If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that relationships are work. Although many people fall in love at first sight, deep, lasting love and committed relationships develop in stages. It takes time for people to get to know one another and develop the type of lasting trust and love that helps a relationship withstand the test of time.
Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical therapist, explains that there are three key factors to a healthy relationship, no matter how long it’s gone on or who it’s between.
Accessibility, responsiveness and emotional engagement underscore every interaction a couple shares. Being in love isn’t always enough to make a relationship last. The line between boundaries are easily blurred when you’re sharing the most intimate parts of yourself with someone, but there has to be a limit.
According to Johnson, most of the fights couples get into really aren’t about their seemingly trivial subject matter. When partners pick fights over taking out the trash, doing the dishes or letting the dogs out, their upset is really stemming for a deeper sense of abandonment. What they’re really asking is, “Are you there for me?”
Respect and compassion should never falter, no matter how close you are. If anything, they could be omnipresent and serve as the foundation for everything you experience together. And yes, that includes arguments.
Many people might tell you that there are things you “just have to live with” as a long-term couple. Relationships change as you get to know each other more, and the undesirable just becomes a trade-off for being in love.
Don’t let this message confuse you. Being in love with someone doesn’t give them a free pass or “get out of jail” card. In fact, there are many behaviors that go beyond just normal insecurity that many of us have in a relationship.
There are seeminly normal things that are actually warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and sometimes even a toxic and potentially abusive relationship.
The 14 relationship habits listed below are potential indicators that something is not right.
1. Not Expressing What’s Bothering You About Your Partner
There are a lot of different personality types out there. The most common personality test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, recognizes 16 different personalities. Each personality, and in turn, each person, has their own unique way of interacting with themselves, others and the world around them.
Some people are more likely than others to be open with their feelings. Self-disclosure is a challenge for many people, especially those who struggle with insecurity or have a history of abusive relationships.
If you rarely reveal your true feelings to a partner about things that are bothering you, this is a warning sign. You might be afraid that they’ll get angry or leave you or perhaps you feel like your feelings don’t matter. There is a plethora of reasons why someone might not express what’s bothering them, but it is important to figure out why.
A solid relationship will make you feel comfortable and secure sharing your emotions, even negative ones. If your partner is the type to get angry or upset and turn the tables when you confess something unfavorable to them, it’s a big sign that they aren’t the right person to be with.
2. Never Disagreeing
Believe it or not, arguments are actually healthy. Disagreements are inevitable. If your partner never says or does anything that displeases you, chances are you don’t know each other well enough.
If you hold back from voicing your true disagreements, you need to address that feeling directly and honestly. Being frank doesn’t mean you have to be cruel. You can argue positively and productively, and it definitely benefits your relationship in the long run.
3. Feeling Responsible for Your Partner’s Happiness
We have expectations for our partners. We have things that we are okay with them doing and things we are not okay with them doing. In psychology, these standards are called boundaries.
Healthy relationship boundaries are crucial to protecting our own personal identities and to avoid being overwhelmed by the expectations and needs of others, according to psychotherapist Deborah Hecker.
Loving partners support one another and offer consolation and encouragement, but they do not take sole responsibility for their significant other’s happiness or sense of being.
4. Monitoring Your Partner’s Online Accounts
There’s only one reason why someone monitors their partner’s activity online – they don’t trust them. Trust is everything in a relationship. No one should be with a person they feel they have to keep tabs on, and if they can’t be trusted, there’s no reason to be in a committed relationship with one another.
You are also not obligated to explore the reasons why your partner wants to monitor your online activity. If they take your phone, check your social media or demand you show them your DMs, it’s time to leave. Their trust issues are their problem. Toxic, controlling behaviors like this are usually just the tip of the iceberg.
5. Being Teased or Having Jokes Made About You By Your Partner
Playful teasing can strengthen a couple’s bond, but everyone has a different limit. Some couples seem to thrive off mocking one another, but most people don’t want to hear their partner make fun of them in any way.
Your partner should never make jokes about your appearance or character. If they tease you over things, especially your basic ways of being, then it is not healthy. What’s worse is a partner who will write off your upset by saying it’s all “just a joke” or you’re “too sensitive.”
6. Keeping Score
No relationship is perfect, but healthy couples leave the past in the past. If a partner uses previous events to gain emotional leverage in a relationship, they’re being manipulative. Instead of attempting to resolve a problem, toxic relationships are all about gaining the upper-hand. Keeping score is not healthy.
7. Behaving Differently So You Don’t Upset Your Partner
The right person will love you for you, not who you pretend to be. Couples naturally fall into a healthy rhythm of interaction. Everyone has their own communicative style and couples to learn to effectively engage with one another as their relationship grows.
If you feel like you have to be someone different than who you actually are in order to impress your partner or even to simply not anger your partner, then there’s a problem. It’s not healthy or fair to anyone to constantly “walk on eggshells” and worry about whether or not their partner will approve of their behavior.
You should feel wholly loved and embraced by your partner, not only partially approved of when you act according to their standards.
8. Blaming Your Partner for Your Emotions
No one is responsible for someone else’s feelings. People might do things that make us angry or upset, but they are not the ones responsible for how we respond or react. Do not use your partner as an emotional scapegoat, and do not let someone else make you the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to their feelings.
If someone tries to make you and you alone responsible for their actions, they are not taking accountability in their own life.
9. Talking Badly About Your Partner to Friends Under the Guise of “Venting”
It’s healthy to talk about our problems, but it’s not good to degrade or berate a partner to others. Some people turn to friends and talk badly about their partner to friends. The problem with involving others in your relationship is that people often seek validation for their negative thoughts rather than useful insight.
It’s hard for your friends and family be objective for you. When the day is done, the person you should really talk to about relationship problems is your partner.
If you really feel like you need to talk with someone else about your partner, the only person qualified for you to be talking with is a trained professional.
10. Viewing Your Partner as an Ongoing Project
Someone who is a “fixer” thinks that they can give their partner the love and advice they need to fix their problems or be something different than they are. The truth if the matter is that no one is anyone’s project.
11. Feeling Like You Need to Apologize All The Time
We all hear things we don’t like from time to time, but it’s not always someone else’s responsibility to apologize. If we don’t like something our partner says or does, we have to check ourselves and ask whether what they did was really something wrong or if it just doesn’t suit our personal preference.
Any partner that makes someone feel as if they need to apologize for making them upset is deflecting responsibility for their own emotions. If you find yourself having to aplogize all the time, this is a warning sign. It is not normal and it is not healthy.
Most importantly, you certainly do not need to apologize for being yourself and definitely not for following your hopes and dreams.
12. Justifying Their Poor Behavior Because You Love Them
True love does not exclude yourself. The best relationship will bring out the most in both people, not just one. If you justify your partner’s bad behavior and mistreatment just because you love them, what you’re really in is denial.
You can care about someone more than anything in the world, but you should ask yourself what your love feels like. Is it kind, warm and reciprocal, or does it mostly feel hurtful and like you hve to compromise?
Be true to yourself before anyone else. It’s the hardest thing to do, but ultimately, self-love will be your doorway to happiness with or without your partner.
Loving someone is no excuse for them to behave badly.
13. Taking it Out on Your Partner When You’re Having a Bad Day
Your partner is not a punching bag. If someone doesn’t know how to properly cope with stress, they’re likely to be irritable and lash out at other people, sometimes even in passive-aggressive ways.
Make sure that you and your partner both have boundaries in place and are understanding of each others’ coping mechanisms. If someone needs some time alone to destress after the end of a long day, let them. Likewise, you need to do what helps you to destress so that you don’t take it out on your parnter. Consciously create plenty of breathing room on the bad days.
14. Having Your Mistakes or Embarrassing Moments Pointed Out by Your Partner in Front of Friends
Intimacy, trust and disclosure. You need to rest in the security that your partner is a safe haven and that your mistakes or embarassing moments are safe with them.
If you find your partner giving out TMI, this is not healthy for the relationship, especially if it is at your expense.
Knowing When to Work on Things and When to Walk Away
It can be hard to know whether a relationship needs to end. Even though it is usually a gut feeling more than something to think out consciously, hopefully these tips have been helpful.
If things don’t feel right and you feel you cannot approach your partner about any of it or that changes wouldn’t happen anyway, that may indicate that there is not much hope for the future.
On the other hand, if you think you could talk with your partner and work towards meaningful changes, then you and your relationship is worth it.
It is something that only you can decide. Above all else, be true to yourself.
If you are in an abusive relationship and cannot leave because you are fearful of your partner’s response, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.