Relationships are the twisted roads we all have to travel in our life. It is often hard to judge if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy until you have been stretched to your limit. Signs of an unhealthy relationship will surface long before you reach a dead-end, provided you keep your eyes and don’t remain in denial.
If your dynamics with your partner are not healthy, the signs of a toxic relationship will always be there. Whether or not you accept them for what they are is a different story altogether. There are people who ignore the signs till they have gone to the point of no return.
It may not always be easy but acknowledging the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship and taking necessary steps to protect yourself is the sensible thing to do. That’s because emotionally unhealthy relationships have a way of draining you out and taking a toll on your mental health. To be able to take measures toward self-preservation, you should first know the answer to ‘what is an unhealthy relationship?’
What Is An Unhealthy Relationship?
A healthy relationship is based on more than just love. It thrives on mutual respect, trust, open and honest communication, and complete transparency. To be in a healthy relationship means being with someone only when it is fulfilling to you and you grow with it. You are not supposed to love them because you dread you might be lonely. If you are in a relationship that is not fulfilling and you continue to stay on because the idea of pulling the plug seems too daunting, then that is a toxic, unhealthy partnership.
An unhealthy relationship lacks the cornerstones of a fulfilling romantic partnership. If you’re disrespected, manipulated, abused in any manner, feel unloved or uncared for, there is little doubt that your relationship is unhealthy. Understanding the healthy vs unhealthy relationships differences is the first step toward cultivating awareness about what you must expect from a partner.
Ending toxic relationships often requires you to reacquaint yourself with how a relationship ought to function and readjust the bar of your expectations from your partner. This journey isn’t always easy but the liberation from a constant sense of inadequacy makes it worth it.
5 Types of unhealthy relationships
While this broad definition of unhealthy relationships may have given you some perspective, not all unfulfilling couples dynamics are created equal. Toxicity can creep into your romantic connection in different ways. Sometimes even the most seemingly normal relationships can prove to be unhealthy for both partners involved. Let’s take look at the different types of unhealthy relationships for sake of clarity:
- Abusive relationships: Speaking of different types of unhealthy relationships, ones fraught with abuse top the list. From physical violence to emotional, verbal and sexual, the spectrum of abuse in relationships can be wide and each is equally damaging to the victim’s psyche. Often, whilst in the thick of the turmoil, victims find it hard to recognize that they’re being abused by their partners, especially if it is being done subtly – as in the case of emotional abuse through manipulation and gaslighting. If your partner seeks to exert control over you with total disregard to your agency as an individual, it’s time to identify the signs of an abusive relationship and look for an out
- Resentful relationships: The signs of a bad relationship can be hardest to identify if the core issue is resentment. Such relationships, typically, begin on a positive, healthy note but over time begin to spiral downward because one partner feels like they’re giving too much of themselves or making sacrifices single-handedly to keep the partnership afloat
- Codependent relationships: In a relationship, it is only natural for partners to lean on one another for support. In a healthy relationship, this support manifests as interdependence, where both partners rely on and offer support equally without losing their individualities. However, in a codependent marriage or relationship, the boundaries and sense of self are obliterated. There is an identity crisis, and you unwittingly start enabling your partner’s bad behavior or vice versa because the fear of losing the other person becomes bigger than any sense of reason
- Carefree relationships: It can be hard to see the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship in a carefree connection because it feels so good in the moment. You and your partner meet when it is convenient for both, let you hair down, drink and dance, have mindblowing sex, and always have a grand time in each other’s company. Yet, it is one of the different types of unhealthy relationships because neither partner can count on the other in their time of need. While a carefree relationship is great when you’ve just begun dating, it veneers into the unhealthy territory if despite having been together a long time, your relationship hasn’t progressed to a more stable and dependable version of itself
- Stagnant relationships: Sometimes a relationship may have no tell-tale warning signs of an unhealthy relationship such as abuse, resentment or codependency and it may still not feel like a happy, healthy space for either one or both partners. In such cases, seemingly ‘normal’ connections turn into emotionally unhealthy relationships because couples cannot find a way to grow together. The stagnation and monotony takes its toll over time, leaving both partners restless and discontent
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23 Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship To Watch Out For
As you just saw, there are different types of unhealthy relationships, and each comes with its own set of underlying triggers and reasons. Some unhealthy relationships stem from abuse, others from jealousy or insecurity. But all have the warning signs of a bad relationship. Here are the 23 signs that you should read carefully to save yourself before it is too late. These are absolute signs of a toxic relationship:
1. You do not find the comfort
After a tiring, bad day at work when you reach home or meet your partner, all your physical and emotional exhaustion should dissipate, or at least lessen, at the sight of them. Meeting them should make you feel good. However, if you feel meeting your partner will only make a bad day worse, then you must understand that your relationship is not giving you happiness or comfort. In all likelihood, you’re in an emotionally unhealthy relationship.
This is among the tell-tale signs you should stay away from someone or walk away before you get sucked in too deep. There might be many reasons for the absence of comfort in your relationship. You need to dig deeper to zero in on them. It is also important to understand if you can talk this through or it is already too late.
2. There is a void even when you are together
When you both are together, you don’t feel complete. Your heart still says that there is an emptiness that they cannot fill. Whenever you are together, do you wish that the time would fly? Or do you feel better when you are away from them? This is one of the classic signs of an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Love and affection seem to have left your relationship. You both don’t cuddle anymore. There is a communication gap between you two. Seeing happy couples makes your heart ache because you are reminded of how much is lacking in your relationship. These are absolute signs of an unhealthy relationship and growing toxicity.
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3. Not sharing with each other
When you are in love with someone, you would want to share every little detail of your life with them. Be it the little things or big achievements. Is your partner not the first person you call to share any important news? If your answers are yes, you have to take a moment and think about why that is.
Is it because you know your partner would be uninterested in anything you have to tell them? Or do you think they’re not worth sharing the highs and lows of your life with? Again, if the answer is yes, then know that you’re dealing with typical characteristics of an unhealthy relationship. It’s time to rethink your future with them.
4. Insecurity is among the signs of an unhealthy relationship
One of the first signs of an unhealthy relationship is that your partner has an issue with everything you do. They do not give you space or me-time. They get annoyed if you want to spend time with friends or even suggest taking some time alone to unwind. They constantly say, “Your friends are more important to you.”
Worse still, your partner constantly suspects you of cheating and being faithful. Putting too many restrictions, complaining about your habits, and demanding explanation and justification are all indicators that your partner is insecure. Insecure people tend to have unhealthy relationships.
5. One of you is over controlling
A need to control one’s partner is a telling indicator of emotionally unhealthy relationships. A relationship should be based on mutual understanding and equality. A relationship cannot survive if one of you wants to be the ringmaster and wants the other to just follow your commands and stop doing anything you dislike. Dictating how someone else should live their life is a classic sign of a controlling husband, wife or partner.
A relationship means accepting the differences and flaws and yet choosing to love them. Dominance cannot make a relationship work. It only damages it and makes the other person caged. Love is meant to be liberating. If you feel the relationship is seizing your freedom, you may be with the wrong person. This could be an unhealthy relationship.
6. Constant complaining is one of the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship
One of the signs you should stay away from someone is that you never have anything positive to say about them. Whenever you are hanging out with your friends, you are constantly complaining about your partner or your relationship. You have become so habituated to complaining about your partner that your friends and family are concerned about your relationship with them.
You can’t think of anything positive to say about your partner to your friends and family. They have been advising you to call it quits and move on. Clearly, you resent your partner owing to some unresolved issues that you may or may not be consciously aware of. Either way, this tendency to always complain and not be able to see any positives in your SO is one of the signs of a bad relationship.
7. You are demotivating and demeaning each other
Another one of the classic signs of an unhealthy relationship is that you and your partner are not supportive of each other. Your partner demotivates you and tries to hold you back whenever you want to try your hand at something new, be it going on a new adventure, applying for a new job, throwing your hat in the ring for a promotion or taking up a new hobby. And vice-versa
Whenever you share your goals or ideas, the opinion is not valued but laughed off. Your suggestions mean nothing to them. They are only demeaning you over and over because they are too self-obsessed to notice anything beyond themselves or your goals and dreams seem too unimportant to them. They do not show enough confidence in you, which could be a major reason why you don’t feel like sharing anything with them.
8. You still crave to feel loved
You may be in a relationship but you don’t feel loved at all. That’s why you may start seeing the potential of a better relationship with someone else if you feel that someone cares for you and treats you with respect. You may have, on occasion, crossed the lines too, at least by having emotional affairs, just because of the void you feel in your relationship.
You have started believing that your primary relationship is not enough for you. You may have tried talking to your partner about it but they don’t realize or understand. As a result, finding another shoulder to lean on seems like the only recourse available to you for having your emotional needs met.
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9. Too many arguments is a sign of an unhealthy relationship
Disagreements and fights are a part of every relationship. However, the healthy vs unhealthy relationships difference is that in the former fights are fleeting and resolved maturely. If you cannot remember the last time you and your partner went on a date or enjoyed an evening walk holding each other’s hand, something is definitely amiss.
Add to this, if all you can remember are arguments, mistakes, and the hurtful things said in anger, then you’re most certainly dealing with a toxic relationship. Arguments have become a routine for you and neither of you feels that you can now resolve your differences.
10. Lack of respect is among the signs of an unhealthy relationship
If there is no mutual respect in your relationship, it is among the telling signs of an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Fighting respectfully is out of the question, you don’t even regret throwing insults at each other. The worst part is you believe that your partner deserves to be treated this way. One of the tell-tale indicators of respect lacking in a relationship is that you don’t hesitate in airing your dirty laundry in public.
Owing to these very public showdowns, you may be wary of your partner socializing with your friends. You have stopped making plans of going out with them because you feel embarrassed by the way they treat you. You fear that your partner might again make a scene out of a petty issue.
11. You are unaware of each other’s life
You have stopped caring about each other. Their presence and absence make no difference in your life. You are unaware of the happenings in each other’s life because there is hardly any communication between you two. You are just tolerating the relationship only because you feel initiating a breakup would bring emotional chaos which you do not wish to deal with right now.
It may feel like this torture is better than the trauma of a breakup because ending toxic relationships is never easy. But if you’re leading individual lives despite being a couple, what is the point of staying together? Recognize these absolute signs of an unhealthy relationship and take concrete actions to reclaim control of your life.
12. You conveniently make decisions without them
Your partner’s opinion is of no importance to you anymore, and yours doesn’t matter to them. Both of you make decisions big and small without talking to each other. It is a sign of a toxic relationship when you don’t want each other in the decision-making process.
Be it something as small as buying a new piece of furniture for the house or a decision as big as moving to another city for a work opportunity, not taking suggestions and advice from your partner is a worrying sign for the health of a relationship. If you are not even bothered by any fights that may ensue because of this, then there is truly little hope for your future as a couple.
13. Choices are not respected in unhealthy relationships
In a relationship, respecting and understanding choices is immensely important. You and your partner are two different individuals; you can have choices that differ from each other.
But if you think that you don’t have any responsibility toward accepting or understanding the choices and you can sit back, tease, laugh about the choices of your partner, you are wrong. A key healthy vs unhealthy relationships difference is that, in the former, partners understand, acknowledge and accept their differences without turning them into an issue.
When you’re unable to do that, the bond gets strained. While you may not see the damage in the short term, this is a warning sign of a bad relationship.
Related Reading: Is indifference or disrespect equivalent to cheating on spouse?
14. You both lie to each other repeatedly
Lying is a routine for you both. You lie to your partner and you constantly catch your partner lying to you. This, in turn, leads to deep-seated trust issues in the relationship. You know you have reached the brink when you both know you’re lying to each other yet you look the other way.
Lies have become your best excuse for avoiding each other. You both don’t care to acknowledge the harm it has caused to your relationship. This is a sign your relationship has turned unhealthy and toxic.
15. Blame game never ends
You keep blaming each other for the stage your relationship has reached. The fact is, you both can be at fault, but you are never ready to accept that there is anything you could have done any differently. There is no guilt, no realization and no shame for bringing chaos into your relationship.
You will swiftly put the blame on your partner and sit back, saying you tried everything you could but your partner is not changing, so there is nothing you can do about it. This is a classic tendency in unhealthy relationships that eventually becomes your excuse for not even wanting to try salvaging your relationship.
16. You both have stopped caring about each other
There is no affection left in your relationship. Everything you do is just because you want to fulfill the duty of being someone’s partner. The relationship has become like a chore that needs to be attended to. You may not enjoy it or find happiness in it, but you are doing it because it needs to be done. You are keeping the relationship just for the sake of having a relationship.
This is among the signs of a bad relationship because it brings you no joy or sense of fulfillment. You are flogging a dead horse and both you and your partner know it well but you just haven’t found the will or a way to voice that thought.
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17. One of you is cheating or has cheated
Infidelity lands a severe blow on the bond between two partners and shakes the very foundation of a relationship. Yet, one of you consciously makes the choice to stray and breach the other’s trust. Cheating can seem like the easy way out to find the fulfillment that’s lacking in your primary relationship but it also comes at a cost.
If despite being aware of the stakes you continue to cheat on your partner, then it may well be because you truly don’t care about your relationship anymore. While you may not have ended this unhealthy relationship, you have certainly checked out of it.
18. Refusing to talk on important topics
Communication is the key for any relationship to work. If you are choosing not to communicate with each other about the obvious issues, then it’s clear as day that your relationship is deteriorating by the day. No matter how big a fight ensues, you and your partner have no interest in talking it out and resolving the issue.
Or perhaps, one of you wants to talk about the relationship, but the other feels there is nothing left to talk about, so you both keep refusing and decide to let things be. This indicates you are not in a healthy relationship.
19. Avoidance issues is among the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship
Confrontation solves the problem, but you can only confront one another when you believe you have a problem. If you or your partner are in denial regarding the relationship issues you both are facing, you both will keep avoiding the confrontation.
As much as the avoidance seems comfortable, it is a slow poison for your relationship. Soon there will be a pile of topics that may require confrontation and you both may still choose to avoid. Ultimately, these unresolved issues will take a toll and your relationship will succumb to them.
20. You are only making bedroom memories or not making them at all
This is among the telling signs of an unhealthy relationship. If your partner only turns to you for sex and emotional connection is completely missing, then you should take this as a warning sign you are not heading toward a healthy relationship. On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, a sexless relationship is not a sign of toxicity.
If the passion is lost or sex is being used to avoid glaring relationship issues, you’re in a bad place. The key to a healthy relationship is to balance every aspect of a romantic partnership.
21. Being in a relationship has a negative influence
Being with a person always brings changes in you and every change is either a positive or a negative change. So, take a moment to introspect: What change has being with your partner brought in your personality? Have you adopted more bad habits? Have you stopped hanging out with your friends? Do you feel tired and unmotivated?
Do you feel you are not good enough to deserve good? If the answer to even one question is yes, then you must know that your relationship has had a negative influence on you, and is unhealthy for you. Such warning signs of an unhealthy relationship should not be ignored because the longer this connection lasts, the bigger toll it will take on your self-esteem and mental health.
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22. Violence, abuse or threats are routine
Your partner is very short-tempered. When they lose their cool, they often cross the limits of acceptable behavior. Your partner may threaten you or abuse you verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually. While victims of abuse often become too broken from within to take any proactive steps to protect themselves, know that you don’t deserve to be treated this way.
You don’t need any other reason to leave; this is enough. If they cannot respect you and if they can dare to abuse you, you are not supposed to love them. You must leave them immediately.
23. You can list more negatives than positive qualities
Say you are given 10 minutes to think about your partner and then you are asked to list their positive and negative qualities. If you can list down more negative qualities than positive, you do not need to look for any other signs of an unhealthy relationship.
When you truly can’t see the good in the person you chose as your partner, there is little doubt that your bond has suffered immensely owing to the unhealthy or toxic dynamics that have festered over time. For many couples, this can be a point of no return, and going their separate ways is often the best recourse for both partners in such circumstances.
However, if you truly value your relationship and want to give your all into reviving it, it is possible to salvage your bond with the right help. Consider going into couple’s therapy to identify and work through your issues. You can reach out to experienced, licensed therapists on the Bonobology’s panel or find one near you.
What Should You Do If You Are In An Unhealthy Relationship?
While reading this article if you were agreeing even to 40% of the points, then you should understand your relationship is unhealthy. Sometimes you have to choose to be your own savior. And stop waiting for the right time. Take control of your life and destiny today. Here is what you can do if you’re in an unhealthy relationship:
- Don’t be in denial: You have to accept the fact first that you are in an unhealthy relationship
- Talk to your partner: You have to see if you can make your partner see how their behavior is affecting you
- Take a break: You could take a short break from the relationship and see how things go. Breaks sometimes work wonders
- You don’t deserve this: But be aware of the fact that staying in constant fear of fights and issues is not something anyone deserves
- Look for a way out: Everyone deserves happiness and if you are not finding that in your relationship then you should look for a way out
- Call it quits: Tell your partner clearly that you cannot take it anymore and since they have shown no willingness to mend their ways, you have decided to leave
- Seek help: Talk to a counselor and take guidance
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You have to rise to the rescue of your own happiness. Either work through your issues with your partner or understand the damage is beyond repair and end the relationship for your own good. It may seem daunting in the moment, but breaking free from a toxic, unhealthy relationship can be liberating.