What is an unhealthy relationship – and can it be turned around?
When a couple is in an unhealthy relationship they will engage in frequent arguments and disagreements, or one will try to control the other – while a couple in a healthy relationship seeks ways to adjust, to understand each other’s needs, and learn to compromise.
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Ongoing arguments and a controlling partner can cause long term damage to the individual’s self esteem and sense of self, and lead to serious emotional or physical altercations – so it pays to be aware of the signs of a potentially unhealthy relationship:
- Poor communication – In an unhealthy relationship you may feel uncomfortable or afraid to express your true thoughts and feelings to your partner. Frequent insults from, or being intentionally ignored by your partner can also be signs of trouble.
- Jealousy and mistrust – Ongoing arguments with your partner about quality time spent with others may be a sign of trust issues. If either partner is checking the other’s phone records, text messages, or emails without permission – these are all red flags.
- Fear – If you feel relaxed and calm when your partner leaves the house, this is an indication that your relationship is not as healthy as it could be.
- Anger issues – While it is normal for all couples to get angry at times, violent outbursts and constant screaming with strong intimidating facial expressions are signs that the relationship could benefit from prompt therapeutic intervention.
- Unresolved issues – If you find you and your partner are arguing over and over again about the same things, there may be some underlying, unspoken issues in your relationship which need to be dealt with.
- Controlling behaviours – Attempts to control each other’s career, hobbies, appearance, friendships or other aspects of life may be an early sign of an emotionally abusive relationship.
- Over-reactions – When your partner displays strong emotional reactions or has frequent or extreme changes in his/her mood (eg behaving lovingly one moment and becoming cruel or enraged the next), this is an issue which should be addressed perhaps with a counsellor.
- Inequality – Every relationship requires give and take, but if one of you is always giving and the other is always taking, there is an imbalance in your relationship.
- Use of force – Being physical or use of force (domestic violence) often builds up gradually over time. Watch for early signs of violence, such as your partner pushing or restraining you during arguments, or breaking, throwing or striking objects. Follow your safety plan (if you have one) to seek immediate therapeutic/crisis support.
- Threats of violence – Threats to kill or injure, especially those made more than once, can be considered extremely serious red flags for future domestic violence. Seek immediate therapeutic/crisis support.
The video below provides some more guidance around how to identify an unhealthy versus a healthy relationship:
Strategies to Turn Around an Unhealthy Relationship
Surprisingly, through employing certain strategies and with therapeutic intervention, it is possible to repair and rebuild an unhealthy relationship so that it can become a much more healthy one. Some steps towards improving your relationship may include:
- Showing your acceptance towards each other – remember, every couple experiences conflict at times.
- Identify the problem/s.
- Talk about it respectfully.
- Be honest and trust your partner.
- Be supportive of each other.
- Accept and discuss with your partner what you can change – and what you can’t change.
- Seeking professional help (counselling).
If you want to transform an unhealthy relationship into a healthy one, remember: “No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.”
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.