Everyone knows the importance of healthy relationships. But how do you distinguish a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one? And how do you know whether it’s an unhealthy person or an unhealthy situation?
Loneliness begins in oneself. It feels like you have no one around you who cares about you, like the world is spinning so fast but you can’t keep up. This kind of loneliness actually stems from a lack of satisfaction in your own body, rather than from others. Of course, humans are social creatures and we need to interact with others in order to survive. However, feeling lonely even in the presence of friends or family often comes from depression. Depression is ugly that way; it forces you to feel so alone even surrounded by people who love you. In your head, they don’t. In your head, you believe that every little thing has a meaning. If someone doesn’t return a phone call or respond to a text message, it feels like they don’t love you anymore. I get into this habit of ruminating, remembering all the times they did return the call or respond to every text. It’s an unhealthy thought process to be in.
A person who has self-compassion and is comfortable in their own skin is able to connect with people when they can, so that they don’t feel alone. Allowing yourself to open up to people who love you is a form of self-compassion. When you choose to phone a loved one to vent and cry and tell them all of your feelings rather than sitting and ruminating on your own, you’re choosing self-compassion. When I say choice, I know it’s very, very difficult to choose self-compassion to the point where you might not even feel like you have that choice. Old habits can be hard to break. It’s even harder when your brain is convincing you no one wants to hear it. In a healthy relationship, people won’t be angry or upset with you for venting. If they are, then they have their own problems to sort out and wasting time on them is pointless while you recover. If you genuinely feel like you have no one to talk to, there are crisis hotlines, walk-in therapy offices, free venting services online. My email is available in my contact page and I’m here as well.
When you come from a traumatic environment, you can feel drawn to unhealthy relationships. When your background is full of people who manipulated and abused you, you’re drawn to it because that’s what you’re used to. I came from a toxic family and was drawn to my ex because, while he wasn’t as bad as my family, he was still familiar. He was manipulative and he gaslighted me frequently. Very early on in our relationship, he convinced me I’m a liar, even though I hadn’t lied about anything and I didn’t even know why he said that. But I believed him.
Another form of unhealthy relationship is the gambling relationship. This person is so kind and sweet to you, exactly what you need from a partner, and then the next second they are completely cold. You feel desperate to get that feeling back. You stick around because the highs are so, so good, like winning the jackpot at a casino. You think if you keep putting in your money, you’ll win again. The truth is, you lose more in the end.
When toxicity is all you know, all you’ve ever been surrounded by, it’s so hard to develop healthy relationships. When I find people that make me happy, I tend to become clingy and smothering because I’m so afraid to be abandoned again. That can actually drive people away. Unhealthy people are often hurting themselves, whether or not they realize it. Unhealthy people are attracted to unhealthy people. Someone afraid of abandonment can become clingy and possessive, or it could be the other extreme, where they will push people away. Either way is unhealthy and stems from past trauma.
So how do you know when you’re developing a healthy relationship with someone? The best advice I can give you is go with your gut. If you’re with someone who doesn’t constantly hurt you, that you feel like you can be yourself around, that is a healthy relationship. In all relationships, there are disagreements. However, there is a huge difference between shouting and berating each other and calmly talking it over. If your friend or partner shouts when they’re upset, that’s a red flag. A response to shouting could be “We can talk about this when we’ve calmed down.” Or, “Why don’t you step outside for a bit and we can talk about it when you come back?” Proceed with caution. If an angry person is prone to violence, I highly recommend ending that relationship. They are an unhealthy person and they need to seek out help. That’s not safe for someone with mental illness to be around.
The opposite side of the spectrum is for you to be conscientious of how you impact the relationship. It certainly isn’t a one-way street and no one is perfect. My unhealthy behaviors I’ve stated above; becoming clingy, possessive, smothering. I also struggle to trust people. I can be clingy and stuck on them and they could tell me they love me and I won’t believe it. Unhealthy behaviors are hard to get out of, especially when they stem from past traumas. If you become angry and shout and insult the other person, take a step back and reevaluate. These are things you can unpack in therapy. Where does your anger come from? Can you get your point across in a calm manner? If you say things you don’t mean while you’re angry, think about how much you love the person. When you aren’t angry, will you regret what you’ve said? How will it impact the other person? I’m not a therapist, nor did I study psychology for longer than a semester in college. However, this kind of anger isn’t healthy in a relationship.
Sometimes you might have a healthy relationship with someone, but they exhibit unhealthy behavior at one point. It’s important to distinguish the difference between an unhealthy person and an unhealthy situation. Like I said, people aren’t perfect and everyone has things they need to heal from or past traumas. People can slip up and exhibit unhealthy behavior. A healthy person will calmly and sincerely apologize, acknowledge their mistake, and make an effort not to make that mistake again. An unhealthy person won’t acknowledge their mistake, or they might feel like they don’t need to apologize.
There is so much more to talk about in terms of unhealthy relationships versus healthy relationships so I will likely make more posts on the topic. Feel free to email me if there’s anything you’re interested in me talking about as well.