Psych Corner: 4 Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

This couple did not seem to be getting along at this particular moment.

When you are feeling insecure in your relationship, you second guess your significant other’s actions. You wonder if they are being unfaithful or if you are just overreacting.

In a previous article, I recommended taking an outsider’s point of view on your relationship. The point of that exercise is to help you see if there are signs that your relationship is unhealthy, or if your insecurities are making a problem out of nothing. As you try to take an outsider’s point of view, it’s helpful to know some signs of an unhealthy relationship. If you see some of those warning signs in your own relationship, there might be more to your suspicions than just your insecurities.

What makes a relationship unhealthy?

1. Violence. For many people, the first thing that comes to mind is domestic violence. Domestic violence is where one partner is verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abusive to the other. In particular, people usually assume that black eyes, bruises, and other injuries must be involved for a relationship to be abusive. But, a relationship doesn’t have to include physical violence in order for it to be unhealthy. Consider asking yourself the following when you are thinking about how healthy your relationship is.

How does your significant other make you feel? In a healthy relationship, each partner is supportive of the other and helps them feel good about themselves. In an unhealthy relationship, one partner is not supportive and often puts down the other, making them feel bad about themselves. Comments like, “You’re so lazy”, “I can’t believe you still haven’t found a job” or, “You’re lucky you have me because no one else would want to be with you” are all belittling and demeaning. If your partner acts in a way that makes you feel bad about yourself, that’s a warning sign.

2. Values. Do you and your significant other want the same things out of your relationship? For example, are you dating with the intention of finding someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with? Does your partner have the same relationship goals? Or, are they more interested in dating casually?

If you are in a relationship with someone who has different relationship goals than you, you’ll both end up being disappointed. On top of that, you won’t be able to give the other person the type of relationship that they want. Someone who is more interested in dating casually isn’t likely to be open to a long-term relationship. Someone who is dating for marriage is going to be disappointed when the other person isn’t willing to consider exclusivity and marriage.

3. Honesty. Are you comfortable being honest and open with your significant other? If you hide certain things from them because you afraid of what their response might be, your relationship is being guided by fear rather than love. Ask yourself why you are afraid to tell them these things. It’s likely because you think they will react in a negative way instead of being supportive.

In a healthy relationship, both partners are willing to share with one another because they are confident that the other will listen and support them. Talking about certain things may still be hard to do, but knowing that the other person will be there to listen and help makes it easier. When you don’t feel comfortable sharing certain things in your life, it’s a sign that you aren’t truly comfortable in the relationship.

You can also apply this question to your significant other. Do they share everything with you? Or, do you sense that they are hiding something from you? You may be completely open and honest with them, but if they are hiding something from you, your relationship is missing the key element of honesty. When honesty is missing, trust between the two of you can be damaged. Keeping secrets from one another, unless it’s a surprise birthday party, is never healthy for a relationship.

4. Jealousy. It’s also important that you ask yourself whether you or your partner feel jealous in your relationship frequently. Is your significant other jealous of the time you spend with friends or of your other relationships? Granted, if a person is flirting with people other than their significant other, they’re not showing their partner that they can trust them and the relationship is unhealthy by default. However, if your other relationships are appropriate and you haven’t given your partner any sign that you are unfaithful, jealousy is unwarranted and damaging. Jealousy can lead to controlling behavior and it also damages the level of trust between the two of you.

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While this is not an exhaustive list of questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not your relationship is unhealthy, it’s a good place to start. If you notice any of these unhealthy signs, think about how you are going to make changes. Whether that means working it out with your significant other—with the help of a therapist or mentor if necessary—or leaving the relationship, know what is best for you and your health. Remember, you deserve to have a healthy relationship and you do not have to settle for an unhealthy one.

 

Flickr/Terrell Woods

Julia

Julia is a Licensed Professional Counselor who is passionate about building and strengthening positive relationships by applying the latest research to everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter at Julia_M_Hogan. (Her articles are not intended to be a substitute for or serve as professional counseling or treatment.)
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