Recognizing Unhealthy Relationships

By Kaylen Hagadorn, LCSW

It’s nearing the end of October, but this month is domestic violence awareness month, so I want to highlight a concern I frequently have to address. As a therapist, I often see people in relationships who aren’t sure if what they’re experiencing is abuse. Many times, people’s relationships start out “perfect,” but over time they evolve into something else.  How can you identify a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy or even abusive one? 

Signs of a Healthy Relationship

  • Open, respectful communication between partners
  • Partners trust each other and aren’t required to “prove” how trustworthy they are
  • Partners are honest with each other, but still able to have some privacy
  • Partners make decisions together, or with each other’s input
  • Partners enjoy spending time together or apart, and respect each other’s need for time apart
  • Partners talk openly about sexual and reproductive choices, and all partners willingly consent to sexual activity
  • Partners have equal say regarding finances, and each have access to the resources they need

Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship:

  • Partners fight or just don’t discuss problems when they arise
  • Partners are not considerate of one another, may consider their needs more important than the needs of the other
  • Partners lie to each other
  • One or both partners feel pressured to engage in sexual activity
  • Only one partner is responsible for making decisions
  • Finances are not discussed, or only one partner is in charge of finances

Signs of an Abusive Relationship:

  • Partners communicate in a way that is threatening, hurtful, insulting or demeaning
  • One partner doesn’t respect the feelings, thoughts, decisions, opinions, or even the physical safety of the other
  • One partner accuses the other of cheating or having an affair when it’s not true
  • One partner minimizes or blames the other for abusive behavior
  • One partner controls all decisions without the other’s input
  • One partner isolates the other from their family and friends
  • One partner forces the other to engage in sexual activity
  • One partner controls all money and access to resources 

While the above signs can be indicators of whether your relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or even abusive, no two relationships look the same, because no two relationships are the same. While conflict is normal in all relationships, arguments shouldn’t become attacks. If you’re unable to express yourself to your partner without fear of retaliation, you may be experiencing abuse. 

If you feel unsafe in your relationship, you can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Kaylen Hagadorn is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support with your relationship contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.