with the other person
  • possessive behaviour: restrictions are placed on where one person can go, what they can do, who they can talk to or socialise with
  • constant putdowns: negative or embarrassing comments, particularly when out together in public
  • unequal contributions: one person is doing all the work and making all the effort


If the other person ignores these concerns, or if resistance to these controlling behaviours escalates into violence, then it is a big red flag and a sign that the relationship should end.


Planning to leave safely

No one should have to endure an abusive or violent relationship. Whether it’s physical violence, emotional abuse, neglect, or something else, there is help available to end the violence or end the relationship.

But leaving a relationship is never easy, and it can be frightening when there’s the real possibility of a violent reaction from the other person.

The most important consideration for the person leaving is to keep themselves and any children safe.

Developing a specific safety plan for leaving the relationship can minimise the risk of harm to the person leaving or to others, including their children. Every plan will be different as it will depend on the individual person’s circumstances.

If someone is in immediate danger or feels unsafe, the police should be the first point of contact.

1800RESPECT is the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. Open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

Call 1800 737 732