We’ve all seen or been in bad relationships. If you haven’t been in one just watch an episode of Jersey Shore and you will run into numerous unhealthy relationships. Sadly after these kind of relationships end we recollect the negative things more vividly than anything else that happened in the relationship. We can minimize these unhealthy relationships if we know what to look for, but the problem is most people don’t know what to look for. In this post I will give my take on some warning signs for unhealthy relationships. Here they are:
1) If you’re looking for your girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband to fill a void in your life. We all have inadequacies, its an inescapable fact. Where we look to compensate for these inadequacies is a key determinate in how healthy our relationships will function. If we look to others to “complete” us or to cancel out our flaws we will always be let down in every relationship at some point. People are flawed as a result of sin entering the world so if we look to a flawed person to be made whole we will get a flawed reaction by them which then will lead to trouble. The only way we will be made complete is through a personal relationship with God.
2) If you only communicate when conflict arises. Communication is a crucial part to the foundation for all healthy relationships. If in your relationship communication happens only because there is conflict then you’re either heading for or already in trouble. Couples need to communicate during the good, great, bad, and the ugly about anything and everything. Your relationship is in trouble if you or your significant other has to guess what the other is thinking or feeling. These thoughts and feelings need to be brought out on the table and sorted through together and not just in the context of conflict. It is crucial that both people in the relationship know the others deepest secrets so that neither person is caught off guard. Open and honest communication often helps to avoid conflict before it even turns into conflict.
3) If your relationship causes you to cut ties with previous friendships. I’ve seen this a lot and it bothers me every time. Healthy relationships don’t cause you to lose the friends you had before you met your significant other. Healthy relationships do cause you to restructure other relationships and set new boundaries. But if your significant other becomes insecure about your other friendships or pushes you to cut ties with anyone that is a big red flag in my opinion. People need other relationships with people their significant other may not know well and both people in said relationship need mutual friendships with people they both know.
4) If you don’t set boundaries early on. This is one area of relationships that people I have observed have had the most problem with. Boundaries are very important in any healthy relationship but in todays society boundaries are extremely neglected. Like I was talking about earlier, if boundaries are not set early in the relationship then each person is left to assume what the expectations in the relationship are and the door for trouble to enter the relationship is swung wide open.
5) If you can’t compromise. Relationships never should be completely give or completely take. If the relationship is one where one person always gives and one always takes eventually the giver will ask for something that the taker may not be willing to do. Think of relationships not as give and take or win/lose but rather win/win. Ideally this situation would be where one person in the relationship gets a part of what they want and the other person gets a part of what they want.
6) If you revert to sexual things too early on. This is rampant in our society for many reasons of which I don’t understand. Relationships have been reduced to a meaningless physical act that is short lived with no emotions involved. This is not by any means the way relationships were intended to be and I refuse to let this pattern continue. People revert to sexual things because they have initial interest in a person but soon after getting to know that person they realize they have nothing in common but physical attraction. But just because you have a mutual physical attraction does not mean you should act on it if the other foundations of a healthy relationship are not there. If you act on these physical urges you are opening yourself up to be taken advantage of which will lead to deep hurt. On that same note, some people use sexual relationships to mask their deep emotional hurts from the past. These people will do nothing but hurt themselves further and hurt you in the process if you engage in a physical relationship with them. If this is you I encourage you to seek counseling to move past your wounds in hopes of being in a healthy stable relationship in the future.
7) If you have more separate interests than common ones. This one seems pretty obvious to me. If there are few or no common interests then the foundation for a healthy relationship is not there. If this is the case then you open yourself up to the physical downfall mentioned in #6. You would do well to remain just friends if you are able to overcome the sexual urges or acquaintances who have minimal contact if neither can resist the sexual urges.
8) If you have unresolved issues from past relationships. This one is huge. Everyone has baggage from previous relationships. But not everyone handles such baggage the same way. If you or your significant other has something from their past that is carrying over into your current relationship and effecting it in a negative way then it needs to be addressed by a counselor as soon as possible. You can help your significant other work through their past by encouraging them and actively listening to them when need be. However, I caution you to minimize the advice you give unless you are a licensed counselor who is trained to help someone navigate such things that have happened in the past. I have seen people do much more harm than good when they try to play the role of a counselor and they have not been trained to do so. Please don’t be that person.
9) If you have no positive frame of reference to base your relational knowledge on. We all are influenced by many things. Family, friends, coworkers and even media can influence how we navigate through life. It is crucial that we have a person or group of people who we can look up to as a positive relationship model. Social learning theory, a theory used widely in the field of Sociology and Family Studies, states that our behavior is influenced by what those around us are doing. So if we surround ourselves with people who model positive relationships in our lives then we are more likely to engage in healthy relationships ourselves. On the flip side of that, though, if we surround ourself with negative influences who have little or no background in stable, healthy relationships then we ourselves are likely to fall in the trap of unhealthy relationships too.
10) If you don’t spend as much time together as before. Relationships need time. The people who have the best relationships I know never stop pursuing their significant other. We need to spend quality time with our significant other to grow the relationship. It is through this foundation of quality time spent together that things such as trust and communication are built. Without time relationships will die and one or both people involved will be hurt deeply. Spend time with your significant other in leisure and also in time working to deepen your relationship. Failure to do so could be catastrophic in your relationship.
11) There is little or no aspect of spirituality in your relationship. Relationships in which both people seek God before anything else are the healthiest in my opinion. It’s through God and the Bible that our eyes are opened to what constitutes love, selflessness, communication, and many other things that make a relationship work. Passages such as Psalms 37:4 and Matthew 6:33 assure us that if we seek God first he will make our relationships the best we could ever possibly ask for. But on the flip side of that, if we don’t acknowledge God in our relationships then we are setting ourself up to get into relationships that will become stagnant and be relatively meaningless and ultimately we will be hurt by such a relationship. I speak from personal experience on that.
I hope this helps you in your relationships. Always keep in mind that people aren’t perfect and to treat everyone with the grace and mercy you want and that we all get from God.