by NATHAN FEILES, LCSW
Technically, a relationship needs to only be defined by the people who are in the relationship. What is a “good (or healthy) relationship” for two people may be completely different than a “good (or healthy) relationship” for two other people.
However, there is a difference between a relationship having its own shape and character, and a relationship that is either harmful or generally unhealthy for one or both partners. These relationships can be difficult to spot from the inside because one or both partners grow accustomed to the life of the relationship. Denial can also be a factor due to fears of change, failure, or otherwise. So while it may seem like it should be obvious when you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it isn’t always so simple.
Here are some signs of concern within relationships. Note, the presence of one or more of the following signs doesn’t necessarily mean you should end your relationship. These are things to keep an eye on, and if they persist, may need further attention in order to improve the state of your relationship.
1) Hitting. Relationships are going to have their share of arguments and disagreements. This is normal. However, when one or both partners crosses the line into hitting, even if it’s just one punch and not an all-out brawl, this is a concern. One punch is still abuse, no matter the gender of the aggressor.
2) Name-calling. Arguments are rarely pleasant (though at times relationships tend to feed off of them, for better or worse). Name-calling, however, crosses the boundary from a heated disagreement into hostile disrespect and disregard for your partner. Name-calling is verbal abuse, is contemptuous, disrespectful, and only tears your partner down. It doesn’t have a productive quality to it for the relationship.
3) Lack of support. While it’s not possible for each partner to always be supportive in the desired moments, it becomes problematic when goals, achievements, desires, and other forms of personal life fulfillment are constantly met with resistance and negativity by your partner. While a partner can’t always be expected to be supportive of everything, a healthy relationship generally has a sense of overall support between the partners. Without this, resentment and frustration eats away at the relationship.
4) Forced to answer to your partner. There’s a difference between coordinating with your partner out of common respect for each other, whether it’s for scheduling social or work events, coordinating child care, or otherwise, and having to actually receive permission from your partner to see friends, spend money, etc. This is a form of being controlled, and often appears in the form of one partner controlling the other’s spending, who the partner associates with, and keeping tabs on everything the partner does. This is also a form of psychological abuse.
5) Feeling angry or resentful of your partner. It’s one thing to be angry or annoyed with your partner, at times. This is normal in relationships. However, if there’s a general sense of resentment and anger towards your partner that overarches your relationship, this isn’t healthy. Something is going on that needs to be addressed before it erodes the relationship.
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