Relationships are bound to have their ups and downs and what makes for a healthy relationship differs between couples. But one thing that remains certain is that there are clear signs that are unhealthy and even abusive.
When people envision what an abuser looks like they often imagine some mean drunk/drug addict who beats their partner. But not all abusive partners fit into that mold.
In fact, many abusers are romantic and sweet to their partners in the beginning.
They’re bright enough to sweep you away into something that leads to an unhealthy relationship.
There also seems to be this perception that the victim is dumb for not walking away from the abuse when that is not the case.
You don’t have to be a weak person for this to happen to you.
There are good enough moments in unhealthy relationships that trick you into thinking that these are just things that every couple goes through.
Your partner may claim to love you, and you may have great memories together, but toxic relationships have a high probability of escalating into dangerous situations.
The hashtag “maybe he doesn’t hit you” shines a light on to the fact that abuse is abuse, even if he doesn’t hit you.
1. Lack of Respect
Your partner talks down to you, calls you dumb, calls you names, or doesn’t listen to what you have to say. Your partner may also speak negatively about you to others.
He or she may often threaten to leave the relationship.
You don’t feel like there is a mutual respect between the two of you. You may respect your partner’s space and their character, but they don’t return those sentiments.
It doesn’t have to be physical or even violent for it to be controlling.
It can be subtle.
Your partner may control you through kindness.
They may also be micromanaging things you do on a daily basis. “You’re folding the laundry wrong, do it like this.” “You shouldn’t wear x, y, z,” etc. You may not even realize you’re being manipulated.
For example, you could be wearing red lipstick and your partner will point out that they prefer that you not wear it because they can’t kiss you.
So you slowly stop wearing it to be considerate and because you think that it’s a sweet sentiment.
The only person who should control your behavior is you.
3. Everything Turns Into a Fight
You know the saying, “choose your battles wisely?”
Well, in an unhealthy relationship you could end up arguing about things that aren’t worth a fight.
Like say, you’ve left an old water bottle in the fridge, and your partner opens it and drinks it.
A typical reaction would be to toss out the water and let your partner know that it didn’t taste right. An abusive partner would blow this out of proportion by making a scene and accusing you of doing this on purpose.
When everything can turn into a fight, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
That is not normal.
4. You Are Their World
Your partner claims that you are everything to them. They are solely reliant and dependent on you.
They make it clear that you are the band-aid keeping them together.
If you ever leave them, they would kill themselves, or life would become meaningless.
You should be there for your partner in trying times, but if they don’t seek help or are unwilling to see a professional, there is nothing you can do to help them.
Movies depict this all-encompassing love as romantic, but in reality, this is just your partner trying to control you into staying with them.
It may be cute in Twilight, but it’s not cute in real life. Your partner is keeping you emotionally hostage.
Everyone gets jealous; it’s human nature. But your partner shouldn’t be scolding you for interacting with someone or hanging out with other people.
Your partner may also be jealous of your friends or family.
Why do you have to hang out with them for so long? Do you have to be on the phone with your sister for hours? Why can’t you spend time with me?
In an unhealthy relationship, your partner sees you spending time with others as a threat.
They want to isolate you.
6. They are Unsupportive
Your partner doesn’t support your dreams or goals. They never congratulate you on anything and are very critical about the path or things you want to pursue.
You want your partner to be honest with you, but there’s a clear difference between being honest and being unsupportive.
They shouldn’t be second guessing your goals or achievements.
A healthy relationship would consist of your partner rooting you on, pushing you forward, and being there for you when you need support.
I once dated someone who didn’t want to go to my college graduation because he didn’t like those sort of things. He believed that he shouldn’t have to attend an event that would bore him.
I also never received a “congrats” for my achievement. In his eyes, it wasn’t a big deal. How I didn’t see this as a red flag shows how deep into that unhealthy relationship I was.
When I look back at that situation, I want to go back in time and slap myself.
7. Accusing You Of Being Overly Sensitive
Your significant other blames you for your feelings. That sounds odd, right? Ex: Your partner gets upset that you’re mad. How does this make sense at all?
In a healthy relationship, your partner would try to make you feel better.
In an unhealthy relationship, your partner turns everything about your emotions into a problem about you.
If you’re feeling sad suddenly you’ve made them feel upset, and now you have to apologize for that.
Sounds crazy, huh?
You might also feel like you’re not allowed to feel a certain way. They’ll say something like, “Why are you upset? You’re so dramatic!”
Feel however you want to feel! No one should tell you otherwise.
Your partner should never invalidate your emotions.
Wake Up Call: Unhealthy Relationship
Often, people can’t see that they are in an unhealthy relationship until they are out of it.
Many wish they saw the signs earlier.
It’s hard to know that you’re in that situation when you think you’re in love. Only those close to you, or those not directly involved can see the signs.
If you feel like you’re in an unhealthy relationship, ask for help.
Don’t stay in a situation that could potentially escalate into something much worse.
If you need help, you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline. They are open 24/7.
1-800-799-7233. 1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/hard of hearing)
Or you can chat with someone from 7 A.M. TO 2 A.M. central time. Click the “Chat Now” button on any page of this website to begin a chat.
If you need relationship advice, you can ask anonymously at Dear Nicole, my advice column. I will answer weekly!
Check out the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship. Free PDF.