I Think I Might Be: In An Unhealthy Relationship

Since college is a time where many people first become independent, it’s often when a person’s first romantic relationship happens. However, when a person is inexperienced, it can lead them into a situation where they don’t know what is healthy and unhealthy behaviour when engaging with someone romantically. Many people may find themselves wondering if the way they (or their significant other) behaves is “normal” or “healthy”. We have put together a list of the typical signs of both a healthy and unhealthy relationship.

What are the hallmarks of a healthy relationship?

  • Are they a similar age to you?
  • Do you spend time together, and spend time with your own friends too?
  • Do you feel safe with each other?
  • Can you solve arguments without being mean, and apologise to each other if you have done something wrong?
  • Do you treat each other, and each other’s opinions, with respect?
  • Do you trust each other?
  • Do you support each other’s ambitions and plans, like travelling, getting a job, or doing well in college?
  • Do you encourage each other’s interests, such as hobbies?
  • Do you give each other privacy when needed?
  • Do close friends and family know about the relationship?
  • Do you allow each other “space” when you need it?

Not saying “yes” to these does not mean you have to break up, but it certainly means that you should consider the dynamics of your relationship with your significant other and see if some changes need to be made.  If not thought about or discussed, it could turn into something a lot more worrying.

What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship?

  • Do they want you to spend all your time with them?
  • Do they discourage your friendships?
  • Do they want you to give up jobs or hobbies, for no reason?
  • Do they try to control or influence what you do, wear, who you talk to, where you go?
  • Are they always checking up on you, wanting to know where you are?
  • Do they refuse to be affectionate with you if you don’t do what they want you to do?
  • Do they ever make you feel nervous, anxious or frightened?
  • Do they try and make you “prove” that you are faithful to them?
  • Do they ever put you down, call you names, make you feel stupid?
  • Do they make you feel like you aren’t good enough for them, and you should be thankful to be in the relationship?
  • Do they ever get extremely possessive of you, or accuse you of flirting with other people, when you haven’t?
  • Have they ever deliberately hurt you physically (punch, kick, slap, shove, shake, throw things)?
  • Do they ever pressure you into going further sexually than you want to?

If you have answered “yes” to one or more of these, it is recommended that you leave this relationship and seek help from a friend or family member.

While you may not have been physically abused, emotional abuse is real and tangible, too. Do not be fooled into thinking that you are not being abused, because you have not been physically hurt.

I know I’m in an unhealthy relationship. What next?

Firstly: leave the relationship. You are a human of worth and love and you do not deserve to be mistreated.

Secondly, talk to a family member or a friend. Tell them everything about the relationship, and listen to what they say. Often, hearing an outside voice telling us that we’ve been abused is what we need to realise it ourselves. Family and friends can provide support when breakups do not go well, or if your ex is threatening you.

Thirdly, try and remember that what happened to you is not your fault. Everyone can find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, no matter who they are, how old they are or how intelligent they are. If you are finding it difficult to accept this, UCC Counselling Service is available to speak to, and can be contacted on +353 (0)21 4903565 or at counselling@ucc.ie.

If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, Cork Sexual Violence Centre can be freephoned on 1800 496 496, or emailed on info@sexualviolence.ie.