No relationship is perfect. But, the good ones provide a sense of security, unconditional love, and mutual respect. Even in difficult moments, you don’t know what you’d do without them.
The trouble with unhealthy relationships is that it can be hard for those inside them to recognize the warning signs. They may even feel trapped or obligated to their partner.
At Women’s Choice Resource Center, we aim to educate and empower every woman who walks through our doors (or visits us online). That’s why we’re sharing the top 3 warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, and how to know when to leave them!
How Can I Tell if I’m in an Unhealthy Relationship?
Healthy relationships make both partners feel safe and loved – unhealthy relationships don’t. You may be in an unhealthy relationship if you experience any of the following:
A study from the University of Arkansas defines love bombing as “the presence of excessive communication at the beginning of a romantic relationship in order to obtain power and control over another’s life as a means of narcissistic self-enhancement”. Simply put, it’s an intense expression of adoration early in the relationship. Love bombing can look like:
- Constant compliments (they may refer to you as their soulmate)
- Excessive PDA (both in-person and online)
- Extravagant gifts
- Pushing for commitment early on, such as marriage or moving in together
Love bombing is used to break through boundaries, create a sense of obligation, and push the relationship along faster than normal. If the love bomber doesn’t receive the same level of adoration that they give, they become needy, demanding, and critical. For example, they may become angry with you for setting healthy boundaries, such as abstaining from PDA or sex before you feel ready.
Feeling comfortable and appreciated in a relationship can be a good sign. However, if your partner is pushing for commitment at an early stage, they may be trying to control you rather than love and support you.
A surefire sign of an unhealthy relationship is isolation. Initially, your partner may ask for more one-on-one time with you. As time goes on, this simple request becomes a command to not see certain people, such as friends or family members. Your partner may even ask you to choose between them and your loved ones, or cause you to question whether your support network has your best interest at heart.
The goal of isolation is to get you to a point where you feel dependent on your partner for love and financial support – without the interference of people who could help you get out of the relationship.
Each of the above warning signs points to a desire for control. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, your partner may:
- Tell you how to dress
- Decide who you can and can’t spend time with
- Monitor your social media channels to keep tabs on you
- Constantly call or text you, and expect immediate responses
- Use intimidation or hostility to make you change your behavior
Your partner may even set “rules” and try to convince you that it’s for your own good, but they stem from severe jealousy and mistrust. Eventually, they may resort to physical and/or sexual violence when they don’t get their way. It’s a key characteristic of an abusive relationship.
How to Know When to Leave an Unhealthy Relationship
We get it – it can be hard to leave a relationship, especially after investing so much time, energy, and love into the other person. Dr. Kelly Campbell, a psychology professor at California State University, San Bernardino, advises cutting ties if:
- You don’t have any freedom. For example, your partner controls how you dress, who you spend time with, or how you spend money.
- You feel that life would be better without them. For example, you may feel a lot of tension when you’re with your partner, and find yourself wishing you could be alone more.
- The bad times outweigh the good. Campbell describes the 80/20 ratio, which states that healthy couples should generally have 80 percent positive interactions. The remaining 20 percent of negative interactions are forgiven and let go. On the other hand, unhealthy couples may feel that their interactions are largely negative and rarely positive.
Know that none of this is your fault, and you deserve so much better. If you’re afraid that your partner may hurt you, please call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website to get help. Don’t forget to clear your browser history if you think you’re being watched!
Women’s Choice is Here For You
If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and need a safe space to talk, visit Women’s Choice Resource Center. Our client advocates are ready to show you the respect and support you deserve! We can also connect you with community resources that will help you create a safety plan for yourself and your baby.
Our licensed medical team is standing by! Schedule your free appointment online, or give us a call at 817-769-7872. All services are free of charge!
Strutzenberg, C. C., Wiersma-Mosley, J. D., Jozkowski, K. N., & Becnel, J. N. (2017). Love-bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship Formation. Discovery, The Student Journal of Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, 18(1), 81-89. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/discoverymag/vol18/iss1/14
Recognizing the signs of unhealthy relationships. Mass.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mass.gov/service-details/recognizing-the-signs-of-unhealthy-relationships
Campbell, K. (2018, January 15). Dr. Kelly Campbell, ph.D: 3 signs that you’re stuck in a bad relationship. Dr. Kelly Campbell PhD. Retrieved from http://www.kellycampbell.com/3-signs-that-youre-stuck-in-a-bad-relationship/