What do I do if I’m in an unhealthy relationship...
While RealEd emphasizes a framework for building and maintaining healthy relationships, it is equally important to know what to do when you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship. This blog will help you define unhealthy areas in your relationship, give resources to help you process your situation, and guidance on pursuing a solution to your specific relationship dilemma.
Defining an Unhealthy Relationship
You may intuitively sense that your relationship is becoming unhealthy but it is vital to understand specifically what is unhealthy in your relationship. Love Is Respect, (2020), a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, states that “unhealthy relationships are based on attempts to control the other person” and specifies issues such as breaks in communication, pressure, dishonesty, struggles for control, and inconsiderate behavior. This could include your partner making most of the decisions you face as a couple, pressuring you to do things you do not want, making you feel obligated to spend the majority of your time with them, etc. This is in contrast to a reciprocal relationship based on equality and respect. A good first step would be to write down specific issues of control and unhealthiness that you see in your relationship. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a helpful list of differing traits between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships linked in the resources section.
Deciding on a course of action
Once you define the specific problems in your relationship, you must evaluate the seriousness of those issues and whether the relationship is worth fixing or not. This may be the most difficult part of the process as we all have tendencies to either run from struggling relationships that can be fixed or to stay in bad relationships that cannot. One of the most telling signs to help you discern this is how your partner reacts when you bring up the problems in the relationship. If you feel safe to have that conversation, are able to have a productive discussion, and can create a plan together for a solution, chances are that both of you have the heart and determination to grow in your relationship. If you are met with resistance, blame-shifting, and a refusal to discuss, it suggests an unhealthy partner who is unwilling to grow. This will most likely create more issues in the future. In this case, it is best to make a personal plan to end the relationship before you end up stuck waiting for your partner to change or trying to save them yourself. While this decision is difficult, it may be exactly what you and your partner need to grow as individuals.
When unhealthy turns abusive
In the process of defining the problems in your relationship, it is critical to determine whether the issues are simply unhealthy or actually abusive. Whereas unhealthy relationships are characterized by attempts to control, abusive relationships possess full imbalances of power and control (Love is Respect, 2020). These relationships involve partners that harm through hurtful and demeaning language, decide with whom their partner spends time, exert financial control over their partner, violate sexual & emotional boundaries, and isolate their partner from others. Love is Respect provides a free quiz to help determine whether your relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or abusive (also linked below).
No excuses exist for abusive behavior and immediate action should be taken to protect oneself from the abuser, most often meaning removing oneself from the situation entirely. This can be a very difficult decision due to fear of repercussions, a tendency for abusers to blame those they harm, and the fact that abusers may be well behaved in between instances of abuse (Office on Women’s Health, 2020). If you find yourself in this difficult situation, it is vital to find support such as teachers, counselors, trusted family and friends, or even doctors and nurses. Additionally, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to talk through steps for leaving an abusive relationship (information linked below).
In the end, there is no reason for you to endure an unhealthy or abusive relationship and steps should be taken to resolve unhealthy areas in all your relationships. When defining and addressing these issues, it is important to keep taking the next step. We all too easily become stagnant and find ourselves stuck in unhealthy relationships that are not worthy of us or our time. As always, remember how valuable you are as a human being and the level of respect that you truly deserve. When we remember these facts, we expose any problems that violate those foundational truths.
For determining if you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship:
Defines the differences between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships
Quick quiz that rates the level of health or unhealth in your relationship
On abusive relationships:
National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Phone #: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Office of Women’s Health:
Love is Respect. (2020). The Relationship Spectrum. Retrieved from loveisrespect.org: https://www.loveisrespect.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Relationship-Spectrum-final.pdf
National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020). Relationships Spectrum. Retrieved from National Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/healthy-relationships/relationship-spectrum/
Office on Women's Health. (2020). Leaving an Absuive Relationship. Retrieved from U. S. Department of Health & Human Services: https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/leaving-abusive-relationship