Last year I was in a highly dysfunctional relationship.
I only realized how bad it was in retrospect, however.
We all tend to justify our own behavior and actions, and self-awareness comes slowly…
When you have feelings for somebody and you want to see the best side of them, you tend to give them a pass, too…
But dysfunctional relationships are actually very damaging and can cause you and your partner to regress and move backwards in your personal journey.
Here are the top indicators that your relationship has serious issues.
1) You rely on your partner for your wellbeing
If you rely on your partner to feel OK about yourself it’s a big red flag.
Support, confiding in each other and caring about how you’re each doing is wonderful:
But the feeling that either of you is responsible for the emotional wellbeing and stability of the other is a nasty trap.
This is very common in those with avoidant or anxious attachment styles who may come to resent behavior of their partner.
The next thing that happens can be even worse…
2) You or your partner assign blame to each other for your own problems
When you or your partner begin to blame each other for your problems is when the real toxicity begins.
I’ve been there and I know how ugly it gets.
But there’s also something to keep in mind about this behavior:
It often isn’t that you directly blame your partner for being depressed, making you insecure, not supporting you enough or something like that…
In many cases it’s that you (or they) get upset about your reaction to something they’re upset about.
When my ex-girlfriend’s boss treated her rudely and I said it didn’t seem like a big deal, she blamed me for making her feel unimportant…
And so on…
3) You and your partner are codependent
Codependency is a master of disguise.
It dresses up as love and care for another person, but all it is in truth is insecurity and narcissism.
Codependency often falls into a victim or savior role and splits along avoidant or anxious attachment styles.
It can involve people in a relationship demanding that they satisfy each other’s emotions like I mentioned earlier, and it can also involve patterns of fighting and making up.
When one partner feels responsible (and worthy) only when they “save” or “fix” their other partner, it creates an endless cycle of toxic desperation and keeps trying to fill a lack of self-worth that can’t be filled.
4) You and your partner are financially codependent
Another form of codependency which is highly toxic and disturbing is also financial codependency.
To be fair, each couple (whether married or not) has their own arrangement about finances, spending and costs.
It’s not all about money, but it is about respect.
If one of you is freeloading off the other or not doing your fair share of what you said you’d do, it’s going to create tension.
It’s highly dysfunctional for a relationship when dishonesty or exploitation takes place around finances, and I just wish it weren’t so common!
5) You get in arguments over small things
Arguments are inevitable and can even be part of a healthy relationship.
“Arguments can be an important vehicle that takes you to a place of deeper understanding, greater trust, and a more authentic connection in your relationship.
“Conflict is what enables you to name, air out, challenge, understand and alter the things that keep your relationship from being the best it can be.”
The problem with arguments and when to watch out is when they become highly pedantic.
Why didn’t you do this or why did you do it that exact way?
Why didn’t your partner leave her toothbrush in the cupholder instead of next to the sink and didn’t she notice her hairs there?
Small arguments can balloon up into much bigger issues and often represent an unwillingness or blockage to actually discuss what’s really bothering you.
If you’re often arguing about the small stuff it could be because there’s some really big stuff that needs to be talked over!
6) You don’t truly support your partner and vice versa
If tomorrow you lost everything, where would your partner be?
The only right answer is by your side…
For far too many of us the truth is that they might not be, or that they’d only add more stress to the situation.
If you or your partner don’t fully support each other and stick with each other when outer circumstances go wrong, it can be a warning sign of
a) a lack of real commitment
b) a lack of real love and connection
This brings up the next point…
7) You find yourself cycling between love and hate for your partner
We’ve all heard of a love-hate relationship and they’re all too real.
One day you’re so tired of your partner you’re sure you never want to see their face again in your life.
The next day you feel so thankful they’re in your life and want to apologize to them for every possible thing you may have done wrong.
This isn’t a good sign.
Cycling rapidly between love and hate in a relationship often goes together with codependency or deep insecurity in one or both of you.
If you find that your emotions are all over the place, try your best to get them under control before expressing a lot to your partner and potentially confusing them or making the situation dramatic.
Advise your partner to please do the same if they seem to often fly off the handle or be suddenly over-loving to you as well.
8) You use your partner as an emotional punching bag or vice versa
It’s healthy and normal to open up and share how you feel with your partner.
But using them as an emotional punching bag is a definite sign of relationship dysfunction.
This isn’t always completely in-your-face like shouting at the person you love or telling them they’re an awful person.
It can be more subtle like withdrawing attention from them, criticizing something they’re doing or guilting them for not doing everything you ask.
But if you look at the relationship and you or your partner are basically using the other to take out your frustrations, the relationship needs serious work.
9) You or your partner play games with jealousy to get attention
I believe a little bit of jealousy can be healthy in a relationship.
But when it crosses the line into possessiveness and controlling behavior, it becomes something else entirely.
If you or your partner are overly jealous or intentionally try to make each other jealous to get your way (or get attention) it’s the sign of a dysfunctional relationship.
This is a way of acting out frustrations and seeking intimacy or attention one or both of you feels you’re not getting.
There are healthier ways to communicate and ask for the love and attention you need, as well as address any issues with jealousy that are going on.