10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship
If you ignore these warning signs of bad relationships, you’re setting yourself up for future heartache. It’s hard to accept your relationship isn’t healthy…but the sooner you face the truth, the more quickly you can decide what to do.
In a good relationship or marriage, you feel sure of your partner without constantly having to ask for reassurance or approval. You feel accepted, loved, and secure in your love for him and his for you. One of the biggest warning signs of a bad relationship is feeling unsure and insecure with your partner. Another warning sign of an unhappy or unhealthy marriage is searching for signs that you’re in the wrong relationship! If you don’t have a good feeling, something is wrong. Trust your instincts and listen to the still small voice as you scroll through these warning signs of bad relationships…
After I list the 10 signs of bad relationships below, I summarize new research that describes how to predict if a relationship will last. It’s an interesting study that tests instinctive word associations with regard to the health of a relationship (specifically, if you automatically think negative or bad words when you’re asked different questions about your partner, then your relationship is worse than you’re willing to admit to yourself).
Here’s one of my favorite signs of a good relationship, from Winnie the Pooh: by A.A. Milne.
Piglet walked up to Pooh.
“Pooh!” whispers Piglet.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Sometimes you just want to be sure of your partner. This doesn’t mean you’re insecure – or that you’re in a bad relationship. It just means you need to reach out and be sure of your husband or boyfriend. However, if you can’t say, “I just wanted to be sure of you” to your partner, then you’re not being authentic. And that is a warning sign of unhealthy love.
10 Warning Signs of Bad Relationships
I think the worst sign of all types of bad relationships is the first one: secrets. If you can’t talk to your boyfriend or husband – and if you can’t tell anyone what he says and does to you – then it’s a bad relationship. Another important sign of an unhealthy relationship is how you feel. If you feel unhappy, insecure, and unloved when you’re with him, then you may need to rethink your relationship patterns and communication.
Are you keeping secrets from your boyfriend or husband? Are you keeping secrets from your family and friends about your boyfriend, by protecting him from his own behavior or choices? Have you lost yourself in your relationship? Secrets and lies are warning signs that something isn’t right.
Speaking of secrets and relationships, there’s a great book called The Secret Laws of Attraction: The Effortless Way to Get the Relationship You Want. In it, Talane Miedaner shows us how to meet our own emotional needs. Once our emotional needs are met, we will attract good relationships – and we won’t need to search for the signs of a bad relationship. We’ll already know what we need and how to get it, and we won’t feel desperate enough to stay with an unhealthy partner.
1. You keep your man’s actions and words a secret
If you can’t tell your family or friends about the things your boyfriend or husband says and does, then you may not be in a healthy loving relationship. If you lie to protect him, then it’s time to get out of that bad relationship. You’re not just with the wrong guy…you’re being the wrong type of woman.
Examples of keeping secrets include: lying or deceiving your loved ones about how your husband treats your children, hiding things your boyfriend broke or ruined because he was angry, and not talking about the names he calls you or the things he asks or makes you do. The more secrets you keep, the more you’re hiding. The more you hide, the worse your relationship is.
2. He isn’t happy with you, and he wants you to change
If your boyfriend or husband doesn’t love you as you are, then you can’t feel truly secure or comfortable with him. This is one of the biggest warning signs of bad relationships: a man who doesn’t love or accept you as you are. Your boyfriend or husband should love you unconditionally, whether you’re self-employed or unemployed, rich or poor, big or small, or tall or short. And, you should love and accept your boyfriend for who he i – self-employed or unemployed, rich or poor, big or small, or tall or short.
Are you happy with yourself? If you’re getting your sense of identity or self-esteem from your boyfriend or partner instead of a divine source of love, you’ll never feel truly happy with who you are. No matter how your boyfriend feels about you, you need to find ways to love and accept yourself.
If your boyfriend or husband isn’t a loving man, learn how to cope when he says he’s not in love with you.
3. Your boyfriend or husband is suspicious and jealous
Constant phone calls, demands on your time, and jealous fits are NOT signs of love.
If your husband or boyfriend doesn’t trust you or accuses you of lying, then you need to re-evaluate your relationship. If he opens your mail or shows up at work unexpectedly, he doesn’t trust you. This is a sign of deep insecurity, which could lead to more serious relationship problems.
Warning signs of abusive relationships include lack of trust, lack of respect, and an inability or unwillingness to allow freedom. Does your boyfriend or husband try to control you or your children? Talk to someone you trust in person. You can share your comments here, you can write about a more specific warning sign of a bad relationship, but please talk to someone in person. Bring it out, whatever you’re going through. Get it out of the dark, into the light.
4. Your partner puts you down, in private or in front of others
If he calls you names, ridicules your thoughts or opinions, or makes you feel stupid or ugly, then he’s no good for you. Maybe he’s critical or negative, or he never has anything good to say about you, your home, your kids, or anything you do. You know it’s not right, yet you can’t leave. You know you deserve better, but you feel trapped and helpless. He’s set it up this way, and you’re allowing him to keep you down.
You do not have to stay in a bad relationship. Even if you only recognize one of these warning signs – and even if you have six children and a mortgage together – you do not have to stay with a man who is abusive.
5. You don’t feel like an equal partner in your relationship
Does your husband or boyfriend make all the decisions – or do you? An unequal balance of power is a sign of a bad relationship, and a sign it’s time to get out. If you aren’t being treated equally, it might be time to consider leaving him.
Are you submissive and subservient to your husband, or afraid of telling your boyfriend what you really think and feel? Warning signs of bad relationships!! There’s a difference between healthy compromise and unhealthy servanthood. The healthiest relationships involve give and take, which means we take turns giving and taking. Your husband should not patronize you or treat you like a child, housekeeper, errand runner, or slave.
If you’re financially dependent on your husband, read How to Leave Your Husband When You Have No Money.
6. You and your partner don’t have the same long or short-term goals
If you can’t agree on financial issues, family matters, or goals for your future, then you may want to think twice about your relationship. Nobody has the exact same plans for the future, but the happiest couples have the same focus for their lives and futures.
Not having the same goals isn’t necessarily a sign of a bad relationship, but it is an indication that you’re not headed in the same direction. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be together. It means you need to align yourselves toward the same goals, or accept that you’re going in two totally different directions.
Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what could be.
7. Your boyfriend says he loves you, but doesn’t act like he loves you
Maybe he says, “You’re the best, love you a lot, you know I miss you, you know how I feel about you” — but he only sees you once a week. Maybe he doesn’t text or call you, and he spends more time with his friends or at work than with you.
Believe his nonverbal behavior (his actions) over his verbal behavior (talk is cheap!). Do not believe what he says. Believe what he DOES. Unless, of course, he says he doesn’t love you or he can’t commit to a relationship. Then you should believe him.
Read 4 Ways to Tell If Your Husband is Lying About Cheating for help identifying verbal versus nonverbal behavior.
8. You feel bad, guilty, unhappy, depressed, or sad about your relationship
This sign is based on the above conversation between Piglet and Winnie the Pooh.
If you don’t feel secure, comfortable, and loved in your relationship, then you may be with the wrong guy. Feeling insecure and unsure are two warning signs of bad relationships that should never be ignored.
How do you feel about yourself – separate from your boyfriend or husband? Who are you? What is your source of identity and self-image? Don’t rely on your man to make you feel good about yourself. He is an addition to your life. A boyfriend or husband is not your whole life, and he should not be the source of your self-esteem. If your self-image is dependent on a man’s love (or lack of love), then you’re setting yourself up for a broken and unhealthy sense of self.
Who are you in God? Stepping into and staying in His divine flow of love, peace, and power is the only way you can feel truly good about yourself.
9. Your family and friends aren’t supportive of your relationship
I don’t think we should choose our boyfriends or husbands based on our family and friends’ opinions, but I do think we should take their opinions into consideration! If your family or friends have strong reservations about your partner, I encourage you to ask for specific reasons. Find out the root of their feelings, and try to be objective.
If your boyfriend or husband makes you feel bad about yourself, read The Verbally Abusive Man, Can He Change?: A Woman’s Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go by Patricia Evans. If you’re in a bad relationship, learn how to empower yourself, improve your relationship, and change your life for the better.
10. You’re wondering about the warning signs of a bad relationship
The most important warning sign of love gone bad is your instincts and gut feelings. Why are you worrying about your relationship? Would you want your sister, best friend, or daughter to be in this relationship? To find the strength and courage to either fix or leave a bad relationship, you may need to talk to a marriage counselor.
If these signs of bad relationships are pointing you out the door, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love. I wrote it for a reader who has identified all the signs his relationship is over, but he fears being alone.
Help for Bad Relationships
Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can — and Should — Be Saved by Lundy Bancroft will help you see if your “bad relationship” is really as bad as you think it is.
This book will help you:
- Tell the difference between a healthy-yet-difficult relationship and one that is really not working
- Recognize the signs of a bad relationship, and if your partner has a serious problem
- Stop waiting to see what happens in your relationship, and and make your own growth the top priority
- Prepare for life without your partner – even as you keep trying to make the relationship work
Leaving a bad relationship is difficult, and it’s important not to make an impulsive decision. It’s also important to listen to the still small voice of your inner self! You know what you need to do, even if you’re afraid to proceed.
Research About the Signs of Bad Relationships
What does your partner say or think about you? Here’s a way to tell if a relationship is going to fall apart: find out what people really think about their partners. The researchers in a new study used a so-called implicit relationship test, which shows how people automatically respond to words. The sign of a bad relationship in this case is whether people link words with pleasant or unpleasant meanings when they’re referring to their partner.
A sign of a toxic relationship isn’t just about feelings
Most research on good and bad relationships has focused on how the people in the relationship feel about each other. And this is usually done by the obvious route: asking them.
“But the difficulty with that is, that assumes that they know themselves how happy they are, and that’s not always the case,” says Ronald D. Rogge, of the University of Rochester. “To make things worse, a lot of people don’t want to tell you if they’re starting to feel less happy in their relationship.”
What words come to mind when you think of your relationship?
The words you choose when you think about your partner are signs of how healthy your relationship is.
The 222 volunteers in their study were all involved in a romantic relationship. Each volunteer supplied the partner’s first name and two other words that related to the partner, like a pet name or a distinctive characteristic. Then they watched a monitor as three types of words were presented one at a time – good words (like peace, vacation, or sharing), bad words (such as death, tragedy, and criticizing), and partner-related words (names or traits). There were two different kinds of tests: one where the volunteer was supposed to press the space bar whenever they saw either good words or partner-related words, and one where the combination was bad words and partner words.
The idea is to get at people’s automatic reactions to the words – if they have generally good associations with their partners, they should be able to do the first task more easily than the second.
Bad relationships are linked to unpleasant word associations
The researchers found that volunteers who found it easy to associate their partner with bad things and difficult to associate the partner with good things were more likely to separate over the next year. The researchers also asked volunteers to report on the strength of their relationships at the start of the study – and found that the new test did a much better job of predicting breakup.
What do you think of these signs of bad relationships? I welcome your comments below. I can’t give advice, but you may find it helpful to share what you’re going through. Writing often brings clarity and insight, especially if you’re confused or uncertain about your relationship.
“Your soul is whispering something to you. Slow down so you can hear it.”
If you’re still not sure, read Signs He Doesn’t Love You the Way You Need to Be Loved.
May you find the strength and courage to recognize these signs of a bad relationship, and move forward into a new chapter of your life.
I can't offer advice, but you can:
Or maybe you regret the breakup? Text Your Ex Back