How to Describe Relationships

How to Describe Relationships

“God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are.”

Billy Graham, an American evangelist

Who wouldn’t like all their relationships to be harmonious? Unfortunately, it’s hardly possible. Relationships differ just like people do, and although the topic of this post is rather broad, we’ll try to help you learn vocabulary useful for describing several types of relationships.

To begin with, a relationship is the way two people (or groups) feel and behave towards each other. (Related: “Relationship vs. Relation“) We often use the following adjectives to describe relationships:

  • friendly: She is generally confident, well-spoken and professional, and easily establishes friendly relationships with co-workers.
  • happy: I’m in a happy relationship, with a growing family.
  • healthy: Healthy relationships are ones that bring out the best in you. (= They help you use/show your best qualities.)
  • strong: Building a strong relationship requires a lot of hard work and never-ending effort from both ends.
  • broken: I don’t know how to mend our broken relationship.
  • difficult: If you are in a difficult relationship and you want to solve it, you will have to work as a team with your partner.
  • failed: It takes great effort to let go of failed relationships.
  • fragile: Rebuilding fragile or shattered relationships takes time.
  • brief: He had brief relationships with several women.
  • stormy: After having a very stormy relationship for 5 years, they decided to separate.
  • strained: Having a strained relationship with parents, siblings or child may be very harmful to people’s health.
  • troubled: It was a troubled relationship full of sunlight and shadow.
  • problematic: He has a very problematic relationship with his father.
  • uneasy: There has always been an uneasy relationship between workers and management.
  • close: They have a close working relationship.
  • intense: An intense relationship full of passion can wreak havoc in our lives. (= It can cause great damage.)
  • intimate: An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy.
  • special: It could be the beginning of a special relationship.
  • enduring: Trust and honesty are the foundation of positive and enduring relationships.
  • lasting: Don’t let the opportunity for a lasting, meaningful relationship pass you by.
  • long-term: I’m in my first long-term relationship!
  • permanent: A permanent relationship demands commitment.
  • serious: When you’re in a serious relationship, it means that you and your partner are equally interested in a shared future.
  • stable: He was not married, but he was in a stable relationship.
  • steady: She isn’t in a steady relationship now, so I’ll ask her out on a date.

As you can see, we have, build, rebuild, establish, mend and let go of relationships. Some other verbs that collocate with the noun are:

  • to enjoy: It is easier to for someone to enjoy a relationship knowing that you can count on your family’s support.
  • to develop: Cultivate and develop successful relationships!
  • to foster: We cultivate and foster client relationships.
  • to improve: What can I do to improve our relationship?
  • to strengthen: You can strengthen your relationship dramatically.
  • to maintain: If you’ve chosen to maintain this relationship, you must feel that there’s something in it for you.
  • to handle: He’s not very good at handling personal relationships.
  • to destroy: Lack of trust destroys many relationships.
  • to break off: She broke off the relationship when she found out about his gambling.
Are you good at handling relationships?


Tia: My colleague Melanie is great. I can turn to her if I have a problem or if there’s something I need to talk over. She can get along with anyone! I feel she trusts me and she always backs me up in meetings. I know her so well now that I look on her as a friend.

I think trust and mutual respect are key factors in building a good relationship with colleagues. If you bear it in mind, you’ll manage to develop healthy relationships and make your work life much easier.

  • to turn to sb. – to go to sb. for help, advice, etc.
  • to talk sth. over – to discuss sth. in detail, especially in order to make a decision or reach an agreement
  • to get along with sb. – to have a good relationship with sb.
  • to back sb. up – to support sb. by telling other people you agree with that person
  • to look on sb. as sb. – to think of sb. in a particular way
  • to bear sth. in mind – to remember, think about or consider sth.


Amy: My relationship with my parents is difficult and painful. My father is an alcoholic and my mother has always been emotionally distant. When I was a teenager, my father persecuted me, blaming for the family’s problems, and my mother buried her head in the sand, not knowing how to deal with this. When I left for university, I was happy to stay away from my parents, and I am wondering whether I should continue to see them. I am now in my 40s, married with 2 kids. However, I struggle hugely when visiting my parents…

  • to persecute /ˈpɜː(r)sɪˌkjuːt/ – to frequently annoy or threaten someone
  • to bury one’s head in the sand – to refuse to deal with unpleasant realities, possible dangers, etc. by pretending they do not exist


Ann: Many people think developing strong romantic relationships is hard, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you expect it to be hard, it will be. Love can and should be easy. And if you believe this, you’re well on your way. Listen to your heart, communicate openly, and never take your partner for granted.

  • self-fulfilling prophecy – sth. that you cause to happen by saying and expecting that it will happen
  • to be well on your way (to/towards sth.) – be about to achieve sth. in the near future (usually sth. good)
  • to take sb./sth. for granted – to not properly recognize or appreciate sb. or sth.

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