Heartbreak

People Who Attract Kind, Loyal Partners Practice These 15 Key Relationship Skills

Photo: Nemanja Novakovic / shutterstock.com 
couple at a fancy restaurant

If you're reading this, you must be worried about some aspects of your relationship. With all the information out there about red flags, trauma responses, and codependency it can be hard to know what to do. I'm going to walk you through some basics.

Ideally, you want wonderful and supportive relationships — but building them up takes work and a particular skill set. While relationships are one of our main vehicles for growth, they can also be one of our main vehicles for trauma.

One of the keys to avoiding toxic relationships is to learn to recognize and respond to red flags.

Identifying red flags is a big part of being able to recognize and attract healthy, loving partners

RELATED: The 'Magical' Habit You Must Break If You Want A Truly Great Relationship

How do red flags impact relationships?

Red flags can be hard to spot to the untrained eye. In reality, most of us are untrained as we often don't recognize something is off until we're deeper into the relationship. I'm sure you can think of the big ones, such as physical violence.

When you ignore problematic behaviors they only grow as the relationship deepens. As time goes, the behaviors progress because they need more and more control, and most of the time you won't notice that it's getting worse. Many abusers seem charming and wonderful at first, and before you know it you're performing all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify what's happening.

Three reasons why you may struggle to recognize red flags

You grew up surrounded by red flags

Depending on how your family dynamic was when you were a child, you may have learned to normalize and work around red flags in order to get your needs met. We learn how to exist in relationships from our first caretakers, so if your upbring was fraught with instability, ineffective communication or abuse then that dynamic becomes normalized.

You're stuck in a cycle that normalizes these warning signs

We tend to repeat the patterns that we knew growing up. This is one of the reasons that people will find themselves in multiple bad or abusive relationships. One way to make sure you break the cycle of bad relationships is to learn to recognize and respond to these flags.

While not every red flag is a deal breaker, some absolutely are; and don't worry I will specify which ones are run-as-fast-as-you-can-the-other-way bad.

Recognizing red flags is a skill, and not everyone has developed this skill 

Recognizing warning signs is a skill that you can develop, and when you get good at this skill it's going to keep you from entering into abusive or toxic relationships.

Before you can even address these behaviors, you first have to learn to recognize them.

We don't want to make excuses for these behaviors; overlooking them to continue on our merry way into la-la land thinking that everything is going to magically get better with time.

When reviewing this list, please understand that if your partner is willing to get help — therapy, a coach, or books —  things can get much better as they learn the skills they need to be a healthy partner.

Along with that, if your partner meets many of these red flags, you too would also likely benefit from therapy, coaching or books so you can work on the skills you need to be a healthy partner and to foster a healthy relationship. I will mark the ones that are absolute deal breakers with **.

Before we dig in, I need you to understand a bit about my style so you can interpret my tone in this article correctly.

One of my values is radical honesty, and I don't sugar coat anything, so reading through this article may be triggering for you. There is a reason for that, and that reason is that if you aren't completely honest about what's happening, you can't change it. I say everything in this article with love and with the goal of helping you.

RELATED: How To Recognize Signs Of Mutual Abuse In Your Relationship

Fifteen skills that can help you attract healthy partners & spot red flags early:

1. Respect your own boundaries, and expect others to do the same

Since most of us grew up in households where boundaries generally weren't allowed, this is a flag that most people miss since you've been likely taught your whole life that someone disrespecting your boundaries is normal.

This first behavior can be very sneaky and this is one of the reasons that I actually advocate for testing someone you're interested in to see how they respond. No, I'm not talking about some huge elaborate test, I mean setting a small boundary and watching how they react.

Disrespecting your boundaries can look like begging/pushing you to change your mind, making it difficult for you to say, punishing you for saying no, ignoring your no and pretending they didn't hear it, telling you that you're not allowed to say no or that you don't love them if you say no/don't do the thing, trying to control you.

When someone disrespects your small boundaries, it's likely they will work their way up to disrespecting larger boundaries. This can escalate until you're not allowed to have any say in the relationship and you are left with no choices except the ones they want you to have.

Sounds pretty grim right?  Typically, by the time you realize that they never stop when you say no, they have already learned how to manipulate you and that there are no real consequences for ignoring your boundaries.

RELATED: 3 Magic Words That Keep The Best Couples Together Forever

2. Recognize when people are actively in addiction and unwilling to seek help**

First, lets define active addiction — someone actively using mind-altering substances and experiencing negative consequences as a result. This is not the occasional smoker or drinker. I am talking addicted to a substance and that addiction is actively causing harm.

Someone who is in active addiction and is not currently seeking help for it could ruin your life. I say that as someone who has so much empathy for someone struggling with active addiction and fully believes that everyone deserves care and support and love and recovery.

If your partner is currently using and isn't in a space to admit their drug use is causing problems or to seek help, your relationship may fail and you could lose yourself in the process. There is no reality where someone actively in addiction and refusing to seek help for it makes a healthy relationship.

Now, if they are willing to do the work and seek help, there is hope but even then it's a very long road and you are going to need a host of skills to get through it with minimal damage.

This is an issue because when someone is in active addiction, their ability to prioritize anything except their use is pretty much non-existent and their ability to be stable is also pretty much non-existent. Meaning, they cannot prioritize you or the relationship.

3. Beware of people who ignore their own emotions

When your partner doesn't allow themselves to feel their emotions, it also means that they can't process them or move on from past experiences. Feeling and processing emotions are integral to mental health and to healthy relationships.

Long term healthy relationships require that conflicts are worked through in a healthy way. Without the ability to feel, those emotions can't be released, and so they get stored which then causes all kinds of problems later on.

If your partner doesn't allow themselves to be sad or hurt or angry, that means they also can't work through any hard conversations when those same emotions will come up. 

RELATED: 4 Types Of Men That Will Never Make You A Priority

4. Pay attention when someone "stonewalls" a conversation 

Stonewalling is when someone refuses to interact with you or to discuss a topic/engage in a conversation. Most often this looks like you bringing an issue to your partners attention and them flat out refusing to talk about it or making such a scene that you never work through it and also stop bringing it up.

Stonewalling is a manipulation tactic to get you to stop talking, so that your partner never has to actually change anything. At it's core, the goal is to get you to shut up and to never bring up the subject again, which means that nothing ever gets resolved and nothing improves.

This can either be because your partner doesn't know how to effectively communicate or work through conflict, or their goal is to control what you're allowed to bring up (spoiler alert, nothing) so they never have to change or take accountability.

Stonewalling can look like flat out refusing to discuss something, leaving the conversation physically via walking away or storming out or ignoring you, escalating to the point that you feel scared, changing the subject every time or giving you an ultimatum about bringing up the topic.

5. Be realistic about the reason why someone cheated in the past**

This flag is an absolute deal breaker if they cannot honestly tell you why they cheated or if they haven't worked through their relationship patterns. I have had clients who have cheated to get out of abusive relationships (it was the only way their abusive partner would allow the relationship to end).

So while this is a deal breaker, if your partner is aware of why they cheated in the past and has done work to heal those wounds, once a cheater is not always a cheater.

However, if your relationship is the product of them cheating, it's a deal breaker. If they have a history of cheating on every partner they have ever had, as much as you tell yourself that you're different and they'll love you enough to stay, they won't.

It's easy to convince yourself that you will be good enough for them to stay, but if they haven't done the work to heal why they cheated, it's only a matter of time until they cheat on you.

RELATED: The 4 Different Types Of Gaslighting In Romantic Relationships (& Examples Of Each)

6. Seek help for your own mental health challenges & expect the same from partners**

This is a sneaky one that I added in because I have seen the refusal to grow and heal ruin many relationships. Sometimes one partner is in a growth phase and the other partner is in a stable phase — that's normal and to be expected.

This red flag is usually wrapped up in others like refusing to feel their emotions. If your partner never admits anything is wrong then they never have to seek help, which could lead to issues taking accountability.

Someone who refuses to seek help will stay stuck, and when you choose to seek help you will outgrow them.

At that point you have two options — keep growing and healing to eventually outgrow the relationship or stop growing and healing and keep yourself suffering so you can keep the relationship.

Intuitively, you know which one is the better option.  Surprisingly, many people will prolong their own suffering just to stay in a relationship that they're not happy in anyway.

7. Don't let people off the hook for insulting their ex

I have never met a person who has all "psychotic" exes who wasn't the actual problem. Like, Bud, if all your exes were crazy psychos, you're the common denominator.

People who have healed from their past relationship and are ready to build a healthy relationship should be able to talk about their partner with nuance.

Yes, perhaps they were crazy or psychotic (don't love those terms because people literally do experience psychosis and that doesn't make them bad partners), or abusive or cruel but relationships are two way streets.

That is not me saying that anyone deserves abuse, no one does, but that is me saying that we all play a role in our relationships — even if that role is allowing someone who mistreats us to stay in our lives.

This particular behavior does a few things. It makes you want to be different and to show them that you're different than their other partners who hurt them. Naturally, you will want to go above and beyond for them.

It makes you want to show them that love is kind and love can heal them, which sets you up to be their savior (a very attractive prospect if you have your own wounding/trauma around love and relationships).

As a rule of thumb, how they talk about their exes is how they'll talk about you.

RELATED: 5 Signs Your Relationship Is All Chemistry — And Not Enough Love Or Connection

8. Respect your own privacy and expect others to respect it, too **

Violating privacy is something that has become so normalized and most people don't realize that it's actually a huge boundary violation, especially if you grew up in a household where you weren't allowed to have privacy.

Sometimes I have clients tell me they look through their partner's phones all the time or that they let their partner look through their phones. I always cringe inside because its a symptom of a much bigger problem.

One of the foundations of a healthy relationship is trust, and that includes respecting your partner's privacy.

A partner not respecting your privacy can look like going through your phone/messages (with or without your permission, but it's a huge red flag if they do it without your permission), forcing you to give them information you're not ready to share yet, snooping through your things, or asking people in your life for information when you don't want to share.

9. Watch for signs that someone wants to isolate you from your support network **

This is always, always, always about power. The goal here is to make you easier to control, because someone with no supports is less likely to push back or to leave. Without supports, you have no one to turn to, no one to tell you when things are not okay and you become easier to manipulate.

Isolating starts out really small and typically builds over time, and by the time you realize your loved ones have stepped out, you have no one else to turn to but your partner.

This may look like your partner telling you that you spend too much with other people/your friends/your family and there is no time for them. They may simply throw a tantrum and make it too much trouble to spend time with your friends or family.

They will erode all of your relationships over time. If you're thinking "oh yeah I haven't actually seen my friends/family in a while and my only friend is my partner" then this may be you.

RELATED: 10 Subtle Ways The Universe Warns You When You're In Trouble

10. Take responsibility for your own happiness and expect others to, as well

Someone who is unhappy and refuses to take accountability for it will often try and project the responsibility onto others. Think about someone who you know who is always complaining, or saying that if only X would happen, then they would be happy.

That's a total lie right, because no matter what happens they are still miserable. Likewise, making you solely responsible for their happiness or mental health is not only unrealistic, it's guaranteed to fail for a few reasons.

For one, we are responsible for our own happiness. Secondly, that thought process puts you on a pedestal and puts too much pressure on you to behave in a way that always protects/uplifts/manages them when you aren't responsible for anyone's feelings but your own.

Thirdly, it becomes a control thing, if you are never allowed to do anything that upsets them then they always have ammunition for why you "shouldn't" do something and that list will continue to get longer and longer.

When you are made responsible for their happiness, it's a means of control because then they also never have to take accountability for their moods, actions or reactions. It quickly becomes "well if you hadn't upset me, I would never have done that."

We are each in charge of our own happiness, and while a partner can certainly add to your happiness, your partner (or anyone else) is never responsible for your happiness or any other feeling.

The goal is that each partner gains an understanding of what their personal responsibility will look like. Then, both parties work to contribute to each others happiness and infuse joy into the relationship.

11. Set a clear boundary around behaviors like slamming doors and breaking things**

Read this as many times as you need to. People who slam doors or hit things are making sure you hear how much they want to hit you. This is violence, and it's a threat.

The person doing this chooses to escalate to this level because they want you to cower and back down. Someone who breaks things never starts here, this is a behavior that shows up only when it "needs to."

Someone who breaks/hits things wants you to be afraid, they want you to focus on the thing they are breaking or hitting so you stop talking about the topic you were talking about. 

Someone who does this will absolutely hit you if this level stops working. That's why this behavior in an absolute, no questions asked deal breaker.

Often when I have a client who is describing their partner doing this, they justify it by saying their partner was angry and "lost control" and they shouldn't have made them angry. Violence is always a choice, and even if someone is angry they can still choose to be kind or calm or patient.

Hear me when I say this - they will turn this on you. They will hit you. Do what you have to do to get out.

RELATED: Why So Many Incredible Women Are Drawn To Selfish & Narcissistic Men

12. Expect others to take accountability**

Taking accountability requires that you change the behavior you take accountability for. If your partner never takes accountability, you cannot help them and nothing will get better.

This allows them to continue to believe that none of the problems are in any way their fault. Growth in a relationship depends on both people putting in the work to heal and change their patterns and show up in a better way for the relationship.

If you're the only one doing the work you either outgrow them or you stop growing and remain miserable. 

When someone refuses to acknowledge that they play a role in the problem, they never have to do any work. It benefits them to cry ignorance and tell you that the issues are all your fault because it means they're off the hook, forever.

Someone like this is very unlikely to change, because the amount of work they would have to do make the relationship healthy is more than they want to do.

They'd rather make the relationship fail, blame you and cry about what a horrible ex you were to their new victim and then repeat the same pattern forever.

13. Behave consistently toward others, and expect them to do the same

Being hot and cold is a manipulation technique, and to understand this I need you to learn something about why gambling is so addictive. Gambling works via variable ratio schedules, meaning that you win after an unpredictable number of responses — sometimes 1, sometimes 30.

This schedule is extremely addicting and puts your body into not only fight/flight, but craving the reinforcement. In terms of someone being hot/cold with you, they literally put your brain into an addiction cycle where you crave their positive reinforcement and feel absolutely devastated and will do anything to avoid the negative feelings.

Hence, being obsessed with your partner and doing anything to keep them.

Someone adoring you one minute and ignoring you the next can also activate attachment wounds, which create a trauma bond that is also extremely addicting. Now, the goal isn't that someone is obsessed with you 24/7, it's that they are consistent and both of you keep your independence while building a connection.

RELATED: The Totally Odd, Utterly Counterintuitive Way To Finally Be Happy

14. Learn the patterns of "love bombing" and don't be fooled by it

Love bombing is not the same as someone being excited about you. In the early weeks/months of a relationship it's perfectly natural to look at your partner with rose colored glasses and to think they're OMG the cutest, that's to be expected.

Love bombing is excessive adoration, attention, and affection with the goal of making you dependent on them for validation and self worth. 

It's not someone telling you that you're amazing and they're excited to get to know you, it's someone telling you that you're the most incredible, perfect, wonderful person they have ever seen and putting you on a pedestal that you will inevitably fall from.

The goal is that you become addicted to their praise and live and die by their opinion of you, which then makes you easier to control.

Once someone has your self worth wrapped up in their words, they can use those same words to destroy you and control you. Once they are done love bombing you, they will typically flip the script and become controlling and difficult and almost impossible to please.

This makes you long for the dynamic you had in the beginning and pretty soon you're doing anything and everything you can to make them be that person you "fell in love with" again.

The problem is, the person you fell for is fake, they love bombed you to get you to fall for them, and who they really are is the person you have now. It's a very addicting switch, and make no mistake, it's intentional.

15. Expect people to tell the truth, and hold yourself to the same standard **

Lying seems so small, right? They didn't tell you they were going somewhere or who all would be there or that they didn't go to college. The problem with lying, and the reason that I made this a deal breaker — cowards lie, and lying can always be justified.

Someone who lies and justifies lying will always justify lying to you. Now, if someone has no right to know the information they're asking for, then you have a right to protect your information however you wish.

Think about this in terms of your relationship though, why would your partner want to lie to you when they could simply tell you that they're not comfortable answering that question yet. Having a partner you can't trust only breeds anxiety, misery and fights.

Bonus: Recognize anyone whose jealousy is used to control you or your behavior

Jealousy is a perfectly normal human emotion. I feel jealous every time I drive by a beach house or when I see someone taking a really amazing vacation. The point is, jealously tells us that we want what that person has, it points us towards our desires and that is insanely useful.

Jealously in a partnership, especially when it's used to be controlling, is insanely un-useful and when it's allowed to exist it's toxic at best and abusive at worst.

When your partner makes you responsible for catering to their jealousy and feelings of security in the relationship, then they never have to work through their issues or change anything (notice a pattern here?) and again, they can use those feelings to control you.

If you're experiencing these, and this post is causing anxiety, it may be time to start the process of stepping away from your relationship.

RELATED: How To Grow Into The Kind Of Person You've Always Wanted To Be

Amanda Chils is a licensed counselor, podcast host, business coach, and transformation expert. Through her courses and counseling sessions, the helps people heal traumas and get more intentional about their lives

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!

This article was originally published at Amanda Chils Website. Reprinted with permission from the author.