Meeting someone new, dating, and falling in love can be some of the most exciting feelings we get to experience in our lifetimes. As the world returns to normal and places begin reopening, there are ample opportunities to explore new shops and engage in fun activities, perhaps with a new partner or with your quarantine companion. However, it is important to recognize red flags in a partner which are crucial to keeping ourselves safe—emotionally and physically. Determining if your relationship is becoming or has become unhealthy can be scary, confusing, and upsetting. Still, noticing and confronting the unhealthy dynamics that exist within a relationship are key in order to salvage the partnership (or to protect oneself)! Here are some signs that a relationship may be in danger of becoming unhealthy:
1. Control and Possessiveness You notice that your partner’s energy perhaps doesn’t quite match yours. They are overly excited to see you to the point where you feel uncomfortable by the intensity of the attention they give you. When you are not together, they call or text constantly to check up on you, and maybe even beg you to leave where you are—whether it be with family, friends, at work—and be with them instead. Although jealousy is a normal emotion to an extent, they take it to the next level and try to separate or isolate you from friends and family, or accuse you of flirting with or wanting to be with other people.
Your partner coerces or convinces you to do things you would not normally do or do not want to do. Manipulation can come in many forms and oftentimes it can be difficult to identify until later. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation where someone tries to make you question your own reality. It can include such things as blatantly lying, yet insisting that what they are saying is true; minimizing your feelings; or trying to turn you against others by saying that others are talking about you behind your back, even when such a thing is not true.
3. Minimization Much like gaslighting described above, unhealthy behaviors in a relationship include minimization of a partner’s feelings. One of the most beautiful aspects of a healthy and secure relationship is the ability to be vulnerable and openly share one’s experiences with a loving partner. When a relationship becomes unhealthy, this becomes impossible, as trust is tenuous or completely non-existent. One might feel the need for support by a safe and amorous person, yet their expressions of emotions are met with dismissive statements, such as “It wasn’t that bad” or “You’re not over that by now? I said I was sorry, what more do you want from me?” Hearing these from a partner can be devastating and can even lead you to begin forming unhealthy patterns of bottling up emotions for fear of minimization or rejection, even from other family members or friends.
4. Guilting and Volatility Sometimes when we are involved in highly emotionally charged and passionate romances, it can feel like partners embody a singular being. This can become unhealthy when lines become so blurred that it feels as though you are responsible for the actions or words of a partner, or when a partner asserts this to be true. It is healthy and normal to want (and even need) space away from a partner from time to time. However, when a partner tries to guilt you into staying at home with them, for example by threatening to hurt or kill themselves or someone else, this is a sign that the relationship is unhealthy and unsafe for all partners involved. The volatility of a partner is also a red flag in a relationship, where you feel as though you cannot say or do anything “right,” or that anything you do might result in your partner becoming upset or “blowing up” at you. Typically, this feeling is described as walking on eggshells, because you constantly have to tread lightly around your partner for fear of upsetting them.
5. Abuse Although the term “abuse” may sound like the most obvious sign of an unhealthy relationship, it often still goes vastly unnoticed by many who experience it. In fact, all of the previous signs fall under the umbrella of emotional or psychological abuse. Threats of abuse are red flags that should be taken seriously, even in the absence of physical or sexual abuse, because they can cause long-lasting and invisible scars.
It is important to keep yourself safe while getting to know a new romantic partner, or even while spending lots and lots of time with a long-term partner (for example, someone you quarantined with). Everyone deserves to experience healthy and secure loving relationships without the threat of violence, belittlement, minimization, or manipulation from a partner.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse within a relationship, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website: https://www.thehotline.org/
At Quintessential Health, we provide individual and couples therapy to offer support and help navigate unhealthy relationship patterns. Feel free to call us at 1-833-QHCARES (742-2737) or visit our website to schedule an appointment: https://qhealthonline.com