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5 Ways Your Relationship May Be Unhealthy

unhealthy relationship

How would you define your relationship? Is it fun and romantic? Or is it tense and stressful? Are you being treated with respect? Whether you’re just starting out in the relationship or if you’ve been together for awhile, it’s important for you to evaluate your relationship to determine if it’s healthy and if your partner is treating you the way you deserve to be treated.

While you may not be in an abusive situation right now, abuse can be something that develops over time. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “many abusive partners may seem absolutely perfect in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.”

So your relationship may not seem overtly abusive (hitting, slapping, punching, etc.) and yet may still be unhealthy. That’s why it’s important to trust your instincts and not to ignore any red flags you may see in the person you’re dating.

What is abuse?

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline: “Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” An intimate partner can include current or former spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

What’s the big deal?

Unfortunately domestic violence and abusive relationships occur far more often than you might think. In fact, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”
  • “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.”
  • “Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.”

So how do you know when someone in your life has crossed a line? How can you recognize the signs of a relationship that is abusive or one that may become abusive?

Ways your relationship can be unhealthy

There are many signs that a relationship may be unhealthy or that it may eventually become abusive. Paying attention to the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship and acknowledging them are the first steps to getting out of the situation. Below are 5 categories of unhealthy behavior with examples of how each one could look:

1. Technological

Your relationship may be unhealthy or abusive if your partner:

  • Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online
  • Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demanding you send some in return
  • Steals or insists to be given your passwords
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checking up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls

These technological signs of an unhealthy relationship are from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

2. Financial

Your relationship may be unhealthy or abusive if your partner:

  • Controls every penny spent in your household
  • Takes your money or refuses to give you money for expenses
  • Lives in your home but refuses to work or contribute to the household

These financial signs of an unhealthy relationship are from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

3. Relational

Your relationship may be unhealthy or abusive if your partner:

  • Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school
  • Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family

These relational signs of an unhealthy relationship are from the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services.

4. Emotional

Your relationship may be unhealthy or abusive if your partner:

  • Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you
  • Acts like the abuse is no big deal, denying the abuse or telling you it’s your own fault
  • Embarrasses you with put-downs

These emotional signs of an unhealthy relationship are from the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

5. Sexual

Your relationship may be unhealthy or abusive if your partner:

  • Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Manipulates you to get sex or other sexual activity
  • Gets you drunk or drugged to get sex
  • Purposefully tries to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
  • Sabotages birth control methods (ex. poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills or flushing them down the toilet)

These sexual signs of an unhealthy relationship are from the Mayo Clinic, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

What to do if you or someone you know is a victim of abuse

If you notice these behaviors, we encourage you to talk to someone you trust who can help you determine if the relationship is abusive or might be headed toward abuse. Don’t just assume that things will get better or that the other person will change, get help and make a plan.

Valley Women’s Clinic is a safe place to open up about domestic violence; all of our services are confidential. If you think there is a chance that you may be pregnant or have been exposed to sexually transmitted infections, Valley Women’s Clinic can provide you with a free and confidential pregnancy test and/or STI test. Request an appointment at our Blacksburg or Radford clinic. We can also offer community referrals and other resources to aid you in a domestic violence situation.

Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Network to End Domestic Violence
Women’s Resource Center
Women’s Resource Center: Helping Someone You Know

Resources for Students

Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech
Student Counseling Services at Radford University

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