You’ve worked hard – you’ve done all the inner and outer work and have found that special someone! You are now indeed in a relationship. Congratulations! Oh, my goodness, do I know how to do this, you may be asking yourself. How do I know what is appropriate behavior for me and my partner? Many persons who have suffered abuse, especially ongoing abuse, they may not know what a healthy relationship looks like or feel like.
The One Love Foundation (www.onelove.org, provides education for teens and young adults regarding being and staying safe in relationships. Although the information on this website is for teens and young adults, I have found it helpful for older people as well. The following are some examples of unhealthy relationship behaviors. Please use the information wisely, by considering the intensity and/or regularity of the behaviors. This will help you determine whether the behavior actually qualifies as unhealthy and/or abusive. When in doubt, consult a relationship coach, a therapist, or other resources for guidance and help. Also, there are different types of relationships. Make sure you have defined with your partner what type of relationship the two of you want to have. Do not assume anything in a relationship. Defining and talking about what you both want and need is tantamount to understanding.
Ten Signs of Unhealthy Relationships
- Too Intense — You are headed toward a downward spiral if your partner is severely intense about the pace and timing of how the relationship is progressing. If the way the relationship is progressing makes you feel uncomfortable, it is a red flag!
- Illogical and Over-the-Top Jealousy – A bit of jealousy is normal in relationships, but the kind that enrages and blinds the person to the point that they color everything by their jealousy. It is a red flag if your partner is so jealous that you can’t have friends outside your relationship, or you can’t even look at another person without incurring their wrath.
- Manipulation — A healthy partner will not manipulate you or make you feel guilty for not doing or doing something. It is a red flag if they threaten you with breaking up with you or with seeing other people if you don’t or can’t meet their needs and wants.
- Isolation — An unhealthy person who is abusive will make sure to cut you off from your friends and family. They will make you think they are the only person you can trust and that you don’t need anyone else but them.
- Belittling — A relationship should inspire you, support you and lift you up. Your partner should look for ways to help you, not ways to find fault with everything you do and say. If you are put down or negatively criticized no matter what you do and say, this is a red flag!
- Sabotage — Sabotage is much like manipulation, but it’s trickier, slyer, slicker and a bit more indirect. As an example, if you have a date to meet up with some friends for drinks, and your partner, knowing this, cooks a dinner with wine and candlelight and tells you this is a better idea. In theory, it is a good idea, but the timing of it undermines your authority and autonomy. If this behavior happens repeatedly, this is a manipulative red flag!
- Guilting – Using the example above, your partner tells you how much and how hard they worked to make the dinner, how much it cost, and then for good measure, throws in all the other things they do for you. They make you feel guilty for not seeing the dinner as a “good thing”, though it was done to manipulate you.
- Deflecting Responsibility — We all make mistakes because we are all human. If your partner does not take responsibility for their share of missteps and mistakes but blames you for everything that goes wrong, this is a red flag.
- Betrayal — If your partner steals, lies, cheats — this is a red flag. Sometimes if the person is a habitual liar, you may not know they are lying right away, but you have a hunch because some things are just not lining up. Always trust your hunches. If you are uncertain, check things out – talk to a friend you can trust, or a relationship coach or a therapist to get a different perspective and to talk things out.
- Volatility – If your partner flies off the handle quickly, loses their temper, yells, and screams — this is a big red flag! This red flag should not be ignored! If the loss of control is followed by an apology with gifts, and it happens again and again — this is a red flag!
More important than any of the signposts mentioned here, take time to get to know a person before you commit to a relationship. Look before you leap. Heed red flags and do not proceed with the relationship if you see signs of abuse. Take time to date for a while, go to different places, and put yourselves in different situations so you can see how the other person reacts and acts in these different scenarios. This will give you an idea of the person’s character. It is easier to not proceed in a relationship than it is to get out of it once you are in it. But remember, you are never alone, you are never trapped and there is always a way out and there is always help for you.