Signs You’re in an Unhealthy Relationship

By Lisa Leslie

If you’re reading this, you might be wondering whether the relationship you’re in is healthy. It’s normal to question our relationship now and then, to argue from time to time, and for both people involved to say or do the wrong thing sometimes. After all, we are human. 

When the arguments become more frequent than the laughs, or when one or both partners feel neglected, unrespected, or even unsafe, that’s when you may want to take a closer look at how healthy your relationship really is.

We interviewed experts who shared warning signs to be on the lookout for, tips for addressing unhealthy patterns—and how to know when to run as fast as you can from a relationship.

Warning Signs to Watch For

Your relationship is a secret.

No, your partner doesn’t need to carry around a picture of you in their wallet and show it to everyone they meet, but if their BFF hasn’t met you yet, who else aren’t they telling about you? If you just started seeing each other, then this isn’t a big deal, but if it’s been a few months, you might want to ask what’s up with the secrecy.

“If you’ve been dating regularly for three months or more it’s typical that you meet the significant people in each other’s lives,” says Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW, Certified relationship coach and matchmaker. “This includes family, longtime friends, and even coworkers. If the person you are dating is avoiding an introduction to the significant people in their life that’s a red flag and a clear indication they are probably not the one.”

You’re constantly arguing with your partner.

Sure, it’s totally normal for couples to bicker now and then about things like whose turn it is to cook dinner or what to watch on Netflix. It’s also normal to have bigger fights about sex and money and when one or the other isn’t feeling appreciated. Communication isn’t always pretty.

But when the fighting gets to the point where it feels constant and even exhausting, that’s not normal; that’s not healthy. It isn’t normal to feel like you’re walking on eggshells around your partner all the time. “Constant fighting or bickering is a huge flag that either you’re not a match or not a match anymore,” says Julianne.

Your partner won’t commit to the relationship.

If your partner isn’t ready to commit when you are, they’re probably not “the one”. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person; they just aren’t necessarily the person for you.

“It might not (and likely doesn’t) have anything to do with you,” says Vanessa Ringel, neuroplasticity coach and founder of GRAVITĀS. “They may not be ready to settle, there may be some incompatibility at play that you’re not aware of, or they might have trauma from past relationships. What matters is that you don’t invest your valuable time and energy in someone who isn’t able to reciprocate, and who will unwillingly block you from finding the person who would.”

Ask yourself: Is that really a relationship you want to invest any more time in?

Your partner brings out the worst in you.

Relationships aren’t always easy, but your partner shouldn’t make you act in a way you typically wouldn’t. You may be in an unhealthy relationship if “you bring out the worst in each other, and being with this person is exhausting,” says Rory Sassoon. It’s not a healthy relationship if “you’re constantly talking about how to fix your relationship, and most importantly, you really don’t feel that you like each other fundamentally as people,” says Sassoon. 

It’s important to be with someone who brings out the best in you. While you won’t be at your best every minute of every day, your partner should be there to support you so you can be your best in the areas of your life that matter most. “Are you neglecting your health, finances, friendships, children, family, dreams? That is your warning sign that something is wrong in your relationship,” says Laura Day, New York Times Bestselling author and practicing intuitive.

Signs of Mental Abuse: Criticism, Humiliation, and Control

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~ Maya Angelou

According to, “Approximately 84% of victims (of domestic violence) are psychologically abused by their partners.”

Chances are, you did not go looking for a relationship where you would constantly be put down and made to feel worthless, stupid, or just plain crappy. If your partner is insulting you and calling you names that make you feel bad about yourself, these are signs of mental abuse. Unfortunately, “this type of abuse can sneak up on you, and sometimes isn’t as easy to spot as physical abuse,” says Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. 

Cantarella weighs in on how it is easy to miss the warning signs of mental abuse, adding, “Sometimes it’s hard to recognize negative behaviors or if you are being mentally abused. This behavior can be insidious and introduced slowly over time. What might start out as a “joke” can end up being used as a way to control you, shame you, or make you feel as if you are the problem. If your partner is humiliating you, constantly criticizing you, controlling you, shaming you, blaming you, or Isolating you from your family and friends, these are all examples of mental and emotional abuse. Another example could be trying to control you by monitoring your coming and going, checking your phone, or controlling your finances.”

Additional examples of mental abuse include “a lashing out or neglect, or “punishment” following any behavior your partner does not agree with,” says Ringel. “Or, you may notice your partner lies to you, especially about important things, and that when you confront him or her, it gets turned back on you, as if the lying is your fault.”

Beyond mental and emotional injury, abuse in a relationship can also directly affect us physically. “Our body is a very good barometer of the relationship weather. Are you feeling or looking unwell? Are you low energy? Are you losing or gaining weight? Are you drinking more? Is your sleep poor?” says Day. “We ignore the intuition of our body and yet it is often the first “reveal” for problems we don’t want to see.”

When and How to Get Out of an Unhealthy Relationship

If you do find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to know if it’s time to move on, or whether the relationship can be saved.

Is the Relationship Worth Saving?

“If there are kids involved and marriage, couples therapy is usually a better first step to see if you can reconcile your differences before breaking it off and initiating a divorce,” says Sassoon. “If you aren’t married it still may be worth seeking couples therapy as a first option to help you receive an unbiased opinion and decide if it’s better to simply walk away. If you do need to get out of the relationship, it’s always best to do it in a way that is honest and classy.”

“It can be tempting to discard the relationship altogether on the basis that it “just doesn’t work,” says Monica Berg, author of Rethink Love and host of Spiritually Hungry Podcast. “Some may opt for the exit route in hopes of finding a new partner, only to start a new relationship and see the same issues repeat. The problem is often not your partner or their personality, but rather our own unrealistic concept of who they should be, or even who we should be together. Before leaving, ask yourself if your expectations are getting in the way of a relationship.”

How to Say “It’s Over”

If you do decide to end it, here are a few tips for making a smooth exit. 

Build a Support Team

Whether your relationship has simply run its course, or you’re trying to get out of a mentally or (physically) abusive relationship, ending a relationship is never easy. Therefore, it’s important to have a strong support system to help you through the process.

Communicate Clearly

It can be easy to fall into an on and off-again relationship, especially if it was an unhealthy one, to begin with. “Maintain clarity that the relationship is ending,” says Cantarella. 

Cut Ties and Set Boundaries

Cantarella adds, “Once the relationship has ended, make sure to distance yourself by cutting all ties, including social media connections.” 

Hire a Professional

If you’re scared about how your partner will respond to you ending the relationship, “you can hire a professional, such as a therapist or a social worker to help you get out safely,” says Ringel. In the case of a mentally or physically abusive relationship, this is recommended.

In this case, you could also “send your family to retrieve your personal items,’ says Trombetti. “It’s okay not to feel you need to have communication. This sort of situation speaks for itself and you don’t need to subject yourself to more.”

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

If you’re still unsure about whether your relationship is a healthy one or not, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert Bonnie Winston, says, “If you do not have a feeling of stability or contentment, your partner probably isn’t the right mate for you. You have to trust your gut instinct. Repeat this mantra, ‘I deserve a kind and happy life.’” How does your relationship make you feel?

 (photo credit: Shutterstock)




About Lisa Leslie
Owner and lead content strategist at Magnolia Method Consulting

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