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Six things every woman should know about relationships

This International Women’s Day, we’ve pulled together some of the most enduring wisdom about relationships that we’ve seen on site over the years.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Apr 17, 2024

“Let's put everything to one side for a moment and simply ask yourself this - am I happy in this relationship? Does this person add more happiness to my life than if I were without them? Would I be happier single?” Pinkbonbon

For more than 20 years, millions of Mumsnet users have been sharing essential advice and information with other women who are struggling.  And every year, around 1,000 women seek support on our boards to leave abusive relationships.  This International Women’s Day, we’ve pulled together some of the most enduring relationships wisdom that we’ve seen on site over the years.

1. Every person deserves to have a relationship where they are treated with respect, love and equality… There is never an excuse for verbal, physical or financial abuse

This post by RealityIsMyOnlyValentine is from 2009, but it’s as relevant as ever.

2. If you stay at home to look after the children, thus enabling your partner to work, you are making a contribution.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

We know that many women either choose to stay at home to look after young children, or are forced to because the childcare they need to work outside the home is not affordable.  This is not the ‘easy option’ - it is a vital contribution to family life.

"You have NOT sat at home doing nothing. You have raised the children and managed the household and done all of the domestic labour. Freeing him from all of that has enabled him to concentrate on his career, get to where he is, and have a pretty cushy life where ALL he has to do is work. Not work AND look after his kids AND do domestic work.  That is why the money is joint. You deserve to be paid for your labour. Your labour helped him to earn that salary. That is why you are entitled to your share of it." agreyersky

3. You should be able to talk about money with your partner

Every couple will have a different approach to money, and there’s no one size fits all way to handle your finances.  But regardless of how you and your partner choose to do it, you should be able to talk about it - especially if you feel the arrangement isn’t working for you.

"If you can't have a proper discussion about practical things like finance, how can there be mutual trust?" olgaga

4. It’s important to understand what - if anything - you are entitled to in the event of your relationship breaking down, especially if you're a stay at home mum and/or you aren’t married.

“I remember someone years ago saying that marriage is just a piece of paper and someone else pointing out that when it comes to a split it might be 'just' a piece of paper but it's a very important one.” MrsDanversGlidesAgain

If you live with your partner and your relationship breaks down, you will not have the same rights you would have if you were married, and if you're a SAHM you may find that you're in a very vulnerable position financially.   There is no such thing as “common law marriage” in England and Wales.

"Many people don’t realise how few rights cohabitees have - the myth of ‘common law marriage" Dixiechickonhols

5. Spotting the signs of abuse

“It is very easy to feel that the abuse you are suffering is normal. Especially if you come here for advice and see fifty threads describing the same thing. Or if the only relationships you see around you are the same. It's not the norm, and everybody should be holding out for a relationship that is free from nastiness and abuse.” RealityIsMyOnlyValentine

It’s not always easy to spot the signs of abuse, especially from within a relationship.  Questions on the Mumsnet relationships forum frequently begin “is this normal…?” But if you think something’s not right, you can find more information on the women's aid website about how to recognise abuse.

“I didn't realise until after it was over and I started to have some clarity on just how much I'd put up with.” CallMeNutribullet

6. There is help available if you do want to leave

If you want to leave an abusive relationship, there are lots of places where you can find help and support.  Over the years, many Mumsnet users have written about their experiences of leaving abusive relationships:

"I didn't think a refuge was for me… but it turns out that it is more of a home than the house I lived in ever was." TimeForMe

“The best bit is you get to be safe. I didn't even realise I was on guard all the time back then and scared all the time, I didn't realise until that feeling went away that I had been living on my nerves for years” TheCheesyBakedBeanGetsGlam

You can find contact details for expert advice and support in our domestic abuse webguide and our relationships webguide.