Spotting The Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

How do you feel after an interaction with your partner? Do you feel frustrated, lonely, sad or even mad? Your feelings matter and may indicate the kind of relationship you are in.


An unhealthy relationship can become an abusive relationship and consistent patterns of unhealthy behaviour can evolve into emotional abuse. It can be confusing and it’s not always easy to recognise the signs due to the subtle and manipulative nature of emotional abuse. Your partner may say things that affect your self esteem or they may blame you for problems within your relationship. You may start to believe it, even doubt that your concerns are real. Instead of questioning your partner you question yourself; “I’m being difficult”, “I’m not good enough”, “they’re only angry because I made them angry”.


The first step towards getting out of an unhealthy and potentially abusive relationship is to recognise that your feelings and intuitions are very real and important. You need to know that you deserve a healthy relationship based on mutual respect, equality and happiness.


Remember all relationships have their ups and downs, but a healthy relationship is an open one where you are encouraged to talk through your problems. If you are responsive to each other, respect the others feelings and are open to compromise then having the occasional bad day is nothing to worry about.


The following warning signs may help you identify unhealthy or abusive behaviour in your relationship.


Your partner often displays jealous behaviour.

A little bit of jealousy in an intimate relationship is inevitable, and can even be an endearing quality in small doses. However, jealousy which is morphing into possessive and controlling behaviour (preventing you from having your own life) is a red flag.


You do less of the things you want to do and see less of the people you want to see.

In order to gain more power over you, your partner may slowly try to isolate you from your family and friends or impede you from pursuing your interests outside of the relationship. A common tactic is to play the victim, expressing anguish at the prospect of you not devoting all of your time towards them so that you feel obliged to stay with them.

They discourage you from looking your best.

Telling you that you don’t need to wear makeup can be a compliment but if your partner stops you from wearing it when you want to or tells you what you can or can’t wear, can be signs of a controlling and possessive nature. Furthermore, another red flag may be that you might find that your partner tries to influence your eating or exercise habits. Discouraging you from looking good or pressuring you to look a certain way could begin to slowly lower your self esteem to the point where you don’t feel worthy of their love.


They act selfishly and say little things to put you down.

A healthy, loving partner will encourage you to be yourself, follow your dreams and reach your own goals. An abusive partner will act selfishly, ignore your desires and say things to put you down, for example “ Are you really going out in that?”, “you should go to the gym today.” etc.


They persuade you to do things you don’t want to do.

You should never be forced to do something you don’t want to, and that includes sexual acts. An abusive partner may subtly convince you to do something you aren’t comfortable with but without the overt use of force. They may tell you it’s right and that it’s natural to be worried. By surreptitiously manipulating you in this way you may be more inclined to ignore your own concerns and/or natural instincts.


You doubt yourself and your own intuition.

Maybe your intuition is telling you that something about your relationship is not quite right. Sadly, because of all of the manipulate techniques your partner may use, you may no longer trust yourself. An abusive person will transfer any blame onto you and put doubt into your head. They might call you ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ if you voice a concern and you may well start to believe them. At other times however, they will show you love and kindness which will confuse you even more. They will muddy the waters further by putting on a charming act around your family and friends, complicating your feelings for them and making it harder to cut them out of your life.

They may check your phone and log onto your social media accounts.

Trust is an important part of any relationship. A healthy relationship has healthy boundaries; your partner doesn’t need to know everything. Unfortunately, social media is an incredible tool for an abuser who wants to track your conversations, movements and to gain an unhealthy amount of control over you. Meanwhile, they may not be so trustworthy themselves!


Unhealthy and abusive relationships are about control, power and coercion. Under the Serious Crime Act 2015, coercion and control is now a recognised criminal offence, considered an abuse-related crime (Office for National Statistics). If you think that you may be involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, or you know someone who is talk to a supportive friend or seek professional help. Helplines such as Rape Crisis England and Wales (0808 802 9999) can help you understand whether what you are experiencing is unhealthy or abusive and can provide support.