It is perfectly natural to crave love and affection. Serious relationships can add a sense of security and meaning in one’s life, making these types of relationships highly sought after for many collegiettes. Falling in love is a beautiful, magical feeling. When you allow yourself to become emotionally intimate, and thus vulnerable, with someone it can be enthralling and terrifying at the same time. Among the whirlwind of emotions falling in love entails it can become easy to ignore early warning signs that your new partner may not be the best fit for you. Similarly, you may find yourself justifying “red flag” behavior because you’re new love is wonderful in so many other ways. While it may be alright to excuse your new man’s gross nail biting habit, or bad sense of style due to his totally awesome abs or his quirky sense of humor…not all flaws can be excused as easily.
Your significant other seems to dislike your closest friends, your family, or other important people in your life. Okay, fine, who hasn’t dealt with a boyfriend’s over involved mother, an annoying younger sibling or a friend you think is sort of a jerk. The problem isn’t that your significant other dislikes some of the people in your life, the problem begins when this dislike interferes with your relationships. It’s one thing for your boyfriend to politely ask to not be included on your sunday morning brunch date with the girls, it’s another thing for him to put down or degrade your friends in attempt to keep you from them.
If there was ever a red flag in the history of red flags this is it. Fear is not normal in a relationship. Fear is not healthy in a relationship, and fear is NOT okay in a relationship. If your partner gives you any reason to worry he/she may harm you physically or emotionally it is NOT okay. We all know physical and emotional violence is unacceptable yet in the moment it becomes so easy to make excuses for a partner’s threatening behavior. No matter what you said or did your boyfriend should not become a figure whom you fear.
3. Emotional Exhaustion:
If your partner causes you to question your own emotions or mental well being there is a good chance they are subconsciously (or consciously) belittling your emotions. In a healthy relationship both partners should feel safe expressing their emotions, even if the other partner does not agree. It is never healthy for your partner to make you feel guilty for feeling sad or upset. Likewise, your boyfriend should not tell you your feelings are “made up” or not real. If you are feeling hurt/sad/upset those feelings are REAL and whether or not they are a result of your partner or your own emotional crisis they SHOULD be addressed.
4. It’s NEVER easy:
Let’s face it, relationships are not the fairytales we dreamed about as little girls. Disney lied, Barbie lied, everyone lied. Let’s all cry over the real ending of the Hans Christian Andersen original version of “The Little Mermaid” and move on with our lives. Real life relationships are NOT fairytales; they are not perfect. You aren’t perfect, your partner isn’t perfect so why on earth would your relationship be perfect?!
Yet, there is something to be said about a relationship that is difficult from the start. The first few months (at least) of a relationship SHOULD feel magical, there should be butterflies, and you should feel those “fairytale feelings”. If your relationship begins with constant disagreements, it’s probably a sign the two of you are not emotionally compatible.
A partner who consistently lies to you can be infuriating and scary. You may begin to wonder where the lies end and the truth begins. On the other hand, if you feel like you need to lie to your boyfriend consistently (about who you are with/where you are going/etc/etc) that is also a problem. Honesty is a major MAJOR component of trust. If you feel unable to trust your significant other your relationship is headed into dangerous territory.
6. Disapproval from your friends/family:
The idea of defying all odds as star crossed lovers is romantic isn’t it? Let’s not forget that Romeo and Juliet died in the end of their “love story” (if you can really even call it that). Your friends and family know and love you, these people care about your future and your well being. While there is certainly a chance they have simply “misunderstood” your Romeo, their disapproval should be a red flag. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of emotions in the beginning of a new relationship, it is important to listen to the people who care about you at times when your judgment may be clouded.
Over time you may find yourself resenting yourself or your partner. You may resent your partner for “holding you back” from your dreams and goals. You may resent yourself for staying with someone who makes you feel so powerless and isolated. You may resent your friends and family for not seeing you’re suffering and stepping in to “save you”. In a healthy relationship a couple should be able to talk through past issues and work past resentment. However, if resentment is a steady and current theme throughout your relationship it is a sign you may be in a toxic place.
8. A loss of identity:
An unhealthy relationship may cause you to feel isolated, depressed or angry. After become wrapped up in these negative emotions you may withdrawal from friends, give up hobbies or simply loose a sense of “zest” for life. These feelings (and their consequences) can cause you to partake in unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, or self harm. As your emotions spiral out of control you may begin to question your own identity as you measure this new “damaged” person up against the happier healthier person you once were.
9. Daydreams about escaping your significant other:
People in unhealthy relationships may waiver back and forth about their feelings towards their significant other. On one hand, you may daydream about moving on and freeing yourself from your current relationship but just hours or moments later you may crave the affection and approval of your partner. While it can be normal and even healthy to feel unsure about a serious relationship (especially in college), it is emotionally exhausting to find yourself desperate to escape from the very person whose approval you crave.
It’s important to step back and examine your own relationship from the most objective standpoint possible. Think about your relationship as if it were that of a friend, would you like to see your bestie being treated the way you are being treated? Would you feel happy if your little sister was dating a guy just like your boyfriend? In the end it is vital that you are honest with yourself, no one knows the interworkings of your relationship (and of your heart) like you do. Take a personal vow to stop “bleaching red flags white”, to examine each relationship honestly and from the perspective that you are a valuable woman who deserves to be respected (because you are)! If you worry that you or a friend is the victim of an unhealthy relationship, remember you are not alone. Leaving an abusive relationship can be incredibly difficult, even if you realize you deserve to be treated better. There are resources available such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has trained volunteers available for assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally the University of Washington Counseling Center offers free counseling services for students.