21 Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship You Should Know About

Written by Harini Natarajan, Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner

Love is considered one of the purest feelings in life. It has been romanticized in pop culture and vintage movies. Yet, study shows the prevalence of abusive relationships among people of all ages, especially youngsters (1). The signs of an unhealthy relationship should not be overlooked. It is not healthy if your relationship is not based on trust, love, and commitment.

Therefore, you should be careful when you spot any red flags in your relationship. It may not be easy to spot these signs as they could be quite subtle. Often, you do not even notice such signs. We are here to help you. We have listed 21 signs to help you check if your relationship is healthy or unhealthy. Keep reading.

21 Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship

1. Disrespect

If your partner does not hold your opinion equal to theirs, dismisses it, and refuses to discuss it because they feel they know better, it is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. This can involve cutting you off as you speak, laughing away your opinions, or simply ignoring them and talking over you. People often excuse this. But take note of it if it is happening too frequently and is hurting you emotionally.

2. Control

One of the most significant signs that a relationship may not be working is when one partner completely takes over, subtly or obviously attempting to control how the other partner leads their life. You need to take things seriously if everything about you, right from your clothes, to what you watch, who you speak to, and even what you say are being dictated by your partner (2).

3. Reward-Punishment System

Whenever you behave as per your partner’s wishes, you can expect to be showered with love and affection. Step out of the line, and they will start being rude. This promotes an unhealthy standard for a relationship and gives unfair power to one party (2). Certain individuals on relationship forums have connected this system to dogs’ Pavlovian training (where dogs are trained with repetitive actions to give reflex responses).

4. Jealousy

Whenever you hang out with other people, speak to friends and acquaintances, your partner may get angry or unhappy. This is the definition of a jealous partner and could be a warning sign. If you see them becoming increasingly upset about how you spend your time and who you spend it with, it is time to nip this behavior in the bud or reevaluate the relationship (3).

5. Possessiveness

The thought of you not focusing on them every moment of the day is unbearable to your partner. They are possessive not just of your time but also of your attention and effort. Anything not directed towards them is essentially “wasted effort” in their eyes. A toxic partner will do everything they can to keep your eyes on them and them only – and this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

6. Mood Swings

Mood swings are actually a widespread phenomenon in an unhealthy relationship. Quite like a child, your partner is used to having your time and attention all the time. When you are occupied, they may attempt to regain your attention by demonstrating extreme mood swings – and these can grow in intensity and duration the longer you take to respond to them favorably.

7. Unsuccessful Communication

Healthy communication is what goes out the window first when a relationship is deteriorating. You will notice that your partner does not pay attention to your needs and wants and does not seem willing to improve their behavior. All attempts to speak to them go in vain (4)

8. Isolation

To ensure that they keep controlling you as per their wishes, a partner may try to isolate you from friends, family, and other people. These people may convince you to rethink things and realize that your relationship is not working out anymore. This may threaten your partner, and they can attempt to isolate you from other people who could influence you.

9. Sabotage

Are you proud of a particular accomplishment? Well, not when your partner is around you. You can often see them attempting to sabotage your achievements and dominating you with a discussion of their accomplishments. In this case, your partner intends to keep you influenced enough that you never outshine them in any aspect. It is not only a narcissistic behavior but also a serious warning sign.

10. Dishonesty

One of the more prominent signs of an unhealthy relationship is that your partner may not be hundred percent honest with you. They may lie, cheat, omit, deceive and do anything else they can to ensure that your only point of reference is what they would like you to believe. This helps them maintain control over you, isolate you further, and tip the scales of power in their favor.

11. Guilt Tripping

Another prominent sign that you are in an unhealthy relationship is that you can have no joys that are your own. If you attempt to celebrate or do anything without your partner, they may make you feel guilty for your actions (5).

12. Gaslighting

Gaslighting involves invalidating the victim’s trauma and experiences and making them believe they are insane or crazy for having the concerns they do. This can include belittling, dismissal, re-explaining the same events to suit their perspective, and more. Gaslighting is often subtle and missed by those who are not well versed with the concept (6).

13. Rushing Things

All good things take time to happen, especially a relationship that you want to see lasting long. But one subtle sign that you are in a bad relationship arises before even the relationship starts. Your partner can be quick to test and bend your boundaries to see what they can rush and what you will not relent for. As a result, you may end up accidentally agreeing to terms and things you are not wholly comfortable with. Relationship forums recommend a waiting period of at least four months before you proceed with a relationship.

14. Narcissism

Them, them, them – that is all you hear always. If you cannot even listen to yourself talk over the sound of your partner speaking, take it as a warning. Narcissistic partners will always place their well-being above yours and refuse to compromise on their value systems. They instead demand you be the one who changes. It is one of the more noticeable signs that you are in an unhealthy relationship (7).

15. Physical Violence

Physical violence is a sign, not just you, but many others will also notice. If they threaten to hurt you or actually attempt to harm you, it is a clear sign that you are in an unhealthy relationship. This can also be potentially dangerous to your immediate well-being – please seek resources if you need help (8). Another means of expressing physical violence is destroying the items that you love, breaking things, cursing and threatening to hurt you, or even hurting themselves in an attempt to gain your sympathy.

16. Intimidation

Sure, they might not hurt you physically. But that does not mean they are not leaving a mark behind. If they threaten you with consequences for something you plan on doing, it is a significant warning sign. Intimidation can be as apparent as stating it plainly, or as subtle as making you believe that they are not intimidating you at all (8). If this is a consistent pattern with your partner, it is better to avoid them at all costs. This not only minimizes your contact time but also helps you evade any threats they could make.

17. Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is an extreme sign that you are in an unhealthy relationship. If there is any sexual activity between you and your partner without your active, enthusiastic consent, you may be a victim of sexual violence. It is recommended that you report this to the authorities immediately and distance yourself from your partner (8). Sexual violence is a grave offense in most countries, and it is recommended that you resort to assistance as soon as possible.

18. Infantilism

Infantilism refers to the act of treating you like a child. This is a subtle sign of an unhealthy relationship that could be easily overlooked. They do not give your opinion much importance, dismiss it as uninformed or ill-suited to the discussion, and make you believe that you are not qualified to discuss anything with them. However, this is not thoroughly researched in terms of dating and still holds a lot of weight on discussion forums. People have discussed their unsatisfactory experiences with a partner who infantilizes them.

19. Belittling

This is a little different than infantilism. To criticize you, your partner will take apart your argument word by word and do their best to demonstrate all the fallacies in your comments. They can do this with pseudo-logic and false theorization, attempting to quell your speech in the future. This is a subtle, long-term form of verbal abuse that is a relationship warning sign to keep an eye out for.

20. Emotional Exertion

Do you feel like dating your partner is an emotional rollercoaster? You feel you never know when they may be happy and when they may be upset? If so, it could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Emotional exertion requires you to step out of your healthy emotional boundaries to cater to their emotional needs, which creates an unhealthy co-dependency. This co-dependency takes away your emotional availability, not just from your other loved ones but also from yourself. You can then look forward to being positively drained all day long.

21. Ill Intentions

You can easily detect the first sign a relationship is not working by going back to your roots. Why did they start dating you in the first place? What was it about you that they liked? If the answers seem superficial with little to no thought given to them, you might want to reevaluate your relationship. Many people enter relationships for selfish reasons, including emotional gain, monetary purposes, simple revenge, or to exert their power. Before you become serious about that special someone, it is essential to determine that their intentions are in the right place.

Unconditional love is an object of fantasy, and you should always prioritize your health and wellness above everything else. So, you should always be on the lookout for signs of an unhealthy relationship to save yourself from hurt, trouble, and pain down the line. For instance, one should not tolerate disrespect, dishonesty, isolation, narcissism, intimidation, violence, gaslighting, and other destructive behaviors. You should also distance yourself from the person and come out of the relationship if you feel emotionally exerted after every interaction with them. Excessive jealousy, possessiveness, and lack of open communication between you and your partner are signs of an unhealthy relationship. If you notice any of these signs, it is time to reevaluate your relationship.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider your relationship to be unhealthy if it is not based on trust, love, and commitment.
  • As a result, be cautious if you notice any red flags in your relationship. Before you become serious with that special someone, you need to ensure their intentions are pure.
  • After you’ve realized something isn’t right, talk to your partner about it. If that doesn’t work, there are other options for saving your relationship.

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