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10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship

You can’t ignore it anymore: your boyfriend makes you feel bad and you know he isn’t treating you with love or respect. You aren’t sure, so you’re searching for the warning signs of a bad relationship. You’ve come to the right place! It may be hard to even think that your relationship isn’t healthy, but the truth will set you free. The truth will give you courage and strength…if you let it.

In a good relationship, you feel sure of your boyfriend 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 relationship is searching for ways to cope when your boyfriend makes you feel bad! If you don’t have a good feeling about your relationship, something is wrong.

After I list 10 signs of bad relationships, 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. For example, if you automatically think negative or bad words when you’re asked different questions about your boyfriend, then your relationship is worse than you want to admit.

Here’s one of my favorite signs of a good relationship, from Winnie the Pooh:

Blossom Tips Warning Signs Bad Relationships
Sign of a Good Relationship

Piglet walked up to Pooh.

“Pooh!” whispers Piglet.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.

“I just wanted to be sure of you.”

In a good relationship, you reach out and are sure of your boyfriend. If your boyfriend isn’t there when you reach out physically or emotionally — or, worse, if your boyfriend is treating you bad — then you need to re-evaluate your relationship. If you can’t say, “I just wanted to be sure of you” to your boyfriend, then you can’t be honest. And that is a warning sign of a bad relationship.

10 Warning Signs of Bad Relationships

Perhaps 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. Are you jealous of other people’s relationships? If you feel unhappy, insecure, and unloved when you’re with your boyfriend or husband, then you may be stuck in unhealthy patterns and attitudes.


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.

1. You keep his 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

Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship Blossom Tips
Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship

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

Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship
10 Warning Signs of Bad Relationships

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

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.

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 searching for 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

warning signs of a bad relationship

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.

Warning Signs of Bad Relationships
Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship

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.

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244 thoughts on “10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship”

  1. I have read your warning signs of a bad relationship and i have definitely been thru some of the things you have mentioned. Your articles are really helpfull. I should really talk to him about our problems that we seems to have like everyday. I would like for you to give me some advice please. So here are my questions. If we fight everyday does that mean i should leave him or should i keep fightin back? How do you know if he really loves you? What should i do if he insults me and calls me names like bad names? Are these really bad warning signs of a bad relationship? Should i tell him what i really feel and think about his attitude? If you can atleast answer me some of these question that’ll be great. Thank you very much.

  2. He told me two days before Christmas that he was gonna move out because he couldn’t forget the girlfriend he had 20 years ago. we have been married for 19 years and all of a sudden he can’t for get her. I asked him if there was someone else he said no, he said that it was hard for him to be home thinking of his old girlfriend. A couple a weeks later I found out he has been talking and seeing a lady from work. After I found out I was devastated but also upset because for weeks now months he has me thinking when is he going to leave. I would tell him I love you and he would answer back but in the beginning of this month I told him I love you and he told me he couldn’t respond back to me. I was so upset and wanted to yell at him why he was still here with us (3 teenager girls, my toddler son and I). That Saturday he told me he would be leaving the following day. Guess what he didn’t and he acted like if we didn’t argue and cried the night before. A week ago we were outside playing some music on youtube ans I was looking for a song and a text came in from her and I decided to read the text that he had not deleted and he told her that he liked her alot and she replied that she to liked him. By the end of the night after he had his phone back he had deleted the text. We don’t talk during the week only on the weekends due to him being drinking and me joining him. I haven’t told him that I know about this other lady in his life (not his olf girlfriend), I just don’t know what to do? I am blessed that my parents didn’t raise a lazy woman and I can happy support my family with out him and he is well aware of that so I am not sure why he continues to be here if he doesn’t want to? Please give me some advice, I am going crazy holding all this in

  3. The first step — and perhaps the hardest! — is to recognize the warning signs of a bad relationship. Then, it takes time to think about what you’ll do and how you’ll respond. Sometimes it takes months or even years to make a move, or figure out what changes to consider. Give yourself time to accept that you’re in a bad place in your relationship or marriage. Let it sink in…and slowly your mind, heart and soul will kick into “survival mode.” Slowly you’ll start to consider your options…and slowly you’ll start planning who to confide in, what to say, what you need, and what steps you need to take next.

    For now, maybe just give yourself time to adjust to the idea that your relationship isn’t what you hoped or expected it’d be. And be gentle, kind, and compassionate with yourself.

    Take good care of yourself, for you are worth taking good care of.

  4. As I read this, tears are streaming down my face! After almost 14 years of marriage I’m realizing that my marriage is in a bad place. I’m ashamed, I don’t want to tell my parents as this would really upset them. I don’t want to be alone. I have become dependent on him and I don’t know if I have the strength to make it alone. I know in my heart I deserve more from a partner. My husband brings out my worst behavior. I know I should leave, but I don’t know how. We don’t have kids (he’s got an adult daughter, now married with a kid of her own) but we have none together. I read all 10 signs below and listed things that hurt me. I was able to identify with 7 of the 10 items. He calls me names, tells me my feelings are ridiculous and that I’m delusional. He tells me I don’t put others before me and I can’t remember the last time I was given a compliment. He called me a sh*t bag yesterday. I left the house and spent the night in the car in a parking lot. We make decent money so I could have stayed in a hotel, I just feel like it would be wasted (my self worth is very low). Words of affirmation and affection are my key love language. One he doesn’t know how to speak at all. His primary love languages are acts of service & physical touch. Most of the time I don’t want him touching me. I am empty inside and I need some guidance. I have my friends, but I don’t want to burden them with my issues. My two closest friends are dealing with aging parents and health/life issues of their own.

  5. Hello, thank you so much for writing this article. I believe that it does confirm that I am terribly unhappy in my relationship with my boyfriend. I am a very strong woman but feel that I am useless in this relationship. At times there are glimmers of hope and he does make me happy in the small ordinary ways a relationship again. But I have had constant talks with him In regards to just being physically intimate once in a while. I know that he is in the shower every night so there’s nothing left for me. We talked about it and he admits that he does do it. But sex is never something that he wants for me. I always have to initiate and when I do it’s more of a chore than an experience Of love and furthering our growing relationship together. Also he doesn’t have anywhere else to go so I feel as if I am stuck with this relationship whether I like it or not. He doesn’t have enough money to go out on his own and his relationships with his family have been cut. I don’t know what to do.

  6. me and husbands been married for year and lately he been giving money out that we need I try to talk to him about but he keeps on doing it iam just about at the end of my rope and dont know what else to do but I have people telling me he as to pay his debt I have been paying the rent and the electric bills but we never have money for personal care I get so stressed out about this

    1. Tiffany, what the heck is he spending money on? Is he gambling, doing something illegal or what? No fair that you have to pay the monthly bills because he’s broke. I don’t understand how this happens in a marriage.