Are You in an Unhealthy Relationship?
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You met a month ago, (or maybe it’s been 10 years?) and it has been a whirlwind. He’s handsome, smart, funny, and he has a good job. When you go out together, he takes you to nice places, holds the door, holds your hand, and says the sweetest things. He is always telling you how gorgeous you are, or how you are exactly the kind of girl he has been hoping to meet. You are even fantasizing about a future with him. There’s just this little nagging voice in your head that you can’t quite turn off.
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Do any of the following statements ring a bell?
1.You feel like you need to be something you’re not.
2. You have given up a lot of things you enjoy since you’ve been together.
3. You find yourself censoring what you say around him for fear of judgment.
4. Your friends don’t like him or they say you have changed for the worse since you’ve been together.
5. He doesn’t like your friends or your family.
6. He hounds you with multiple texts, calls, visits, notes, until he gets what he wants.
7. You feel you need to lie when he asks where you were because he’s so jealous.
8. He pressures you about sex.
9. Nothing is ever his fault.
10. You are “everything” for each other.
11. He puts you down or shames you.
12. He corners you, pushes you, hits, kicks, or punches you.
Clearly there are some items on the list that are more clear signs of maltreatment, such as physical or sexual abuse. Most of the time, though, it takes a while to realize that your relationship is unhealthy because the signs can be so subtle. Besides that, it’s so hard to find someone you actually care for, and when you do, it’s easy to overlook some things and push away those nagging doubts.
Sometimes a person is “on good behavior” when they first meet you, and when they know they “have you” they gradually start treating you worse. Your friends and family frequently know long before you do that something is not right. How many times have you wanted to tell your friend that her boyfriend is all wrong for her?
Once you feel you have made a commitment to someone, whether it’s exclusive dating, a sexual relationship, or marriage, it’s much harder not only to see that there’s a problem, but also to do something about it.
What to Do if You Are in an Unhealthy Relationship
If You Are in an Abusive Relationship:
There is help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7923, or visit their website, www.thehotline.org.
Or, locally in Southern Massachusetts, you can contact New Hope at 1-800-323-4673 or visit them on the web at: www.new-hope.org.
Be aware that if your computer or phone is being monitored, it may be safer to call the hotline than to visit these websites.
If You Are in an Unhealthy Relationship:
If you think that the relationship is safe and workable, what about trying to talk out some of the issues? If you are not sure whether you should stay or go, you might ask yourself some questions:
What’s keeping me in this relationship? Am I happy? What do I get from it?
Do I feel there’s room to work on it? If the answer is yes, what’s kept me from getting my needs met?
Do I struggle with being direct?
Is the hardest thing for me perhaps even knowing what I want? Do I not even notice that something isn’t right until after I have said yes?
Is it hard to imagine my life without him?
Who could help me with this? A trusted friend, clergy person, or a therapist?
If This Feels Overwhelming…
There are plenty of people who want to help. If it seems like you can’t navigate this on your own anymore, you might consider seeking a therapist to help support you and facilitate your soul searching.
Once you’ve made the decision to look for someone, try not to jump into therapy with the first person who picks up the phone. Getting a good fit can really make the difference between meeting your goals or just feeling frustrated. I have a video to help educate folks about a how to find the right match in a therapist, you can click here to see it.
What Will a Therapist Help You Do?
Frequently people in this situation benefit from taking an honest look at what they truly want in a partner and deciding whether or not their current partner measures up. Improving communication skills, learning to put themselves first, and setting better boundaries can also improve your experience in relationships.
Make sure that in your initial conversation with a therapist that he or she can spell out goals that feel right to you. If you are not on the same page during that initial contact, it’s unlikely you ever will be.
In your experience, what does it take to get out of the “wrong” relationship? How do you know it’s not a good? What are the warning signs? And on the flip side, how can you tell if a relationship is worth saving?
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Amy this is such an important conversation! I have seen so many young women end up in bad relationships and it can be really difficult for them to recognize. It’s often hard for them to move forward after they finally get out. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for your comment. I agree, getting out of an unhealthy relationship, even after you realize that it’s not good, is not easy. Even if it’s not an abusive relationship (which makes getting out even harder) sometimes it’s hard to believe that someone else will want you, that you are worthy of someone who treats you well, or somehow making such a big change just feels overwhelming. What have you found helps people find a way out? Lots of times in my office, people come in contemplating whether or not they are in the right relationship. Frequently when they hear me repeat back to them what they feel is not going well, it helps them to realize that while a part of them wants to stay, there is a big part of them that wants to go. From there it becomes a process of looking at what they really want in a relationship and examining whether or not they feel they are getting the love, respect, and caring that at least part of them knows they deserve. The time this process takes really varies person to person. Sometimes it takes learning different aspects of the lesson through a number of relationships. Especially for my clients who are very kind and generous to others, they often forget to prioritize their own needs and feelings and fear hurting others more than themselves. Realizing that they have to take care of their feelings is an important step in starting to set limits with others, even if it hurts their feelings a bit.
I’m curious, what do you find in working with folks on this issue?