When with a partner long-term, it might be easy to mistake
unhealthy relationship characteristics for positive relationship qualities. Take for instance, jealousy. People like to romanticize the idea of jealousy by thinking their partner must really love them if they get bothered by them talking to anyone else. But jealousy can turn a relationship toxic very quickly. According to experts, it's important to be aware of the things that may seem like positive relationship qualities, but are actually unhealthy.
signs that you're in an unhealthy relationship can be easy to miss. That's because Dr. Emily Morse, relationship expert and host of the iTunes top-rated podcast Sex with Emily tells Bustle, it can be hard to distinguish healthy from unhealthy behaviors.
"When you partner wants to spend all your time together, it can make you feel desired and special. But when that turns into full blown obsession ... it has crossed over the unhealthy threshold," Morse says. "The honeymoon period blinds us from unhealthy behaviors. When the mist clears, it can still be hard to see your partner’s bad qualities."
For instance, when you first start dating, nothing feels better than devoting all of your free time to each other. But as Morse says, there's a fine line between desire and control.
"Asking you not to watch the newest episode of
Game of Thrones without them is cute," she says. "But if they forbid you to see certain friends or feel like they have an authority over you, this is a red flag."
So here are some things that may seem like positive relationship qualities but actually aren't, according to experts.
Keeping In Contact All The Time
Texting back and forth all the time at the start of a relationship is common. Same goes for seeing each other all the time. But there comes a point where a lot can be too much.
"While at first many dating couples communicate a lot with each other, this shouldn’t completely interfere with long-standing friendships, family relationships and activities that you enjoy,"
Bill Eddy LCSW, licensed therapist and co-author of Dating Radar: Why Your Brain Says Yes to "The One" Who Will Make Your Life Hel tells Bustle. "If the person has to have your attention all the time after your first month together, this is a warning sign of trouble to come." So it's important to know that not being in constant communication is OK. It's actually healthier than trying to be in each other's lives 24/7.
Keeping Up With Their Social Media
Some people are guilty of
social media "stalking" their partners because they're feeling infatuated. And it's fine to be curious about your partner's profile, but if it's a constant fixation, it can veer into unhealthy territory. "They just want to know if they’re at home, or who they’re with, or if they’re working late," Eddy says. Again, while this may seem sweet and dedicated at first, if it happens more than once or twice, it’s a pattern, he says. And it's not a good one. If you're in a relationship where there's trust and open communication, you shouldn't have to look at their social media to know what's going on.
Discussing money is stressful and uncomfortable for many people. In fact,
finances are a major issue for a lot of long-term couples. So as Sam Schultz, co-founder of Honeyfi, a free app to help couples manage money, tells Bustle, some people think avoiding money talks is a good idea. Unfortunately, it's actually not. "Inevitably, when you don’t talk about money as a couple you let disagreements fester and miss opportunities to do more with your money," Schultz says.
Instead, you should value someone who openly discusses money. According to
Honeyfi's 2018 Money and Your Relationship survey, out of the 500 millennial couples surveyed, those who track and discuss household budgets are over 50 percent more likely to report being “extremely happy” in their relationship and 14 percent less likely to fight about money at least once a month. So a partner who is open to discussing finances may not be a bad thing.
Using Sex As Your Main Means Of Connecting
Having a great and active sex life is far from a problem. However, it shouldn't be the basis of your connection, or used to forgo communication and dealing with issues that may come up. "A lot of sex may seem like a terrific thing at first," Jim Antonsen, matchmaker and Co-Owner of LuvBiz Chicago tells Bustle. "But it should be something that occurs naturally and is part of a happy relationship rather than the basis for two people to stay together." If your sex life is terrific but communication is lacking, he says, the relationship may ultimately fail. So it's important to work on all aspects of your relationship. Not just the fun ones.
As tempting as it may be to spend all of your time with your partner, time apart is necessary too. Samantha Daniels, Professional Matchmaker and President of
Samantha’s Table Matchmaking tells Bustle, it's not healthy to spend every single waking moment together. "Relationships function better when you have your together time and also your alone time doing your own thing," Daniels says. If you feel like you can't function without your partner being around you, then that's a red flag. Besides, being inseparable is not only unhealthy but super unrealistic.
Telling Your Partner Everything
It's great to be open and honest with your partner as much as you can. But as Daniels says, "It’s still good to keep some things to yourself or to share just with your friends." Your opinion on your partner's friends or family, for instance, are things you don't necessarily have to share unless it becomes an issue.
"You might think that's good for the relationship if you are so close that you can voice your opinion about your partner’s family and friends, however, you should tread lightly here," she says. "Of course, your partner wants to hear your opinions on things, but their family and their friends are their 'inner circle,' so crossing the line and criticizing them can be very detrimental to a relationship." In short, boundaries are important.
"Many couples tell me that they never fight, and often present this as a positive thing," marriage and family therapist,
Erika Labuzan-Lopez, LMFT, LPC tells Bustle. Too much or "highly escalated conflict" can be damaging. But not having any conflict at all is not necessarily healthy either.
Conflict is inevitable. "Couples that do not have exposure, tolerance, or a blueprint/rules for how to fight fairly early in the relationship, will have difficulty later as things do pop up," Labuzan-Lopez says. "Fighting is not the enemy in relationships. We need to have some conflict to grow and expand our own thoughts and understanding of ourselves, relationships, and the world."
It's important to know that fighting sometimes is actually better than not fighting at all. More importantly, there are healthy ways to fight and unhealthy ways. Being mindful to
fighting productively is key.
Being Jealous And Possessive
Out of all the unhealthy relationship behaviors that get masked as positive ones, jealousy is probably one of the most common. "Jealousy easily gets misconstrued as a positive quality in a partner because it's flattering in the beginning," Tina Wilson, Founder and CEO of matchmaking app,
Wingman, tells Bustle. "But believe me, it wears thin with time and becomes destructive."
Possessiveness is another thing that may feel good at first because it can make you feel desired and wanted. But as Wilson says, there's a very thin line between control and care.
For instance, jealousy often stems from insecurity. Stalking someone's social media can also stem from insecurity or even cause it, the more often you do it. So as Wilson says, it's important to work out those inner issues you may have in order to get rid of any bad relationship behaviors.
By being better able to identify what constitutes healthy characteristics and what doesn't, you can identify them early, and possibly work through them, or decide to move on to a more positive situation.