Maintaining a healthy relationship is hard. It takes hard work, flexibility, and a willingness to grow. And there’s no right way to do it. What works for you might not work for another couple. But there are a few things that make a relationship, not just hard, but unhealthy.
It’s not always easy to identify when you cross that line from a bad relationship into something that’s potentially harmful. And unhealthy relationships can have different levels of severity.
To help you navigate some of the grey areas, and hopefully stay away from others altogether, here are five common types of unhealthy relationships it helps to know about.
1. The Abusive Relationship
It goes without saying that abuse is unhealthy, but it’s still important to talk about. Remember, abuse isn’t only physical—it’s emotional, too. Abuse is your partner barring you from seeing your family or friends. It’s them telling you can’t leave, because nobody else will love you. It’s them threatening to harm you or themselves when you do leave.
Many people overlook the red flags and early signs of an abusive relationship, but abuse is unhealthy no matter the circumstance. You’ll find healthier love. You don’t have to take responsibility for your partner’s behavior or make them get help. It’s your job to take care of yourself, and that’s it, even if that means breaking up with them. Whatever happens after, it’s important to know, it’s not your fault.
2. The Resentful Relationship
The tough part about dealing with resentment is that it can be difficult to acknowledge because relationships almost always began positively. The toxicity builds over time. Maybe you both work full time, but you always cook, clean, and take care of the kids. Or you had to move because of their new job opportunity. Or maybe you got a promotion, but that’s left your partner feeling inadequate. Not all reasons are created equal, but resentment always breeds toxicity. Resentment and the damage it does can be healed, but it requires action. Start by opening up to each other honestly.
3. The Carefree Relationship
This type of relationship was great in your early 20s but not so much in your 40s. This is the relationship where you both pound tequila shots until 2 a.m. and still make it to work by 8 a.m. relatively intact. You take fancy vacations together without worrying about denting your savings. Speaking of savings, you’re finances are separate because you don’t live together and you don’t have a family together.
Carefree relationships become fraught when things start to get serious. Sure, you can still have fun, but you have a bit more to worry about when your wedding or kids are on the horizon. The carefree relationship is fine when there isn’t a plan, but when things get serious there needs to be a change. Both of you need to want to settle down if you want things to work. If there’s a disagreement about something so fundamental to your relationship goals, it’s probably not going to work.
4. The Stagnant Relationship
You and your partner haven’t felt right together for long time. You’re not unhappy but you’re definitely not happy, either. It’s just sort of lukewarm. You have the same routine day in and day out, but you don’t know if you can make the change you need. Change a scary word, and it’s safe in your bubble. Normal is comfortable, but normal isn’t happy.
5. The Enabler Relationship
You quit smoking, but your partner smokes and pushed you to pick it back up. While that’s a pretty clear cut example, not every sign of enabling is that clear. Enablers can allow you to couch potato, binge eat, or party excessively. All the things you know are better in moderation your partner validates in excess.
That’s when the things that matter start to suffer: your work performance, your relationships with family, your spending habits. While these behaviors are unhealthy, with a little self-control and conversation, you should be able to fix this one.
A lot of these unhealthy relationship types—with the exception of the abusive relationship—can be worked out, but the solution begins with talking. You may need to figure out if you still want to continue the partnership. You may need to go get counseling. You may only need to make a chore chart. No matter the case, it starts with communication.