Signs of a Bad Relationship | Counseling | Therapy

Signs of a Bad Relationship

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Relationships can be a great source of support, love, and excitement. Even if they start off fantastic, however, relationships can also be unhealthy or even toxic. Though it makes sense to want to leave a bad relationship, identifying one isn’t always the easiest. If you have ever wondered what the signs of a bad relationship are, then keep on reading.

Bad Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

Before going forward, it’ll be important to clarify some things. This article focuses on bad relationships rather than abusive relationships. Both relationship types are problematic, but there are differences. Bad relationships negatively affect a person’s physical, emotional, or financial health, but not to the degree of jeopardizing any of those fields. That would be the domain of abusive relationships. If bad relationships were the common cold, then abusive relationships would be viral pneumonia. Abusive relationships threaten the physical or psychological safety of the person, which makes fear and gaslighting common signs of them. If you are unsure on whether you are in an abusive relationship, please read this article for clarification. Additionally, here’s an non-exhaustive list of examples of being in a bad relationship versus an abusive one.

Bad Relationship

Abusive Relationship

-You sometimes feel drained after spending time with the person

-You worry that if you say or do the wrong thing that you’ll be physically or verbally attacked

-Your needs get pushed to the side for the other person

-All the problems in the relationship seem to be your fault

-Dating this person reinforces your bad dating habits

-It feels safer to hold difficult conversations with your partner in public than in private

-You start to lose yourself within the relationship

-There have been concrete examples of physical fights

Engage in an Emotional Check-In

One of the best ways to assess whether you are in a bad relationship is to reflect on how you feel before, during and after being with your partner. Before your next scheduled date or hangout, take some time to consciously check in with your emotions. How do you feel? Are you excited, nervous, or do you feel dread? During the date, are you able to stay present or are there certain aspects of your date that’s distracting you? At the end of the date, do you feel elated, sad, or relieved? There are so many emotions and they’re not always clear to us, so feel free to use this article as a guide. Once you have an understanding of what you feel, reflect on how that sits with you. For instance, a person may like that they feel sad after the date is over. Take some time to figure out how you feel about each of your emotions.

Examining How You Talk About the Relationship

Relationships tend to come up naturally within conversations, and are often free from any expectations (e.g., “How’s the relationship going?” vs. “Your relationship is going terribly, isn’t it?”). Therefore, another great sign that you might be in a bad relationship is to examine how you talk about the relationship. For instance, do you feel self-conscious for stating too many positive things about your current relationship or too many negative ones? Do you feel comfortable talking about the relationship at all? If not, why do you think that might be? Overall, people in happy, healthy relationships tend to talk positively about their experience when asked. Meanwhile, the opposite tends to ring true for bad relationships. Simply put, if people were to define your relationship based on what you have been telling them, would they say that you’re in a good relationship or a bad one? Additionally, the motivation behind the conversation matters. Some people say positive things about their relationship in order to justify or impress their partner to friends. There can be a lot of subjectivity and nuance with this assessment, so make sure to use it in conjunction with these other signs.

Listening to Your Friends

It can be difficult to be objective when we are the subject. Another sign that you may be in a bad relationship is to simply listen to what your friends are saying. Some friends are going to be bold and simply state their opinion on your relationship (e.g., “I think that your partner is great for you!”). However, some may need your explicit approval to give their assessment. Fortunately, there are easy, non-stressful ways in which you can do this. Here are some examples.

  • ___ and I have been going out for about a month, and I was genuinely curious about what you thought of them.
  • You know, I really value your opinion. You tend to have a good read of people. How do you honestly feel about ___?
  • So, I just entered a new relationship and I definitely don’t want this to be a trainwreck. Real talk: do you think __ and I are a good fit?

Whether your friends’ assessment is prompted or not, take some time to think about it. What are they saying, and how well does it ring true to you? Seeing as how they are your friends, there’s a good chance that they only want the best for you. If your friends are saying that your current relationship is great, that can be reassuring. However, if they are struggling to say anything positive, then that might be another sign that you are in a bad relationship.

Replace Yourself with a Family Member or Loved One

If you have read this far and you are still unsure on whether you’re in a bad relationship, replace your exact situation with a family member. The partner’s personality, emotional intelligence, and habits are still the same; the only difference is the person whom they’re dating. With that person now being a loved one, honestly ask yourself, “Would I be happy or worried for them?” If you would be concerned for your loved one, then you should probably be concerned for yourself, too. There’s something inside warning of danger, and it wouldn’t hurt you to trust that. Once again, people tend to be more objective and protective of others than themselves. Use this intervention to try to circumvent that.

Relationships can truly be wonderful. They can feel fulfilling, as well as help a person positively grow. Unfortunately, not every relationship is guaranteed to be so healthy. Sometimes we find ourselves in bad relationships, and thus, needing to know the signs of being in one. By engaging in emotional check-ins, examining how you talk about the relationship, listening to friends, and replacing yourself with a family member, you will be better equipped in recognizing the signs of being in a bad relationship. If this still seems too difficult to ascertain, individual therapy is a great option. Schedule an appointment online at

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