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7 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship (TRUTH!)

My friend Erin asked me a question about relationships the other day— she said, “Hey Ryan, what are signs of an unhealthy relationship?” I told here that if you basically looked at what a healthy relationship looks like, you can just take the opposite of it. But, here’s what she wanted to know!

Being in an unhealthy relationship can have long-lasting effects on you. When you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it will last into the following one, too. Meaning, you should really protect yourself in these types of situations. Sometimes referred to as “toxic relationships“—they are truly just ones that don’t have alignment between two people.

But let’s dig into what you should be looking out for!

signs of an unhealthy relationship - candle on a bed someone contemplative

7 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

If you see these signs—it’s time to step away.

1: There’s no good communication

What does good communication actually mean? When people say this, they often just think that the two of you should be talking. But it’s not. Healthy communication means to check in on each other’s needs. Is the person that you’re with asking what you need? Are they asking what you want?

Good communication often entails using a lot of empathy within a conversation. Meaning, thinking very selflessly. Don’t believe what you’ve read—if you are with someone who is constantly thinking about you. And you’re thinking about them… Then you have the setup for a good istuation.

2: You’re not establishing trust

Establishing trust takes time. It takes commitment to doing it, as well. People will have different forms of establishing that trust. You’ll need to have good communication before you can set yourself up for success.

For example, you should be asking yourselves these questions:

  • What does it mean to trust someone to you?
  • How can I earn your trust?
  • Is there anything I did that broke your trust that I can NOT do in the future?

While these types of questions might sound a bit overboard—it’s actually a really good form of communication.

Related: Signs of disrespect

3: There is a question of commitment in the relationship

What does commitment mean? Well it doesn’t mean being exclusive. This is often a misconception about the word “commitment.” Younger generations think of it as being in an exclusive relationship… Like not cheating on each other.

Commitment means that the two of you know exactly what you want out of life—can define that very clearly—and then live by that definition.

Like, for example, if one of you is saying that they want to be a mother/father very soon—but then is out consuming substances on the regular. That doesn’t really align, now, does it?

4: You’re both not very kind to each other

Being nice to each other goes a long way. Are you nice to each other even when things are going well? You can be! Let’s say one of you is looking for a little bit of space… Well, you can still show kindness to each other while not being together.

A simple phone call—a text to say that you love each other—whatever it might be. Showing compassion and care is really a way to make it, long-term.

See also: Signs he is falling for you

5: You might not enjoy each other’s company

Can the two of you spend time together without it having a number of stipulations attached to it? Think about it… If you’re going to be in a relationship with someone long-term—then you’re most likely going to be around them for extended periods of time.

You really need to check to make sure that you can do that together. Maybe you’re with someone who just can’t simply sit down and relax and enjoy each other’s company. If that’s the case, that’s a problem. Because that means they’re really only with you because of what you GIVE them. Not just because you are who you are.

Related: Signs of a possessive boyfriend

6: The two of you aren’t making decisions together—a key sign of an unhealthy relationship

Making decisions together is key to a healthy relationship. Think about it, does one person come to the other and say, “What do you think about this idea?” It’s really important because getting caught off-guard with decisions or choices is never going to bode well long-term.

For example, think if the two of you had children together. Are you really going to want to be with someone who doesn’t include you on what those children are going to be part of? Or which values that they have?

7: There’s support and caring within the relationship

Support, much like commitment, is a very misunderstood concept. Support means something different to each person. Without good communication, like in point #1, you’re not going to get to the place of being able to support each other.

For example, you should be asking, “What can I do to support you?” Or, “What does support mean to you?” And then learn what the means for the other person. And then decide to start doing those things.

candle on a bed, someone thinking about the future

My Experience With an Unhealthy Relationship

—Signs of an unhealthy relationship and what to do

Here’s the thing… When a relationship is unhealthy from the beginning, it’s really hard to turn the corner on that. That’s the unfortunate part. And here’s the reason why… When a person commits to behaving one way, behavior change is very difficult. Studies have shown that adopting healthy habits in life is quite difficult.

This is why you really have to decide for yourself what your boundaries look like. What your own set of principles are in life. And what constitutes breaking that. Before you get into the relationship, try to find some signs of this behavior through character traits before you jump in… This will help to avoid getting caught up in a situation that doesn’t serve you very well.

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

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