While everyone does unhealthy things sometimes, we can all learn to do better by recognizing the signs. Since we are by nature social beings, probably the most important entity whose health we should maintain is relationships. It starts with your most intimate relationship, that with a spouse or romantic partner.
If you are seeing unhealthy signs in any relationship you are in, it’s important to not ignore them and understand they can escalate to abuse. If you think you are in a dangerous situation, trust your gut and get help. What does an unhealthy relationship look like? It’s a relationship that includes a range of controlling behaviours. Abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, and/or financial. If you or someone you know experiences any of these forms of abuse, just know that it is not your fault and there are people ready to help you. If you believe someone you know may be experiencing abuse, offer your nonjudgmental support and offer help. Many times we stay in such relationships because we are afraid to speak up or lack the courage to move on.
Depression, suicide and mental health issues are very common in unhealthy relationships. People may feel anxious, confused, uncertain and even unsafe. Knowing what to look for can help you make choices about your partner. Just know you cannot build a relationship that is in crisis. Always talk to people that would provide you with resources to cope.
A few tips to help you cope with unhealthy relationships
- Open communication/transparency
- Deal with underlying issues
- Use your social organizations
- Understand and use your problem solving skills
- Know your strategy on how you solve problems
- Build your character
- Life changes and challenges (i.e., COVID-19)
- Financial hardships
- Knowing your partner’s heart
According to Gary Chapman,* the five ways to express and experience love is called “love languages” and they are:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Everyone wants to experience peace, joy, love and the pursuit of happiness. But before we can enjoy all this we need to pay attention to how we communicate and how we set boundaries. Here are some examples:
- Communication allows you and your partner to have a deeper understanding of each other, and allows you to connect. In a meaningful way
- Treat each other with respect
- Speak openly to one another about thoughts and feelings
- Listen to each other and compromise
- Do not criticize each other
- Feel supported to do the things they like
- Celebrate each other’s accomplishments and successes
- Setting boundaries allows you to ask for what you want, which sets the bar of how you want to be treated and what you would tolerate.
- Each person should express to their partner what they are and are not comfortable with, when it comes to sex life, finances, family and friends, personal space and time
- Each partner allows the other to spend time with their friends and family
- Do not abuse technology to check on a partner
- Trust each other and not require their partner to “check in”
- Do not pressure the other to do things that they don’t want to do
- Do not constantly accuse the other of cheating or being unfaithful
We can foster healthy and positive relationships by caring for each other, and in doing this, we will feel more satisfied and fulfilled. We will feel connected and ready to take on whatever life brings us. This in turn will help us to stay healthy and happier and more satisfied with our lives.
*Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages, Northfield Publishing, 1992.