Even healthy relationships have ups-and-downs, which can make it difficult to know how solid things are with you and your partner. Here’s the difference between unhealthy and healthy relationships. In an unhealthy relationship, ups-and-downs are high highs and low lows. There are more lows than highs. You are taken on a roller coaster ride where you constantly feel more drained than uplifted. You and your partner are challenged by the same issues that keep coming up and handle them like children (e.g. avoidance, tantrums, denial, I’m right / you’re wrong, etc.).
Healthy relationships are more balanced with even ups-and-downs. There are more highs than lows and if something goes wrong, you don’t automatically think, “Will this end?” Instead, you sense that things will be okay. When challenges come up, both people handle them in an adult manner by discussing things rationally, being open to the other person’s perspective and working things out for the greater good of the relationship.
Obvious signs of unhealthy relationships are mental, physical or emotional abuse. But what about the subtle signs that aren’t as clear? The kind of signs that typically show up as the tiny voice in the back of your head — the voice that causes you to question things and leaves you feeling uncertain.
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
If you are in an unhealthy relationship, some or all of these 16 signs will be present. Each sign shows a comparison of unhealthy and healthy, to help you know what is good and not good in a relationship.
1. Denying yourself things you desire
In an unhealthy relationship, you won’t be doing or will be doing less of the things you want or like. Instead, more often than not, you will go along with what your partner wants. In a healthy relationship, you are doing things you desire and feeling good about them.
2. Justifying to friends and family why you’re with him
In an unhealthy relationship, you find yourself defending him or explaining his behavior to the people who care about you. In a healthy relationship, you are not defending or explaining his behavior to others because you won’t feel compelled to.
3. Talking yourself into staying with him
In an unhealthy relationship, you are talking yourself into staying with him because the thought of starting over, being alone, or not finding anyone else is not appealing. In a healthy relationship, you won’t have to talk yourself into staying with him because you will just want to be with him.
4. Not feeling supported or accepted
In an unhealthy relationship, you don’t feel supported in what matters to you or accepted for your true self. In a healthy relationship, your partner is supporting you in living the life you desire. While you are not perfect, he accepts you for who you are – the good, the quirky and the things you wish were different about yourself.
5. Limited self expression
In an unhealthy relationship, you aren’t free to be your true self. You feel restricted in communicating openly and end up walking on eggshells when trying to explain something. In a healthy relationship, you are able to express yourself, even in sticky situations.
6. Putting your life on hold
In an unhealthy relationship, you will be losing yourself in his life and not living your life fully. In a healthy relationship, you are each living your life by doing things you love, having alone time, and spending time with family and friends.
7. Nothing you do is good enough
In an unhealthy relationship, you are trying hard to do things right, things you think will please him. Yet everything you do doesn’t seem to be good enough. In a healthy relationship, you don’t have to try so hard. Just being who you are is good enough.
8. Your relationship is a secret
In an unhealthy relationship, the guy you’re with doesn’t want to or hasn’t let others know about you. He may be seeing someone else or wants to keep his options open. In a healthy relationship, he is forthcoming about you with the people in his life.
9. Compartmentalizing life
In an unhealthy relationship, your guy only includes you in certain aspects of his life. In a healthy relationship, you are included in all aspects of his life, such as family gatherings, get togethers with friends and company picnics and holiday parties.
10. Interaction is unbalanced
In an unhealthy relationship, your interaction is more one-sided – you are contacting him more and making plans to get together. In a healthy relationship, there is an even exchange where you are both communicating in between the times you see each other, looking forward to getting together, and making arrangements to spend time together.
11. Feeling used
In an unhealthy relationship, you feel like an afterthought because he tends to come around when he wants or needs something from you. In a healthy relationship, it is less about getting something from each other and more about giving to each other.
12. You both want a different kind of relationship
In an unhealthy relationship, if you want a committed relationship while he wants a casual relationship, you will feel like an option, not a priority. In a healthy relationship, both of you want the same kind of relationship and make each other a priority.
13. Your happiness is continually diminished
In an unhealthy relationship, you feel more unhappy than happy when you are with him and at the thought of him. In a healthy relationship, you feel more happy than not. Thoughts of him bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
14. You feel responsible for his happiness
In an unhealthy relationship, he is not at a good place in his life and you are trying hard to help him. In a healthy relationship, you are encouraging towards him yet are not responsible for his happiness.
15. You are constantly compromising your integrity and values
In an unhealthy relationship, you aren’t able to be true to yourself. Instead, you find yourself sacrificing your beliefs, values and self-esteem for his approval and for him to like you. In a healthy relationship, you are true to yourself, even if you both see things differently.
16. A nagging sense that things aren’t right
In an unhealthy relationship, you are in a perpetual state of worry, stress or depression because your intuition is telling you that things aren’t right. In a healthy relationship, you feel a sense of well-being and trust that things are happening the way they are meant to.
These 16 signs go both ways. What this means is that if you’re partner is experiencing the unhealthy consequences from these signs, the relationship isn’t healthy for him.
Practices to Loosen Your Grip from an Unhealthy Relationship
If you have realized you are in an unhealthy relationship, here are some things you can do to shift your perspective and loosen your grip.
1. Get clear on what you want
Being crystal clear on what you want can keep you from falling into an unhealthy relationship. Get crystal clear by identifying how you are feeling and what you are doing in your ideal relationship. Determine what is most important for you in your ideal man and don’t get sidetracked by men and relationships that aren’t right for you.
2. Determine if it’s possible for him to become what you want
Compare what you want to who he is. The chances of things turning around are not in your favor in an unhealthy relationship. However, if you truly believe there is the possibility of things working out, ask if he is willing to work with you on changing in ways that are aligned with what you want. (Since this is a two-way street, you will also be making changes within.) See if he has the desire, ability and skills to change. If not, will he go to therapy, counseling or coaching?
3. Imagine what your life will be like if you continue staying with him
If it’s not possible for him to become what you want, imagine continuing with him with the way things have been. Paint a picture of your life 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now. What does the thought of this life do to your soul, psyche and self worth? Notice the feelings that come up within your body. If you feel contracted, stressed and deflated, you are better off parting ways.
4. Choose in your best interest
You have one life to live on this earth. Think about how you want to spend your remaining days, weeks, months and years. Then choose wisely. The wisest choice will always be in your best interest.
Be Courageous and Stay on Track
“The awareness, insights and lessons you learn from being in an unhealthy relationship pave the way to a healthier relationship.” – Janet Ong Zimmerman
Many great things, including healthy relationships, can be outside of our comfort zones. To stretch your comfort zone, take small steps with the practices shared above. Commit to your well-being and stay on track by choosing in favor of what you want. Remember, you are a fabulous woman who deserves to have true and lasting love, the kind of love that is only found in a healthy relationship.