Many of us wind up in unhealthy relationships, whether that be with a lover, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a spouse or a friend. An unhealthy relationship can and does impact our own well-being, happiness and mental health. No relationship is perfect, and each relationship can have both healthy and unhealthy characteristics, but when the negatives outweigh the positives, it’s time to reevaluate.
I personally have been involved in several unhealthy/toxic relationships, so I can speak from personal experience. However, in this post, I will address the characteristics of what is healthy and what is not healthy in a relationship.
While in an unhealthy relationship you:
- Put one person before the other by neglecting yourself or your partner
- Feel pressure to change who you are for the other person
- Feel worried when you disagree with the other person
- Feel pressure to quit activities you usually/used to enjoy
- Pressure the other person into agreeing with you or changing to suit you better
- Notice one of you has to justify your actions (e.g., where you go, who you see)
- Notice one partner feels obligated to have sex or has been forced
- Have a lack of privacy, and may be forced to share everything with the other person
- You or your partner refuse to use safer sex methods
- Notice arguments are not settled fairly
- Experience yelling or physical violence during an argument
- Attempt to control or manipulate each other
- Notice your partner attempts to controls how you dress and criticizes your behaviors
- Do not make time to spend with one another
- Have no common friends, or have a lack of respect for each others’ friends and family
- Notice an unequal control of resources (e.g., food, money, home, car, etc.)
- Experience a lack of fairness and equality
In contrast, the characteristics of a healthy relationship include:
- Mutual respect, understanding and caring
- Both people know that they are responsible for their own happiness
- Neither person wants to or is trying to control or “fix” the other
- No one person has more power or control in the relationship; the relationship is based on equality and is well-balanced
- Open, honest and respectful communication
- Arguments are respectful, fair and do not “hang over” the couple
- The health of the relationship has a higher priority over individual needs and desires
- An understanding that it is OK to respectfully disagree sometimes
- Loyalty and mutual trust
- The practice of “good faith”, i.e., giving each other the benefit of the doubt
- Allowance for independence and freedom within the relationship to be your own person, with different interests and activities
- Confidentiality and a right to privacy are observed and respected
- Quality time together is valued, wanted and made for the relationship
In an unhealthy relationship, we can begin to feel like something is drastically wrong, or we are feeling badly about ourselves or feel depressed and we don’t know why. Sometimes, we cannot put our finger on what is causing us to feel this way. These lists should help you to identify and define what is unhealthy vs. what is healthy in a relationship.
This chart should also help to make the distinction between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship:
When looking at these comparison lists, you can evaluate for yourself whether your relationship is unhealthy (or healthy). If you are in an unhealthy relationship, as mentioned above, it is time to reevaluate. Your happiness, your well-being and your mental health are important. If you are suffering because of an unhealthy relationship, you may need to sever that relationship to save yourself from further misery.
It is possible to address the issues through couples counseling, if you are suffering in an unhealthy marriage. Both participants must be willing to listen to the feedback provided by their partner and the therapist, and be willing to make changes within themselves, their behaviors and treatment of the other person in order for therapy to be truly effective.
Unhealthy relationships are essentially toxic relationships. They can impact our feelings of self-worth, equality and fairness. They can make us feel angry, bitter and resentful. If you are stuck on what to do, please consider your own happiness as a top priority in your life, because YOU are worth it!
For additional reading, this article provides a list of 51 signs of an unhealthy relationship – and here’s to your happiness!