What does a healthy relationship look like? What does a bad relationship look like? How does it impact my life? How can I get out?
These might be questions swimming in your mind. Let’s walk through these questions and get some clarity on this issue.
Does a bad relationship always mean abuse? No. While abusive relationships are definitely unhealthy and bring with them their own additional problems, a relationship does not need to cross that line for it to be a bad one.
Identifying a bad relationship
Bad relationship can look like a lot of things. From empty sex to wandering eyes there are many signs that a relationship is no longer healthy.
If you and your partner have built your relationship on temporary circumstances, when those circumstances change you no longer have a solid foundation to stand on as a couple. These circumstances can be something as simple as fun and as complicated as a living situation. Instead of basing a relationship on a situation, good relationships are bult on commitment, but more on that later.
Back to the bad side of things. When you have gotten involved with someone emotionally or sexually, it can be really hard to see things objectively. Your brain is committed to this person whether you like it or not. Sometimes you need to hear another voice speaking truth about your situation. Let me be that voice for a moment.
Take a peek at these red flags for a bad relationship.
- Abuse (https://reachma.org/blog/6-different-types-of-abuse/)- Remember we said that all bad relationships are not abusive, but the fact is, all abusive relationships are bad relationships. If you are enduring verbal (yelling, screaming, criticizing, mocking), physical (hitting, slapping, punching, threatening), sexual (intimate partner rape, non-consenting actions, demeaning or painful acts), emotional/mental (gaslighting, silent treatment, manipulations, cheating, control, shaming, isolation, neglect), or financial abuse (stealing, preventing from earning an income, controlling spending, limiting use of shared resources) you need to get help and get out. None of these behaviors are normal or healthy. No one needs to endure this type of treatment. No matter how they excuse it, these actions are abuse.
- Shallow– a shallow relationship is dangerous and unhealthy because inevitably one partner views the relationship with more significance than the other and will end up wounded by the other treating it lightly. Avoid these kinds of relationships by avoiding casual sex. Women generally view sex with deeper significance than men and therefore regard sexual relationships more seriously than their male partners may. To him, it might just be sex. But to her, it is an emotional connection.
- Others see it– Have you had your mom, best friend, teacher, or coworker point out that your relationship is not a good one? Pause, and consider their opinion. Of course, you have to judge with your own judgment, and not everyone gets to make your decisions for you. But there is great wisdom in listening. Especially when those that love you and know you best point out potential or ongoing issues. Next time you are considering starting a relationship take the time to ask those that know you or the potential partner best. Is his mom frustrated that he can’t hold a job? Does your best friend think he’s a total slime-ball? Does Grandma get a bad vibe? Take those things into consideration before you are emotionally involved or after you start to have hesitations about a current relationship.
Impact of bad relationships
So, you have confirmed your fear, you are in a bad relationship. But you still are wondering what impact it has on your and whether it is worth the drama of trying to get out.
Some bad relationships are tolerable and can endure for years. Others are so toxic they need to be cut off immediately. But little bad or really bad, bad is bad.
For a relationship that is simply shallow the consequences are kind of vague, but have big implications
- You could miss out on a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with a partner who truly values you. You deserve to be “the one” not the girl on the side.
- When it does end, you will be hurt and carry that wound with you into future relationships
- You may start to believe you aren’t worthy of a truly intimate and satisfying relationship and therefore bounce from one shallow hook-up to another without ever stopping to find that special person you were created to be with.
- Shallow relationships built around sex can still result in STDs or pregnancy. Is this person someone you want to sacrifice your health for or raise a child with for 18 years?
When it comes to abusive relationships the consequences on your life are much clearer and more devastating.
- Survivors of abuse carry those wounds into all future relationships
- They often require therapy
- Physical and sexual abuse can damage your body
- Any form of abuse causes your brain to rewire. How you view yourself, others, and the world around you will be shaped by every abusive action you endure. It will affect you as an employee, family member, friend, parent, partner, and person in general.
- The longer you stay the more difficult it will be for you to leave. You stop trusting yourself and others and eventually accept that how you are being treated is how you should be treated.
- Abusive relationships can still result in STDs or pregnancy. Is someone who mocks or hits you really going to take care not to infect you with a sickness that might stay with you for a lifetime? What about a child? If your partner doesn’t treat you right, are they going to be a good parent to your child? Abortion might seem like an answer, but it carries with it physical and emotional baggage that you alone will have to carry. Is an abuser worth enduring an abortion for?
How to get out of a bad relationship.
Okay, you have decided that your relationship is indeed a bad one. You understand the long-term results of staying in the relationship, but are still unsure what to do next. How do you go about ending a bad relationship and setting your self up for relationship success in the future?
- If the relationship is abusive, get help. There are local and national resources available to help you. Here are a few
- Make a personal safety plan
- See a Spero Advocate to discuss your options and get connected to all the resources you need.
- For a shallow relationship simply tell your partner you need to focus on perusing something deeper and you don’t want to have sex with them anymore. Maybe they will surprise you and step up into a more committed role. Or maybe they will laugh and say whatever. Either way you are making a healthier choice by having this conversation and ending the relationship.
Finding a healthy relationship
Healthy relationships take work and commitment, not matter how well suited a couple is to each other. If both partners aren’t willing to put in the work, then it is better to never start down the path to intimacy. How can you gauge a potential partners level of commitment and willingness to work at a relationship? Here are a few ideas:
- Don’t have sex- If he or she can wait for sex until you have committed yourself to each other in a permanent way, that speaks volumes toward their self-control and willingness to value you.
- Flat out ask them- “How do you feel about working hard for a long-term relationship?” is a great question to scare away those that are just in it for the moment. It might seem counter-intuitive to chase away bad partners, but it is way better to weed out non-committal partners before your emotions get tangled up and you end up hurt.
- Look for partners who have accomplished a long-term goal such as holding a job for more than 5 years, paying off debt, completing a degree or job training program, raising a child on their own for more than 5 years. These are just a few examples of accomplishments that can flag someone as a potentially excellent partner. If they can commit years of their life and hard work to accomplish a goal. Chances are they will be willing to put in the time and effort to grow a long-term healthy relationship as well.
- Talk to their ex if they have one- If she or he tells you that the person was violent or manipulatives take heed. Don’t be too proud to learn from someone else’s bad experience. Getting into a relationship with someone abusive is never worth it. Maybe they are lying…but maybe they aren’t.
Relationships are complicated. They can be so satisfying and help you accomplish life goals or they can be painful and make you feel trapped. By identifying unhealthy relationship, recognizing the consequences of these relationships, and getting out you will set yourself up for success and a committed, long-term relationship in the future.
You’ve got this.