Behavioral signs of an unhealthy relationship

Unhealthy Relationship

There are many people, both men and women, who are victims of domestic violence and abusive relationships. These relationships almost never begin as unhealthy, but rather slowly evolve over time until the relationship normalizes its toxicity.

Even without physical violence, the relationship can be abusive when manipulation and fear are used to keep the relationship going. A person could be so deep in an abusive relationship that they are unaware of how serious the situation has become. Mind games, guilt, threats, and betrayal are all warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. If the victim realizes he or she is in an unhealthy relationship, they may stay with the abuser due to finances, children, their love for the other person, or emotional dependance.

These are just a few of the behavioral warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

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Creating Isolation

Someone who wants complete control over you or the relationship will create an isolating atmosphere. They may get angry when you are with friends, if you don’t answer your phone right away, and may demean all of the other people in your life. Jealousy, which is an emotion that is normal to experience, becomes unhealthy when someone tries to control you because of it.

They may keep you away from your friends, family, or other people. They may even make you choose between them and your friends. This can make you question your own judgement of friends and family, and make you feel more dependent on them.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Showing extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
  • Controlling all of the money
  • Preventing you from working or attending school
  • Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing friends or family members
  • Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do
  • Preventing you from making your own decisions
  • Taking your money or refusing to give you money for necessary expenses
  • Using jealousy to justify actions
  • Controlling what you read, what you watch, where you go, and who you see

Using Fear To Intimidate

Unhealthy relationships often have one person using fear to intimidate the other person into doing what he or she wants. The fear is a means of controlling the other person, and ensuring that they stay in the relationship despite the abuse.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Scaring you with certain looks or actions
  • Destroying your property
  • Threatening to hurt or kill you, your children, or pets
  • Intimidating you with weapons such as guns or knives
  • Having unpredictable overreactions
  • Stalking you

Belittling and Emotional Abuse

As another means of maintaining control of the relationship, a toxic partner will attempt to belittle you. They will do what they can to make you feel like you are worthless, and are “lucky” to be with them. They use this tactic to try and make you stay, and be submissive to their demands. This type of abuse will damage self-esteem and makes intimacy impossible.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Telling you that you can never do anything right
  • Insulting, demeaning or shaming you
  • Making fun of who you are friends with, your family, what you look like, etc.
  • Telling you that you are a bad parent
  • Sabotaging your reputation
  • Bring you below their level
  • Causing you to be late to work
  • Speaking poorly of you
  • Threatening to share private information about you
  • Purposely leaving you out

Minimizing, denying and Blaming

A person with a narcissistic personality has grandiose ideas of their own importance. They are self-centered, believe that they deserve special treatment, are constantly seeking attention, and considers themselves to be better than others. These types of people want to be in complete control of their environment and the people around them. Due to their high beliefs of their own capabilities and importance, they will often deflect blame onto others, deny their mistakes, or minimize damage they may have caused.

They will often blame you, their partner, to further belittle your confidence, maintain control, and sit on their throne looking down at all others. They may use their past experiences or alcohol / drugs as an excuse for their unhealthy behavior.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Denying their abuse
  • Using excuses as to why they acted out
  • Blaming someone/something else for actions
  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Making you feel responsible for their happiness
  • Making you feel like everything is your fault
  • Threatening to hurt themselves or others if you don’t stay with them
  • Cheating while in a relationship with you
  • Accusing you of flirting or cheating

Being violent

Physical violence and abuse is a major behavioral sign of an unhealthy relationship. If you are dating someone who is violent towards you, it’s time to build up that courage and make a plan to leave. Your life could depend on it.

Violence is not limited to punching and hitting, it can also include sexual abuse. Even if you are in a relationship with someone, and consent to having sex, if your partner forces you into unwanted sexual acts, this is domestic violence.

Contrary to what your partner may tell you, sexual assault can occur by people you are in a relationship with or even married to. The law is well beyond the time of recognizing women as property of their husbands. You are a human-being with fundamental rights to freedom.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Hitting, kicking, punching, throwing, any type of act that puts you in harm’s way
  • Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to
  • Making you do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol


What all of these behavioral signs have in common is that they are forms of manipulation. When two people are in a relationship, an abuser will take advantage of the trust that is given, and use it as a means of control to gain power.

Manipulation is not always easy to spot, which is why domestic violence is still a very large issue. When a partner tries to influence your decisions, actions or emotions they are using manipulation techniques.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Convincing you to do things you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable with
  • Ignoring you until they get their way
  • Using gifts and apologies to influence your decisions or get back in your good graces
  • Making you feel guilty or responsible for your partner’s actions
  • Acting differently with you versus how they act when you’re not around
  • Lying to you or not telling you things
  • Being two-faced or acting differently around friends
  • Being possessive over you

If you believe that you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, check out the resources below for more help.

One Love Foundation

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline

Love Is Respect

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