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Characteristics Of An Unhealthy Relationship: Spot The Signs

woman sitting alone by a lake considering the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship

When you’re weighing up your partnership, wondering if it has the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, it’s helpful to start by looking at what a healthy relationship is. 

A healthy relationship is synergistic and positive. It builds when two people are stronger together and work for their common goals and shared values. In this type of relationship, each person is a crucial partner in the relationship, and they are also an individual with their own interests, passions, and goals. 

In a healthy relationship, this combination of being in the partnership and also being an individual is valued and supported. The partners encourage each other, cheer each other on, and provide support, acceptance, and love in times of challenges and difficulties.

In an unhealthy relationship, this dynamic is reversed. In cases where one partner is a narcissist, or there is an addiction issue, that partner becomes the sole focus of the relationship. The other partner’s role becomes one of trying to keep the boat afloat, sacrificing their own goals, objectives, wants, needs, and interests to support and cover the problems of the other.

These unhealthy types of relationships can be overwhelming. When it involves a narcissist or addict often they have most, or all of their needs met, with no interest in trying to meet the needs of the other person. In many situations, the narcissist or addict does not even realize the relationship is all take and no give, and they have little capacity to see the damage they are causing their partner.

There are several ways that an individual can become lost in an unhealthy and dangerous type of relationship. There are often multiple warning signs or symptoms of the problematic partner and the unhealthy turn to the relationship.

The Red Flags: Identifiable  Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship

Intensity Overload

Addicts and narcissists typically are very charming in the early stages of the relationship. They attempt to sweep their partner off of his or her feet, enticing a commitment to the relationship in a very short period of time.

This can sometimes be misread as passionate, but it’s really a way to overwhelm the partner before she or he is able to see the addiction and personality issues for what they really are.

Gaslighting and Manipulation

Convincing you that your thoughts, impressions, and experiences are not accurate and correct is another way to make a partner question their individuality and bind them into a destructive relationship.

Constantly questioning your beliefs and memories, using emotionally passive-aggressive behaviors to get their way, or manipulating you into giving in and doing only what they want creates a pattern of behavior that is harder and harder to break.

Isolation and Dependence

Addicts and narcissists thrive when their partners feel isolated and dependent on them and their relationship. This can be for emotional, mental, or even financial support. It’s not uncommon for narcissists and addicts to sabotage the partner’s success, further creating dependence and isolation.

Isolation is also essential for gaslighting and manipulation. It’s easier to become lost in the way a partner depicts the event or situation when there is no outside perspective to act as a reference point. If your partner tries to isolate you, even under the guise of your best interest, this is one of the most obvious characteristics of an unhealthy relationship. 

The Guilt Trip

It’s very common for addicts and narcissists to guilt their partners into staying in the relationship. If the partner talks about leaving, they threaten to harm themselves or to harm a child, pet, or even their partner’s reputation. They then blame the partner for creating the situation and use this guilt as a way to hold the partner closer.

These types of partners may also deflect the blame for their behaviors onto their partners. It was your fault they were upset and drank, or it was your lack of support that caused them to lose their job. They do not accept responsibility, and they know how to manipulate other people into feeling responsible for anything negative while taking the accolades for anything positive.

Losing your sense of self in a relationship makes you vulnerable to the manipulations and methods of control used by narcissists and alcoholics. Recognizing these signs and ending the relationship can be difficult, but it’s the only way to break free from these emotionally damaging partners. 

Although it can be very challenging, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is  to be honest about these characteristics of an unhealthy relationship and if it is the reality of your partnership. Walking away is hard, but possible, and the best decision you can make for your own future, happiness, and mental health! 

 Sherry Gaba helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re struggling with co-dependency, sign up for a 30-minute strategy session, or learn more about how to get over a break-up. For more information visit or sign up today for Sherry’s online group coaching program. Buy her books Love Smacked: How to Break the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love or Infinite Recovery 

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