Student Question: What are the ‘not so obvious’ signs of an unhealthy relationship?
I recently read an article in which the singer FKA Twigs, described the progression of her relationship with her actor boyfriend of nine months that could help answer this student’s question. Here is what she said: “there was an intense honeymoon period at the beginning". The abuse began with the "little things you could do wrong that could take away from the happiness".(1) She details that she was not allowed to look men in the eye and that he would become jealous if she would do something as simple as being polite to a waiter. He would also compare the amount of affection she displayed to that of his previous relationships and let her know when she didn’t measure up.
Perhaps the reason why signs are not always obvious is because initially both individuals can be so caught up in those intense “honeymoon” feelings, that the recipient may interpret or explain away the early expressions of jealousy and possessiveness as a sign of an intense desire for, and protection of, the relationship. But, is that really what it is?
If respect and trust are truly foundational to building a healthy relationship, then ongoing behaviours that communicate the opposite of that are early signs of an unhealthy relationship. Controlling and manipulative behaviours should not be ignored regardless of how intense our feelings are for the other person. What we feel toward a person may be what initially attracts us, but respect and trust are always necessary in order to grow and sustain a healthy relationship. Therefore, noticing the behaviours that are impacting the happiness of a relationship, and having open and honest conversations about these, is vital. If a relationship is going to grow in health, it must also grow in mutual commitment to genuine respect and trust and the opposite of these should be addressed and not overlooked or excused away.
The bottom line question to ask yourself is this: If this behaviour displayed by my partner never stops, what would that feel like and how would it impact me and our relationship?
How a person treats us regularly, or when they believe we haven’t met their expectations, is a better way to measure the health of a relationship than that of any short-term ‘make up’ behaviour. Here is a definition of love to help you determine whether or not a relationship is loving and healthy:
Love is the act of caring and giving to someone else…having someone’s best interest and well-being as a priority in your life.
This requires mutual commitment to these actions in order to truly build a healthy relationship.
YouTube Video: 6 Differences Between Healthy and Unhealthy Love, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c5dFcC4LNY