Many women, from a very young age, dream about a handsome prince who will sweep her off her feet and make her life complete. We dressed up as princesses, planned fairytale weddings, and blissfully believed we would live happily ever after.
We watched movies that shaped our ideas of unhealthy relationships—mean, drunk men who yelled loudly and beat helpless women senseless. Yet, in reality, some abusive relationships can also have a lot of love and good moments, too. Good enough to trick you into thinking everything is fine.
Our culture doesn’t spend much time talking about healthy relationships, so it’s no wonder there are many women who are confused and falling into toxic relationships. Some behaviors seem loving on the surface but are actually just disguising something very unhealthy.
The first step in realizing you’re in an unhealthy relationship is recognizing unhealthy behaviors.
In this two-part series, we’ll start by identifying 10 of the characteristics that may be unhealthy relationships. Then, in the second part, we’ll unpack what healthy behaviors look like. Some of the attributes below may seem obvious and some may make you realize things about your own relationship that you weren’t seeing clearly before.
10 Signs of a Toxic Relationship
We’re going to talk about each of these characteristics as if they are present in your partner, but it is equally important to ask yourself if any of these describe your relationship behaviors. All relationships consist of two people. You may play a part in the unhealthy behaviors too.
#1: JEALOUSY: Everyone feels a little jealous at times, but jealousy is toxic when he reaches the point of lashing out at you or controlling you. Jealousy crosses the line when he feels threatened by you texting or hanging out with other people.
#2: ISOLATION: This often goes hand-in-hand with jealousy. If he’s keeping you away from friends, family, or other people and insisting you spend all your time with him, that’s unhealthy.
#3: MANIPULATION: This one can be subtle. It is manipulation when your partner tries to influence your decisions, actions or emotions to convince you to do things you wouldn’t normally be comfortable doing. Some less obvious examples include giving you the silent treatment until he gets his way or using gifts and apologies to change your mind.
#4: GUILT: You are not responsible for making him happy or for any of his actions. He is using guilt to manipulate you if he makes you feel like everything is your fault, is threatening to hurt himself or others if you don’t do what he says, or is pressuring you to do anything sexual you’re not comfortable with.
#5: INTENSITY: Especially when a relationship is just getting started, it’s normal to have very strong feelings for your partner. However, extreme feelings with over-the-top behavior is too much. You shouldn’t feel rushed or smothered in the relationship.
#6: BELITTLING: How does he make you feel about yourself? Many women are told they are just being “too sensitive” to name-calling, rude remarks, or unkind comments. Even if he’s “just joking” there’s never a good excuse for belittling you.
#7: SABOTAGE: When a partner feels threatened or insecure, he may purposely ruin your reputation, achievements, or success. He may cause you to miss work, school or practice. Talking about you behind your back or starting rumors about you are other forms of sabotage.
#8: VOLATILE ANGER: You should never feel the need to walk on eggshells around your partner. The relationship is toxic if you find yourself doing things to keep him from lashing out, losing control, getting violent, or threatening to hurt you or destroy things.
#9: DEFLECTING: Deflecting is blaming others or past experiences as an excuse for current behaviors. For example, if he’s blaming you or past experiences for using alcohol or for cheating on you, that is a clear unhealthy behavior.
#10: BETRAYAL: We immediately think of betrayal as cheating on you but, while that is definitely toxic, there are other examples. Lying to you, purposely leaving you out, not telling you things, being two-faced, or acting differently around friends are all signs of betrayal.
When Should You Seek Help In a Toxic Relationship?
If your partner ever tries to harm you physically or force you to do something sexually, those are clear signs for you that it is an unhealthy relationship. Consider getting help and ending the relationship. Even if you believe the person loves you, it does not make up for the harm they are doing to you.
When you are unhappy in a relationship and decide to leave, but you find yourself still in the relationship you may need help to get out. Also, some women stay in an unhealthy relationship for the wrong reasons, such as fear of being alone or guilt. If you have a history of staying in unhealthy relationships or find yourself in that situation now, you should definitely seek outside counsel.
If you are near one of our clinics, please call us and we can provide you a list of resources available to help you.
Spread the Word
Now that you’re equipped and empowered with this knowledge, spread the word! We can all work to build healthier relationships, and it starts with education and conversations.
love is respect.org: https://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/
If you’re in danger, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/help/ , call 911, or contact your local police.