What Makes a Relationship Healthy?

Do you wonder if your relationship with your partner is healthy?

Defining what is and what isn’t a healthy relationship can be difficult because relationships are so personal. There are many different ways to be happy. And relationships can be challenging without being unhealthy.

How can you tell if your relationship is healthy or if it’s bad for you?

Let’s start off by defining what a healthy relationship is, and what makes a relationship unhealthy.

What makes a relationship good for you?

Healthy relationships make you feel energised and fulfilled

A healthy relationship will make you feel confident, sure of yourself, and energised. You feel safe and free to be yourself without worrying you’ll be judged for who you are.

You and your partner make decisions together and care for each other. You want to see your partner grow and flourish and they want the same for you.

You and your partner are respectful, trusting, treat each other as equals, and communicate openly and honestly.

Unhealthy relationships make you feel on edge and exhausted

An unhealthy relationship will erode your self-esteem, take your energy, make you feel ignored and unimportant, and you won’t feel safe or free to relax and be yourself. Unhealthy relationships are also called toxic relationships.

You can still love your partner even if the relationship is toxic. But a toxic relationship is bad for your mental health in many different ways.

Toxic partners can be manipulative, make unreasonable demands, cause fights, never resolve arguments, encourage bad habits, refuse to communicate, make you doubt yourself, and much more.

Some toxic relationships are even abusive.

In abusive relationships, one person has all the power and control. Abusers believe that this control is their right and they use it to feed their ego.

Calling a relationship abusive when there isn’t any hitting, screaming or threats may feel a bit dramatic, especially to someone who doesn’t think their partner is abusive. Some people believe abuse is just physically hurting someone. But there are many ways to abuse someone without touching them.

If your partner tells you what to do all the time, puts you down, makes you feel guilty when you don’t agree with them, accuses you of being unfaithful, or does anything else that makes you feel small and harms your self-esteem, then they’re abusive.

Eventually you will start to believe all the bad things your partner says about you – that you’re stupid and worthless for example.

Realising you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship can be difficult. It’s not uncommon for people who are being abused by their partners to think they just need to be stronger and not let their partner’s hurtful behaviour bother them.

Your partner might toxic or abusive, or just not a good match for you. But if their behaviour is making your relationship unhealthy, then you need to take action.

Abuse in all forms – not just violence – will take its toll on your mental health

There are many different ways partners can be abusive. If your partner does anything that makes you feel controlled, manipulated, or used, then you should ask yourself if your partner is abusive and if you feel safe.

If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, you should talk to someone. Determining if a relationship is normal or not can be challenging for some people, especially if their partner has made them lose confidence in themselves or if they haven’t had good examples of healthy relationships in their lives.

Opening up and talking to a friend can help you better understand if your relationship is good for you or not. Even if they can’t give you any useful advice, just hearing yourself say what is happening between you and your partner can make you more aware of your feelings.

If the idea of telling a friend the details of your relationship makes you uncomfortable, you could consider talking to a professional. They know how to help you think critically about your relationship to discover if it’s healthy or harming your mental health.

Toxic behaviour can be subtle, but it still causes damage

There are subtle ways that relationships can be toxic. Even indirect aggression or casual manipulation can cause you to lose confidence in yourself, feel insecure, burnt out and controlled.

Ask yourself if your partner does any of the following:

– Control the mood when you’re together

Abusive partners can be controlling through a wild and unpredictable temper. They can suddenly explode into anger, sadness or jealousy, and then calm down just as quickly. This leaves the people around them feeling like they’re walking on eggshells and that they must be careful to avoid triggering an outburst.

– Blame you for their mood

You’re expected to know when your partner is angry, sad, hungry, bored, etc. and to know exactly how they want you to react. Then when you inevitably misjudge what is expected of you, they can say that you should have known what they would want or what they were feeling. This is a way to make you doubt yourself (because you can never seem to get anything right) and get more power by demanding that their needs be perfectly met.

– Undermine or manipulate your relationship with your children

Many abusers will control their partner through children. They can do this by contradicting what you tell your children – like letting them go to a friend’s house after you said they couldn’t. They could also criticise you or your parenting in front of the children. For example, by saying that you’re too strict after you try to get the kids under control, or telling them that you’re bad at certain things.

– Always wants to know where you’ve been and who you were with

This could be framed as just caring about you but it’s often a form of control. If your partner always needs to know what you’re doing, then they don’t trust you. And if they don’t trust you, they can’t respect you.

These are strong signs you’re in a toxic relationship with a controlling partner, but there are many more ways partners can be toxic or abusive and controlling.

Not everyone with a short temper or bad parenting skills is deliberately trying to control you. This could just be their personality type or behaviour they learned from a young age.

But it doesn’t matter if someone is making you feel controlled accidentally or on purpose. The negative effects on your mental health will still be the same.

Abuse isn’t always physical violence, but it is always harmful

Most people who act in toxic ways have excuses

People with toxic qualities will try to rationalise or minimise their behaviour by making excuses. These explanations can seem reasonable, especially to someone who doesn’t have a clear understanding of what a healthy relationship should be like.

It’s important to remember that abusers are usually manipulators. They will try to shift blame away from themselves by convincing you that you’re the one who is at fault. They can tell you that you’re being unreasonable, you’re overreacting, you don’t understand them, or anything else you might believe so they can avoid taking responsibility for their actions. The truth doesn’t matter to a manipulator so they will say anything to make situations work out the way that they want.

There are some common excuses that toxic people make to manipulate you into accepting their behaviour and avoid being held accountable for their actions.

These excuses include:

“You always set me off”

No one can control the emotions of another person. They can be incredibly annoying, but they can’t force someone else to react. If someone behaves irrationally or hurts someone (emotionally or physically), they’re the only one to blame.

When someone blames their partner for their actions, they’re avoiding responsibility and saying that change is impossible until their partner changes first.

If people are being honest with themselves about their behaviour, they should know they’re the one who decides how they react.

“You’re just as bad as I am”

Some abusers will claim that even if they are abusive, you’re just as abusive too. This ‘equally abusive’ claim is a myth. In abusive relationships, one person will have more control and power. Both partners can’t have the majority of the power, so having an equally abusive relationship is impossible.

“But what about that time when you…”

Some people try to avoid blame by bringing up past mistakes their partner made. This is manipulative and avoiding the issue. Keeping score of who is worse just distracts from the real problem you want to discuss and brings up new reasons to be mad at each other. Relationships aren’t contests to see who is more or less at fault.

Problems must be communicated, not turned into contests on who is guiltier if you ever want to solve anything.

“It was just one time”

When it comes to abuse – not just physical abuse but all kinds – once is enough to make someone always worry and wait for the next time.

Maybe your partner regretted their actions as soon as they calmed down and told you it will never happen again. But they have to take responsibility for what they did.

This means acknowledging that it really mattered, instead of trying to minimise their actions and make them go away. Until they do, their actions aren’t truly in the past yet.

“I’ll change”

People do change. But not without hard work, dedication, time, and practice. Some people think apologising and saying they won’t act like that again is all that’s needed. But until they have properly dealt with what caused them to be abusive, they aren’t going to change.

So unless someone is seriously working on their behaviour and is making an effort to improve every day, then they can’t possibly keep their promise.

“But I love you”

Love alone shouldn’t be a reason to stay in a relationship that’s bad for you because you can love someone even if they keep on hurting you.

If you do love each other and your partner is willing to get help and make the long and difficult commitment to truly change, you may be able to turn your abusive relationship into a healthy one. But you both need to realise that even though you love each other, your relationship isn’t healthy.

Excuses for bad behaviour are dishonest and often cause fights that don’t actually solve anything

You can’t fix your relationship until you’ve addressed the behaviour that causes the problems

If you have a toxic partner who doesn’t understand how their behaviour affects the relationship and your mental health, you won’t be able to improve the relationship until they have changed.

There are some types of problems in relationships that need to be worked through as a couple. But sometimes one person, or both, will need to change their behaviour as an individual before you can begin to work on the relationship together.

People can act in ways that make their relationships unhealthy for a variety of reasons.

Some people never learned how to be good partners. This could be because they didn’t have examples of healthy relationships growing up. Or they never had to take responsibility for their actions as children. Some people think they’re superior so they deserve to tell their partner what to do and believe they can never be wrong.

Most abusers have low self-worth – people who are happy with themselves won’t want to make their partner feel inferior. If your partner controls you, they’re doing this to compensate for how little they value themselves.

People who don’t have a good relationship with themselves can’t have a healthy relationship with someone else. So they will need to address their own personal challenges before they can working on their relationship with their partner.

If your partner’s past relationships have all been unhealthy or ended badly, then chances are high that their behaviour is responsible for the relationship being unhealthy, not yours.

Until your partner has understood that how they act and treat you is causing your relationship to be unhealthy, you won’t be able to improve the relationship.

For someone to realise their behaviour isn’t normal and is hurting the people around them, they must be completely honest with themselves. This is very difficult, especially if they’ve never questioned their behaviour before. But if someone truly wants to improve their relationship and make the changes last, they must be willing to look closely at the way they act.

If you try to fix the relationship before addressing what causes the problems, then you’ll struggle to make any meaningful and long-lasting change.

You’ll be treating the symptoms of the problems without addressing the cause.

Not all problems can be solved as a couple – some people must first work on themselves

A partner can be loving but still make the relationship toxic

Not all unhealthy relationships are unhealthy because of an abusive or toxic partner. Your partner could have good intentions, but still act in ways that harm your mental health without realising.

Some people can be smothering because they don’t realise you aren’t getting enough time to take care of yourself. Others don’t have strong boundaries so they don’t understand that sometimes you need to say no in relationships. Partners can also have unrealistic expectations about what the relationship should be like. Or they might not understand the need to make any special efforts for you – relationships aren’t meant to be hard work but they do require the occasional sacrifice and effort.

An unhealthy relationship isn’t always unhealthy because someone is making it that way on purpose. But even if your partner has good intentions and cares about you, they can still make your mental health suffer.

If you’re in a situation like this, you need to talk to your partner about how you feel. Let them know why you’re unhappy and what you can each do to make the relationship healthy and enjoyable.

Ask yourself how you make your relationship happy and healthy

Everyone is responsible for how they behave in relationships, regardless of what sort of partner they have.

(Please be aware that if you’re in a very abusive relationship this doesn’t apply to you. You are acting from a place of survival and need to leave.)

No matter how annoying or toxic your partner is, you can’t blame them for everything you dislike about the relationship without asking yourself how you contribute. If you want a healthy relationship, you also have to critically look at your own behaviour. Do you do anything that hurts your partner or damages the relationship?

In this article, I’ve said that your partner must carefully reflect on their behaviour and ask themselves if they are making the relationship toxic. And if they are, they must be willing to change.

But you have to ask yourself the same difficult questions and be ready to change as well. You need to consider the possibility that you also have toxic habits that make your relationship unhealthy.

Just because you have a toxic partner doesn’t mean you can’t have toxic habits as well. You can’t expect your partner to work hard at the relationship if you won’t do the same.

You both have to be good partners to have a healthy relationship.

Always be willing to ask yourself how you contribute to your relationship

Everyone deserves a healthy relationship

Healthy relationships aren’t easy all the time – they can take a lot of understanding, patience and resolve. But they will make you feel safe, strong, and valued. Even during the hard parts.

If your partner is manipulative, controlling, doesn’t respect or trust you, won’t communicate their emotions or desires, and doesn’t treat you as their equal, then your relationship isn’t good for you.

If you stay in an unhealthy relationship, your mental health will suffer. You will begin to think less of yourself and believe you don’t deserve a relationship where you’re treated properly.

If you both want to stay together, you can work on overcoming your problems. But your partner (or you) may need to work on abusive or toxic habits separately before you work together to improve the relationship.

You must also take responsibility for your role in the relationship and ask yourself what you can do to make it healthy. Consider your own behaviour and how you contribute to the relationship.

If you’re having problems in your relationship, that doesn’t mean it needs to end – almost all couples go through periods where they aren’t as happy as they used to be.

Changing an unhealthy relationship can be very difficult, especially when you aren’t the reason it’s unhealthy. But having a healthy is worth the effort and something everyone deserves.

No one should stay in a relationship that is bad for them

If you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship, or have any other questions about relationships please feel encouraged to talk to me. I have extensive experience as a relationship and family counsellor. I can help you find clarity on what is causing problems in your relationship and help you and your partner build a healthy relationship that makes both of you happy.

I offer a free, no obligation 20-minute call where we can discuss what you would like to work on. If you would like to talk, please click below to book a call. Please feel free to send me an email as well and I will answer any questions you may have.

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *