In light of the tragic death of Gabby Petito, it’s important to be able to recognize unhealthy signs in relationships.
If you are unfamiliar with the unfortunate incident, Petito and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, went out on a cross-country van trip, and Laundrie returned home without her while Petito was reported missing. Later Petito was found dead and Laundrie has since been missing, making people believe he was responsible.
Despite all the media attention, this is a story that has happened before. Of course, you can never know if your significant other could be capable of murder; however it’s very important to be able to spot the red flags of an unhealthy and potentially dangerous relationship.
Before talking about unhealthy relationships, it’s best to be able to identify what constitutes a healthy one. Christy Minck, a licensed mental health counselor, defined a healthy relationship as; “Both partners consider themselves to be equal and a team. There’s a lot of mutual respect and a high level of trust. The individuals both have interests outside of the relationship.”
Here are the signs of an unhealthy relationship according to Christy Minck.
A relationship that lacks communication or where communication is ignored
Communication is arguably the most important aspect of any relationship. When communication is present, it opens the door for each party to feel heard with their; feelings, concerns, expectations and more. When a relationship lacks communication, it can leave someone feeling isolated.
No boundaries are set, or one person in the relationship is setting all the boundaries
In relationships, boundaries set the tone for how someone wants to be treated and is key for maintaining individuality. If there are no boundaries set in your relationship, you’re opening the door for the other person to dominate your thoughts and emotions.
Relationships should be a balance of power. If your partner has a say in what you do, who you spend your time with, how you spend your money — then there is a chance they’re being too controlling. When one person exhibits too much control in a relationship this can be a sign of manipulation. Manipulation can open doors to mental, emotional and potentially physical abuse. Signs of control can often include isolating you from your friends and family, not respecting your privacy and making you feel as if you need their approval for everything.
If you’re in a constant feeling of unhappiness or dread
If you find yourself being in a constant state of unhappiness, or if your partner drains you, this can be a sign of an unhealthy partnership. With that being said, there will be the occasional period where you won’t always be 100% happy with your partner. But there’s a difference when that feeling doesn’t change. In a relationship both partners should genuinely enjoy and have fun with each other.
Jealousy and possessiveness are sure signs of an unhealthy relationship. When possessiveness is present in a relationship, then insecurity is present as well. This means someone is afraid of losing the other partner. This is a normal feeling no one wants to lose their partner. However, when someone in the relationship is consumed by jealousy, it can lead to more serious problems. Signs of possessiveness and jealousy in your partner can include restricting you, invading your personal space, controlling your looks, controlling how people perceive you and if your partner is stalking you.
Emotional abuse is hard to recognize at first because it’s not as obvious or easily detectable. But if your partner insults, demeans, shames or criticizes you, it can be a sign of emotional abuse. Abuse of this nature is also built over time, which may make it harder to recognize as well. If emotional abuse persists in your relationships, it can lead to you feeling hopeless, depressed and lonely. You may also suffer insomnia or tend to withdraw from activities and connections. If emotional abuse persists then it can open doors to other forms of abuse.
When signs of an unhealthy partner become evident, it can affect the other person in numerous ways.
“What happens psychologically for many different individuals who are involved in those (unhealthy) relationships is they start to feel like it’s their fault. There’s a lot of self doubt, a lot of blame, a lot of shame … They begin to feel like something is wrong with them,” Minck stated.
Which is unfortunately the case for Isabella Heckman, a twenty year old college student, who had previously been in two relationships she classified as abusive.
“I became very insecure in my relationships, it made me wonder ‘what am I doing wrong?’” she said in regards to how her past relationships affected her personally.
While it might be hard to initially spot warning signs in your partner, it’s always important to check in on your own feelings. Trust your gut instincts. If you sense a destructive pattern in your partner.
“It was my intuition, I felt it throughout the entire relationship… I knew it wasn’t right.” Heckman said about how she knew it was time to leave her prior relationships.
“Check back on yourself, check on what you love about yourself and what it’s reflecting on. When you love yourself you attract what you love. When you start to love yourself you understand you don’t need that person, you don’t deserve what they’re doing to you and how they treat you. Self love comes a long way.” Heckman said.
While you may be wondering why don’t these people just leave?
Well, it’s not that simple. In a lot of cases, it’s hard for the victim to either come to terms with the situation or safely leave it.
According to Minick, in a lot of cases it is hard for the victim to either come to terms with the situation or safetly leave it. “They don’t leave because oftentimes they feel like they can’t, and some of that is because there is a physical danger but some of it is emotional danger. If I leave this person may have made threats against their own life. Like if you leave me I’m going to kill myself or kill you. It’s brainwashing essentially. Those effects of brainwashing are a trauma to that person and they last a very long time.” she said.
At the end of the day, no one will understand a relationship except the people in it. If you notice signs of someone close to you in a toxic relationship, it’s up to them to do something about it. The most you can do is be there for them. However, if you do find yourself in a relationship that is unhealthy or toxic, it’s important to talk to your partner or seek help from family, friends or proper resources.
It’s also important to remember that, if you’re the victim of an unhealthy or abusive relationship, that it’s not your fault. The most you can do is recognize it’s unhealthy and move accordingly. Whether you communicate your feelings with your partner, seek help from a counselor or other resources, or confide in people close to you — staying in these relationships just opens doors for the conditions to get worse and could potentially put yourself in a further dangerous situation.
National Domestic Violence