NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, April 13, 2018

How Do You Know If You're in an Unhealthy Relationship?

How do you know if you're in an unhealthy relationship?  Being objective about whether or not your relationship is healthy for you can be complicated when you're in love and sexually attracted to someone.  You might overlook certain red flags in your relationship.  This is especially true if you were raised in a family where there was a high level of dysfunction and conflict (see my articles: Relationships: Are You Attracted to People Who Hurt You?Are You in a Toxic Relationship? and Choosing Healthier Relationships).

How Do You Know If You're in an Unhealthy Relationship?
To avoid getting into an unhealthy relationship, it's important to date someone long enough to get to know him or her before you both decide that you're in a committed relationship (see my article: Dating vs. Being in a Relationship: Taking the Time to Get to Know Each Other).

Signs That You're in an Unhealthy Relationship
Here are some red flags to be aware of:
  • Excessive Jealousy:  If you know that you've been faithful to your partner, but your partner exhibits excessive jealousy or s/he is accusing you of cheating, this is a significant red flag that your partner is insecure and possessive and that you're in an unhealthy relationship.  This type of problem rarely, if ever, gets better on its own (see my article: Overcoming the Jealousy and Insecurity That's Ruining Your Relationship).
  • Controlling Behavior: Related to excessive jealousy, your partner might not exhibit controlling behavior at first, but this can develop later on in the relationship.  Controlling behavior includes your partner telling you where you can go, who to socialize with, when to come home, what to wear, and so on.  This type of behavior tends to get worse over time, so if your partner is trying to control you, you know you're in an unhealthy relationship (see my articles: Relationships: Is It Kindness or Controlling Behavior?).
  • Problems With Anger Management: If your partner has problems controlling his or her temper, this is a sign that you're in an unhealthy relationship, especially if your partner refuses to get help.  Problems with anger management include problems with verbal and/or physical aspects of anger management (shouting, making demeaning remarks, breaking things, threatening you, threatening people who are close to you, and so on).
  • Emotional Blackmail:  If your partner uses emotional blackmail to control you, this is a sign that you're in a dysfunctional relationship.  For instance, if you and your partner get into an argument and, to get back at you, s/he stops speaking to you, this is emotional blackmail.  This is not the same as when a partner needs a temporary time out to regroup and then comes back to discuss whatever you were disagreeing about.  This is a deliberate form of manipulation to punish you or to get his or her way (see my article: Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Blackmail).
  • Gaslighting/Manipulation: When someone uses gaslighting, s/he is attempting to deliberately manipulate you to make you think that you're the problem.  When someone engages in gaslighting, s/he knows that s/he is attempting to manipulate.  It's not just a matter that s/he has a different opinion from the partner.  People who engage in gaslighting are often narcissistic and some of them are sociopathic.  This is a sure sign that you're in an unhealthy relationship (see my article: Are You Being Gaslighted?).
  • Addiction: If your partner is abusing substances or engaging in other addictive behavior and s/he refuses to get help, you're in an unhealthy relationship.  Addictive behavior includes excessive drinking, abusing drugs, compulsive gambling, compulsive overspending, sexual compulsivity, compulsive overeating, and so on (see my article: Recovery: Understanding Cross Addiction - Substituting One Addiction For Another).
  • Codependent Behavior: Codependent behavior occurs when one or both partners enable the other's unhealthy behavior.  A typical example of this would be if a partner makes excuses for his or her partner's addictive behavior.  This is a sign of an unhealthy relationship and both people need to be willing to work on their issues in therapy to develop healthier ways of relating to each other (see my article: Overcoming Codependency: Taking Care of Yourself First).
  • Infidelity: If your partner is cheating on you and s/he refuses to get help in therapy, you're in an unhealthy relationship.  Aside from the emotional pain that infidelity causes, it also creates mistrust and it's often hard to get trust back.  This is not to say that everyone should leave a partner who cheated.  Some couples are able to work through infidelity in individual therapy or in couples therapy.  But if your partner refuses to get help, there is little to no chance that your trust can be restored (see my article: Gaslighting and Infidelity).
  • Physical, Emotional and Sexual Abuse: Any form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse is unacceptable and a definite sign that you're in an unhealthy relationship.  Abuse often escalates and gets worse over time.  Your primary concern should be your own safety and well-being.
The items on the above list are some of the most significant signs that you're in an unhealthy relationship, but there might be other signs as well.

I believe that most people know deep down when they're in an unhealthy relationship, but they choose to overlook red flags for any number of reasons.  Denial can also be a strong defense mechanism with regard to not wanting to see the red flags.

Sometimes, people who overlook red flags don't feel good about themselves and they believe that if they let go of the relationship that they're in, they won't find another relationship.  Other people engage in wishful thinking that things will get better on their own, but that rarely happens without help (see my article: Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices).

Getting Help in Therapy
If you think you're in an unhealthy relationship and you're having problems recognizing it or taking steps to preserve your own well-being, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Getting help in therapy from an objective clinical professional is an important first step to taking care of yourself and making important decisions for yourself.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.