There’s really no perfect relationship, however, some are more unhealthy than others. There is a difference between typical conflict within a relationship and that which turns in an unhealthy or even abusive direction. Relationships that are unhealthy or abusive don’t typically start out that way. Things may seem perfect at first, but as time goes on, they may get more difficult. Below are some common signs of an unhealthy relationship:
1. Blaming Without Accountability: does your partner often blame you for any conflict that arises? Does it feel like everything is your fault? Many unhealthy relationships involve an unequal dynamic. One person blames, the other takes on responsibility for both their partner’s mistakes and their own. Somehow, it’s you. You’re given the message that everything is your fault and you may even start to believe it. This may sound familiar, you get upset with your partner for flirting with someone else. He or she becomes defensive, calls you jealous, you question yourself. Are you being too jealous? Maybe you should just relax. Here’s the truth, it’s likely that you do feel jealous, but perhaps you have a right to feel that way.
2. You’re Always the Compromiser: when there is a disagreement about a situation, you always cave. You don’t want to upset your partner, so you give in. Every. Single. Time. You start to resent yourself for not speaking up for what you want. Yet you know if you do speak up, it will cause a fight. The other person won’t budge, so what’s the point anyway?
3. Gaslighting: you question your own judgement, maybe even your own reality. You’ve been called “dramatic,” “too sensitive,” or been told “You’re always overreacting.” At some point in the relationship you start to believe this. You tell yourself, “I’m being dramatic,” “too sensitive,” or “I must be overreacting.” Your partner is so adamant that you’re crazy or overreacting that you begin to believe it.
4. You Have Been Ignored: I’m not talking about being overwhelmed and your partner taking a break. Taking a break is a normal, healthy way to deal with conflict when you’re overwhelmed. I’m referring to being ignored for days on end. Your partner uses ignoring you as a way to manipulate the situation. They control you this way. You did something or said something that upset them, so they go silent. Perhaps this happens in the same room as you, or maybe they leave, refusing to speak to you for days on end. You feel panicked during this time. Will he or she ever speak to you again? What if they leave you?
5. You Are Afraid of Your Partner: there are the more visible or noticeable signs of physical abuse, there is a mark to display your pain, but there is also a less noticeable form of abuse. Your partner yells at you, getting in your face. He or she corners you and you feel trapped, like you can’t escape, but he or she hasn’t hit you, so you feel like things aren’t so bad. If he or she hit you, that would definitely be abuse, but yelling? Maybe that doesn’t feel like abuse and there are no physical signs that you’re being harmed, but you are scared of your partner's reaction.
All of the above are signs of an unhealthy relationship. Not all of the above are signs of an abusive relationship, but many can escalate to that level over time. If you have struggled or are struggling with an unhealthy relationship, you don't need to suffer alone. I understand that there is a lot of guilt and shame involved with admitting that your relationship is not healthy. I understand how confusing it can be to love someone who also makes you feel less than enough, worthless, or even completely unlovable. I believe that the best way to change the pattern of unhealthy relationships is to learn to love yourself. If you truly love yourself, no one can make you feel unlovable or unworthy. Tomorrow, I will be writing about ways to recover from unhealthy relationships.