It is common for relationships to change over time. Some relationships may begin with unhealthy patterns, while others can experience a slow onset of negative relational patterns. This article discusses some of the common themes of unhealthy relationships as well as steps to take to strengthen your relationship.
1) Your Relationship Lacks Honest Communication
Many relationships experience disagreements and challenges at some point. While these events aren’t always a problem, how partners communicate during conflict can impact the relationship. What may start as small annoyances—for example, leaving dirty dishes in the sink or not expressing gratitude—can turn into larger problems if partners avoid communicating. If partners are afraid to be honest with one another, what started as an annoyance may turn into resentment.
If either partner is hesitant to talk openly and honestly, it may be a sign your relationship needs attention. However, there are many reasons why someone may not be willing to tell their feelings within their relationship. Working with a professional therapist may help provide you with ways you can improve communication in your relationship.
2) One Or More Partners Are Seeking Control
Seeking control may be a sign of unhealthy relationship dynamics. Some forms of control are obvious, such as taking and managing a partner’s money or dictating how a partner spends their time. There are also more subtle forms of control such as withholding affection as a form of manipulation, gaslighting, or using guilt to achieve what they want.
A need for control may lead to a negative relationship, but it may also indicate that the person seeking control could benefit from professional help. Controlling behavior could be associated with a desire for stability, impact on others, or inclusion by others. People who express controlling personalities may be able to work with a therapist to find healthier ways to meet their needs.
3) You Are Not Acknowledging Jealousy
Most people in relationships experience jealousy. However, it’s important to note that there are different elements of jealousy in relationships, and they can have varying effects on your relationship's health.
One form of jealousy is known as emotional or reactive jealousy. This refers to the feelings you may experience when you notice someone else flirting with your partner. One study suggested that this type of jealousy was associated with stronger feelings of love towards a partner. Emotional or reactive jealousy may alert partners to external threats to the relationship, which may lead them to recognize how much they value each other.
Another form of jealousy is cognitive jealousy, which may stem from internal, individual factors like personal fears instead of external events. This refers to how worried or suspicious a person may become when they feel jealous. You may be experiencing high levels of cognitive jealousy if you worry your partner is unfaithful, without witnessing any significant jealousy-evoking events. Researchers note this type of jealousy in a relationship may lead to increased feelings of loneliness as well as decreased feelings of love and relationship satisfaction.
An additional type of jealousy is behavioral jealousy. This type of jealousy refers to covert actions such as reading a partner’s texts or following them after work without their knowledge. The same study showed that behavioral jealousy was associated with experiencing negative emotions in the relationship.
While some aspects of jealousy are linked to more negative feelings than others, how you address these feelings can also impact how they affect your relationship. Many people are tempted to ignore jealous feelings, but this may not be the healthiest option. Speaking with a therapist may help you better understand and express your jealous feelings in a healthy way.
4) You Are Experiencing Codependency
Codependent relationships involve unhealthy attachment patterns, creating an imbalanced relationship. In these relationships, one partner’s needs may be ignored to fulfill another partner’s needs. If not addressed, codependency can lead to other unhealthy relationship dynamics. One study found that individuals who were experiencing high levels of codependency in their relationship were more likely to use negative coping mechanisms such as becoming hostile or ambivalent.
A therapist may assist you in setting healthy boundaries. They may also help you determine what a healthy relationship looks like so you can start making positive changes. Over time, you may be able to transition your relationship from codependent to interdependent.
You Don’t Have To Navigate Your Relationship Alone
If you’re experiencing any of the prior signs, it could mean your relationship may benefit from professional help. Connecting with a licensed therapist may help you identify the patterns in your relationship. A couples therapist may be able to work with you to improve your communication while also addressing other issues that might be present. While healing from unhealthy patterns may take effort and time from everyone affected, it is possible.
Online therapy, through platforms like BetterHelp, has helped many people improve the health of their relationship or navigate leaving a negative relationship. No matter how your relationship evolves, online therapy can create a safe space for you to discuss potentially sensitive topics related to relationships.
Research shows that online therapy may be an effective way to strengthen relationships. A 2020 study looked at couples’ attitudes while in therapy conducted via videoconference. Results showed that the video screen allowed the couples to feel less judged, which allowed them to be more vulnerable during sessions. Additionally, many couples reported feeling more safe taking these calls through a video platform instead of engaging in face-to-face therapy.
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