These 10 qualities of an unhealthy, bad, or failing relationship will help you face the truth. Yes, it’ll be hard. Yes, your heart may get broken. But you know what? You’ll be relieved to finally admit the truth about your relationship to yourself. And to others.
Facing the truth about your relationship doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed for a breakup or divorce. Nor does it mean your boyfriend or husband is a bad person! It just means you feel strong and healthy enough to look at these relationship qualities with objective eyes. And, you may be ready to start working on the problems that caused you to search for the qualities of a bad relationship.
You don’t have to make any big or little decisions today, or even tomorrow. You don’t even have to read this whole article (because you’ll recognize some of these relationship qualities and signs he doesn’t love you, and you won’t be very happy). You’re just ready to take a peek behind the scenes your relationship. Remember that you’re stronger and smarter than you think – and far more valuable and lovable than you believe. But you can only Blossom into who God created you to be when you face the truth about your relationship.
Warning: if you ignore these qualities of bad relationships for a long time, you’re setting yourself up for future heartache. It’s hard to accept the truth of an unhealthy or failing relationship…but the consequences of ignoring reality is worse. The sooner you face the truth, the more quickly you can start making things better.
Whether your relationship is headed for a breakup or a serious discussion, facing the truth is the best way to proceed. And that means considering the relationship qualities that make or break your love.
10 Qualities of an Unhealthy Relationship
Perhaps the “worst” relationship qualities is secrets, because secrets are lies and betrayal. Keeping secrets in a relationship is a sign of lack of trust. And not trusting your boyfriend or husband – or him not trusting you – means you don’t have a foundation of love or respect.
That’s one harsh truth about relationships, and I know it’s not an easy one to face. Are you keeping secrets from your boyfriend or husband? Or, are you keeping secrets from your family and friends about your relationship because you don’t want them to know the truth about your relationship? If you’re lying to your loved ones about your boyfriend or husband, then you’re lying to yourself. Secrets and lies are relationship qualities that always signal serious problems.
1. You don’t tell your friends or family the truth about your relationship
If you can’t tell your loved ones about what your boyfriend or husband says and does, then you’re avoiding the truth on several different levels. You’re lying to protect him, and you’re lying to protect yourself. This is a relationship quality that spills over into your self-esteem and self-image. Every lie you tell, every deception, every false statement makes you feel worse and worse about yourself…and eventually you can’t even look at yourself in the mirror without hating who you’ve become.
Examples of keeping relationship secrets include: lying to your family about how your husband really treats you or your children, hiding things your boyfriend broke or destroyed because he was angry, and not telling anyone that he calls you names or compels you to do things against your will. These aren’t just bad relationship qualities, they’re signs of lack of character and disrespect. The more secrets you keep, the more you’re hiding. The more you hide, the lower and darker your relationship gets.
2. Your boyfriend wants you to change
In 8 Signs of Controlling Men, I describe how some boyfriends and husbands aren’t happy with their partners’ qualities no matter what those characteristics are. This isn’t just a quality of a bad or unhealthy relationship, it’s a sign of lack of love. If a man can’t accept you for who you are, then he can’t love you for who you are. And, the truth of a relationship like that is that it’ll never be healthy or good – until he embraces you for everything about you.
Your boyfriend or husband should love you unconditionally, whether you’re self-employed or unemployed, rich or poor, big or small, or tall or short. And, you should love and accept your boyfriend for who he is!
Are you happy with yourself? If you’re trying to get your sense of identity or self-worth from your boyfriend or partner instead of God, then you’ll never feel truly happy with who you are. No matter how your boyfriend feels about you – or what relationship qualities you’re facing – you need to accept the truth about who you are. And that truth has to come from God, or it’ll always be weak and shaky.
Here’s one of my favorite qualities of a good relationship, from Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne.
Piglet walked up to Pooh.
“Pooh!” whispers Piglet.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Sometimes you just want to be sure of your partner’s love. This doesn’t mean you’re insecure – or that you’re in a bad relationship. It just means you need to reach out and know that he’s there. This is a good relationship quality!
3. Your husband is suspicious and jealous
If your husband or boyfriend is calling you constantly, demanding all your time, or questioning every move you make because he’s insecure and jealous, then you’re dealing with a quality that isn’t about the relationship itself. It’s about him. If he doesn’t trust you or accuses you of lying, then you need to re-evaluate your relationship. If he opens your mail or shows up at work unexpectedly, he doesn’t trust you. This is a sign of deep insecurity and it will lead to more serious relationship problems.
Lack of trust and an inability to allow freedom is one of those relationship qualities that may have felt flattering at first. He wants you all to himself because he loves you so much! But the truth is that he’s clingy, suffocating, and desperate. Those aren’t signs of love. The truth is that those are signs of a man who is insecure and emotionally manipulative.
4. Your boyfriend insults or criticizes you privately and/or publicly
How do you feel when you’re with your boyfriend or husband? If he calls you names, ridicules your thoughts or opinions, or makes you feel stupid or ugly, then he’s not treating you with the love and respect you deserve. Maybe he’s critical or negative, or he never has anything good to say about you, your home, your kids, or anything you do.
You know these aren’t good relationship qualities, yet you can’t face the truth because you feel trapped and helpless. You’ve been beaten down, your self-image is the lowest it’s ever been, and he’s holding you under his thumb. This is one of the most difficult and destructive qualities to overcome and rebuild – and it happens to all types of women. You are not alone, and you don’t have to face the truth of this relationship alone.
Are you ready to face the truth about your relationship and move on? Learn how to gently break up with someone you don’t love anymore.
5. You aren’t an equal partner in your relationship
Does your husband make all the financial or household decisions? Maybe you don’t even know how much money he makes, what types of credit cards he has, or where he keeps his financial accounts (a bank account? stock investments? in a sock under the mattress?). One of the most difficult relationship qualities to identify is an unequal balance of power because it’s not obvious.
And if you can’t properly identify this quality, you can’t face this truth about your relationship. But there are a few clues. For example, can you ask your husband questions about the finances, how money is spent, how much he makes, etc? Are you submissive and subservient towards him, or afraid of making waves? If you’re confused and unsure about your relationship – or this quality in general – talk to someone you trust in person. Open up about your relationship, and how you feel about facing the truth.
6. You and your boyfriend don’t have the same relationship goals
One of the healthiest relationship qualities is heading in the same direction together, as a couple. If you and your boyfriend or husband can’t agree on financial issues, family matters, or future goals then neither of you are facing the truth about your relationship. Of course no two people can have the exact same plans for the future, but healthy couples find and work towards the same focus for their lives and futures.
Healthy couples are also honest and ready to face the truth about their relationship. Not agreeing on your future isn’t necessarily a “bad relationship quality.” In fact, disagreeing can actually be a sign of a healthy relationship – if you can work through your differences and agree on a compromise. So, different goals isn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t be together. It just means you need to align yourselves toward the same goals and face the truth about whether or not you can do this.
If you know your relationship is over, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.
7. Your husband says he loves you, but doesn’t act like he loves you
Ah, one of the most confusing relationship qualities! Why? Because we forget to say “I love you” all the time.
This isn’t automatically a sign of lack of love, and it may not be a serious truth you have to face about your relationship. It may simply be that your boyfriend or husband assumes you know how he feels, and he doesn’t feel the need to tell you daily. Or weekly. Or monthly or yearly.
Not expressing love gets problematic when your boyfriend doesn’t make time for you, and he spends more time with his friends or at work than with you. Believe his nonverbal behavior (his actions) over his verbal behavior (because talk is meaningless unless it’s followed up by action). Do not believe what your boyfriend says; believe what he DOES. Unless, of course, he says he doesn’t love you or he can’t commit to a relationship. Then you should believe him.
8. Your intuition is telling you to face the truth about your relationship
There’s a difference between feeling bored in a relationship because the honeymoon stage is over and you’ve grown familiar with each other, versus knowing that the unhealthy qualities you’ve been reluctant to face are more serious than you want to admit. Don’t dismiss your relationship just because you don’t “feel” like you’re in love. Relationships take time and effort, and should never be judged by how you feel about each other. Instead, learn how to assess the relationship qualities that are concerning you by tuning in to your intuition.
How do you feel about yourself – separate from your boyfriend or husband? Who are you? What is your source of identity and self-image? Don’t rely on your boyfriend or husband to make you feel good about yourself. He is an addition to your life, not your whole life. He doesn’t define you, and a man should never be the foundation of your self-esteem. If your self-worth is dependent on a his love (or lack of love), then you’re setting yourself up for a fall.
9. Your family and friends aren’t supportive of your relationship
Your loved ones aren’t the number one determining factor of the quality of your relationship. But, they see things you don’t see and know things you can’t possibly know. You can’t see your relationship objectively because you’re inside it. You can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle! If your family or friends don’t like your boyfriend or husband, take time to explore why. Face the truth about their feelings. This doesn’t mean you should break up with your boyfriend or leave your husband…it just means you’re strong enough to take their perspective into account.
If your loved ones don’t like your boyfriend or husband because he’s verbally or emotionally abusive, read The Verbally Abusive Man, Can He Change? A Woman’s Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go by Patricia Evans. Sometimes we can’t face the truth about a relationship until we see it from an external – and perhaps even an expert – view.
10. You’re scared to face the truth about your relationship
This is one of those “relationship qualities” that isn’t actually a relationship quality. It’s about you. If you’re scared to face the truth about your relationship, then you’re facing a problem. I don’t know what that problem is…but you do. Or at least you will, if you can find the courage it takes to face the truth.
Would you want your sister, best friend, or daughter to be in this relationship? To find the strength and courage to either fix or leave a bad relationship, you may need to talk to a marriage counselor.
In a solid and healthy relationship or marriage, you feel sure of your boyfriend or husband’s love without constantly having to ask for reassurance or approval. You feel accepted, loved, and secure. You know the best and worst qualities of your relationship, and you’re willing to face the truth about both.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can — and Should — Be Saved by Lundy Bancroft will help you see if your “bad relationship” is really as bad as you think it is.
This book will help you:
- Tell the difference between a healthy-yet-difficult relationship and one that is really not working
- Recognize the signs of a bad relationship, and if your partner has a serious problem
- Stop waiting to see what happens in your relationship, and and make your own growth the top priority
- Prepare for life without your partner – even as you keep trying to make the relationship work
Leaving an unhealthy relationship is difficult, and it’s important not to make an impulsive decision. It’s also important to face the truth and do what you need to do, even if you’re scared.
I wrote How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets and Practical for Healing Your Heart to help you cope with the loss of a relationship. It hurts to let go of someone you love – even if you’re not “in love” anymore. The pain of breaking up affects every part of your life: your daily routine, work, family relationships, friends, hopes and dreams for your future, and even your financial plans.
The first version of this ebook was called How to Let Go of Someone You Love: 3 Powerful Secrets (and 75 Tips!) for Healing Your Heart. I wrote it several years ago, and have learned a lot about loving, losing, and letting go since then. So, I rewrote the ebook. My prayer is that it helps heal your heart, and gives you comfort and guidance.
May you find the strength and courage to recognize these qualities of an unhealthy relationship, and move forward into a new season of your life. And may you Blossom into who God created you to be!