7 Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

7 Warning Signs Of Unhealthy Relationship
7 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Relationship

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Engaging in healthy behaviors can contribute to healthy relationships. When both partners prioritize their well-being, the relationship can benefit. A healthy lifestyle may include practices like mindfulness, taking private time, and even physical activity.

Cultivating one’s own mental and emotional health is important for relationships. However, relationship challenges can still arise. These can range from minor to more severe and disruptive.

If disruptive relationship struggles become prevalent, understanding some common signs of unhealthy relationships may bring clarity. Discover 7 signs to watch for.

Mental Health And Relationships

Mental health challenges can impact relationships and their dynamics. Each partner’s mental wellness can affect communication, emotional intimacy, and overall relationship satisfaction.

Seeking support from mental health professionals can provide valuable guidance and tools for navigating difficulties together. Proactivity may reduce some of the stressors found in relationships with mental health challenges.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders can also influence relationship dynamics. When one or both partners in a relationship are diagnosed with a personality disorder, either of them may experience diminished satisfaction or well-being.

People living with personality disorders may exhibit behaviors that result in a reduction of relationship satisfaction. They may also find it challenging to address their own dissatisfaction in a relationship with an undiagnosed partner.

A literature review of studies on personality disorders and relationships reveals that communication issues often exist in relationships where personality disorders are present. Partners in this dynamic can tend to seek out those similar to them, creating patterns of behavior that limit growth.

Furthermore, a 2020 study by Smith, Jarnecke, and South concluded that ”reports of elevated personality pathology are detrimental to marital functioning.”

Because some characteristics associated with personality disorders may cause discord between partners, it can help to understand what’s going on with your loved one.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Individuals with NPD may exhibit a pervasive pattern of grandiosity. They can also possess a need for admiration, and what can be perceived as a lack of empathy.

In relationships, this can manifest as a sense of entitlement. Someone with NPD may appear to exploit others for personal gain or have a lack of consideration for their partner’s feelings. Individuals with NPD can struggle to maintain healthy boundaries. This could present as them prioritizing their own needs and desires.

Partners may perceive people living with NPD as displaying an inflated sense of self-importance. These symptoms can lead to difficulties in communication and emotional intimacy. It’s not uncommon for people with NPD to struggle with expressing empathy.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Clinicians characterize BPD symptoms as a mix of various emotional stability challenges. People with BPD may experience intense and unstable emotions. They may act impulsively at times. Difficulties with self-image can also be commonly associated with this condition.

Interpersonal relationships can be challenging for people with BPD. They may struggle with a fear of abandonment. This fear can manifest itself as mood fluctuations and attachment challenges.

Because of the mood fluctuations that people with BPD can experience, they may display impulsive behavior. Substance abuse or self-harm can present as an attempt to cope.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is an avenue of treatment for people with BPD. It specifically addresses the needs of people who experience intense emotion and can be very helpful.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)

Individuals with APD may appear to display a disregard for the rights and feelings of others. They can engage in patterns of behavior that seem self-serving or even disrespectful to those around them.

In relationships, this can manifest as a lack of empathy or remorse for harmful actions. Partners of people with APD may feel manipulated or exploited by their loved ones. Over time, this may cause resentment and conflict.

Other symptoms of APD can include a disregard for social norms, which can lead to conflict and dysfunction within a relationship. Their behavior can be perceived as unpredictable or even harmful to their partner’s well-being.

Navigating Relationships with Personality Disorders

There are many factors at play in relationships where a partner is diagnosed with a personality disorder.

On the one hand, people living with these challenges may not be completely in control of or aware of their behavior. They may find relief if they are encouraged or able to seek help. Therapists can suggest new patterns of thinking, coping strategies, and ways to cultivate empathy. All of these tools have the potential to improve relationships.

On the other hand, those in relationships with people diagnosed with personality disorders may experience significant stress. While it’s important for partners to be empathetic to each other, each must also care for their own needs and well-being.

A little professional guidance can help couples facing these situations. Individual counseling may also help. Couples’ therapists can suggest valuable tools and strategies for managing conflict, improving communication, and setting healthy boundaries within the relationship.

Additionally, partners of individuals with personality disorders may benefit from joining support groups to process their own emotions and experiences in a safe and supportive environment. With dedication and support, many couples can work through relationship challenges and cultivate healthier dynamics over time.

Trauma And Relationships

People who have experienced trauma may also find themselves in unhealthy relationships. Many kinds of trauma can have an impact on relationship satisfaction.

Trauma is a complicated subject. People who have experienced trauma may have a variety of challenges in relationships. It can be helpful when family and friends try to understand and support their loved ones who have experienced trauma.

In particular, PTSD symptoms can disrupt trust between partners. It can be difficult for people with PTSD to communicate effectively and manage conflict.

Trauma survivors may experience challenges around problem-solving as well.

Evaluating Your Relationship

When discussing challenging relationships, it’s important to see things contextually. While personality disorders, trauma, and conditions like PTSD can affect relationships, they don’t necessarily equate to harmful relationships.

Partners may feel differently about the same events or have very different perspectives. This can make it difficult to see situations objectively. Reaching out for assistance can help clarify things.

Left unchecked, relationships themselves may cause trauma. An unhealthy relationship can deeply affect either or both partners. Because of this, evaluating the health of a relationship is a valuable endeavor.

Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable in their unions. But, how does one approach evaluating their relationship health?

One of the first signs of an unhealthy relationship may be persistent dissatisfaction or negative emotional states. There’s much more to consider, however.

Common Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

What are common signs of unhealthy relationships that could mean it’s time to seek help?

Lack of Communication

Communication forms the bedrock of a healthy relationship. Its absence may signal underlying issues.

In unhealthy relationships, partners may shy away from difficult conversations, ignore each other’s needs, or resort to passive-aggressive behavior instead of confronting conflicts directly. This breakdown in communication can sow seeds of misunderstanding, resentment, and emotional distance between partners.

Controlling Behavior

Unhealthy relationships may feature one partner exerting control over the other’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. This can manifest as jealousy, possessiveness, or attempts to isolate the partner from friends and family.

Controlling behavior can erode trust and autonomy, creating a power imbalance that undermines mutual respect and cooperation.

Emotional Manipulation

Tactics like guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or emotional blackmail are common in unhealthy relationships. These methods may appear to undermine the other person’s confidence, manipulate their emotions, or control their behavior.

Survivors of emotional manipulation may feel confused, invalidated, or insecure as their partner’s words and actions chip away at their sense of self-worth and agency.

Lack of Boundaries

Healthy relationships thrive on healthy boundaries and autonomy. In unhealthy dynamics, boundaries may be disregarded or violated, fostering resentment, frustration, or powerlessness.

Partners may feel pressured to sacrifice their own needs or values to accommodate the other person, leading to imbalance and dissatisfaction.

Constant Conflict

While conflict is natural in any relationship, incessant arguing, bickering, or hostility may signify deeper issues. Unhealthy relationships often exhibit a pattern of unresolved conflicts, repetitive arguments, or a lack of conflict resolution skills.

Partners may feel drained, stressed, or emotionally depleted by the perpetual tension and negativity.

Lack of Trust

Many people consider trust paramount in relationships. In unhealthy dynamics, trust may be undermined by dishonesty, betrayal, or repeated breaches of confidence. Partners may feel suspicious, insecure, or anxious about their partner’s intentions or behavior, corroding intimacy and emotional connection.

Emotional or Physical Abuse

Perhaps the gravest sign of an unhealthy relationship is the presence of emotional or physical abuse. Abuse can manifest in various forms, including verbal insults, threats, intimidation, or physical violence. Victims may feel trapped, isolated, or powerless to leave the relationship, often due to fear or lack of support.

Anyone can experience abuse. It is not gender-specific.

Domestic violence is one form of abuse, typically used when partners live together. Couples who don’t cohabitate may also be in abusive relationships. The term intimate partner violence is commonly used for these situations.

Navigating Unhealthy Relationships

Recognizing the signs of an unhealthy relationship is the first step toward positive change. Individuals in such situations must prioritize their safety and well-being, seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or professionals.

Choosing to care for oneself doesn’t equate to abandoning a partner. While some relationships can be improved through joint efforts, others may benefit from separation.

Given the complexity of these decisions, seeking outside help, such as therapy, can be invaluable. Therapists can offer guidance, teach boundary-setting techniques, and provide coping skills, fostering healthier dynamics over time.