How do you know if you’re in a good relationship? It’s not as easy a question to answer as you may assume. There are many different kinds of bad relationship, and not all are as easy to point out as you’d think. Especially when you’re right smack in the middle of it. A bad relationship isn’t necessarily one where your partner beats or verbally abuses you, cheats on you or makes an effort to belittle you in public. While you absolutely should not tolerate any of these things from someone who professes to love you, unhealthy relationships can be much more benign than this. And this can make them much harder to spot. Indeed, your partner doesn’t have to be wilfully abusive to be doing harm not just to your relationship but to your wellbeing. And probably their own as well. Very often the things that they do that seem to be nice (and can be perfectly well intentioned) can be extremely damaging to you as an individual and as a couple.
So, how can you tell that your love has gone bad when bad love looks good? Let’s take a look at some of the “nice” things that your partner may do that are actually creating way more problems than they solve.
Okay, seriously, who doesn’t like gifts? When your Significant Other puts a lot of time, thought and effort into your Christmas or birthday present it can make you feel like the most loved and valued person in the universe. And when they get you a present just because they saw it and thought of you, or just wanted to show you how much they love you, it can make your hear melt.
However, there’s a fine line between being generous and considerate and the phenomenon known as “love bombing”. This is where your beau showers you with gifts and affection with the ulterior motive of using them as leverage. While it might make you feel good at the time, it’s the equivalent of being fed cream cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Extremely damaging. Especially when those gestures are thrown back in your face, every time you say or do something that doesn’t align with what they want.
Turning a blind eye to your foibles
Nobody wants to be with a partner who’d shame them for claiming the last slice of pizza. Or loudly suggesting that you “make that your last glass” of red wine at a dinner party, leading to flushed cheeks and embarrassed silences. At the same time, however, the line between indulgence and enabling can be worryingly fine. And while you don’t want to be with someone who will use your foibles against you, it can be equally damaging when someone turns a blind eye to them. Especially if it’s a foible that they share. This can lead to codependency which can be a devastatingly harmful combination when foibles become addictions. If you know that you’ve been drinking too much of late or that the recreational substances you enjoy have become habitual, being in a relationship with an enabler can be extremely damaging to you both. You want to be with someone who will help you to find the best rehabs for couples and work collaboratively with you to clean up your lifestyle. Someone who will never shame or scorn but will always remind you that you are better than your basest addictions.
Wanting to monopolize all your time
“I never get tired of spending time with you”. “I wish I didn’t have to go to work so I could spend my day with you”. It all sound very sweet, doesn’t it? But over time this can stop being sweet and start being cloying. When your SO wants to spend their every waking moment with you, it’s natural to feel flattered. But this can actually be an unhealthy sign that should set faint alarm bells ringing. It may hint at a controlling, possessive or jealous personality. And while they may sincerely love you, it can throttle your personal life and your interpersonal relationships with friends, colleagues and family. There’s a fine line between “I wish I could spend all my day with you” and “I can’t believe you’d leave me on my own!”.
It’s perfectly natural and healthy to want to spend time apart from your partner, even if you’re happy as can be with your relationship. Your partner should actively encourage you to have a social life as well as staying in touch with their own friends and relatives. If you’re the only person in their life, it can mean that you have to do a lot of emotional heavy lifting.
Only by getting quality time alone as well as a healthy amount of face time with your friends, family and work colleagues can you be emotionally well rounded, happy and secure in who you are. And if someone only ever wants you to spend time with them, it can be scarily constrictive.
They tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear
We all like compliments. And deep down, we love to be told exactly what we want to hear. But sometimes, there’s a gulf between what we want to hear and what we need to hear. As awesome as you are, there will be times when you’re in the wrong. And when this happens, you can only grow and evolve if your partner has the confidence in themselves and their relationship to call you out on it.
Granted, they should do so in a loving and supportive way, but they should always know the difference between what you need to be told and what you want to be told.
They never want to argue
It’s perfectly understandable that your SO may no relish confrontation. At the same time, however, it may not be a good sign if they never want to argue. Arguments are like fires. Yes, they can quickly spiral out of control, yes they can do a great deal of damage if not carefully managed. But we simply cannot thrive without them. Arguing is not only perfectly normal, it is actually beneficial for the relationship in a number of ways.
And if your partner refuses to argue with you about the things that matter it can mean one of two things (neither of which are good). It can mean that they’re ambivalent about the relationship. Or it can mean that they’re nurturing a well of grievances, resentments and anger. Neither of which is conducive to a healthy relationship. Of course, it’s important to argue properly. Keep your voice at a conversational tone, listen to your partner rather than waiting to make your point, admit when you’re in the wrong and never go to sleep on an argument if you can avoid it. But to avoid arguments altogether is actually really unhealthy.
Everything you do is always “up to you”
Where do you want to go tonight? What should we have for dinner? What movie would you like to watch? If the answer is always “up to you”, this may seem nice and considerate. But when your partner refuses to assert themselves it can lead to more resentment and suppressed anger in the relationship.
Your partner owes it to you to be open and honest about what they want from your relationship. And that applies as much to the little things like what you have for dinner or how you spend your Saturday night as it does to the big things.
Otherwise, how do you know that you’re not wasting one another’s time?