15 Characteristics Of An Unhealthy Relationship

characteristics of an unhealthy relationship

When you think about the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, you might realize that you are dealing with such a relationship.

On the other hand, you might be afraid to think about this because your current relationship has already got you stuck in it.

Most of us have been in some kind of relationship at some point in our lives.

You meet someone, you spend time with them, and then you start to see each other regularly.

Some people just want casual dating, but others want a more serious relationship.

For those wanting something more, there are some telltale signs that can help you figure out if you’re in an unhealthy relationship

According to family psychologist Sarah Clark, there are three big signs that should be considered when determining whether your current relationship is healthy or unhealthy.

These include inequity, dependence on one another and the emotional response when faced with conflict.

Here there are 15 characteristics of an unhealthy relationship and you should read through them to put your relationship in check.

15 Characteristics Of An Unhealthy Relationship


1. Lack of communication

Communication is the most important part of a relationship.

The lack of communication is one of the major characteristics of an unhealthy relationship.

It’s what makes you feel safe, loved and connected to your partner.

Without communication, there really isn’t much of a relationship — just a friendship at best.

There are differences between talking and communicating in a relationship:

Talking is simply saying words out loud while communicating with one another means that you’re saying things that are meaningful and important to you.

Unless your partner knows how you feel and why you feel the way that you do, they can’t understand what’s going on inside your head or heart.

Communicating is so vital because it helps both people in the relationship grow closer together through shared experiences and thoughts, which can lead to increased understanding of each other’s wants, needs and fears.

It’s also very easy for miscommunication to occur within relationships, which can lead to problems — especially if both partners aren’t communicating their wants or needs clearly enough for each other to understand them well enough in order to meet those needs.


2. Lack of trust

Trust is one of the most important parts of a relationship.

Without trust in your partner, you can’t feel safe and secure.

Without trust, you’ll always be concerned about your partner’s other relationships or the possibility that they’ll hurt you.

Trust allows us to let our guard down and feel like we have someone who truly has our best interests at heart.

When there’s no trust in a relationship, it means that one person is being deceitful to the other.

Maybe they’re lying about where they are all the time, what they’re doing, or who they’re with.

Maybe they have a history of cheating but say “this time it’s different.

” Only by establishing honesty and transparency can trust begin to develop in a meaningful way for both partners.

When you see that lack of trust in your relationship and don’t know what to do about it, try these steps:

  • Communicate with your partner openly and honestly about how their behaviour makes you feel
  • Reflect on whether dishonesty has been present in other relationships with this person
  • Acknowledge if dishonesty has been present within yourself.


3. Lack of respect

While each relationship is different, there are some universal behaviours that are considered disrespectful; these include name-calling, insults, or threats to end the relationship.

The key to knowing if your partner is being disrespectful is how you feel when they act in this way.

If their words and actions make you uncomfortable or cause anxiety, then it’s a good indication that what they’re doing doesn’t respect your wishes.

What’s important to remember here is that lack of respect can go both ways.

While you can be respectful of your partner by trying not to say hurtful things, it’s important for you to also consider how your partner feels about certain behaviours and listen to any concerns he or she may have about them.


4. No affection

There is a clear difference between not being physically comfortable and not wanting to be affectionate.

If your partner does not want to kiss, cuddle or hold hands, you should ask yourself why this is happening.

Physical closeness is an important part of a healthy relationship.

It helps to strengthen the bond between a couple and shows that you care about each other.

When done frequently and genuinely, it can make both partners feel valued and loved.

In any relationship, feelings of closeness and intimacy are important to your mental health as well as for feeling satisfied in the relationship itself.

Affection helps to build trust with your partner and makes you feel safe when they touch or hold you.


5. You don’t feel supported or understood

When you share your life with someone else, it’s important that they are there for you.

They should be listening to you, supporting and encouraging you and validating your feelings.

If your partner is dismissive of what you have to say and never seems to hear or understand where you’re coming from, consider this a huge red flag.

This person doesn’t love or respect who you are, so why would anyone in their right mind stay in a relationship like that?


6. You don’t feel like an equal partner

A relationship should be a partnership, not a competition, and ideally, both you and your partner need to contribute to the relationship.

whether that’s by doing things together or by supporting each other when the going gets rough.

“A healthy relationship is one where two people feel comfortable expressing their feelings and needs, listening to each other’s feelings and needs, sharing responsibilities, showing respect, trusting each other and sharing in life experiences together,” says Dr Bonior.

“When couples are able to share all of these experiences with one another it helps them grow closer as individuals and as partners.”


7. You have different values or goals when it comes to money, children, religion, or other issues

When you’re in a relationship, it’s natural to want to know that the person you’re with shares your values and goals, especially when it comes to important issues like children, money, or religion.

If a partner doesn’t share your perspective on these things, it can cause a lot of problems down the road.

However, just because you don’t share the same values or goals doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.

It just means you’ll have to work harder to communicate and compromise with each other. Here are some strategies for talking about your differences:

  • Talk about the future. Have an open conversation about what kind of future you’d like for yourself and for each other. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements so that the conversation stays productive rather than accusatory.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions together and try not to be defensive when discussing these topics or trying to reach compromises. Remember that relationships are all about working together as a team toward common goals (and sometimes having differing views is simply part of being human).


8. Your partner makes you feel bad about yourself or constantly criticizes you

Red flag: your partner makes you feel bad about yourself or constantly criticizes you

Signs of a healthy relationship: your partner is always supportive, kind, and uplifting

It can be hard to know when to take a stand and when to walk away.

If your partner constantly belittles you or makes fun of you when you are out in public, chances are he or she doesn’t respect you.

You should never feel bad about who you are.

When we are in a relationship it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our partner thinks less of us than they do.

If this is happening all too often it might be time for ourselves or our partners to reevaluate the relationships.


9. Your partner always seems to be angry or unhappy around you

You should feel happy, supported, and loved in your partnership.

If that’s not the case, then it may be time to reevaluate whether or not you want to stay in it.

One big red flag is if your partner is always angry around you.

Partners should lift each other up and make each other happy — being around someone who is constantly unhappy or angry makes you feel bad and doubt yourself.

If you are concerned about this issue, ask your partner what’s making them so upset or angry.

They might tell you! But don’t put yourself down if they don’t respond positively to this question; that’s on them, not you!


10. Your partner is controlling your decisions and behaviour

Control and manipulation are among the most common characteristics of an unhealthy relationship,.

It’s important to pay attention to these behaviours and the impacts they can have.

These controlling behaviours can be dangerous.

Controlling behaviour can be emotional or physical:

Emotional Control:

  • Criticism of your actions and personality which is often disguised as “constructive criticism”
  • Manipulation through guilt trips about how their life would be worse without you in it (“I don’t know what I would do if I lost you!”)
  • Disrespecting your personal boundaries by following you around or demanding constant check-ins (texting, calling, etc.)


Physical Control:

  • Not allowing you to see friends or family members who they don’t feel they can control (controlling people often lash out against those who support your decisions)
  • Tracking your whereabouts with GPS on your phone (or just demanding that you give them a play by play of where you’re going and when)


11. You feel manipulated by your partner, or hate doing things they ask you to do

Have you ever been manipulated by your partner?

Do you feel like he or she is always getting their way by appealing to your emotions, or by making you feel guilty?

You should never feel like they are trying to control you.

This is a major red flag in an abusive relationship. Here are some manipulative techniques that abusers use:

  • Withholding information: Withholding information can be powerful because it puts the other person at a disadvantage.

    They don’t have all the information so they can’t make an informed decision.


  • Making false accusations: Another common trick is to make false accusations against the other person and then use those accusations as justification for doing something hurtful to them.

    For instance, if your partner accuses you of cheating and then uses that accusation as justification for breaking up with you, this may be cause for concern.

    The reason why this technique works so well is that it makes the other person defend themselves without knowing whether or not what they’re defending themselves against is true or not.


  • Lying about intentions: Sometimes people lie about their intentions in order to get what they want from another person.

    For example, if someone wants sex but knows that his/her partner won’t agree unless he/she tells them “I love you”, then saying “I love you” becomes a way of manipulating that other person into giving him/her what he/she wants (sex).


12. You feel like your partner is hiding something from you, or keeping secrets from you (even if it’s something as small as having coffee with an old friend)

You should be able to share everything with your partner, and they should embrace the fact that you have a past.

People should come into relationships as whole beings, not half-people looking for someone to complete them.

If your partner is hiding something from you, it’s probably something that you have a right to know about.

They may not want to tell you about it because they know that you won’t like it.

If your partner is keeping secrets from you or hiding things from you, it may make sense for both of you to go into therapy together.

This way, each of you can get help dealing with the situation and navigating how to move forward from there.



13. Your partner is physically violent toward you, threatens to hurt you, or hurts your pet

Physical violence is one of the common characteristics of an unhealthy relationship.

It’s never okay for your partner to hit you, threaten to hit you or hurt your pet or force you to engage in sexual activities against your will.

This type of behaviour is coercive and controlling and can escalate over time if left unchecked.

Physical violence is not a normal part of a healthy relationship.

Anyone can be a victim of physical abuse, regardless of their gender, age, social class, race, or sexual orientation—it doesn’t discriminate.

In addition to being physically harmful to the person being abused, physical abuse can have psychological consequences that affect the victim long after they’ve left the abusive situation.


14. Your partner has cheated on you before and continues to see that person behind your back

If your partner has cheated on you before and continues to see that person behind your back, it is not a good sign.

it is one of the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship.

If they are willing to hide things from you, they are not being honest.

You should be able to trust them; if they are cheating now or have cheated before, there is no reason for staying in a relationship that is built on lies.



15. Your friends or family members have expressed concern about your relationship and even suggested that they think it may be unhealthy

If you feel like your friends or family members have expressed concern about your relationship and even suggested that they think it may be unhealthy, this is a red flag.

Your partner’s friends or family members may also have expressed concern to them about the relationship.

They may even have told you that they’re worried about what your partner is doing.

If so, this is a clear sign that something needs to change.



If any of these signs are present in your relationship, you can seek help through counselling services and resources for domestic violence victims.

If you or a loved one is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, seek help.

Reach out to a counsellor at your school.

They can provide advice and resources to help you get out of the situation and find safety.

They can also help you reflect on what’s going on in the relationship, how it impacts your mental health, and how you can improve it.

It is important that you do not put yourself in danger when seeking help because this could potentially make things worse for not just yourself but also others involved in the situation.*

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See Also:

15 Signs He Truly Loves You

15 Warning Signs Of A Toxic Relationship

Top 10 Signs Of A Controlling Boyfriend

12 Signs He Wants You to Leave Him Alone

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