Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tell-tale signs that you’re not in a healthy relationship

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. It’s a day for romance and for spending time with those we love. Often though, Valentine’s Day pushes us to reflect on our romantic relationships to assess how we’re ‘measuring up’ to the other couples we see.

Unfortunately, social media gives us some unrealistic expectations about what relationships should be like. No relationship is perfect. That said, there are a number of signs to look out for that could indicate your relationship is really not healthy. We’ve picked out some of the main indicators:

Passive aggressive behaviour

The best relationships are based on honesty and openness. You should never be afraid to say what you think – and you should afford your partner the freedom to do the same. If you can sense that all is not well with your partner – or you’re being given the silent treatment – but are met with responses such as “I’m fine” or “Nothing” when you probe, that’s passive aggression. How can we make things right, if we don’t know what the issue is? If this is you, try not to get dragged into the drama. Don’t feed the need for attention and wait until your partner is ready to talk. The more often this happens, the more concerning it would be. Watch this short clip from the Daily Positive for more information on how to spot this kind of behaviour and tips for dealing with it.


Life is full of ups and downs. Healthy relationships provide us with the grounding and support we need to cope with the bad times and rejoice in the good times. Your relationship shouldn’t add to the stress and drama of everyday life, so if you and your partner thrive on extreme highs and lows it may be useful to ask yourselves why. All healthy relationships include some conflict, of course, but not all the time — and not to extremes. If you find it hard to predict when your partner will be upset or how they will react to certain events, that’s a red flag or an indication of a deeper issue.

Jokes and ridicule

The strongest couples are the ones that laugh together – they laugh with each other, but never at each other. If your partner ever makes you feel small with ‘funny’ comments about you or your behaviour, that’s a sure sign that problems are afoot. That’s not to say that your partner can’t make a joke. If the jokes make you feel included that’s healthy humour – if the comments or jokes make you feel stupid, small or vulnerable, that’s not good. As a general rule, if someone has to add the words “only joking” after speaking, there may be an unhealthy undercurrent running through their comments. This Guardian article gives an interesting perspective on what constitutes ‘banter’ and what doesn’t.

You feel like you have to ask permission

Newsflash: adults don’t need permission to do things. Sometimes, we may seek support from our partner to take a certain course of action – a discussion around chores or childcare associated with a business trip, perhaps, but we’re not seeking permission. Yes, relationships require compromise and big life decisions that could impact on your partner should be discussed together, but if you find yourself asking permission to make plans with friends, or to make simple lifestyle choices, you should ask yourself why. That’s not necessary and definitely not healthy.

If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, this article from Psych Alive may help you think about what's going wrong.

If you feel you need support to work out what's best for your relationship, check out our page on relationship problems.

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