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Understanding and recognising the diversity in human sexuality and relationships can come with its challenges in life.

There are countless books and blogs out there, but wouldn’t it be great to have everything in one place? Think of this blog like a ‘how to manual’ for identifying the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviours in relationships. After reading this, you might be able to point a friend or a peer in the right direction for trustworthy information on relationships and sexual health.

Let’s jump right in!

What are different types of relationships?

There are many different types of relationships. These can be between family, friends, colleagues and intimate (or sexual) relationships. Intimate relationships can be between anyone as long as they are healthy relationships that are based on respect and good communication. An intimate relationship is a relationship with someone, or people, who you like in a sexual, or intimate, way.

Intimate relationships can be between:

  • people who are dating or ‘going out’
  • people who are seeing each other casually or ‘hooking-up’
  • people who are married
  • people of the opposite sex
  • people of the same sex

People in these intimate relationships might call each other ‘partners’, ‘girlfriends’ or ‘boyfriends’.

Who can have a relationship?

Before we talk about who can have a relationship, it’s important to understand sexuality. When we talk about sexuality, we’re talking about the thoughts, feeling and attractions you might have towards other people. Sexuality is diverse, personal and different for everyone.

Intimate relationships can between people of the same or different sexualities – between people who like men or women or people who are non-binary. Some of these people may identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. All of these relationships can be healthy or unhealthy. In Australia, discrimination towards people because of their sexuality is against the law.

Sexuality is diverse, personal and there are many different types. LGBTIQA+ is an inclusive umbrella term to encompass a range of diverse sexualities, genders and sex characteristics. You can read more about the LGBTIQA+ acronym and what it stands for here!

Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships have positive impacts on your physical, social and emotional wellbeing. A healthy relationship includes:

  • treating each other equally or fairly
  • feeling comfortable and safe around each other
  • respecting each other and listening to each other, including differences of opinion
  • having freedom to make your own decisions and do the things you enjoy
  • being able to talk to your partner about the good and bad things in your life
  • being honest with one another
  • trusting your partner to respect you, your decisions and your beliefs.

From time to time, even healthy relationships can have their own challenges. Most relationships go through ups and downs, but these disagreements should always be dealt with respectfully.

You should never feel unsafe in a relationship. Be respectful, open and honest with your partner. Consent and communication are important in relationships.

Unhealthy Relationships

As you learn more about your partner, you may experience challenges in a relationship. This is normal, however, challenges should always be dealt with respectfully. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who regularly makes you feel scared, anxious, upset or stressed, you may need to consider whether you are in a healthy, or an unhealthy relationship.

Unhealthy behaviours can be harmful to your physical, emotional and social wellbeing. You can keep yourself safe by knowing how to identify the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Behaviours you may see in an unhealthy relationship, include:

  • constant teasing, harassing, bullying or making you feel bad
  • threatening to harm you
  • always checking up on you to know where you are
  • your partner expects you to pay for all your activities together and does not pay you back
  • your partner expects you to have sex with them when they ask and shame you when you say no
  • your partner forces you to have sex without using protection
  • your partner photographs or films you without your consent.


If you want to break up or stop ‘going-out’ with someone and it is safe to do, you can do this by saying:

  • I don’t want to go out with you anymore.
  • I think we work better as friends.
  • I don’t think we should see each other anymore.

It is okay to feel sad after a relationship break up. You might cry, feel restless, have less motivation/energy or your appetite and sleep may be interrupted.

You can talk to your friends, family, teachers, workmates (colleagues), the doctor or contact a counselling service or helpline for support.

Where to go for help & support

If you are worried about unhealthy or abusive behaviour in any of your relationships, you can talk to a trusted friend. If you don’t feel comfortable having that conversation with someone you know, on and off campus support is always available.

You can contact your local university student support office or any of these services for more information and support:

If you would like an interpreter to help you access these services, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National is available 24 hours a day) by calling 131 450.

Do you have questions about sexual health? Why not join the conversation on the Play Safe sex and relationship forum or ask Nurse Nettie a question. Or find out more about STI testing and STI treatment in Sydney and NSW.