Your relationships are as important to your health as diet and exercise, so knowing how to fix unhealthy relationships is a matter of life and death! Well, maybe not quite life and death, but…pretty close :-)
According to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers, the quality of your social relationships can affect your stress level, weight, and various health conditions such as diabetes and inflammatory diseases. The more connected you are to people who love and care for you, the healthier and happier you’ll be.
In this article, I share secrets on how to fix unhealthy relationships. This is Day 3 of my four-article series on being happy and healthy even when your relationships aren’t exactly stellar. Day 1 was How to Be Happy Even in an Unhealthy Relationship and Day 2 was 7 Lessons Learned in Unhealthy Relationships. Curious about Day 4? You’ll find out about it ub the the full lineup of this week’s posts at the end of this article.
Secrets About Unhealthy Relationships
I call these “secrets” because they’re not talked about very often – at least, not in my circles.
If this is old news to you – or if you think I’m off my rocker – let me know in the comments section below! Criticize me if you must – but more importantly, give me your tips on how to fix unhealthy relationships. Teach me what you know.
1. Both partners are working together to stay unhealthy
Sometimes it’s called codependence: he engages in an unhealthy behavior (eg, playing video games all night long) and you step back and allows it to happen. Or, you even encourage the unhealthy behavior by lying, hiding, or otherwise protecting him.
When neither partner is willing to leave a long-term unhealthy relationship, something is working for both partners. It’s not healthy or good, but the relationship is serving their needs. The secret to fixing long-term unhealthy relationships like this? Figure out what you’re getting out of it, what needs are being met, and why.
2. One or both partners are being ostriches
It’s actually a myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. They bury their eggs in the sand and put their heads in the hole to turn them over, but they aren’t actually burying their heads.
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Ostriches may not pretend danger doesn’t exist, but people do. That’s one of the dirty little secrets of unhealthy relationships: we know exactly what’s going on, but we refuse to take action to fix the problems or leave the relationship.
For example, on How to Leave a Man You’ve Loved for Years a reader called Meryl said, “Throughout the years I knew something wasn’t right about my husband or our marriage, but I just focused on keeping everyone else happy instead of me. My love has turned into resentment. I don’t even want him to look at or touch me now.”
3. Unrealistic expectations are dominating the relationship
Meryl hoped that if she ignored the problems and warning flags (the mythical ostrich-like behavior), things would change in her marriage. We do this. It’s normal, especially if we don’t have the time or energy it takes to learn how to fix unhealthy relationships. We have kids, jobs, mortgage payments, Facebook, busy busy busy lives.
The biggest problem in most unhealthy relationships is unrealistic expectations. We hope, expect changes, and pray for miracles. We ask for relationship advice from friends, family, random bloggers on the internet. The fix? Stop burying your head in the sand. He won’t change.
4. The warning signs of unhealthy relationships are obvious
10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship has been my most popular article since I wrote it many moons ago. Why? Because we know when something is bad. We know when we aren’t being treated well. So we search the internet for red flags in unhealthy relationships…but we don’t need to.
Even babies and toddlers know when they’re being unloved, abused, neglected, ignored. Children know when they’re not being treated with love, kindness, respect, or compassion. So do dogs, cats, rabbits, and cows. And so do we.
5. We distract ourselves so we can blissfully ignore the warning signs
I call this a “secret” about fixing unhealthy relationships because it’s one of those elephants in the room. We all know it’s there, but we don’t talk about it.
It’s easier to keep pretending that you can’t see the signs than it is to actually make plans to change your life. It’s easier to stay in the hell you know than venture out into a world without him. It’s easier to make excuses for your husband and your marriage than it is to get relationship help.
6. Many unhealthy relationships simply aren’t fixable
One of the most disappointing things I’ve learned from my readers is that they feel trapped in unhappy marriages and they can’t do anything to change their lives. This makes me really sad. I’m sad for them because they’re so unhappy, and I’m also sad for them I don’t believe it’s true.
It’s true that not all relationships can be fixed. But it’s not true that we’re doomed to stay in unhealthy relationships that are killing pieces of our hearts, souls, and spirits. Sometimes we have to let go of people we love because they’re not good for us or our families. Sometimes we have to draw the line, set our boundaries, and decide that life is too short to stay trapped in the mud.
7. Couples counselling doesn’t always fix unhealthy relationships
Many readers tell me they want to learn how to fix unhealthy relationships, but their partners won’t go to couples or marriage counselling.
I encourage my readers to go to counselling – alone – anyway! The healthier and stronger they get as individual women, the better able they’ll be to make good decisions about their relationships.
Unhealthy women stay in unhealthy relationships. Healthy women take action, make changes, and find ways to Blossom.
8. Both partners need to invest in their relationship
How do you invest in your marriage and fix unhealthy relationships? It depends what your problems are. Maybe all you need is a book on healthy sex after you become parents of triplets. Or, maybe you need to make a heftier investment and send someone off for addictions counselling or drug rehab. Maybe you need to invest in a marriage course, or two separate households while you figure out what to do.
But, regardless of the investment, both partners need to be on board. One person can’t fix an unhealthy relationship by herself (even if she goes to counselling and gets super duper healthy and strong!).
If you and your partner want to learn more about fixing unhealthy relationships, read How to Fix a Relationship.
Questions for you
How many of my secrets about fixing unhealthy relationships did you already know? More importantly, what can you teach me about how to fix an unhealthy relationship? I know you know stuff! More stuff than me, no doubt.
Even more importantly…if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, how can you take care of yourself?
I can’t give advice, but I welcome your thoughts. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you discover what you need to do.
A recap of Blossom this week
Every week I write a Four-Day Series on specific topics for women who want to Blossom and flourish in all seasons of life. This week’s theme is happiness in unhealthy relationships.
Here’s this week’s lineup:
- Mon – How to Be Happy Even in an Unhealthy Relationship (Imagine)
- Tues – 7 Lessons Learned in Unhealthy Relationships (Dare)
- Weds – 8 Secrets About Fixing Unhealthy Relationships (Prepare)
- Thurs – How to Gain Confidence and Create Healthy Relationships (Leap and Flourish!)
Do you feel like you can’t be happy in the relationship you’re in? Remember that giving up doesn’t always means you are weak. Sometimes it means you are strong enough to let go.