There's no shortage of weird things that happen in unhealthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships are like cupcakes. They can seem magical and wonderful and delicious at first. But if they're the only thing nourishing you day-in and day-out for years, you're just going to end up with heart disease. And we all know heart disease is the number one killer of women. It's serious stuff.
OK, admittedly, that was a pretty lame analogy for an unhealthy relationship, and probably blasphemous to cupcake lovers. But there's an important truth there. Unhealthy relationships are dangerous because they seem great at first, and you can really enjoy them. You can be in one with someone you really, truly love, and things can look beautiful and sweet from the outside. The unhealthy bits can sneak in so slowly over time that you barely notice them. And the grief of loss and heartbreak is a powerful reason why many people don't leave situations that aren't necessarily ideal.
I saw it a million times when I worked with couples as both a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. So many people thought that since they weren't getting physically abused, the rest was OK. It's not OK, and neither are these weird side effects of being in an unhealthy relationship.
1. You Get Clingy
In an unhealthy relationship, your partner can make themselves the sole source of your love, opinions, sense of security, and decisions. In essence, you become dependent. When that person withdrawals or threatens to withdrawal, they're really threatening to leave you without your usual means of survival, and the normal, human response to that is to get clingy and weird. One of the many reasons it's essential to keep a sense of identity and independence in a relationship.
2. Your Look Changes
This isn't the type of makeover you get when you're feeling sassy. It's the type of makeover you get when you're in a relationship with someone who wants to control you. Sometimes it's because they want to change you. Sometimes it's because they're afraid that if you look good, someone else will steal you away. Sometimes it's because if you don't look a certain way, they'll see you as an embarrassment. No matter what the cause, it's not right, and you don't have to change your look for anyone but yourself.
3. You Say Bizarre Things
Stuff you never ever thought would come out of your mouth will come out of your mouth. Stuff that would make you flip a table if you heard a friend say it. You'll find ways to justify your unhealthy relationship or your partner's bad behavior. You'll voice opinions that you think your partner wants you to have. You'll make excuses for why you aren't yourself, or why you don't hang out anymore. Most of the time, you won't even realize you're doing it.
4. Your Circle Closes
Squad goals shift from you and your crew to you and your boo. And not because you're building a teamwork approach to life, but because your partner is so insecure that they doesn't trust you to be out of their sight for a second. Isolation is one of the most common power plays abusers use to keep you under their control. It can even be as benevolent-sounding a manipulation as "you deserve better friends than that." The end result is still the same no matter how nice it sounds.
5. You Give Up On Snacks
The things you love tend to take a backseat to an unhealthy relationship. That could include anything from your love of snacks to your love of art to your love of volunteering. It's especially weird for the people around you, as they notice you slowly abandon everything you care about. Your life becomes all about keeping your partner happy or keeping the peace. Taking away the things you love, or just creating an environment where you give them up yourself, is a manipulation that weakens your spirit.
6. Your Emotions Become A Weird Soup
You're so happy and yet so sad at the same time. It's a reality that a lot of people don't talk about. Even if you're with someone who treats you badly on the regular, they're often still a part of your family and still someone you love very deeply. Shame drives women to ignore this fact, but our emotions aren't always something we can control. You'll find that your feeling are always mixed. When you're happy, you're also sad. When you're chill, you're also scared. When you're thinking about leaving, you're also thinking about staying. It's a very difficult and complex emotional time.
7. You Become A Weird, Gross Unit
It's like when a super squishy sports bra turns your girls into one, giant, unflattering unaboob. Sometimes those things should just be separated. Not while working out, but you know what I mean. Anyway, when you're in a codependent fuse with another person, your friends and family will eventually get annoyed that they can never see you without your significant other. In healthy relationships, time apart is an essential, healthy thing.
8. Nobody Recognizes You Anymore
Your friends and family will start making passive aggressive comments about how they never see you anymore. Maybe one of your closer or bolder friends will tell you that you're not yourself, that you've changed. If everyone around you notices that you seem to have lost your spark, then it may be worth considering if it's true. Unhealthy relationships eat away at you slowly, so it's not like you're going to become a different person over night. That's the scary part. A lot of the damage can happen before you ever realize anything is wrong. But your friends and family might notice long before you do.
9. You Don't Recognize Yourself Anymore
One day you will wake up and realize that you are so far away from yourself. You'll realize you used to have goals and dreams that you've put in a box. You will understand the weight of the compromises you've made. Even though the manipulations and unhealthy behaviors of your partner are not your fault, you might even blame yourself, or feel like you're weak and stupid. This is not true. You're just in deep.
If any of these apply to you, it's either time to get your relationship to a healthy place, or move on, if you can. If you can't, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find support in your area.