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Indications that you are in an unhealthy, hurtful, dangerous relationship

No relationship is perfect, but it is important to recognize the signs of an unhealthy, hurtful relationship and know how to change or end it. Unhealthy relationships have a significant harmful effect on a person's health, happiness and overall well-being. The challenge is that while some relationships are clearly toxic or even abusive, other patterns of unhealthy relationships may be much more subtle and therefore difficult to recognize.


Photo: @lilschk


Relationships with troubled dynamics cause a lot of tension, conflict, and stress. We are talking not only about romantic relationships, but also about working relationships, family relationships, and friendships. It could be that the person wants to control not out of bad faith, but because he or she doesn't know how to build relationships in other ways, but it's important to keep your eyes wide open.


All relationships are different and can transform over time. But there are some common things that tend to describe an unhealthy relationship. In this text, we will discuss some common traits of an unhealthy relationship and how to recognize you are in one.


Control


In an unhealthy relationship, one person may try to control the life of the other. This may occur through intimidation, but it may also involve softer types of manipulation - persuasion, tears, bribery. Sometimes the controlling person may display behaviors that seem gentle and loving, but in fact these actions aim to keep an eye on the other person, prevent them from doing something, or visiting certain places.


For example, your partner may insist that you quit dancing because classes are running late, and he is worried about your safety, is anxious, so you have to quit something you enjoy so much. You don't want your loved one to be nervous about you. If someone is really worried about you, rather than trying to control you, they will express their concerns, listen to your reasons, and then you will find a solution together (meet after class, choose a studio closer to home, work on your fears), rather than manipulate or forbid.


Another example of controlling behavior is soft or hard isolation from the usual circle, from family, friends, and also the person may take over your financial and legal matters, which leads to almost complete social isolation and dependence. A clear signal of an unhealthy relationship can be an attempt of your partner to control your look, behavior, communication style and habits. Control can seem like caring, fear, jealousy, possessiveness. And while these feelings are quite normal for most people, in an unhealthy relationship they become a weapon.


Lack of trust


An unhealthy relationship is a relationship where there is no trust. Trust is an open relation that is built on confidence in the other person's honesty and integrity toward you. Trust is formed through mutual step-by-step disclosure over time as the relationship grows and develops. Forcing the process excessively or, conversely, stalling too much is a signal that something is going wrong.


Talking and listening to each other, you gradually develop emotional intimacy between you, but if you feel that you cannot trust your deepest feelings, have to hide something, or feel that your partner is hiding something from you, then you will feel nervous, unable to fully relax.


How much you and your partner trust each other is partly determined by your attachment style. These behaviors are often formed in childhood, but continue to determine your behavior in romantic relationships in adulthood. If in the past a person has not been able to rely on people he or she should trust the most, he or she may have difficulty trusting people.


Disrespect


Disrespect in an unhealthy relationship can take many forms. Sometimes it is a dismissive attitude toward the other person, and other times it may take the form of open mockery of the other person's opinions or interests. Such disrespect often feels like rejection, which can trigger a range of emotions, including resentment, shame, guilt, loneliness, embarrassment, and social anxiety.


Poor communication


Well-established communication is the foundation stone of any healthy relationship. And unhealthy relationships are often characterized by ineffective communication. Problematic, ineffective communication can include a reluctance to talk about problems, avoiding difficult questions, expecting the other person to be able to read minds, not wanting to listen, being defensive or stalling to avoid confronting relationship problems.


It is problematic communication that is the key "predictor" of divorce and has a greater impact than commitment, stress and personal characteristics.



An unbalanced relationship


Another sign of an unhealthy relationship is a sensation of loss for balance. If you feel that your relationship has become one-sided, meaning that you are putting more effort, energy and emotion into maintaining it, that relationship can be unhealthy and often leaves the person doing all the work without support, isolated and exhausted.


Unbalance can manifest itself through a lack of equality in horizontal relationships. If you feel that your opinion is not important or less important, you are not considered or treated in a patronizing way, this is a clear sign of an unhealthy relationship.


Sometimes painful reactions and behaviors can be a consequence of severe stress, but in other cases consistent patterns of unhealthy behavior are amplified over time. In some cases, these problems can be resolved on your own or with the help of a therapist. But if you are being abused, whether physically, verbally or sexually, your primary focus should be to keep yourself safe, not to work on the relationship.


Summary


Relationships grow, change, and sometimes break down as time passes. While relationships can be mostly healthy when things are going well, the addition of stressors can strain or break healthy psychological responses. People may respond by engaging unhealthy coping mechanisms or following behaviors that end up hurting the health of their relationship.


In an unhealthy relationship, you may feel like you have to foresee everything, always be on guard, behave only the "right" way, hide your true thoughts and feelings. You may even feel like you have to change yourself, give up your desires, in order to keep your partner calm or happy.


The only way to prevent or end unhealthy relationships is through direct, honest communication with yourself and others. Ask yourself and others direct questions that will help you break the deadlock.


🟣 What do I feel right now?

🟠 What do I want right now?

🔵 What is the purpose of our conversation?

🟢 Are we solving a problem or venting our emotions?

🟡 What are my core values?

🔴 Is my behavior coming closer to solving the problem?

⚪ How else can I solve this problem?

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