7 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship (And How To Fix Them)

Each of us develops behavioral habits within our lives, some positive and some negative. For example, we may be in the habit of working out and exercising regularly, yet also habitually staying up too late and not getting enough rest. Relationships are no exception. While you might develop some good habits that nurture the relationship, others can be toxic to your marriage. Here are 7 signs of an unhealthy relationship  – and how you can address them.

7 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

To help define the 7 signs of an unhealthy relationship, we turn to Dr. William Glasser, psychologist and father of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy. Dr. Glasser terms the patterns that destroy a relationship as ‘disconnecting habits.’ These either completely kill a connection or, at the very least, cause it to become dysfunctional.

According to Dr. Glasser, the ‘Seven Disconnecting Habits’ are defined as follows:

  1. Blaming: Pointing fingers and placing blame for the negative events in a relationship, rather than owning your part and taking accountability.
  2. Criticizing: Judging the other individual’s behavior or way of being and verbally expressing those judgments.
  3. Nagging: Consistently pressuring the other party to start, stop or continue doing something.
  4. Punishing: Removing a positive behavior or employing a negative one as a method of delivering a consequence to the other party for upsetting you.
  5. Threatening: Promising to employ a negative behavior or remove a positive one if the other party doesn’t comply with or accommodate you.
  6. Bribing or rewarding for control: Offering any favor, gift or flattery in an effort to manipulate and gain power.
  7. Complaining: Constantly focusing on negative events or maintaining a negative outlook via verbalized statements.

While it is clear that the seven disconnecting habits are destructive, they’re not all that uncommon. These unhealthy relationship habits are practiced by many individuals who typically don’t have the intention to harm. In many cases, they simply don’t know any better, learned these behaviors from their parents, or have merely developed bad habits in a few bouts with toxic relationships.

But, of course, there’s always hope.

7 Caring Habits Of Healthy Love

For every reaction the is an equal an opposite reaction. This is also true for love. Alongside the 7 signs of an unhealthy relationship discussed above, there are 7 healthy relationship habits that can keep a relationship thriving. Dr. Glasser defined these as the ‘Seven Connecting Habits’ which can be consciously substituted and practiced to successfully nurture a marriage.

  1. Supporting: Being available for the good, bag and the ugly, without judgment.
  2. Trusting: Knowing the other person is trustworthy and having faith they will honor your trust.
  3. Listening: Being present and attentive to the needs and experiences of the other party.
  4. Accepting: Realizing each of you is a different person and allowing your partner to be who they are without criticizing or attempting to change them.
  5. Negotiating Differences: Working through problems and talking things out, openly, rather than punishing, blaming, threatening or manipulating.
  6. Respecting: Holding the other party in high regard, and holding the relationship in high regard even when the other party’s behavior is less than desirable.
  7. Encouraging: Offering words of affirmation and inspiration in an effort to uplift and empower.

Breaking Bad Habits

Of course, replacing disconnecting habits with connecting ones is often more easily said than done. After all, bad habits are tough to break.

As such, it’s important to do the individual work and couple’s work needed to prevent and/or intervene upon the signs of an unhealthy relationship and create space for caring, healthy ones. Additionally, it’s always vital to remember that nurturing habits – like supporting and accepting – do not equate to enabling.

In a marriage, the vows of “for better or for worse” is not a call for either party to accept any harmful, toxic behavior or a free pass to stop growing or throw your emotional maturity level in reverse. Conversely, healthy marriages require growing habits, too; the kind that require each party to exhibit accountability, vulnerability, humility and a willingness to evolve.

You may also be interested in How to Fix a Marriage During Tough Times