When talking about domestic violence and domestic violence awareness, it’s important to talk about behaviors in unhealthy and healthy relationships.
What is an unhealthy relationship? An unhealthy relationship is a relationship where one or more of the people involved exhibit behaviors that are not healthy and are not founded in mutual respect for the other person. An unhealthy relationship is not necessarily an abusive relationship, but it can be. It’s important to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship because such relationships have the potential to escalate to an abusive relationship. Being able to identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors is key for becoming more educated about domestic violence, as well as being able to foster healthy relationships within your own life.
Here are ten signs of unhealthy behaviors in relationships:
1. Lack of communication
Communication is one of the key elements of any relationship, be it with family, friends or significant others. Partners should be able to communicate both the good and the bad with each other. Without communication, there is no foundation to build a healthy relationship on. There might be a lack of communication if a couple is unable to talk about difficult topics, there are a lot of misunderstandings that never seem to get worked out, or they never seem to be on the same page.
This one may seem obvious, but dishonesty, especially continual and repeated dishonesty, is not a good foundation for any relationship.
All relationships should have respect, especially intimate ones. If one partner in a relationship feels constantly disrespected, this is definitely something that needs to be addressed. Disrespect can include name calling, breaking boundaries, and constantly questioning and criticizing the other person’s choices and decisions.
While it’s true that when in a relationship, a couple is a social unit, it’s important to remember that each person in a relationship is an individual. Every person needs to have a certain level of independence. If one partner is constantly dependent on the other, whether financially, emotionally, or psychologically, this could indicate an unhealthy relationship.
Some jealousy in a relationship is okay, normal even. However, jealousy becomes unhealthy when it’s constant or excessive and becomes about one partner possessing the other. On the reverse side, if one partner is constantly trying to make the other partner jealous, that can also be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
If one partner often tries to manipulate the other, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Manipulation can take many forms, but some examples include mind games, convincing a partner to ignore their wants/desires, and using guilt.
Constructive criticism is one thing, but being overly and unnecessarily critical of a partner can be bad news. If it seems like a partner uses criticism to tear the other partner down, this could be a form of emotional abuse.
While couples should enjoy spending time with each other, they should also spend time with other people and have a life outside of their partner! Isolation is an often-used tactic by abusers to make the victim/survivor dependent on them by cutting off their ties to support networks, thus increasing their power and control in the relationship.
9. Constant fighting
While all relationships will have some conflict in them, if you and your partner are constantly fighting, this could be a bad sign. Generally, you shouldn’t have to feel combative when you’re with your partner.
10. Controlling behavior
Domestic violence is about power and control. If a partner exhibits controlling behavior, such as trying to control where the other goes, who the other sees, or what they do, this is a very bad sign. People in a relationship should be equals and while they should be responsible to each other, they should not have to report their every action to the other person. Other examples of controlling behavior include demanding social media passwords, checking text messages, and using intimidation or coercion to get their way.
This article was written in partnership with the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women of Siena College for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of abuse, please check out these resources or call 1-800-799-7233 or chat online.