There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Every couple is going to have to resolve conflicts and navigate rough patches, and most relationships are a combination of some healthy characteristics and occasional unhealthy ones. But, for some relationships, the unhealthy far outweighs the healthy, and the relationship becomes toxic and causes harm.
How do you know if your relationship is unhealthy? A toxic relationship has a lot of red flags.
Let’s look at some of the signs of an unhealthy relationship.
- Negative influence. One partner negatively influences the other to participate in harmful habits like heavy drinking or drug use or to participate in unethical or illegal activities.
- One partner makes all the decisions. It’s his or her way or the highway. This partner controls all the finances, tells the other what to do, maybe even what to wear or who to spend time with.
- One or both of you lie to the other – either to willfully deceive or in an attempt to keep the peace. One partner may steal from the other.
- Lack of privacy. You feel forced to share information with your partner. This is usually the result of a lack of trust.
- Intimidation or manipulation. One person in the relationship tries to control the other through intimidation and threats or through manipulation.
- One partner makes fun of or insults the other or belittles the interests or accomplishments of the other. Or, your partner refuses to give you attention when you want to talk about something. Arguments regularly escalate to name-calling and screaming.
- Lack of dependability. Based on his or her actions, you cannot depend on your partner, and you aren’t sure how reliable your partner would be in a major situation when you really needed him or her, like if you or a family member got really sick.
- When you argue, one of both of you gets defensive and refuses to acknowledge that the other person has valid points.
- Disagreements escalate to hitting, slapping, pushing or other forms of physical violence.
- Sexual violence/coercion. One partner coerces sex from the other, or pressures or forces the other to have sex against his or her will.
If you see these characteristics in your relationship, you may be able to seek counseling and work on improving the relationship. However, there are times when you need to seek immediate professional help. If your partner ever tries to harm you physically or assault you sexually, please seek help immediately. Even if you believe your partner truly loves you, that does not make up for the harm he or she is doing to you.
The staff at LivingWell cares about you. We believe you deserve to enjoy healthy relationships, and we want to help you. If you see any of these signs in your relationship, please leave us a comment or call us. Our services are confidential and no cost to you.
*Information adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2005). Choose respect community action kit: Helping preteens and teens build healthy relationships. You can access the kit here.
The content on this page has been reviewed and approved by our Medical Director.