Are there times when you feel way out of place in your relationship with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or partner? Do you find yourself upset most of the time with him and not sure why? Do you think she is “playing with” your emotions? Are there times when you feel confused, like being in some sort of time warp or not too forthcoming when other friends ask you about your relationship? Do you get a weird or sick feeling when it comes to loving, respecting or trusting each other? Is there a lack of clear, understandable communication or the communication turns into a fight?
You are not alone when it comes to wondering if you are in an unhealthy relationship with someone. We as counselors have found that people in these situations are pretty sure they are in one and realize they need to get the emotional strength and help to figure out what to do. We are not talking about an occasional fight or rough day or times when someone feels unsatisfied in their relationship. People go through ups and downs in their relationships (get help when needed) and make it through. No, we are talking about those who day after day week after week feel worn down physically, battle disruptive internal emotions, wrestle with thoughts of pain and anguish in terms of their interactions with their perspective partner.
Here are five warning signs or “red flags” that you need to be aware of in order to put things in perspective, consider help, and to become empowered to move in a more healthy direction.
Fear of breaking up – The fear of breaking up can appear in different forms. You may not want to upset your boyfriend or girlfriend as you feel he or she may become very angry, upset or possibly violent; you may not want to be the “bad guy”; you sense that he/she may do something harmful to themselves if you “broke up”; you feel guilty or ashamed over how he/she may feel about your decision. You may feel that you are the “only one” who truly understands him/her. Each of these fears needs to be considered as warning signs that you may be in a harmful relationship.
Feel physically sick – You find yourself calling off from work or that you are tired more often than not especially if it is linked to stress in your relationship. It may take you longer to get over a sickness then it use to. You know somehow that your situation has gotten worse over time and your body is just wearing down. Be aware however, that sickness is not necessarily directly linked to an unhealthy relationship so a visit with your healthcare provider would be advised to help determine if there may be something else happening with you.
Friends and/or family express their concerns – Time and time again you hear from your friends or family that they sense you have changed in a negative way because of how things are going in your relationship. They may something like, “Wow, you sure have changed a lot since you’ve been with “______”; “you just don’t seem like yourself”; “you’re not looking well these days” and other kinds of comments. They express concerns about your health and well-being, how your mood has badly changed, how you look, how you may not be taking care of yourself as you once did or how your partner may be emotionally, mentally and/or physically harsh with you. Certainly friends and family want what’s best for you as they may say but when you hear from a few of them who (may or may not know each other) that they are saying pretty much the same thing then take notice!
Feel trapped – You may feel like you have no other place to go or you may feel like your partner will have no place to go and you don’t want to be the one who initiates this break up. You may have a lot of bills, or you have children involved and you don’t want to be left “out in the cold” without any other place to go. Many times when you think about leaving you feel very stressed out and options of what you could do fade away as if the only option is to stay in the relationship. You are isolated from others for various reasons; you feel you are in a power struggle or being controlled by your partner; you may feel like you have to get “approval” for simple tasks or you think about how your partner may act when you give your input in decisions and you may remain silent or minimize what you offer. You may feel closed in like you are being monitored or questioned about most of or nearly all of your activities which may even include activities you do together especially if you are around others. You may even blame yourself for the heartaches that you, he/she or both of you are going through.
You lost yourself – There may be times you wonder who you are anymore. You use to have goals that you strove for, you were optimistic about the future and you set yourself out to achieve your goals. You had direction in your life. You use to take care of yourself with a good healthy diet, nutrition and quality exercise but now you find these things lacking. You have found that you have sacrificed your values or morals in order “to be” with him/her. You sense that your positive traits have been quelled or rejected in your relationship. Your self-esteem has all but disappeared and you may even find yourself “walking on egg shells” when around your partner. Further, you may have started doing or increased in doing things that are harmful to yourself (such as a “junk food” diet, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking, or drugging) of which you both may be doing.
Out of these five signs, seek to get clarity and make the time to sort them out. Getting together with an objective third party who is not biased may be very beneficial to sort out things you may not see or want to see. You may want to connect with one of our counselors who is objective, a good listener, helpful in problem-solving, and who may be able to help you through these difficult times.
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