Seven Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

I will push the swing for you

And smile at how high that last one was

And you will forget I’m even there, too,

Giggling in eternity the way a child does.


For a few seconds, I sometimes would like

The chance

To swing this swing and kiss the sky

So I’ll keep pushing your swing and tell

Myself, “Goodbye.”

- Karl Kristian Flores, Can I Tell You Something?


I was in the sixth grade. A boy I had liked since fourth grade decided I was not his type anymore, so things were already awkward. I was skin and bones, in the beginning of puberty (God help us all), and starting to get zits on my face. Acne before you are allowed to wear makeup is kind of the worst. There was a girl that was in the more popular crowd that had left me behind. One day when our class was walking around the track, she yelled and called me “Rocky Mountain Forehead” in front of all her cool friends. They laughed and walked off. I was humiliated.

I had felt embarrassed and mistreated a few times before, but this was the first time I remember feeling like people were not safe.

The first time I remember thinking that who I was not OK. That I did not matter.


My relationships suffered because of that. I went through several best friendships that ended because of something I selfish I did. Starting in ninth grade, I had 1029380980 boyfriends. I can’t even remember them all. Some lasted a week. Some lasted two years. They showed me attention, so I soaked it up.

I did not know how to be in healthy, thriving relationships because I had lost myself in those years.

I had no idea how to be a good friend, how to love myself, how to be authentic and genuine.

And what came out of that season? Loneliness. Shame. A feeling of worthlessness. A longing for true relationships but not knowing where to start.

Something was missing.

Over the years, though I have learned how to love and be myself by seeing how God loves me, be a loyal friend, and marry the last of those boyfriends, I have continued to have loneliness and that feeling of worthlessness.

It has made me hyperaware of what makes up good healthy connections in our lives, the value of communication and boundaries and grace. The responsibilities that are ours and those that are not. The value we give to our own voice and listening to the voice of others. The trust and honesty and authenticity.


Connection is what we were made for.

And connection is what has been affected by the Fall the most. Our connection to God was severed. And so was our connection to others.

Relationships are the cause of the most joy in our lives, and they have potential to cause the most pain. We can’t exist without them, but sometimes we wish we could.

We need others. We need them badly.

But our relationships are not OK.

We are lied to and do the lying. We get walked all over and we manipulate. We are selfless and selfish, and we talk too much or not at all. We hold past hurt too long and we are quick to forgive.

So what do we do? How can we grow and move away from unhealthy relationships and into the relationships we were meant to have, that are whole and life giving and beautiful?

I think it is vital for us to see what I have found to be the seven main signs our relationships are unhealthy. We need to look at them, notice where we fall, and commit to growth.

Our people depend on it.

These seven areas are supported by the literature and what I have seen in practice with my counseling/ coaching clients. There is so much that falls under each one, but generally they are:

1. Poor Communication

  • Poor conflict resolution

  • Lack of awareness of thoughts, emotions, needs, values, beliefs

  • Lack of acknowledgment of thoughts, emotions, needs, etc.

  • Poor emotion management

  • Withdrawal

  • Reacting without thinking

  • Poor listening skills

2. Unhealthy Boundaries

  • Not knowing when to say yes, when to say no

  • Saying yes regardless of the affect it could have on you

  • Not knowing where you end and another begins

  • Codependency

  • Letting too many (or not enough) into your inner life

  • Poor time management

  • Working when not at work

  • Living without limits

  • Never making time to reflect

3. Unrealistic Expectations

  • Too high

  • Too low

  • Expecting something from someone (or yourself) that does not fit the season, personality, or general behavior

  • Easily disappointed in others (or self)

  • Expectations that are not communicated or made clear

  • Judgmental

4. Unresolved Wounds

  • Continual anger about the same thing

  • Bring up things from the past that someone did in tough conversations

  • Unforgiveness/ Bitterness

  • Rumination about the hurt

  • Current behaviors are too much affected by past hurt

5. Selfishness/Pride

  • Think your needs are most important while neglecting others' needs

  • You are always right

  • You expect others to bend over backward to meet your needs

  • You do not initiate

  • Poor listening skills

  • A "woe is me" mindset

6. Manipulation/Control

  • You have to get your way

  • You take control of most situations

  • You manipulate to make sure things go how you want them to

  • Dishonesty

  • A tendency to make someone feel bad often for what they do to you

7. Dishonesty/ Lack of Trust

  • Lies, "White lies"

  • Not sharing how you are really doing (or thoughts, feelings, etc.)

  • Have too many walls protecting you from others

  • Wear masks instead of being who you are

  • Twist the truth in order to get out of something

They often overlap in many ways, and if one is present, others most likely are, too. And the thing about unhealthy relationships is that it takes two. It never falls solely on one person. So while you may be in a relationship with someone who struggles with these areas, it is key to take a look in the mirror and see where you are weak and commit to growth there.

In the next few weeks, we will look at each area closer.

Until then, thanks for sitting a while.


Meditative Prayer

Lord,

Relationships are hard for me.

I am not sure how to use my voice,

Love myself,

Love others.

I am not sure what a healthy give and take

looks like.

I am scared of losing.

I am scared of being alone.

Will you teach me?

Will you heal my broken relationships?

Will you help me grow?

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

******


I have a few tangible ways that you can grow:

1. Take the quiz to discover your relationship personality, AKA where you fit in those seven areas. This quiz will show you your biggest area of struggle, and bonus, if you enter your email address at the end, I will send you a free resource to help you grow in the area you are most weak.

2. Grab the Eight Exercises to Get Your Relationships Back on Track! This resource will give you an exercise to practice to grow in all seven areas, plus a manifesto to live by.

3. If you are like, OK, I struggle with these, Kerrah! Help! Well, that is what I am here for. I offer Boundaries Coaching (which has a lot of overlap in each of the other areas) to give you a chance to work through these issues on a more personal level. Check out how to work with me here.

4. For boundaries issues specifically, grab my favorite top 5 books on boundaries. *Purchasing a book from the link does also support me because I am an Amazon Affiliate!*

5. Sign up for the Monday Minute! Each week we dive deeper into these issues and more.

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