Trigger Warning: This article discusses unhealthy relationships and emotional abuse.
A vampire man breaks into a woman’s room to watch her sleep. Swoon… except, not. This all-too familiar scene is from the first Twilight movie, which many of us remember at least vaguely. Somehow, unhealthy relationships have been idealized in movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment – we just don’t recognize it. Why not? Because it’s made out to be about passion – passion makes people act in weird ways, it makes them do creepy things that are somehow meant to be romantic. The problem with this is that it teaches people that treating a partner in that way, or similarly, is a sign of affection and is just an expression of undying love for them. Sadly, this isn’t the case; it’s actually the opposite.
So, without further ado, here are ten signs of an unhealthy relationship:
YOUR PARTNER IMPLIES OR JOKES THAT YOU’RE ONLY GOOD FOR ONE THING.
Really, really think about this. A lot of emotional mistreatment is passed off as a joke, or one partner can even gaslight the other (this will be discussed later). Comments along the lines of “Oh, I’m only with you for your bed” or “All you’re good at is sex” definitely fall under this category. Sometimes, they can be hidden under backhanded compliments, so this is harder to recognize.
YOUR PARTNER DOESN’T SUPPORT YOUR HOBBIES AND/OR ACTIVELY BELITTLES YOUR SUCCESSES.
Again, this can seem like a joke as well. Someone’s partner might make a passing comment along the lines of “Oh, it’s just because you’re pretty that you won this” or “X activity doesn’t interest me, so why do I need to go?” Part of any healthy relationship is active support or interest in the other person’s hobbies/passions.
YOU FEEL TRAPPED IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
If you’re having second thoughts about your relationship, but feel like you can’t leave, that’s a good sign that it could be pretty toxic.
YOUR PARTNER DISREGARDS YOUR FEELINGS.
Anytime you’re upset, your partner insists that it’s because you’re melodramatic or a drama queen, or that you simply expect too much of them. They may even accuse you of being clingy or needy, if they know this to be an insecurity of yours.
THERE ARE DOUBLE STANDARDS WITHIN THE RELATIONSHIP.
If you’re late from work, are you bombarded with accusations of infidelity or other negative behaviors? Are you expected to always be at their beck and call, but they’re allowed to ghost you for days? If you ask them to compromise on something they want to do, do they refuse? If you don’t want to compromise on something they want to do, do they label you as selfish? This is a huge red flag concerning unhealthy relationships – partners should treat one another as equals, not as property.
ARGUMENTS ARE MORE COMMON THAN NOT, AND ARE FILLED WITH INSULTS, BLAMING, OR A LACK OF FORGIVENESS.
Though these aren’t the only toxic things that can be present in an argument, they’re some of the big ones. Digging up your past mistakes as ammunition for arguments is a huge sign of emotional abuse, and not at all a sign of forgiveness.
YOU SPEND LESS TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
This one tends to be a slow fade. When you go out with friends, does your partner make you feel guilty about “abandoning” them? Do they not have a life outside of you? If you’re finding that you haven’t spoken to or seen your loved ones in a long time, this could be the culprit.
YOU’VE STARTED TO CHANGE YOURSELF TO SUIT YOUR PARTNER’S REQUESTS.
One of my abusive exes was quite deft with this tactic. He would make remarks about my makeup, saying it was too much, and slowly I would change my look to accommodate his comments. This one tends to occur more as time goes on, so it might not be easy to notice right away.
THEY MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE CRAZY FOR BEING WORRIED ABOUT THINGS.
If you address your partner about their behavior/lack of respect toward you, and they respond by saying that you’re crazy or overreacting, this is gaslighting and is extremely unhealthy. In extreme situations, some people might even go out of their way to alter certain parts of their partner’s life (where their car is, where they usually keep things) to further reinforce the notion that they’re losing their mind.
THEY USE YOUR INSECURITIES AGAINST YOU.
My abusive ex also did this to me. I previously had an eating disorder, and he knew that I would check my face for roundness (a sign I was putting on weight). Weeks after we finally broke up, he texted me and told me that my face had gotten rounder; fully knowing the effect this would have on my self-esteem. It’s insidious and extremely hurtful, but it’s also one of the most effective ways of keeping you under their control.
If you’ve experienced emotional abuse, it is important to remember that this is not your fault. Abusive relationships are the fault of the abuser, not the survivor. You did nothing to deserve the way you are/were treated, and being a survivor of abuse does not mean you’re weak. In fact, you are strong, and you will get through whatever it is you might be dealing with.
If you think you or another person is being abused by their partner, you can visit the National Domestic Violence website or call their hotline (1-800-799-7233) to talk to a professional.