It's easy to say that you understand unhealthy relationship signs outside the contexts of your partnerships, but sometimes, finding out that your perceptions of relationships, and how they should be is potentially damaging isn't so easy in the moment. Whether you're dating, or you've been seeing someone for years, past experiences and habits that you've developed during emotional connections with significant others can skew the way you view current situations. And though hindsight may be 20/20, learning how to identify problems with how you're seeing another person, and your romantic connection can be key to forming a a healthy relationship.
For me, this was never an easy thing. Having unrealistic expectations of a partner almost always ensured that they would get scared off, or fail to meet them in a way that would catastrophically disappoint me. And the repeated rejection that would come from putting someone unjustly onto a pedestal eventually gave me the jaded and inaccurate perception that most men don't want to date. I can tell now that's not the case, but if you'd asked me a few months ago, I would have sworn that was the truth.
To find out which views of relationships can be very unhealthy for you and your partner, I enlisted the help of relationship psychologists and authors of Stitched Up: A Primer For Healing After Heartbreak Aimee Hartstein, and Monica Parikh. Here are some attitudes to look out for.
1. You Are Trying To Find Yourself Through A Relationship
As cliché as it may sound, sometimes we find ourselves trying to define who we are, and what defines our happiness through the context of our relationships.
“It's always unhealthy when women look for a relationship to 'complete' them,” Hartstein and Parikh tell Bustle. “Women who realize that a [person] or a relationship is one part of their life, as opposed to their entire life, have a reasonable set of expectations.”
When it comes to your happiness, building it through your own experiences, and fostering your own passions allows you to enter into a relationship without feeling like it has to be the foundation of joy in your life. And as Hartstein and Parikh mentioned, that reduces unrealistic expectations.
Which brings me to my next point.
2. Your Expectations Of A Relationship Are Unrealistic
As I said, I'm definitely guilty of this. I've spent so much time looking for someone to commit to, that I'll often fit men into a mold of how I want them to be, when in reality, they don't match up. And I usually do that because I feel like there's something missing. Much like the last point, Hartstein and Parikh find that most unrealistic expectations of relationships come when women use those connections to fill a void.
“...If you're expecting that your life will 'begin' once you are in a relationship, you definitely have unrealistic expectations,” they said. “Further your education, learn a sport, travel to a foreign country, find your spiritual purpose. All of these things contribute to a well-rounded life and emotional stability.”
Even if you already know a relationship isn't going to be the means to your life officially starting, remember that love isn't going be the solution for many of the problems you have in your life. Yes, love definitely has a way of giving life a different meaning, but aspects of your life or yourself that you are discontented with won't disappear just because you've found someone else.
Trust me, I've been there.
3. Past Heartbreak Has You Thinking All Relationships Are The Same
Coming out of a harsh breakup, it's difficult to believe that someone in the world exists who won't rip your heart out, and carelessly tap dance all over it. But if you're allowing a past breakup to permeate into perceptions of a new relationship, you have a problem.
“Many women allow the bad actions of an ex to negatively influence their opinion of all [future prospects], a dangerous avenue to take,” Hartstein and Parikh said. “A better choice is to use heartbreak as a catalyst for a bigger and better love life going forward.”
It's natural to feel some scars when you're coming out of a bad situation, but if you let a past experience dictate how you view a next potential partner, things most likely won't pan out. What's more, bitterness toward romantic prospects, and relationships themselves will prevent you from experiencing another, more positive relationship, and that's a self-perpetuating cycle that can only get worse.
4. You Commit Just To Be With Someone
Some of us are serial monogamists, which doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, unless that means that most of your relationships exist just because you want to be with someone.
According to Hartstein and Parikh, if you think this might be the case, you need to realistically ask yourself why you're with the person you're seeing.
“Did you falsely believe that any relationship is better than the right relationship?” they asked.
Not wanting to be alone is completely relatable, but compromising your standards for the sake of being with someone will only teach you that settling is part of relationships. And that's definitely not the case.
5. You See Dating As A Game
Dating apps like Tinder have definitely made this one the norm, and it's altering our perceptions of what dating and relationships should be in a seriously inhibiting way.
“If you date for sport, jumping from one person to the next, you are likely to develop a negative view of relationships,” they pointed out. “Although there is nothing wrong with expanding your social circle through online apps, it's hard to feel positive if you're going on a lot of dates but very few where you've connected with another person and are excited to see them again.”
Developing an attitude of “there's something better out there,” is pretty common when you're given unlimited swiping options on apps or sites, but it can also lead you to feel that connections are often fleeting, or superficial. Try investing your time in a few people rather than going on date after date, and you may find something deeper than you're used to.
6. Your Examples Of Happy Relationships Are Few And Far Between
This is not the case for everyone, and even those who are surrounded by examples of unhealthy relationships can find positive connections, but it's difficult to find something meaningful when you only know the contrary. Whether we like to admit it or not, we're often products of our childhood. If your parents had a bad divorce, or were generally unhappy together, you've likely grown up with that as your main example of what a relationship is.
What's more, being involved in relationships that have been potentially abusive, either physically or emotionally, can compel many women to feel that's all they deserve. But of course, that's never the case.
“Abusive relationships can do real psychological damage. We suggest allowing yourself space and time to grieve. If necessary, we also suggest working with a trained professional to process a litany of complicated emotions and build up strong self-esteem,” they noted. “Also, observe your friends or other couples who look to be in happy relationships. See how they treat each other and talk to each other.”
Abuse is certainly no simple matter to make light of, and it's important to seek help from loved ones or professionals if you've experienced this kind of relationship. But do know that you can come back from it, and that there are people who exist that will treat you with the love and respect you deserve.
Unhealthy perceptions of relationships develop for many different reasons, but recognizing that who you feel doesn't necessarily match the truth can lead you on the right path to a happy and healthy partnership.
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