27 Top Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship

How is your love relationship going? Is it more happy than unhappy — or is it the opposite?

When your love relationship is unhealthy and unhappy, it infects your entire life and your mental health.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and options to help couples in an unhealthy relationship — from courses to counseling.

But sometimes we don't recognize the signs of real trouble, even though we feel deeply unhappy, lonely, or confused.

It can also be hard to admit to ourselves and others that our relationship is anything less than perfect.

Acknowledging the problems forthrightly and seeking help to learn better relationship skills (or decide to end the relationship) is the only way to find peace of mind and regain happiness.

What Are Examples of Unhealthy Relationships? 

Plenty of relationships start on a less-than-ideal foundation. And while everything might feel great initially, it doesn’t take long for the warning bells to start ringing. That’s especially true if your relationship falls into one of the following categories:

  • Relationships based on passion (with little or nothing beyond that)
  • Relationships based on comfort or convenience (i.e., settling)
  • Relationships based on lies (or one really big one)
  • Relationships based on traumatic experiences
  • Relationships based on control or manipulation
  • All-consuming relationships (no room for personal pursuits

From these types of relationships spring all sorts of unhealthy behaviors, as you’ll see in the list below. 

27 Clear Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

1. Criticism and Ridicule

One or both people constantly criticize and put the other person down.

Or they ridicule their partner in front of other people, trying to shame or embarrass them.

signs of an unhealthy relationship

Constant criticism reflects contempt from one partner toward the other.

Contempt is one of the most soul-crushing and damaging behaviors you can inflict on the person you are supposed to love the most.

But how can love truly exist if one partner views the other as worthless or deserving of scorn?

2. Lack of Communication

There is a lack of open, honest, and loving communication between the couple — about positive, neutral and negative topics. 

Any kind of conflict in communication often devolves into anger and blaming with no resolution ever reached.

One partner or the other doesn’t feel secure in expressing feelings or self-doubts because they know they won't be heard. Or worse, they may be criticized or demeaned. 

3. Loss of Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is the connection a couple has when the trust and communication between them foster open sharing, vulnerability, and self-disclosure.

Each partner feels completely loved, accepted, and worthy.

When this is lacking, the relationship deteriorates into an empty, lonely existence for one or both partners. 

The couple lives more like distant roommates than true love partners.

4. Disengagement

Disengagement happens when one or both partners lose the willingness to invest time, energy, and emotion into the relationship.

In these situations, there are generally few arguments, or the arguments are one-sided and met with passiveness from the disengaged person.

Disengagement is often a sign the other person is ready to end the relationship.

5. Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior can manifest as non-verbal negativity, resistance, and confusion.

It shows up as procrastination, helplessness, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or purposeful failure to handle requested tasks.

This is childish behavior used in an attempt to manipulate and control.

6. Inability to Forgive

Forgiveness is essential for the health and longevity of a love partnership.

If one partner holds a grudge and can’t let go of past hurt or anger, neither partner will feel safe and intimate together.

Of course, forgiveness requires a sincere apology and consistent behavior change from the other person.

7. Codependent Behavior

Codependency is a dysfunctional issue in which one partner enables and supports the negative behaviors or personality of the other.

This could be a passive or active support of addiction, mental illness, immaturity, or irresponsibility.

The focus is only on one person’s needs, ultimately leaving the other person resentful, angry, and wounded.

8. Substance Abuse

Abuse of alcohol or drugs by one or both partners makes it impossible to have an authentic, healthy intimacy.

The substance alters one’s behavior and personality, impairing judgment and self-control.

woman standing alone unhealthy relationship

As the abuse continues, it pushes the couple farther and farther apart.

9. Verbal Abuse

When one partner uses verbal abuse, he or she is trying to shame, control, and manipulate the other.

This emotional abuse takes the form of yelling, swearing, using threats, blaming, demeaning and using biting sarcasm.

This abuse damages self-esteem and makes intimacy impossible in the relationship.

10. Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the use of force and violent behavior in a way that injures or endangers someone.

It is impossible to have a healthy relationship when one partner is the victim of abuse.

This abuse can include hitting, biting, scratching, slapping, kicking, punching, shoving, use of a weapon, or forced sex.

Physical abuse often builds gradually, beginning with emotional abuse.

A one-time incident could be a warning sign of future abuse. The only solution in these situations is to let go and leave as soon as possible.

11. Disagreement on Major Values

You want children, but she doesn’t.

He wants to buy a new car, but you want to save the money for a house.

One of you has deep religious convictions, but the other doesn’t.

Disagreeing on important life values can put a wedge between couples and become the source of ongoing discord.

12. Loss of Respect

Respect shows that each partner understands the other, and they respect one another’s boundaries.

When one partner stops respecting the other, it reveals he or she no longer supports the other’s values and needs.

Love alone can’t hold you together without mutual respect.

13. Little Physical Affection

Studies show physical affection is a sign of relationship satisfaction and a good predictor of love in the relationship.

Relationships that suffer from a deficit of affection will grow lifeless over time.

Non-sexual physical touch feeds emotional intimacy and is necessary for the health of your relationship.

14. Dishonesty and Secrecy

Dishonesty and secrecy are key reasons couples and marriages end up failing.

Being dishonest or secretive with your partner – even about trivial things – reveals you don’t feel safe sharing with your partner or you legitimately have something to hide.

Either way, you undermine the trust and respect of your partner when you lie or withhold.

15. Jealousy and Insecurity

When there’s consistent jealousy or insecure behavior by one partner, it could reflect a lack of self-esteem and confidence in your value in the relationship.

Expressing insecure feelings and jealousy when there’s no valid reason will only push your partner away and lessen their respect for you.

If there is a real reason for these feelings, you need to face the problems head-on with your partner.

16. Sexually Focused

If your relationship is primarily focused on sex, then you have no real foundation for a lasting connection.

Without emotional intimacy, affection, strong communication, trust, and engagement, the relationship will ultimately collapse.

17. Narcissistic or Controlling Behavior

A person with a narcissistic personality is self-centered, seeks constant attention, considers themselves better than others, and believes they’re entitled to special treatment.

Controlling people desire to be in charge, prove themselves, and get their own way by controlling their environment and the people around them.

Neither personality is conducive to authentic connection and intimacy.

18. Poor Money Skills or Values

When one partner is financially irresponsible or has poor financial skills, it will eventually cause resentment, stress, and anger for the other partner.

Money is a major source of conflict between couples even when both people are relatively responsible.

When the financial relationship is unbalanced, it profoundly impacts respect and trust between the couple.

19. Competitive Behaviors

Competition in a relationship is a rivalry for supremacy, and it can develop over children, money, career success, or friends.

Sometimes the need to upstage your spouse or partner comes from insecurity.

These power struggles can destroy a relationship because one person has to be the winner and one the loser.

20. Overly Involved Extended Family

Parents, siblings, or other relatives who become too involved in a couple’s lives can drive a wedge between them.

If one partner doesn’t set appropriate boundaries with his or her family, the other partner will grow resentful and feel like they are no longer the priority.

21. Threats of Leaving

Does your partner constantly threaten to end the relationship or suggest divorce?

This is a form of verbal abuse and emotional control, putting you on insecure footing as long as the behavior continues.

You will never feel safe or valued as a partner.

22. Trying to Change You

Some people view their partners as a project to fix.

They want to change their spouse’s appearance, behavior, or personality in order to make themselves feel more secure and in control.

This reflects a lack of respect and unconditional love.

23. Turning to Others for Support

You don’t look to each other for moral or emotional support. Maybe one of you would like to depend on the other for that, but you just don’t have that kind of connection. When you’re feeling low, you don’t expect support from your partner. You look for it elsewhere. 

They do the same. If they’re going through something, you’ll find out from someone else — someone they’ve confided in — if you find out at all. 

24. Condescending Behavior

Your partner acts condescendingly toward you, making you feel stupid or selfish whenever you disagree with them. They’re the “smart one”; you’re the lucky one. You’re not allowed to outshine them — ever. 

Challenge them just a little bit, and you get the “Oh, honey…” treatment. They keep their tone warm and friendly, using humor to disarm you and to appear mature and witty, while they point out the “adorable” flaws they see in your argument. 

25. Partners in Crime

Your partner manipulates or coerces you into doing something unethical or illegal to “help them out.” Maybe they can’t legally buy a firearm, so they guilt you into buying one for them because shooting at the gun range is how they blow off steam. 

Whatever they ask you to do, you know it’s wrong. And maybe, at first, you can overlook some of their asks. Eventually, though, you get the message that if you’re not willing to risk getting caught for a crime, just to make them happy, they’ll dump you for someone who is.

Let them. Or save them some time by being the first to walk away.

26. You Feel Worse about Yourself

You were more self-confident before you started this relationship. Being with this person has eroded both your confidence and your self-esteem. 

You used to feel more sure of yourself. And now you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be admired or even respected. Your partner makes arrangements for both of you without bothering to ask. 

Call them out on it, and they use their favorite weapon — guilt — to push you back down. 

27. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Your partner might promise to call you when they’re at work or on a trip, but once they get there, they forget all about you. And when you eventually call them, they act annoyed, saying, “I was gonna call you just as soon as I was done [doing something more important].” 

Except, you know by now, they’re probably just saying that to save face. Once you’re out of sight, you might as well stop existing for them. They don’t call, they don’t respond to your texts, and they don’t ever talk to their coworkers, friends, or family about you. 

Can An Unhealthy Relationship Become Healthy? 

While the potential for your relationship to improve depends on what both of you are willing to do, positive change is possible. You can make your relationship better if you’re both willing to work for it. 

All it takes for the relationship to get worse or to end is one person deciding it’s not worth it or that it’s their way or the highway. To make a relationship healthy, it always takes two. 

Which of the following ten steps are you both ready to take? 

  • Be honest with each other about what you want and what changes you need.
  • Consider couples counseling to get help from an experienced relationship advisor. 
  • Take risks together as a couple to build trust and share wins and losses. 
  • Learn conflict resolution skills so you can both express and process pent up anger. 
  • Make communication a priority and check in with each other every day.
  • Find ways to laugh together and make time for that every day. 
  • Take steps to improve your financial situation to reduce stress for you both.
  • Remind each other why you fell in love and make time for romantic date nights.

Do you see some of these characteristics of an unhealthy relationship?

Take an honest look at your own relationship and determine whether or not any of these relationship warning signs are present.

If so, it’s time to assess whether or not the relationship is causing more distress than happiness.

It's hard to acknowledge that your relationship is unhealthy and could be damaging your sense of self-worth.

No one wants to admit that their marriage or love partnership is failing or in serious trouble. But there are actions you can take to potentially turn things around.

One of the biggest causes of stress between couples is unhealthy communication. Sometimes you need a professional to help you navigate the problems between you.

If your partner will join you, go to a professional marriage or relationship counselor to discuss the damaging issues and work on strategies and skills to improve them.

Once couples have allowed their connection to devolve into acrimony, emotional abuse, or any of the 27 behaviors listed here, it's extremely difficult to repair the relationship without professional help.

But even if your partner won’t go to counseling, you can go alone to navigate your feelings and decisions about the future of the relationship.

Having support and guidance from a professional with perspective is essential to healing and fixing an unhealthy relationship and making sound decisions about your future together. 

More Related Articles:

The Most Heartbreaking Stages Of Emotional Affairs

45 Probing Questions You’re Just Dying To Ask Your Ex

9 Signs An Emotionally Unavailable Man Is In Love

Did you find any value from this list of signs of an unhealthy relationship?

I hope this post will help you recognize the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. Would you like to help others who might be suffering in a floundering relationship?

Please help me spread these strategies for fixing an unhealthy relationship. Would you be willing to send out some love and share this post on your preferred social media platform?

17 thoughts on “27 Top Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship”

  1. The lady I am dating thinks it’s all about me but I do her laundry clean her house pay some of her bills but grocery. Treat her like a queen do dishes but her nice things like flowers jewelry pay for oil changes get her car fixed just paid to move her took her and her family to Las Vegas paid for whole trip tell her how pretty and smart she is after all this. she texted ma that’s it’s always about me that remark really hurt and makes me wonder that she is taking me for s ride. Snd ride might be over she wants to dump me . Looks like she has always treated me this way 4 years I have been dating her what is ur thought on this I have put up with a lot she drinks way to much she stays stressed about her kids I am just a meal
    Ticket then when she said it’s always me. That really hurt my feelings what ur thought in this I do love her but she sure treats me like shit sometime

    • I was in a relationship as you are or were. I did all those things.. It was never appreciated or reciprocated… I was in the relationship 5 years on and off. To where it has effected my health and bank account. We deserve better. I am a woman and you and I deserve better…

    • This is really sad but you should leave and do not look back thats to anyone who is living like this when we all have to die but who wants to die knowing you were not happy here on Earth just let go and you will get better results… Love Yourself 1st

    • Look i know when we truly love someone we do often try to look past the other person’s faults and flaws. But you know if what you are saying is true then peacfully breaking up is the solution for you. Or you may try to talk to her and ask how you can redeem yourself, and can be better than what you are. If you can’t leave her and love her a lot then chhose the second option but if you aren’t happy in your current position then go for the First one…. After all we live once so don’t you think you should make the best use of it!??? well that’s it.. god bless you sir!!

  2. My husband is swearing at me cursing me our sex life is bad we dnt talk to each other mostly i lost interest in him and not attracted to him any more he always taking about leaving me i dnt know what to do.

  3. I have been in a relationship for a few years and is about to get married. I always feel that this is a one sided relationship as I continuously makes big adjusted to all my partners needs, which I would gladly do so that we can a harmonious relationship. On the other hand, the smallest adjustment my partner does should viewed as a really big matter that I should be really grateful with. My partner always threatens to leave when ever there is an argument that I don’t even participate, meaning my partner is angry, shouting and all those stuff, while I remain calm and compose and not slightest bit argumentative. My partner is angry at me even at the littlest thing and would always make a big deal out it. My partner loves pointing out my mistake. I can’t imagine my life without my partner but I am not sure if staying is still healthy.

  4. I’ve been dating this guy for a lil over two years now we have a baby girl that’s a lil over a year. Our whole relationship he has been physically and mentally abusive. He lies to me about everything. We he does wrong he try’s to turn it around on me and makes me feel like I’m stupid. He calls me all kinds of names hates my kids don’t care about his daughter and cares only for his son. He can’t let go of partying and he has been partying with his son since he was 15 and now 18 and he sees no wrong in that. He’s not a father to him he’s more of a friend so he can please his son.when I try to tell him something he don’t care to hear it it’s al about him. We brake up all the time and I keep going back. Why can’t I let go? How can I let go? I love him even tho he has treated me so badly and I don’t know why I can’t let go.???

  5. John Gottman depicted criticism, defensiveness and contemp as signs your marriage is heading towards divorce. Couples who get stuck in these patterns have no way to get unstuck, since they’re protecting themselves from hurt by reacting in a way that elicits s defensive reaction in each other.

  6. You got me when you said that you’re in an unhealthy relationship if there’s no loving, honest, and open communication between you and your partner. My husband doesn’t want to share his daily experiences and encounters anymore. For some reasons, we don’t talk a lot anymore. We don’t want our marriage to fail, so we’ll find a couple therapist that can help us.s

  7. I am honored to help spread ways to identify an unhealthy relationship. I am a Professional Counselor-ALC and I provide psychotherapy groups for domestic violence and anger management. My target population is court-ordered, community, agency or self-referral. I provide services to homeless, family and domestic violence shelters throughout Birmingham Alabama educating clients about ways to eliminate domestic violence and break the cycle of abuse, especially for the next generation. However, I can help spread the message let me know what you need me to do. If you have material I can pass it out among the group members and at the same time I can help promote your business. I look forward to working with you. Thank you for your time.

    Theresa Scott-MSPC-ALC, Owner
    Convergence Free Will Intervention

  8. I am so mortified that my relationship hits 98% of this list. I want to work things out but reading this is like ok, if someone else can literally describe all of the negativity in your relationship down to the very tips then something is not right. Its hard to think about if the grass is actually greener on the other side but after reading this Im on a rocky mountain and I need to find some grass.

  9. I’ve been dating my childhood crush for nearing 5 years now. In the beginning it was amazing. He would be loving and affectionate, do little things to show his love, we worked problems out and were like a team. Since going throu major hardships this past year things have changed DRAMATICALLY. I’m no longer comforted when I cry, instead he gets mad. I used to write him little love note but stopped because they were unappreciated and he never returned the favor. He does all I ask him not to do and rarely what I ask him to do. On top of all the problems we have HIS MOTHER WILL NOT STAY OUT OF OUR RELATIONSHIP. Going so far as to telling me no arguing with him before he goes to work, I’m being told what I can and can’t do with him as if we are kids. I honestly do not want to end our relationship BUT I can not take anymore. I am completely lost and see no way for this to really work out between us.

  10. I am in a relationship for over 4yrs,along the line i do not sexually attracted to my partner anymore….could there be a cause for that,it hurts me and gives me concern

  11. Am married for 4yrs nw nd am no longer intrested In my husband I’ve known him for 3months then he proposed I agreed coZ I thought I truly love him till I reach a stage or point where I am no longer intrested In having INTIMACY with him I don’t WEATHER I should live or what,

  12. My SO and I have been together 7 years since high school, we have a five year old together and we have had the most up and down relationship like even split up a year at one point, he is not help around the house he is beyond rude to me never wants to have sex comes home from work so ill the list goes on, he came from Ukraine when he was 12 so he is shut off to emotion he is also all about it being his way or the high way I want to leave him and be threats that I’m so selfish for our daughter am I? Do I stick it out for him to get there his low low times or move on and try to make a lose for myself and have the family I have always wanted.

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