I've been in dysfunctional relationships and I've been in functional ones. Right now I am in an incredibly functioning, loving, happy relationship (gloat, gloat, gloat), which means with hindsight, all the things that make a relationship dysfunctional seem stark by comparison. There's a fine line, however. All couples have their problems. Everyone disagrees. Sometimes people get jealous. Sometimes you say the wrong thing. Sometimes you can be a little selfish. These aren't necessarily hallmarks of disfunction; Even the most functional couples have their irrational moments. Dysfunctional relationships are ones in which the negatives not only far outweigh the positives, but where they are so engrained in the dynamic between two people they become irreversible. And they're not just limited to romantic relationships; friendships, family relationships, and workplace relationships can all qualify as dysfunctional too.
It doesn't mean the two people in the relationship are bad or dysfunctional individuals either (although sometimes it does). Mostly, it just means that these two people, for whatever reason, bring out the worst in each other. Oh, to be young and reckless again. Dysfunction, as a rule, generally breeds more dysfunction. Once you've gotten into dysfunctional habits with someone, they can be nearly impossible to break. Especially when the relationship starts off dysfunctional (as opposed to a functional relationship that later becomes problematic). Anyone who has ever been in a dysfunctional relationship, no matter how long or how severe, will relate to the following 6 things people is a dysfunctional do.
1. They lie
People in dysfunctional relationships lie. They lie to each other about all sorts of things, but mostly things that would cause controversy if told truthful. They lie to the people around them in order to convince them that the relationship is function and most importantly they lie to themselves in a bid to normalize a relationship that might be causing pain or hardship.
2. They self-sabotage
In a dysfunctional relationship, otherwise functional people might find themselves imploding on purpose. A dysfunctional relationship is generally made up on two people who are hell bent on self-destruction, so much so that even when things are starting to go well, they'll find some excuse to plunge the relationship straight back into chaos.
3. They create drama
The smallest things in a dysfunctional relationship are cause for drama. The intonation of an "okay"; a throwaway glance across a room; a five-minute late meeting. People in functional relationships know to choose their battles. They know that sometimes you have to let the small stuff slide, not only to be happy in your relationship, but to be happy in yourself. People in dysfunctional relationships see every tiny mishap or miscommunication as an opportunity for melodrama.
4. They refuse to compromise
Life is about compromise. Not everything goes your way all the time, and you have to be willing to do things you don't want to do (within reason, like sitting through back-to-back football games, or visiting another person's family. Not "kill puppies" or "eat vomit."). Compromise is the key to happiness. People in dysfunctional relationships never seem to see the forest for the trees, and won't meet in the middle, even for mutually beneficial results. This is one of the biggest problems in dysfunctional relationships: people in them are acting entirely selfishly.
5. They leave issues unresolved
People in dysfunctional relationships go to bed mad. They don't work towards fixing their issues. They fight, learn nothing, and have the same fight again and again, each time coming back to points that have been argued and re-argued on countless occasions. Whether the issues are un-resolvable or one/both parties stubbornly wont resolve them, having ongoing issues that don't change or get better is a good indication that a relationship might be winding up, and yet...
6. They keep coming back for more
Dysfunctional relationships have a way of never ending. It takes a lot of resolve to get out of one. There's an attachment that breeds with dysfunction. It's easy in some ways. Through all the tears and screaming and fighting and manipulation and deception, it's somehow easier to expect things to go badly. There are no cards on the table. If you're always angry or hurt, there are no surprises. People in dysfunctional relationships stay in them because it's somehow simpler to be dependent on drama than it is to take responsibility for their actions where they've caused someone else pain. It's easier to kick and scream than it is to work hard for their own happiness; to truly care for someone in the gentle, tender way that leaves their vulnerable, naked heart in another person's hands. Or even just to say to themselves "I'm worth more than this."