Most relationships come with their share of strife. The people involved – whether they’re friends, family, or significant others – are not always going to get along or agree. Those ebbs and flows happen, they can be dealt with, and then you move on.
What is an Unhealthy Relationship?
Your ability as an individual to “take the bad with the good” is the key to living a positive, mindful life. You roll with the down stretches and celebrate the upswings. You don’t let bumps in the road derail your forward momentum in any area of your life.
These are signs of emotional resilience and if you have this particular trait, chances are you have strong and fulfilling relationships.
What if the opposite is your reality?
Understanding your part in what makes a relationship unhealthy is important to avoid repeating choices that ended badly for you. Understanding the impact of other people you allow into your life is also critical.
3 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Your personal behaviors have changed. I think all of us have a relationship in our past that we look back on and sort of cringe. You were doing great, on track with your goals, and suddenly this person lands in your life, emits total chaos, and leaves a disaster for you to clean up.
If you are a person who is generally focused, conscientious, and “together” but find yourself out of control or struggling with tasks that once came easily (such as paying your bills, cleaning your house, or getting to your job on time), you may be feeling the effects of a negative relationship.
You fake it a lot. Not in that way (though that’s pretty awful and unnecessary, too). By faking it, I mean you pretend you’re absolutely giddy to see that comic book movie (when you secretly would rather watch it on mute and stare at Robert Downey Jr.). Or your over the moon happy to spend every weekend and vacation with his/her family (who make you want to drink…a lot), or that you simply can’t wait to uproot your life to chase their dream (or turn down opportunities to chase yours).
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have an “inner monologue” that is counter to what you actually verbalize?
- Do you attempt to “hint” at what you want – even when you know it will go unnoticed or ignored?
- Are you going through your life faking it for the people around you to keep the peace, not rock the boat, or to avoid causing waves?
If these questions make your heart race a little, not only are you possibly in a negative relationship with a friend or loved one…you’re in an unhealthy relationship with yourself.
You become the keeper of lies. This is a sensitive one. Every relationship book on the planet talks about honesty’s role in strong relationships. Honesty is crucial for your interactions with others and even more important when it comes to the words you say to you.
If you lie to yourself about the negative aspects of your relationship, job, health, or any number of areas, those lies begin to infuse every moment. You hold them close, nurturing them, because if you don’t, they begin to unravel. A lie told once must be told over and over again.
A partner who lies damages the relationship’s foundation of trust.
You can choose to forgive but unless you also choose to forget, the lie remains, pulsing between you. The harsh truth is that some lies simply cannot be forgotten. Recognizing that fact, accepting it, and allowing yourself permission to act on how you really feel is going to hurt at first. Ultimately, you’ll be glad to get some distance from a person who becomes a painful reminder of a crisis.
Worse still is when there is a person for whom you must lie to others.
If someone asks about a relationship in your life, do you have to pause and censor your answer? Do you use phrases such as “they’re really a nice person on the inside” or “they didn’t mean it” or “it’s just a bad time?” Are there “untouchable” topics that you ensure never come up around or about a specific person? Is there a past or present “white elephant” in the room of your relationship?
Examples include a person (still in your life) who once abused you in some way (emotionally or physically), a boss who crosses “work appropriate” boundaries, a loved one suffering from addiction, a significant other who is a habitual cheater, or a friend who engages in high-risk behavior.
Why “Good Enough” is Never Good Enough
Why is it important to understand what makes an unhealthy relationship? The answer is simple and Aretha said it best, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
A person – whether it is your parent, your sibling, a friend, a co-worker, or a partner – who does not respect you has no motivation to treat you with kindness, faithfulness, loyalty, or love. It sets a cycle in motion that will repeat itself endlessly…unless you stop it.
You cannot have trust without respect.
Without trust, you are not free to be the true, best version of you without conditions. Lacking such freedom takes a toll on your love of self. If you do not love yourself, you do not respect yourself…nor do you demand the respect of others in your life.
The strength to set boundaries – and stick to them – in regards to unhealthy relationships is developed over time. Unfortunately, it seems most of us learn by trial and error. Learning the lessons that negative relationships teach is critical to your overall wellbeing.
Learning not to accept less than you deserve. Learning not to repeat the same mistakes. Learning not to allow anyone – for any reason – to stay in your life that does not understand the meaning of respect, devalues your personal goals and dreams, or lies to you.
Every relationship has its rocky places…a relationship that is more rocks than smooth ground is less than you deserve. Living an existence that is vibrant and powerful begins by purging unhealthy relationships from your life.