It’s not always easy to recognize an unhealthy relationship when you’re in it. Over time, a relationship can turn sour, and you may barely even realize it.
It’s like the fable of the boiling frog. The myth goes that, if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately, recognizing the danger. But if you put it in cool water then turn up the heat gradually, it won’t realize what’s happening – and will happily stay in the water until it’s boiled.
That’s a bit morbid, but the analogy is applicable. Sometimes, you need to step back – get out of the water – and understand if you’re simply having normal relationship struggles, or if something is very wrong. How can you tell? With these signs that you may be in an unhealthy relationship.
1. Failure To Communicate
Communication is at the heart of any healthy relationship. Without clear, honest, and transparent communication, your relationship will suffer. You and your partner must be able to talk to each other and express yourself without judgment, to ensure that you’re on the same page, and deal with any issues you have in a healthy manner.
If your partner is not communicative, avoids conflict, or doesn’t feel safe expressing their feelings – or you feel any of these things – this could be a sign that your relationship is unhealthy,
2. Constant “Sniping” And Passive Aggressive Behavior
It feels like you can’t do anything without starting an argument. Your partner is stubborn and obstinate. You’re constantly feeling “on edge.” These are all signs that something is very wrong with your relationship. Passive aggressiveness indicates that there is a deeper issue – and this must be resolved to ensure that your relationship can continue.
3. An Inability To Forgive, Even For Small Things
True forgiveness is another critical component of a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should be able to forgive each other for the wrongs that you do to one another – whether they’re serious or minor.
If you feel like your partner never forgives you, or old arguments and conflicts are constantly brought up when you’re fighting or disagreeing, this indicates that you’re not truly forgiving one another. This will harm the safety and intimacy of your relationship – you can’t ever truly feel safe if you think that your partner will bring up the past to hurt you, when things get difficult.
4. You And Your Partner Have Major Value Disagreements (And Can’t Compromise)
Sometimes, people just grow apart – or realize that they aren’t right for each other. Different life priorities are fine to an extent, but in a long term relationship, you must share at least some similar values.
You want to sell your house and go on a year-long van trip. They want to settle down and have kids. You are nonreligious. They value church and religion very highly. You want to travel. They want to put down roots.
These disagreements alone may not be enough to cause an unhealthy relationship – as long as you can understand the other person, and make compromises that satisfy both of you. But unaddressed value disagreements without compromise can lead to feelings of regret, anger, and resentment – and, in turn, this can lead to an unhealthy relationship.
5. Loss Of Respect
Mutual respect is another cornerstone of a healthy relationship. You cannot properly love someone who you do not respect as a person. You must respect the other individual’s values, their boundaries, their preferences, and their personal property.
When your partner makes it clear that they no longer respect you, they’re essentially saying that they are more important than you – and that your needs don’t matter.
If you feel as if there is no mutual respect in your relationship, and your significant other is talking down to you, disrespecting your values or career, or putting you down in front of others, this is a sign that something is seriously wrong.
6. Secrecy And Dishonesty
In a healthy, functioning relationship, there should be no reason to keep secrets, or to lie to your partner. You should feel safe sharing anything with your partner. If you don’t, you’re undermining their trust and respect – and vice versa.
The mere act of hiding something major from your partner indicates that something else may be wrong with your relationship. Maybe you’re hiding something because you’re afraid of how they’ll react. Maybe you feel like you can’t trust them to keep a secret, or to be loving and open during a difficult conversation. Whatever the reason may be, the longer secrets are kept, the more harmful they become.
7. Emotional, Verbal (Or Physical) Abuse
There is no red flag that is bigger than this. All of the other things on this list indicate that you and your partner may need counseling, or to work through some difficult personal issues – but don’t necessarily mean that you should break off the relationship immediately.
The same is not true of verbal and/or physical abuse. Couples in a healthy relationship do not insult each other. They do not scream at each other. They do not threaten each other. And, above all, they never harm each other.
If you are feeling unsafe due to verbal and emotional abuse, or you have been abused physically, you need to get help immediately. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s okay, or that it’s just part of being in a relationship.
Many abusive relationships start out happy, and gradually escalate into verbal and physical abuse. Remember the frog in boiling water analogy?
If you have been abused once, it will happen again, even if it takes a while. The only solution is to let go, and get the help you need to stay safe, and move on from this relationship.
Know When To Move On – And When To Get Help!
Hopefully, these above signs have helped you understand what to look for in an unhealthy relationship. And, with the exception of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, they don’t necessarily mean that you should break off your relationship.
Rather, they indicate that something is wrong on a deep level in your relationship – and if you address that issue, you may be able to resolve the problem. You may want to consider couples counseling, and professional help to determine what the best next step is for you and your partner.