There are so many moments in a relationship that can appear to be sweet and caring, on the surface. But if your
partner's love for you is unhealthy, they might go overboard in certain areas. And eventually, it could even create a situation that ends up being toxic.
"Unhealthy love is when the connection two people share begins to develop negative qualities," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at
Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "The feeling of love might be there, but its expression is very toxic and damaging to both individuals." In other words, your partner could be doing things — potentially without even realizing it — that are dragging the relationship down. This might show up in the form of controlling habits, as well as ones that lean more towards codependency.
Of course, "it’s possible to salvage a relationship with unhealthy love," Bennett says. "It usually involves therapy or other help from the outside. Many people in a toxic relationship can’t see the truth about it."
If you notice any of the habits listed below, take that as your cue to reassess the relationship, and talk with your partner about
areas where you can both improve. If your partner is willing to work on the unhealthy habits they're bringing to the table, and you both do your part to be honest and talk it out, it may be possible to show your love in healthier ways.
They Consult You For Every Decision
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"If you notice that [your partner is] asking your advice or input on everyday things, such as what to eat or what to wear, it may be a sign that they cannot do things on their own,"
Laura F. Dabney, MD, a Virginia-based psychiatrist and relationship therapist, tells Bustle. And that's something you'll want to talk about ASAP.
While it's fine to consult each other and ask opinions, small decisions like these don't need to be discussed, and shouldn't be a part of your convos. "At first it may seem as if they just like your input and it may make you feel valued," Dabney says, "but if you notice they cannot make their own decisions it may mean it is unhealthy. It is a warning
sign of a codependent relationship."
They Check Up On You All The Time
If you're away from your phone for an hour and come back to a million missed calls and texts, take note. "It’s good to have a partner that cares for you and your well-being," Bennett says. "However, if your partner checks up on you all of the time and gets mad when you don’t respond quickly enough, it’s a sign that their love for you is turning unhealthy."
This type of behavior is controlling, and may even be a warning sign of an
emotionally abusive relationship. You can try to turn it around by setting boundaries around calls and texts, and agreeing on the amount of communicating you'd both like to do throughout the day. If it's just a bad habit, your partner may be able to understand and make a few changes. But if it is pointing toward greater abusive behavior, it may be time to find help in exiting the relationship.
They're Really Protective
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While you'll definitely want to stand up for each other and
have each other's backs, it's so easy to go overboard in this area and cross over into unhealthy territory. "If your partner seems too protective, especially if it restricts your freedom or happens when you don’t need to be 'protected,' it’s a red flag," Bennett says.
For example, you definitely don't need them to "protect" you in everyday situations, especially if you didn't ask them to. If it seems like they're blowing small problems out of proportion, or rushing to your aid over every little thing, it's time to have a conversation.
They Forget About Their Friends
It's understandable that you might take a step back from your friendships as your relationship develops. Instead of being social, you may prefer to spend all your time together going on dates, hanging out, and getting to know each other. And that can feel really good.
But eventually friendships should become a priority again, especially since it's a way to maintain your
individuality within the relationship. As Bennett says, "If your partner gives up spending time with other people and focuses solely on your relationship, it isn’t healthy. Everyone needs a degree of independence even in a happy relationship."
They Need Constant Reassurance
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If your partner is insecure, you can try to be understanding and help them through it. And this is particularly important if they've been through
toxic situations in the past. But again, it's possible to overboard, and providing constant reassurance can get tiring.
"We all get insecure sometimes, and we need to hear and be shown that our partners are available, engaged, and responsive,"
Jared DeFife, PhD, clinical psychologist in Atlanta who specializes in relationship problems, tells Bustle. "But a constant need for reassurance and reminders of love can be a red flag for major insecurity and could be a sign that someone needs to learn how to soothe themselves."
Checking your phone or endless interrogations about who you're with and what you're doing, DeFife says, can be a red flag. Of course, when you're in the thick of it, it's easy to start accepting this type of weird behavior as "normal," or as a sign your partner loves you. But the reality is it's
much more controlling than it is sweet.
If this has become a problem, you can again talk about boundaries, and try to agree on what you need to share with each other, and what you don't. You may be able to reach an agreement that helps you
both feel comfortable. If your partner isn't willing to back down, though, definitely reconsider the health of your relationship.
They Cross Boundaries "To Help"
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If you're going through a tough time, having a partner to help can be a great thing. Maybe they drive you to doctor's appointments, or serve as a sounding board when you need to vent. Those ways of helping can be a way to offer love and support. But if they start overstepping their bounds, take note.
For example, "if your partner is contacting your friends, family members, or even your therapist or physician without talking to you about it first or without your consent (of course, there are exceptions to this!) to share something personal about you or gather information, this can be problematic,"
Jaclyn Witmer Lopez, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "[It] may point to an unhealthy effort to control or manipulate you under the guise of doing it 'out of love.'"
They're Sad When You're Gone
It's one thing if your partner misses you while you're away, but it's something else entirely if they use that to get you to cancel plans in order to hang out with them.
"There may even be times when it feels romantic, like your partner wants to be with you all the time and is sad when you're hanging out with your friends or family without them," Witmer Lopez says. "However, if this is happening a lot, it's most likely unhealthy."
It could be an attempt to control, or a sign that your partner lacks trust. So if you can find a way to bring it up, it may help to have a conversation, and talk about the impact this habit is having on your relationship.
They Give You Too Much Space
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"A partner that doesn’t offer any input into decisions around the relationship is also unhealthy,"
Jenna Ponaman, a dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. So while a lot of the habits listed above can be controlling and smothering, this flip side — where they don't care at all what you do — isn't a great way to show love, either.
Your partner might think that love means not caring about where you are, or feeling as if you don't have to check in. But such a nonchalant attitude can come off as a lack of investment, Ponaman says, and send the wrong message. In order for a relationship to
feel secure and balanced, you'll both want to land somewhere in the middle.
Of course, every relationship will be different, so you'll want to trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, look into it. And consider talking about it. There are ways to turn around bad habits like these, and show love in a healthier way.
Editor's Note: 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 .