Notes to Self

Thoughts on psychology, spirituality and soft skill development for personal improvement


Unhealthy Relationships

"Just because someone loves you doesn't mean that they are also good for you." - Unknown

As teenagers, many of us feel that 'unconditional love' is the answer to all our problems. Some never outgrow this and continue to hold on to this unhealthy fantasy that fun and companionship from a loving relationship can cure all their problems in life.

The reality - a relationship can create a secure feeling because of the strength and support that one can derive from it. And it will have its sweet moments. On the other hand, it can also act as a stressor to exacerbate one's own personal problems with respect to adjusting to the partners personality because the fact is that people change over time. And if it doesn't work it can also have a negative effect based on the friction that often develops between the two.

A person can love someone and yet not be able to get along with him / her. (Just think back to the moments when you have hated your parents or siblings). No relationship is conflict-free. The important thing is not whether you disagree, but how you disagree. If disagreements aren't communicated in an assertive manner, a relationship can become unhealthy over time. However, with patience and improved communication skills, these types of relationships can again become healthy.

Or sometimes it may be slightly more complex as not having a healthy balance in life. Our life has various aspects (work, family, friends etc.), and if we do not give equal importance to all parts, we end up expecting more from one. Thus if things aren't going well at work, one may unconsciously make more demands (like attention) from their partner to relieve the stress, and feel frustrated when he / she doesn't reciprocate with the expected intensity. The other partner might not be able to pay equal attention and reciprocate all the time because it might upset his / her balance of life. In such cases, it might help the relationship if both partners introspect more on their personal life rather then each other.

A more serious problem is stagnant psychological growth of one or both partners in the relationship. The three stages of a persons maturity - dependence, independence and inter-dependence - gives us more insight on this aspect. (Note that inter-dependence is the last stage, and not the second). Up til our teens, we are dependant and look up to our parents to raise us. Slowly we explore and become more and more capable of looking after ourselves, and strive to become independent. As we grow older, we start to realize that friends and families are important because our feelings and emotions are only enriching when shared with others; and there's only so much a single person can do.

Sometimes, unfortunately, an adult psychologically gets stuck on the first (dependence) or second (independence) stage. These adults then encounter a lot of difficulties in their relationships often becoming emotionally withdrawn and / or physically abusive as they develop personality / mood disorders.

Here are some warning signs that can alert you to whether you or your partner may get 'stuck' and develop an unhealthy relationship:

  • Seeks instant intimacy: A person who develops an immediate sense of attachment and belonging without really knowing anything about the other person and pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment has unhealthy dependence needs.

  • Clingy: Considers intensity of need for each other as proof of love. Wants you alone for himself / herself. At the extreme, tries to isolate you from friends and families with constant demands of attention.

  • Excessively possessive: Trust issues - extreme inquisitiveness about the partners activity and whom they talked to, jealousy and controlling behaviors like keeping the money or car, demanding he / she ask permission for activities.

  • Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be perfect in meeting his / her every needs or becomes disappointed and angry.

  • Lacks a sense of responsibility: Blames others for problems and mistakes. Makes the other person responsible for his / her feelings - instead of saying "I am angry", he / she says "You make me angry".

  • Hypersensitive: Feels insulted, hurt or angry at perceived slights or criticism when realistically there wasn't any.

  • Cruelty to animals and children: Often very impatient with normal children / animal behavior, punishes them brutally, may tease them until they cry.

  • Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes and / or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things, demeaning and attacking your self-esteem when you fail to meet some expectation.

  • Rigid roles: Expects you to conform to his / her idea of how a wife / husband should be without a mutual consensus.

  • Threats of violence: Intimidation of threats of physical violence directed at self or the partner; often later dismissed as temper.

It helps to remember - Every relationship is different and will have its own dynamics and healthy relationships are based on equality in decision making and respect for one another.

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