Growing up I was trained to think that relationship abuse was purely physical. This way of thinking that I and so many other young people have come to know has led unhealthy relationship behaviors go unrecognized and tolerated simply because we were not given the tools to identify them. Relationship abuse can take the form of physical, emotional and even financial abuse. In a climate where love and relationships are often a soft topic, clearly being able to spot the red flags in a relationship can be difficult. We may be conditioned to spot the more obvious signs such as physical or verbal obscenities, but the truth is that unhealthy relationships rarely start off like that. Abusive relationships never start off abusive, more often than not they start off extremely exciting. Unhealthy behaviors may begin to show their face early on in a relationship and then later escalate to abuse down the line. Since we are never taught how to recognize these red flags at their earliest form, they can be easy to miss and not even recognizable as abuse.
After becoming a Trained Workshop Facilitator for the One Love Foundation, I started to gain a better understanding of the unhealthy relationship behaviors that I missed early on in my toxic relationship. When experiencing a new relationship, be sure to pay close attention to the evolution of it. Below is a list of 10 Unhealthy Signs from One Love that are clear indicators of unhealthy relationships that I educate others to recognize through hosting Healthy Relationship Workshops with the One Love Foundation.
It’s important to remember that while everyone does unhealthy things sometimes, if you are seeing these signs in your relationship, do not ignore them and trust your gut. Remaining aware of warning signs can help you identify and avoid relationship abuse.
When your partner expresses extreme or over-the-top behavior that sometimes feels overwhelming. Your relationship is getting too intense when you feel like someone is rushing the pace or coming on too strong, too fast. Their behavior can seem obsessive about wanting to see you or be in constant contact.
When someone is jealous to a point where they attempt to control who you spend your time with or what you do. Jealousy can be a normal human emotion in small quantities, however it becomes unhealthy when it causes someone to control or lash out at you. This can include getting upset when you text or see people they feel threatened by, wrongly accusing you of flirting or cheating, or even going as far as to stalk you. Possessiveness is very often excused as being “overprotective” or having very strong feelings for someone.
When someone attempts to control your decisions, actions or emotions. Manipulation is often hard to see, because it can be expressed in passive-aggressive or subtle ways. You can know you are being manipulated if someone tries to convince you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable doing, tries to influence your feelings, or ignores you until they get their way.
When someone keeps you away from friends, family or other people. This behavior may start slowly with someone asking you to spend more one on one time with them but then escalates to demands that you don’t see certain people. This is one of the most prevalent signs I experienced in my own personal unhealthy relationship and my abuser was successful in tarnishing my relationships with all my close friends and even my family. Often, they will ask you to choose between them and your friends, insist that you spend all your time with them, or make you question your own judgement of friends and family. If you are experiencing isolation within your relationship, you may end up feeling like you’re dependent on your partner for love, money and acceptance.
When someone purposely ruins your reputation, achievements, or success. Sabotage includes keeping you from doing things that are important to you. This includes behaviors such as talking behind your back, starting rumors, and threatening to share private information about you.
When someone does and says things to make you feel bad about yourself. This includes name-calling, making rude remarks about people you’re close with, or criticizing you. It’s also belittling when someone makes fun of you in a way that makes you feel bad, even if it is played off as a joke. We all love to joke around and be playful with our significant other, but just make sure no one’s self confidence is compromised.
When someone makes you feel responsible for their actions or makes you feel as if it is your job to keep them happy. They may blame you for things that are out of your control and make you feel bad for them. This also includes threatening to hurt themselves or others if you don’t do as they say or stay with them. This is also another sign that was extremely prevalent in my own personal relationship and can become dangerous if not identified. They may also pressure you to do something you aren’t comfortable with by claiming that it’s important to them or that it will hurt their feelings if you don’t comply.
When someone has a really strong, unpredictable reaction that makes you feel scared, confused or intimidated. A volatile person makes you feel like you need to walk on eggshells around them or can have an extreme reaction to small things. (We all have experienced a friend like this before! Watch out for this!) Your relationship with them may feel like a rollercoaster that has extreme ups and downs. They overreact to small things, have major mood swings or lose control by getting violent, yelling or threatening you.
9. Deflecting Responsibility
When someone repeatedly makes excuses for their unhealthy behavior. They may blame you or others for their own actions. This often includes making excuses based on alcohol or drugs, or past experiences such as a cheating partner or divorced parents. Remember everyone is responsible for their own actions!
When someone is disloyal or acts in an intentionally dishonest way. They may act like a different person around other people or share private information about you to others. It also includes lying, purposely leaving you out, being two-faced, or cheating on you.
While no one is perfect, we can all continue to learn to love better by educating ourselves on the unhealthy signs and work towards shifting to healthier behaviors within all of our relationships whether they be romantic, platonic or within our family ties. It is also important to note that if you are ever in a dangerous situation, trust your gut and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If we continue to work towards identifying red flags earlier on in our relationships, we can prevent relationship abuse and learn to love better together.