We’ve all heard the song “Love Hurts.” A few of us have probably played it on repeat post-breakup while drowning our troubles in a tub of Häagen-Dazs. But love isn’t supposed to hurt, scar, burn, or any of those things. While a relationship call feel like that and still be love, it’s not the sort of love that you want or need.
No relationship is perfect – we all have our flaws, our eccentricities and those puzzle pieces that are hard to fit together. Arguments and disagreements are a part of a healthy relationship too, but with a priority on open communication and a shared goal of mutual happiness, they are supposed to make you grow stronger, not leave you a sobbing mess.
Here are 9 signs that your relationship isn’t healthy for you (and probably him too) and it’s time to get out.
1. There is frequent criticism or belittling – either from him or from you.
If you’re staying together hoping his hyper-critical behavior will change, newsflash: the odds are stacked against you, and with so many fish in the sea, you’ll find someone who doesn’t hurt you like that. Also, if you’re always criticizing him, you’re not good for him either.
In every relationship, there’ll be annoying things about each other. It might even be trivial things (chewing noises, neat freak when you’re messy, etc.) that you just accept for peace in the home. But if he or you are regularly criticizing/mocking each other, that’s just not healthy.
Frequent criticism or belittling are also signs of emotional abuse. In these relationships, the love you feel for someone who damages your self-esteem is called traumatic bonding. It’s part of the cycle of abuse; you shouldn’t have to live with a love based on trauma and pain. They say “love conquers all”, but it doesn’t conquer that.
If he doesn’t like you as you are, or vice-versa, and either of you make the other feel bad about themselves, then it’s better to get out than to carry on being hurt.
2. You break up regularly, or threats of break-ups are used to control you.
Feeling like you’re constantly walking on eggshells and on the verge of losing your partner if you don’t comply is not a way to live, let alone to love. If every time your Facebook status changes to single, your friends heave a sigh of “yeah, right!”, then alarm bells should be going off.
Likewise, if you’re regularly threatening to break up with him if he doesn’t change, then just get it over with. As mentioned before, the odds are stacked against you: people generally only change when they want to. If the behavior is legitimately unacceptable, ask yourself why you’re staying. Threatening break-ups isn’t a healthy tactic to elicit change: if things are that broken, cut your losses.
3. Every molehill turns into a mountain.
Communication is key to a healthy relationship: if you can agree to disagree, understand that you’re allowed to have different opinions, and handle disagreements respectfully with the shared goal of a happy relationship, then the arguments will make you stronger, not tear you apart.
But if even trivial things turn into attacks on your character, full-blown screaming matches, etc. then run for the hills.
4. There is disrespect for you or each other.
If you live in the US or Australia, you may have heard the phrase “love = respect” used in domestic violence education. It’s absolutely true. As the Australian government’s Respect campaign puts it:
“Not all disrespect towards women results in violence. But all violence against women starts with disrespectful behavior.”
Knowing what a respectful relationship looks like helps you understand your rights and responsibilities. Disrespectful relationship behavior is often intergenerational; people learn conflict resolution from what they’ve seen at home. If unhealthy behaviors are modeled, they tend to get passed down (to the extent that around half of boys who see their father abuse their mother become abusers themselves). It’s even possible some of your own relationship behaviors might not be healthy (speaking as a former codependent, I speak from experience!). Knowledge empowers you to change that.
You deserve respect and appreciation. If you’re not getting that, you’re probably going to lose confidence and be miserable. That’s not what love is about, and you’re better off without a broken heart.
5. Jealousy often rears its ugly head.
Jealousy can seem cute. It might even feel like he really values you and wants to protect you. But at the end of the day, you are your own person, you get to choose your friends, and as long as you’re not actually doing something that is legitimately unreasonable and upsetting (sleeping around, and arguably hanging out with exes), then jealousy isn’t healthy. It’s also not an uncommon habit, though, talk about what’s making him jealous, and if he perceives something or someone as a threat to your relationship, reassure him.
But if this jealousy is based on a sense of ownership, then that’s a major red flag: you need an equal partner, not a boss.
6. There is a lot of self-serving dishonesty.
According to the (amazing) behavioral economist Dan Ariely, we all tell lies sometimes. You’ve probably creatively embellished a story now and then yourself. But a white lie (telling your sister her butt doesn’t look big in that dress) is completely different from a lie to benefit yourself, especially at the expense of others. Don’t put up with that: who knows where the lies could end.
There’s also an abuse tactic that you need to know about: gas-lighting. This is a cruel, entirely intentional behavior in which the perpetrator will say something and then deny they ever said it, twisting reality around so you’re constantly to blame. What actually happened is of no interest to a gas-lighter, and if you provide clear-cut evidence of their lies, they’ll generally just respond by lying more or becoming angry. (Side note: I also don’t think a gas-lighter would make a very good President 😉
7. He has disengaged.
If he doesn’t notice you unless you’re blocking the view of his TV show, then he’s probably not the right guy for you. Emotional neglect is extremely hurtful. He may not realize he’s doing this so speak up about how you feel, and say that you want to try to get the spark back. If he just makes excuses, becomes more withdrawn, or nothing changes, then maybe things have run their course.
8. You’re too different.
“Opposites attract” has its limits. You’re an empathetic, make-the-world-a-better-place type and he’s the Wolf of Wall Street? You’re speaking two different languages. If your relationship is based on a mutual love of the same sitcoms and bands, but everything else is a mess, then maybe you’d be happier with someone who shares your values.
9. You just aren’t feeling it anymore.
Sometimes it’s not unhealthy behaviors that make a relationship unhealthy. Sometimes, it’s just that you’re flogging a dead horse and it really is time to move on. You can try to rekindle the spark, but be realistic; keeping up a relationship where one or both of you just aren’t feeling it anymore means that you and your current partner won’t be available if the right person did come along. Ending what was once a good relationship can be painful, but you’re doing both of you a favor.
Here’s to loving, supportive relationships that make us stronger, better and happier.