Knowing whether a relationship is healthy and if you should stay can be more difficult than expected sometimes. I know firsthand what it’s like to want to stay in a relationship because you’re desperate for love, and I know what it’s like to make more excuses for your partner than they deserve.
But after enduring several unhealthy relationships that entailed breadcrumbing, which is essentially leading someone on, and paperclipping, which is basically using someone for your own ego, I’ve finally realized my worth. I’m in a happier relationship now, and I’m passionate about helping others find better relationships too, if they need and want one.
If you’re worried your relationship is becoming unhealthy or isn’t what you want any longer, here are five signs to look out for and affirmations to remind yourself of in those times.
1. You don’t feel emotionally safe sharing parts of yourself that you used to share.
Comfort is so important in a relationship. In a healthy relationship, you should feel comfortable, or emotionally safe, being exactly who you are. You deserve love, respect, and acceptance from your partner in a variety of areas, such as:
- Your hobbies, interests, likes, and dislikes (including favorite sports, games, TV shows, ways you spend your free time, foods, et cetera)
- Your mental health or mental illness (in other words, supporting you when you feel socially anxious or need a little extra encouragement)
- Your personality (including silliness, intelligence, and more)
If they aren’t showing you love, respect, and acceptance in these areas, it’s a warning sign that your relationship is growing unhealthy. Here are some examples of what that can look like:
- Making fun of you or shaming you, especially in front of others
- Making you feel bad about yourself, using harsh words
Ultimately, trust your gut and validate your feelings. Does the situation or conversation feel wrong? Does it feel different from how it used to feel? Is it a situation or feeling that will pass, or does your partner refuse to repair the issue? These are some helpful questions to ask yourself if you feel unsure.
“I deserve to feel emotionally safe, respected, loved, and accepted for who I am; I deserve a partner who treats me well.”
2. Your partner breaks your boundaries.
You’re allowed to set boundaries around what’s okay and what’s not. It’s okay to not like a certain kind of touch or to have a specific trigger you need your partner to avoid. It’s okay to have needs. Having and setting and boundary can look like this:
- “Hearing someone say my name angrily is triggering because that happened when I was a kid, and it caused me to feel unsafe. Can you try to avoid using my name when you’re angry with me?”
- “I’m recovering from an eating disorder, so hearing diet talk is emotional and difficult for me. Can we talk about something else?”
- “I’m not comfortable with PDA. However, I’d love to be affectionate at home with you.”
- “I’m struggling with grief right now and need a few minutes to myself. I’d love to hang out with you after, though, if you’re free.”
Be on the lookout for your partner breaking boundaries you set. The signs may differ from what you’d expect since breaking someone’s boundary isn’t always explicit and obvious. Some examples include:
- Not actively trying to work on respecting the boundary
- Making fun of your boundary, trigger, or need
- Acting like they “just slipped up,” when they actually broke your boundary purposely
- Continuing to break your boundary with no concern or care
- Intentionally playing with the line between what’s okay and what’s not rather than giving you the space and full respect you deserve
Instead, your partner should be thoughtful in their words and actions. For example, they could respond by saying “I’ll definitely work on that. Let me know how else I can support you,” and then follow up accordingly.
“I’m allowed to have and set boundaries, and I deserve someone who completely respects them and doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. If they slip up, they apologize and work harder the next time.”
3. You seem to have given up on each other; you two argue without attempts to apologize or repair.
All couples will argue at some point. It’s common to believe you’re “right,” to disagree on an issue, or to feel reluctant to apologize. No relationship is perfect or always happy.
However, after disagreements, it’s important to apologize and repair the hurt inflicted. This is a way to show your partner that you care about them and their well-being, and that you want to ensure your relationship is as happy and healthy as it can be. Here are some signs your partner is giving up on the relationship:
- Instead of trying to make the situation better by compromising or apologizing, they may hold resentment, give you the silent treatment, or continue to be angry at you
- They don’t talk out issues with you and instead let them fester, potentially worsening the problem
- They refuse to accept any fault; they blame you for every problem that occurs
- They don’t seem to care about making you feel better, improving the relationship, or figuring out a healthy solution
Instead of responding in the above ways, shoot for compromises, respectful communication, being willing to admit guilt after hurting someone, genuine apologies, attempts to grow and become better, concern for each other’s health and happiness, and love.
“While no relationship is perfect, I’m worth a relationship that’s as healthy and happy as it can be. I deserve a relationship in which my partner and I respect each other’s pain and work to improve the relationship together.”
4. Your partner keeps secrets from you, especially concerning information you deserve to know.
You may not want to share every single aspect of yourself or your story with your partner, especially not at the beginning, and that’s okay. You’re allowed to have space and privacy in the relationship without it becoming unhealthy.
However, some secret-keeping can harm the relationship. Some examples are:
- Cheating on your partner
- Snooping through their belongings
- Not telling them about an item or person in your life that’s a threat to their safety
These are examples of experiences or pieces of information you deserve to know. Without honesty about these warning signs, you two can’t have a completely honest and fair relationship. You can’t attempt to resolve the issue. And as a result, you may be in a relationship you wouldn’t otherwise want.
“I deserve honesty from my partner, especially when my well-being and safety are concerned.”
5. You don’t feel physically comfortable around your partner.
At least in my experience, physical violence is one of the most validated, telling signs that a relationship is unhealthy. If you’ve experienced it, I want you to know this: You never “need” or “deserve” to be physically hurt; it’s never “a good thing,” no matter what an abuser may say.
But I also want everyone to keep physical comfort in mind as an important factor, too. Physical comfort can look like this:
- Being able to take care of your physical needs (like sleeping, eating, and bathing) freely and without judgment from your partner
- Not fearing your partner will hurt you physically
- Your partner respecting your physical boundaries (not touching you where or when you don’t want them to, giving you space when you need space, et cetera)
“Not only do I deserve physical safety, but I also deserve physical comfort. I need to feel at ease in my body and be able to respect its needs without fearing judgment.”
While your relationship won’t be positive all the time, it should be most of the time. You are worth a partner who respects, loves, and accepts you for who you are. You deserve to feel emotionally and physically safe and comfortable. You deserve a partner who’s honest and cares about your relationship’s well-being. You deserve the best!
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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