By Dr. Bev
Regardless of how perfectly it may appear, no relationship exists without conflict. Every
couple is bound to experience the occasional rough patch: Disagreements,
misunderstandings, and general bad moods are unavoidable life challenges. But sometimes
these rough patches aren’t so occasional. While healthy couples resolve friction through
compassionate communication, other couples find themselves struggling in their
partnership. This can lead to animosity, depression, and an overall loss of self-worth.
Proverbs 20:3 “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
Your relationship should contribute to a sense of fulfillment, happiness and connection. If you tend to feel more anxious, distressed, or unhappy around your partner, your relationship may be struggling. Quarreling, as Scripture states, is not something to do to maintain your loving relationships! It is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden egg…. Symptoms of unhealthy relationships can vary greatly, but there are some common signs to be aware of.
1. The first of these is conflict and arguments. Relationships that are defined by conflict, blaming and a lack of forgiveness and compassion spell disaster. It takes two to argue and another person’s unreasonable behavior is never an excuse for yours. Arguments are like the Finger Trap carnival toy –the more each side is pulled, as in an argument, the more both sides get stuck in the trap. Healthy conflict resolution typically leads to solutions or compromise and maintaining a relationship is an ongoing process, so you might not work out everything right away. But you usually feel good about your conversations afterward. It’s generally not a good sign when you find yourself talking in circles or about the same issues all the time. Maybe there’s never any improvement, no matter how much you discuss something. Maybe your partner just shuts you out. This is not good.
2. Dishonesty. Trust is the root of a thriving relationship. Lying and other deceptive behaviors break this trust, tainting the emotional honesty a healthy relationship requires. Of course, everyone tells white lies once in a while, but this is vastly different from consistent dishonesty. If one or both partners regularly lies about things like where they’ve been, how much money they’ve spent, or who they spend their time with, the relationship is not healthy. Lies like this prevent real intimacy, foster guilt, and put strain on the couple dynamic.
3. Controlling Behavior. This can be especially toxic, and often escalates as time goes on. This can take on many forms and is usually focused on minimizing a person’s autonomy and independence. Things like isolating a person from friends and family, governing a partner’s personal style choices, and limiting where they go or how late they stay out are all symptoms of control and manipulation. A controlling person will try to convince their partner that the rules and regulations being built around them are for their own good, leading to feelings of shame and reliance. This is destructive and leans toward an abusive relationship.
4. Insecurity. Everyone has insecurities, but these should never be exacerbated by a partner. Relationships should be rewarding both physically and emotionally. In an unhealthy relationship, however, partners can drain away the other’s self-confidence. Subtle criticisms, like calling a partner “too emotional”, or making a negative comment about their weight can fuel contempt and deplete self-worth. In fact, marriage, couple and family therapists find that frequent criticism is the single greatest predictor of divorce.
5. Co-dependency. This is more than just being clingy or needing extra attention. In a co-dependent relationship, one partner is the taker while the other is the giver. The giver will sacrifice their own needs to conform to those of the partner, while the taker will rely on that partner for extreme support and validation. This imbalance creates high levels of emotional distress. Co-dependency often leads to anxiety, unhealthy boundaries and low self-esteem. Think about an emotional vampire. These unseemly characters thrive while sucking the energy and life out of others. If you are in a relationship like this that is draining your energy and leaving you feel exhausted, there is rarely a happy ending.
6. Lack of growth. Healthy relationships offer safe havens for personal growth, but individuals who feel their own growth and happiness needs to be sacrificed for the survival of the relationship often find themselves going the wrong way with no return. Growth of both partners is essential for the relationship to survive years of togetherness where one or both can get bogged down by stultifying sameness. It is impossible that two people who stay together for decades can continue to do so without some fresh air and new ideas entering to make it flourish.
Questions to ask yourself: (Courtesy of Healthline Newsletter; Author: Crystal Raypole)
If you are looking for guidance on whether your relationship is healthy or not, here are a few questions to ask yourself as a sort of self-test.
1. Does my partner encourage me to grow?
2. Do we share goals for the future?
3. Do we want the same kind of relationship?
4. Can I be myself with the other?
5. Do I accept him or her for who s/he is?
6. Is my life better with them in it?
7. Does our time together have meaning?
If you mostly answered yes, then your relationship is probably a strong one.
What to do if more of the answers are no than yes? Couples’ counseling might be a good first step. Getting help doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you want to work at improving, for yourselves and each other. Some other ideas you can try to get back on the right track:
1. Accept each other’s differences.
2. Consider your partner’s perspective.
3. Solve problems as a team.
4. Ask for what you want, and be equally ready to listen to their desires.
5. Try something new together.
6. Talk about your dreams and goals.
At the end of the day, you should trust and support each other. You must believe in the strength of your relationship and your ability to grow together. And don’t forget those qualities that brought you together in the first place!
Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings
like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Get help if you need it….Remember the Scripture from Matthew 9:29: “If you have faith, and
do not doubt…it will be done.” For support, join our mental health group by contacting me at
Bsnyder008@gmail.com. Our Wednesday night remote meetings are free and confidential. You may well find others who share your issues and concerns.
- Dr. Bev, Counselor and Coach
Grateful appreciation is given to Lifehack; Julia Aspen, sponsored by Independence Blue Cross; and Crystal Raypole from the Healthline Newsletter.