In order to have a healthy relationship, it's important to make sure that no partner is
being treated unfairly. And step one in that process is doing what you can to keep things fair and balanced. "If both partners think of their relationship in terms of giving and receiving, this can help create some balance for both of them," Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT, a professional counselor, tells Bustle.
And step two definitely involves
creating healthy boundaries. "Boundaries of any kind should be established early in the relationship and maintained throughout," Dr. Tracey M. Phillips, PhD, LMSW tells Bustle. "For example, if your partner tells a 'little white lie' in the beginning, the other person needs to address it and let them know that this is unacceptable behavior, as well as the consequences if the behavior does not change." In doing so, you'll be nipping unhealthy habits in the bud, before they get out of hand. If a toxic situation does end up happening, regardless of your attempts to keep things positive, it's certainly not your fault. If someone is going to be a toxic partner, they'll be that way regardless of what you do or say — and it's not up to you to fix them. But, if manageable problems arise, it's good to address any crossing of your boundaries head on, and never settle for less than you deserve. Here are a few signs you need to stick up for yourself more in your relationship, and make sure you're treated fairly, according to experts.
You're Quick To Apologize For Every Little Thing
In order to have a fair, healthy, and respectful relationship, you and your partner should both feel comfortable owning your mistakes, and apologizing to each other whenever necessary.
That's said, "it’s one thing to apologize when you’re wrong and another to
apologize for everything that goes wrong," licensed psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW, tells Bustle. "If you do all the apologizing when things don’t go right, your partner may just let you take the blame even when [they are] in the wrong."
Excessive apologizing can be rooted in low self-esteem. Talking with your partner about any insecurities can help, since they can't be supportive if they don't know how you're feeling.
You Let Them Make All The Decisions
Are you in the habit of letting your partner call all the shots? If so, you might sit back while they choose where to go out to dinner, which movies to watch, and where you'll go on vacation. If that's the dynamic that works for your relationship, that's completely OK. But if you're not cool with your partner making all the calls, it's time to speak up.
"It’s fine to be agreeable, but it’s quite another thing to never voice an opinion and let your partner get [their] way all the time," Koenig says. "This puts you in the position of potentially being treated as if you have no opinions and may make it easy for a partner to not ask what you want and assume you’ll go along with [them, which is] a form of mistreatment."
To put an end to this habit, it can help to start practicing voicing your opinion. But if your partner isn't receptive to hearing your side of things, it may be a good idea to move on.
You Put Your Partner's Needs Before Your Own
Occasionally putting your partner's needs before your own can be a good thing. You might, for example, press pause on your relaxing evening at home in order to fetch them from the airport. Or you might take an hour off from work to drive them to the doctor. Things like these are perfectly fine, and part of being in a relationship.
If you're constantly putting your own life on hold, however, and
your partner isn't returning the favor, it can start to create a feeling of inequality. "We all have personal boundaries," relationship expert Kandee Lewis, executive director of the Positive Results Corporation, tells Bustle. By not standing up for them, it's possible your partner is getting the message that your needs are irrelevant. Having healthy boundaries, and being able to say "no," means creating and maintaining respect in your relationship. And your partner should be able to respect that.
Every couple is different in terms of how they divvy up money, who gets the bill, etc. But be wary of someone who seems to sit back and let you pay for everything. "There are way too many cases when one partner is simply being used," Lewis says.
Talking about money early on may not be fun, but it can help prevent a situation from becoming unfair. And, it can help weed out people who are with you for the wrong reasons.
You Agree To Drastically Change Something About Yourself
When you're in a relationship, it's fine to help your partner grow if that's what they want. (And letting them do the same for you, if you're also looking to grow.) But, according to Lewis, that doesn't mean you should sit back and allow your partner to tell you to change something drastic. And it doesn't mean you should make your whole day about being this new person they want you to be.
can constitute emotionally abusive behavior. Make it clear that any type of expectation that you change yourself or your appearance will not be acceptable. And if your partner persists, it may be time to get out of that relationship. Speaking with loved ones or a therapist can help if it seems difficult, as well as calling a helpline for additional guidance or resources.
You Constantly Play The Role Of "People Pleaser"
Since it often comes at the expense of meeting your
own needs, toxic situations can arise when and if you start constantly playing the role of people-pleaser. "If you're a people-pleaser and are always trying to do and say things that will make your partner happy," it sends the message that you're OK with situations that might make you unhappy or uncomfortable, says McBain. "Although it’s nice to think about your partner and what they need and want, if you’re never doing things that you enjoy, then something is missing in your relationship."
Many women can fall into this trap because they have been taught that it is their job to please others. This type of behavior, though can attract those who tend to take advantage of people-pleasers, since they know they can get away with it. So protect yourself by standing up for what you need, and not losing sight of that.
You Ignore Toxic Behaviors & Hope They'll Go Away
In the early days of a relationship, you might catch yourself looking the other way when
your partner does or says something toxic. But not only do toxic habits tend to stick around, they also tend to get worse.
It's important not to ignore these behaviors once they arise early in the relationship, says Phillips. "These behaviors are commonly known as 'red flags' and the truth is, in hindsight, 90 percent of these red flags early in the relationship are precursors to more severe mistreatment later in the relationship."
Think along the lines of a partner who tells you where you can go and who you can talk to. That might seem endearing at first, but is actually controlling behavior that can lead to emotional abuse down the road. Getting out of the relationship the moment you realize your partner doesn't have the ability to change is pivotal. Loved ones that you trust or a therapist may be able to help you with this, if you are having difficulties getting out of the situation.
You Don't Stand Up For Yourself When Mean Jokes Are Made
Some couples are OK with teasing and joking. And obviously, this type of teasing "can be healthy or even fun," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at
Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. But for it to work, both partners have to be in on it.
If your partner makes mean jokes that you
don't like, it's important to speak up. "Healthy relationships are built on a mutual respect, and demeaning or belittling comments chip away at respect," Backe says. "Even if the jokes seem innocent or harmless early on, most jokes do in fact carry truth and have a way of snowballing into something more damaging or serious. Demand respect from your partner — if they can't respect you, they're simply not right for you."
You Frequently Stay Home While Your Partner Goes Out
Hey, if you're an introvert and your partner isn't, then it may work out perfectly fine for you to stay home and chill, while they go out and get their social fix.
But if you
want to join them and your partner prefers going out alone, it's important to talk about it. "Obviously everyone needs the occasional break ... but in healthy relationships, the majority of leisure time should be spent together," Backe says.
If your partner is leaving you out, that's not OK. So make time to talk about, and figure out what underlying issues — if any — are causing them to want to go out alone, since that's not what a loving relationship should look like.
You Are Not Communicating With Each Other
A relationship can fall apart fast when both members of it fail to communicate. "It all really boils down to constant
communication," licensed psychologist Stacey Lebowitz-Levy tells Bustle. "Being clear and straightforward/direct ... If one of the partners becomes incapable of this over time, it's up to the other partner to recognize this, instead of taking full advantage. This, too, should be communicated up front. If your relationship is truly built on good, solid communication, everything else will follow."
Of course, if a partner is treating you poorly, it is not your fault. But by fixing
manageable and common problems early on, calling out unfair situations as they happen, and addressing any negativity both parties might be bringing to the relationship, you'll be doing what's necessary — on your end — to create a healthy relationship. And if the situation does prove to be toxic, or in any way abusive, look for ways out with the support of loved ones or a therapist. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.