8 common signs of an unhealthy relationship

Kody Elsayed

57 percent of college students find it difficult to identify dating abuse according to a study conducted by loveisrespect.org. Although all unhealthy relationships may not be considered dating abuse, it’s important to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship because they can lead to abusive situations.

The director of Student Mediation Services in the School of Peace and Conflict, Relationship mediator and educator of conflict studies, Jacquelyn Bleak, said there are some similar signs that occur when a relationship is unhealthy.

“Conflict makes us feel so yucky in our bodies and it’s hard to express that with someone else,” Bleak said. “At the same time if we are unable to work through our conflicts that is a sign that we need more tools.”

Not only do people need more tools, they need to know signs that they are in bad relationships, Bleak said.

In her work, she’s noticed these eight signs which are key indications someone is in an unhealthy relationship.

  1. Lack of Communication.

If the communication is not there, meaning, the parties involved are not speaking or not taking the time that is necessary to have productive conversations, there is an issue. Bleak says communication should be open and honest. Not being able to communicate should be a read flag in any relationship.

  1. Gaslighting

“When I express my feelings and my partner invalidates my feelings and tells me I shouldn’t feel this way or I have no right to feel this way, that is gaslighting,” said Bleak. This is one of the biggest red flags and can be a sign of an abusive relationship as well, Bleak said.

  1. Approach to conflict

The way we choose to handle conflicts can be major red flags. If someone decides to be aggressive, harsh, quiet, unresponsive, or uses any unsafe coping mechanism to handle conflict, there becomes a new level of stress on the relationship. “Not knowing how to work through conflict leads to a lot of folks forcing themselves to have difficult conversations,” Bleak said, “They feel like ‘we need to fix this right now’, but actually this isn’t helpful.”

  1. Lack of self-awareness

“Emotions and feelings are so critical for understanding how we interpret the world around us,” Bleak said. One thing that negatively impacts a relationship is when one or more people involved are not self-aware. Self-awareness involves knowing yourself, your goals, dreams, behavior, areas of growth and the impact you have. When a partner or friend is not self-aware a multitude of issues can occur in relationships, Bleak said.

  1. Keeping Secrets

If a partner or friend is lying about things, has to tell half-truths or has to ask their partners and friends to not tell anyone about a situation, an issue is occurring. Manipulation and lying are completely unacceptable, Bleak said, and any healthy relationship will not have issues around being honest and truthful. If someone makes a person keep a secret that they are not comfortable hiding, it becomes a sign of an issue. This is not to be confused with keeping the individuals personal life private. It’s about keeping secrets regarding two or more people involved.

  1. Alienation

Alienation is when a person tries to remove another from their support systems such as friends and family. “The abuser is trying to keep you all to themselves,” Bleak said. This is not just a sign that a relationship is bad, it’s a sign of abuse. Alienation is different from concern. If someone is trying to have an open conversation about a bad friend or people in your life, it’s not alienation. It becomes a problem when they are manipulating and forcing separation.

  1. Unexplained silence

The old saying goes, “Silent but deadly.” And it can be true when it comes to relationships, Bleak said. Often times a huge indication of a bad relationship is when there’s a mutual or one-way silence. Lack of willingness to talk and not being able to express emotions or not wanting to express one’s concerns is a sure sign that things are not okay.

  1. Unresolved Trauma

One of the most common reasons relationships fail is unresolved trauma. It can come from multiple issues such as family incidents, trauma, past relationships etc. When someone applies their hurt and anger from unresolved traumas into their relationships, things get messy, Bleak said. “When you think about unresolved trauma, we become triggered and it brings up feelings from when you were growing up as a child.”

Students who are facing conflict in their relationships can go to mediation services at  the Women’s Center, and the SRVSS Office, Bleak said. There is also therapy at Kent Hall and if need be there is therapy off campus in Acorn Alley.

“If anyone is concerned about an abusive relationship definitely reach out to the SRVSS Office,” Bleak said. “You can call anonymously just with questions.”

Kody is a relationship reporter. You can contact him at [email protected].