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When we love someone, we often can’t see that the dynamic between us and them may not be a healthy one.
We mistake lust for love. We mistake an amazing sexual connection as love. We mistake “escape” with love. And we definitely mistake attachment to the other person as love.
True love is one where there is no distrust, no fear and no hiding who you really are.
It’s one where the other person doesn’t place rules and conditions on you. They give you room to be yourself at all times even if it differs from them and they give you space when you need it, even when it doesn’t include them.
I have been in unhealthy relationships just like everybody else. I am aware of my own unhealthy patterns and can spot them as soon as they crop up and put on the brakes before diving in now.
I am well aware of the kind of male energy I draw to myself (ones that needs to be fixed, loved and nurtured) and I have learned how to put up boundaries to protect myself from getting hurt.
I do not do this perfectly. Let’s face it. Old patterns die hard. When it’s familiar, it feels good because it’s what we know. And when it feels good, we are drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
But there are some red flags I always tell people to look out for. These are the most common ones I see with people in unhealthy and addictive relationships:
1) Fear rules the relationship. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of being separated from the person because you think you may lose them. Fear of losing them in general because you can’t bare the thought of being alone.
We should be able to say what is there for us without worrying that the other person is going to freak out or leave us because of it. In the same vein, we should be able to screw up without the fear that our partner is going to bail on us because of it.
2) Conflicts and arguments keep popping up. Relationships that are fueled by a lot of conflict, fighting and blaming are typically not healthy ones. Yes—getting things out into the open is imperative and sometimes we need to battle it out to resolve it, but when you find that you are fighting almost daily, it’s something to look at.
3) You have a limited circle of mutual friends because your friends don’t actually like the person you’re with. This is typically a red flag. Both of you should have your own separate friends which you probably had before you met. But it’s also important as a couple to have mutual friends in common to hang out with. These are the people who know you as a couple and will be there for both of you when things get tough.
If you don’t have any friends who like to hang out with the two of you together, that’s often a sign that people don’t think the two of you are actually good together. Just my personal experience…though maybe not the case with everyone.
4) Being “in need” is confused with being “in love.” Neediness in general is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. All of us need to feel loved. And all of us need to feel connection with others. But if you find that you actually “need” a person to get through your days, or you need someone to make you feel whole, it’s not healthy. We should be able to provide ourselves with the love and attention we crave and not need it from another person to feel whole or complete.
5) Possessiveness and jealousy. There is such thing as a healthy dose of jealousy in a relationship. The thoughts of “He’s my man,” or “She’s my woman” are common and an expression of our love for someone. It’s okay for other people to admire our partner, but we’d just like them to not touch, please.
However, when the person wants to know who you’re with, what you’re doing and where you are 24 hours a day, this is a sign that there is no trust in the relationship. And without trust, you really don’t have a solid foundation to build a healthy relationship on. A very deep personal lesson I learned myself.
6) Controlling Behavior. Beware of someone who falls deeply in love with you quickly and starts pressuring you for some form of commitment in the future and wanting to know where you are at all times.
If you’re with someone who tries to control your every move, there’s no point in sticking around. The biggest risk of staying with someone like this is that they will soon try to control everything you do from what you wear, to the people you hang out with. These kinds of people can also really hinder your spiritual and personal growth.
7) You lose yourself in the relationship. You don’t do all the things you used to do because you are completely consumed with your partner. Hobbies and interests you once had fall by the wayside. Instead, you do everything with them and have lost interest in doing things you once loved with people you once loved doing them with.
You literally start to forget who you are…and who you once were, before you met this person.
8) Lots of drama. This one kind of says it all. Your relationship is never smooth sailing and balmy seas. It’s filled with lots of drama whether it’s their drama, your drama or drama in general. Everywhere you turn, your partner has some kind of drama that they’re involved in and you get sucked into it. Bail fast because their drama isn’t going to be getting any better anytime soon.
9) Abusive Behavior. This can be physical or emotional. I don’t know what’s worse but I have seen people in relationships where their partner is so emotionally abusive, they become shells of their former selves. If you aren’t being treated with love and respect, this is an obvious one. Get yourself out.
It’s incredibly difficult to admit when we are with someone we truly love that we may be in an unhealthy relationship with them. But it’s important to really look at your dynamic together and to get honest with yourself.
People convince themselves that these types of relationships make them feel safe and loved. Or they convince themselves that “it’s not that bad” and they’ll never find someone better.
Find the strength to let go. Although it may be the hardest thing you ever have to do, it will be for the best. There is someone better for you on the horizon if you can just trust that you deserve it.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Daniel Zedda/Flickr