An unhealthy relationship is characterized by a lack of respect, love, or basic safety. It involves one person being overly dependent on the other person and typically provides little to no emotional support.
Usually, there is an emphasis on one person taking more from the other mentally, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually.
All relationships that include verbal, mental, physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse are unhealthy.
While unhealthy relationships with lesser offenses might be corrected, no one should stay in an abusive relationship.
An agreement between two people to allow or tolerate unhealthy or abusive behavior in their relationship does not make a relationship healthy.
Furthermore, the legal status of the relationship or type of relationship does not matter.
Sometimes you can tell a relationship is unhealthy from the beginning, as clear warning signs such as yelling and screaming over trivial things or physical violence present themselves.
Other times, it’s harder to know when a relationship becomes unhealthy.
Here are some clear signs and examples of unhealthy relationship dynamics. The more you experience, the higher the chances you are involved in an unhealthy relationship.
Proclamations of love at the beginning of a relationship can be considered love bombing.
Love bombing is a phrase used to describe the process of bombarding someone with love and affection or gifts to make them feel special and wanted very early in the relationship.
Some even propose marriage (and are serious about it) in the first few weeks of knowing someone.
This is a clear sign that the relationship is unhealthy.
Nobody should be telling you they love you, that they’ve fallen in love with you, or that they want to marry you anytime within the first few months of a relationship.
Characteristics of love bombing usually appear within the first six weeks are so and are clearly marked by their excessiveness.
You might hear phrases like “I’ll die without out you,” or “I can’t live without out you,” or “I know you’re the one.”
If the receiver of these affections is not emotionally mature or in a healthy mindset then it is easy for them to fall for this love bombing and believe that the emotions behind it are true and lasting.
Social and religious beliefs may dictate how men and women in a relationship should submit to each other, their duties in the home, the level of respect one pays to the other, and more.
While many relationships with these religious and social constraints can be happy and healthy, there is never a time when it is ok for one partner to treat the other like a burden, a slave, or anything less than a cherished human being.
This can look like one partner expecting the other to do the all housework, cooking, and child-rearing while also working on an income-producing endeavor and providing emotional support.
A partner who doesn’t value the other will expect these things without consideration for their partner’s needs.
All relationships require compromise. A refusal to compromise regularly is a clear sign the relationship has become unhealthy.
One partner may always want things their way and never listen to what their partner says. All decisions can feel like it’s “my way or the highway.”
This does not mean the person will fight every time, but how they approach disagreements matters. If your partner must always win or be correct, that is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Another big sign of an unhealthy relationship is how two people handle disagreements and conflicts.
If two people constantly fight without resolving the issue, if they cannot talk through their problems, or if it takes a lot of effort for them to listen and understand one another, then the relationship is unhealthy.
Blow-ups and displays of loud, aggressive actions in response to trivial matters are never ok.
It’s a sign that a person relies on anger and power-wielding to get their way rather than keep to the issue at hand and actually try to solve it.
No one should ever be involved in a shouting match over whether a hamburger has cheese or not. Likewise, physical violence or implied physical violence is never ok.
Implied physical violence is when a person hits or throws inanimate objects in the same presence as their partner.
- Stay on track
- Never use name-calling
- Never bring up things from the past
Some relationships are open, polygamous, or involve polyamorous arrangements.
In those scenarios, having sexual relations with more than one person is known about and agreed upon by all partners.
Infidelity is when sexual contact happens outside of the agreed-upon relationship between two or more individuals. Infidelity usually occurs in secret.
If a person is cheating, it is a huge red flag that they do not respect, care for, or love their partner.
If the cheating partner feels the relationship is too unhealthy to stay, it’s recommended that they leave the relationship before engaging in sexual relations outside the agreed-upon boundaries.
A lack of affection between two people is almost always a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
If one partner does not want to do any of the following without good reason for long periods, it’s a sign the person doesn’t want to be in the relationship.
- Hold hands
This lack of affection will show up in other areas as well. A partner may start to become distant emotionally, mentally, and physically.
This lack of physical closeness is a big warning sign that all is not right in the relationship.
What is considered a lie and what isn’t may differ between relationships and individuals.
Some people may choose not to disclose what they bought for a present, for example, and this may be acceptable.
However, being dishonest regularly about larger issues is a sign that the relationship is not healthy.
For instance, if one person in a relationship starts coming home later than expected and they won’t disclose their whereabouts to their partner or even outright lie, then the relationship is heading in the wrong direction.
When one partner makes all the money for both people, sometimes the money-maker feels they do not have to share their finances with their partner.
In an unhealthy relationship, the money maker feels as though it is their right to not share financial details with their partner.
The other partner may ask, but the money maker will consistently refuse to share the information.
The partner who doesn’t make any money is often left to wonder whether the rent or mortgage will be paid.
The other partner has no idea how much the money-maker in the relationship makes or if debt collectors will start calling.
In an unhealthy relationship, the one who doesn’t make money never feels unsafe or insecure due to their lack of knowledge.
As adults and as individuals, everyone has a right to privacy and autonomy.
No one in a relationship should be tracking the other person without the other partner’s clear and expressed consent or agreement. This includes checking their:
- Text messages
- Social media interactions
- Web-browsing history
If an agreement is provided and the person changes their mind later, the tracking should immediately cease.
If your partner is spying on your digital habits or finances without your knowledge or consent, it’s a clear sign the relationship is unhealthy.
Disrespectful behavior shows up in many ways, but in all cases, relationships shouldn’t involve regular disrespect.
No one is perfect, but neither partner should go out of their way to make fun of or name-call the other behind their back or to their face.
Any put-downs, insinuations, belittling remarks, or dismissive behavior are all signs of disrespect. If one person doesn’t respect the other, they should not be in the relationship.
There are many different types of harassing behavior that can take place in an unhealthy relationship.
Some examples include stalking and unwanted physical contact, especially in cases where there is no established relationship or when a previous relationship has ended.
Repeated unwanted phone calls, social media contact, and just happening to “show up” are all inappropriate behaviors that fall into this category.
In all cases, it will eventually leave the harassed person feeling like they are walking on eggshells and afraid to go anywhere.
In an unhealthy relationship, when one partner is pursuing a dream or a job promotion, the offending partner will do everything in their power to stop it.
Some things others have done to sabotage others include:
- Losing electronics
- Deleting digital communications
- Starting fights
- Pretending to be critically ill to divert the partner’s attention
No one should stay in a relationship where sabotage is actively present.
Unhealthy relationships can happen when one partner clearly does not take ownership of their actions or behavior.
This behavior manifests most often through blaming others for their problems.
For example, if the partner gets a speeding ticket, it was the officer’s fault for creating entrapment, rather than the partner owning up to the fact that they were illegally speeding.
If a partner cheats, they blame you for their choice to be sexually involved with another person.
If a person has a history of anger issues, then it was their victim’s fault for making them angry in the first place.
This sign is often missed, as feelings like this can develop slowly. Things were great at the beginning of the relationship and both partners were happy.
Your partner’s stories excited you and you were pleased to shore up their troubled areas in their other relationships.
However, after a period, you start to notice that after you’ve spent time with your partner you feel dread, doom, depressed, anxious, worried, unsafe, or even in a constant state of hyper-awareness.
These feelings are often dismissed as “the troubles that my partner is going through.” However, no one should regularly feel out of sorts or upset after spending time with their partner.
Unhealthy relationships are not always easy to spot. It’s essential that you pay attention to your partner and yourself to know what is best for both of you.
If any of these signs and symptoms are happening, it might be time to reevaluate things before they get worse.