Eight Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship

February 17, 2024

In the realm of relationships, the term “unhealthy” carries significant weight, encompassing a spectrum of behaviors and dynamics that can erode the very foundation of connection and trust. Understanding the signs of an unhealthy relationship is crucial for fostering personal well-being and cultivating healthy, fulfilling partnerships.

Before delving into the signs of an unhealthy relationship, it is essential to establish what constitutes a healthy one. At its core, a healthy relationship is built on mutual respect, trust, communication, and support. Both partners feel valued, understood, and empowered to express their thoughts and emotions openly. While all relationships will have their ups and downs and people have some bad days, there are several signs that your relationship may not just be going through a rough patch, but is unhealthy overall.

Lack Of Communication

Good communication is the key to any successful relationship. It allows for healthy boundaries to be set and for each partner to hear each other out to develop a better understanding and work through conflicts. 

In unhealthy dynamics, communication breakdowns are common. This leaves one partner unable to express feelings and concerns openly. When one partner also tries to express their feelings about a situation, they may find themselves being misinterpreted leading to unresolved conflicts and emotional distancing. 

The silent treatment or stonewalling becomes a means of avoidance, further exacerbating tensions. Refusing to talk, avoiding conversations, ignoring the other person, and giving someone the silent treatment are all signs of stonewalling. Once this point is reached, it can feel impossible to try to communicate effectively. 

Control And Manipulation

Healthy relationships thrive on autonomy and mutual respect for each other’s independence. Conversely, in unhealthy relationships, one partner may try to exert excessive control over the other including dictating what they do, what choices they make, and even how they think. Manipulative tactics such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or emotional coercion undermine the other person’s sense of agency and self-worth, creating a toxic power imbalance. 

Gaslighting happens when one’s partner makes them believe they did not do something or they overreacted in a certain way. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides examples of signs and techniques someone might employ to start gaslighting someone. This form of emotional abuse often happens gradually and one may not even notice it’s happening to them.

Disrespect And Disregard

Respect forms the cornerstone of healthy relationships, encompassing mutual admiration, appreciation, and consideration for each other’s boundaries and feelings. In unhealthy dynamics, disrespect and disregard are pervasive. This can manifest as belittling remarks, mocking behavior, or outright insults. Boundaries are routinely violated, and personal space is not respected, leading to feelings of diminished self-esteem and worth.

Lack Of Trust

Trust is the bedrock of intimacy, fostering emotional security and vulnerability within a relationship. In unhealthy dynamics, trust becomes fractured, often due to persistent suspicion, jealousy, or betrayal. One partner may resort to monitoring or controlling the other’s actions or constantly asking them what they did and who they were with. This erodes trust and sows seeds of doubt and insecurity.

Emotional Or Physical Abuse

Perhaps the most egregious sign of an unhealthy relationship is the presence of emotional or physical abuse. Verbal assaults, threats, intimidation, and physical violence inflict deep psychological wounds, leaving lasting scars on the victim’s psyche. Victims of abuse often feel trapped, isolated, and powerless, struggling to break free from the cycle of violence.

Sexual abuse is another less talked about form of abuse that can happen in relationships or even if you are married. A San Francisco sexual abuse attorney explained that sexual abuse is the crime of one person pressuring, forcing, or coercing a victim into sexual acts without the victim’s consent. This can include not taking ‘no’ for an answer.


Have you found yourself, during the duration of your relationship, becoming more and more isolated and speaking less and less to friends and family? Isolation is a common tactic employed by abusers to exert control and dominance over their victims. In unhealthy relationships, one partner may seek to isolate the other by cutting off contact with friends and family, controlling their social interactions, and fostering dependence on them. This can leave the victim feeling vulnerable, alone, and devoid of support networks outside the relationship. Unfortunately, this may make them feel like they have to stay in an unhealthy relationship because they don’t see themselves as having someone to turn to to help them transition out of that space financially or emotionally. 

Imbalance Of Power

Healthy relationships thrive on equality and shared decision-making, with both partners contributing to the partnership’s growth and stability. In unhealthy dynamics, power differentials are pronounced, with one partner wielding disproportionate control over the other. This may manifest in economic manipulation, financial coercion, or a general sense of powerlessness and subjugation.

Unfulfilling Or Toxic Dynamics

Ultimately, unhealthy relationships are marked by a pervasive sense of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and toxicity. Partners may feel drained, depleted, and emotionally exhausted by the constant turmoil and strife. The relationship becomes a source of distress rather than joy, stifling personal growth and fulfillment.

Importance Of Recognition

Recognizing the signs of an unhealthy relationship is the first step toward reclaiming one’s autonomy, dignity, and well-being. By acknowledging and addressing toxic patterns, individuals can pave the way for healthier, more fulfilling connections. Remember, you deserve to be in a relationship where you feel valued, respected, and cherished. Trust your instincts, set boundaries, and seek support when needed. Your happiness and well-being are worth it.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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