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If you’re in a happy relationship that’s healthy, it’s generally easy to distinguish the signs. You know what makes you happy and what makes you feel comfortable. As you get older, meet people, and go through more relationships, you will know what you’re looking for and the qualities you like and don’t like.

When it comes to unhealthy relationships, it can be a little harder to spot the signs. This is especially true if you are already in the relationship and are too close to see red flags you might have spotted from far away. Many unhealthy relationships start out great only to turn sour along the way.

In some cases, problematic or volatile situations stem from one partner being abusive. Other unhealthy situations can arise from two people who simply aren’t meant to be in a romantic relationship together. For example, if one person is incredibly independent and likes to have a lot of space, they should probably not enter into a romantic relationship or date someone who is very clingy and requires a lot of attention.

Knowing the signs to look out for and the qualities of an unhealthy relationship can help you stay away from or get out of a dangerous situation. By distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy, you may be able to pick your partners better or avoid relationships with incompatible partners. There are both serious red flags to watch out for, as well as characteristics which may be more insidious.

A few of the most serious red flags include:

  • A partner who tells you who you can/can’t talk to
  • A partner who restricts where you go and when
  • A partner who controls what you wear/don’t wear
  • A partner who hits you or hurts you physically in any manner
  • A partner who yells at you or makes you feel lesser or smaller
  • A partner who abuses you sexually or makes you feel obligated

Of course, many relationships do not have these “obvious” elements which indicate that a partner is abusing you or treating you badly. Sometimes they’re smaller things which illustrate that you are not compatible and may need to revisit the terms of your relationship.

Unhealthy relationships may be based on elements of fantasy. If either party in a relationship is trying to hide something or fool the other person, this can be extremely harmful and detrimental. Additionally, being unaware or dishonest about your strengths and weaknesses can lead to pretending certain problems don’t exist. Relationships which are built on distrust or lies can lead to the other person feeling distrustful in later relationships as well.

Needing to find someone to complete you or to depend on can lead to unhealthy feelings of co-dependency or emptiness. If you are not satisfied with your life or if your partner feels that you are the one and only thing he or she is looking for, it can lead to dangerous and selfish feelings. Instead of helping one another grow, seeking completion can cause dysfunctional or unsatisfactory relationship. You or your partner may never feel satisfied if you want the other person to be a perfect puzzle piece.

A relationship where one or both parties hold onto grudges or resentment is not a happy one. Communication is extremely important in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. If your partner won’t talk to you about things and you can’t come to a place of forgiveness, this does not allow for you to let go of disagreements and resentment.

Another factor to remember is that while feeling vulnerable in a secure relationship is okay, you should never feel fear or afraid. A healthy relationship should provide you with a sense of security and trust. If you are ever put in a place where you fear for your relationship or are scared of your partner, it may be appropriate to sit down and talk about it or at least to reassess your own feelings

Two individuals who are ready for a relationship is the key to a healthy relationship. When one or both parties are not ready, this can lead to serious problems and emotional or even physical abuse. Any partner that you are with should respect you and care about your safety and comfort. This is especially true if you are a survivor or victim of sexual assault, wherein it is vital that you set boundaries and enter into a relationship with someone who will respect them.

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