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Relationships are of central importance to our daily lives; they can be a source of both support and happiness but also pain and distress.

While at university you are undergoing a lot of personal change and growth and you may be unsure of what you want. Relationships undergo a lot of change while you are a student too. Good relationships require commitment, honest communication and hard work, as there are often ups and downs.

However, it is important to spot signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. If you are having relationship difficulties, remember that you are not alone. Family and relationship problems are the cause of 49% of students' mental distress, as found in a recent NUS survey (2013).

Find out more

What is a healthy or unhealthy relationship?

In a healthy relationship:

  • You are free to do your own thing
  • Have your own friends and interests
  • Respect each other's opinions and listen to one another
  • Have fun together and enjoy each other's company
  • Trust each other and feel safe
  • Can communicate your needs and desires clearly without fear
  • Don't expect either of you to be perfect
  • Are able to disagree with each other and can talk about an argument
  • Can go at your own pace, including sexually
  • Support each other (doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing all the time)
  • Respect the decision if either of you want to end the relationship.

In an unhealthy relationship, one or both of you:

  • Gets angry when the other one talks to someone else
  • Is verbally or physically aggressive or threatening
  • Gets jealous and possessive
  • Tries to control or manipulate you
  • Puts you down and makes you feel bad (can include name calling)
  • Uses threats, bullying or emotional blackmail to make you do things you don't want to
  • Posts unpleasant or intimately revealing things about you on the internet.

Remember, abuse in relationships isn't always physical. For more information visit the this is abuse website.

The above are signs of control and abuse, and experiencing them indicates that you may be in an abusive relationship. You don't deserve this.


  • Everyone deserves repect
  • There are never any excuses for abuse
  • Having sex with someone who doesn't want to is rape
  • Someone who really loves you, cares about you and treats you with respect
  • Relationship abuse is not a one-off event; it is a cycle and can often get worse if nothing is done about it.

Find out what support is available

It can be hard to accept that you want things to change but once you do there is support available. BU can help you with our various support services on campus including: Student Support & Engagement TeamStudent WellbeingFaith & Reflection and SUBU Advice

All BU students can sign up, for free, to the Togetherall website, an online mental health and wellbeing service offering self-help programmes, resources and peer support. Trained professionals monitor the community to ensure the safety and anonymity of all members. 

Relationship problems may impact on your academic work and, depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to an extension or postponement. Talk to your Academic Advisor, Programme Leader (PL) or Programme Support Officer (PSO) to find out more about Exceptional circumstances.

There is also more online help and support available on the A-Z Resources page.

Recognise the signs? Speak out!

You can speak to your GP, friends, family or anyone you trust. If you feel in immediate danger always remember you can call 999.

Remember, you're not alone.