21 Tiny Signs You're In An Unstable Relationship

You have the strength to leave, here's how to find it.

Last updated on Mar 08, 2024

Couple walking by lake  Изображения пользователя Tatiana | Canva 

An unhealthy relationship is harmful to your self-esteem and confidence. If you have been in one, then you know what I am talking about.  When in a toxic relationship, you are left feeling confused and emotionally isolated. One type of an unhealthy relationship is emotional abuse. Research has found that emotional abuse is as damaging as physical and sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse is meant to demean and humiliate and can come in the form of actions and words. The abuser wants to control and dominate the victim. Emotional abuse can happen in any relationship and can also happen in friendships and at work. If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s important to remember you aren’t the crazy one.


RELATED: 5 Painful Signs Your Toxic Relationship Gave You PTSD

Here are 21 tiny signs you're in an unstable relationship:

1. They constantly remind you of your shortcomings and failures

Every mistake you've made is just thrown back in your face.

2. They withhold displays of affection and intimacy as a way of punishment

If you do or say something they don't like, they refuse to show affection for weeks and shut down.

3. They belittle your dreams and accomplishments

They've never been in your corner and are always telling you you can't do something.

4. They do not think you are capable of knowing what is best for you

They have to control all the decisions you make.


5. They blame you for their problems, mood, and overall unhappiness

They're convinced you're the reason for their misery, yet they won't leave.

6. They will make you feel bad for wanting to spend time with your friends or doing anything fun without them

They make you feel bad for wanting to hang out with your friends.

7. They accuse you of things that aren’t true, this leaves you forced to prove your love

They constantly accuse you of cheating and they go through your phone.

8. They control the finances, so they can control your actions and how you spend your money

You can't spend any money without their approval first.



9. They insist on always being right, so you are always wrong

Every argument and fight is your fault.


10. They make you feel as if you aren’t good enough for them, therefore you should be thankful they are in a relationship with you

They've convinced you that you're worthless without them.

11. They constantly humiliate you in front of other people

They're constantly telling their friends about how much you mess up.

12. They don’t want to hear about your pain, except to reinforce you deserve whatever pain you feel

To them, your misery is your fault.

13. They minimize your problems and always make their problems worse

You can't confide in them because they'll accuse you of making it a bigger deal than it is.

RELATED: 14 Signs You're In Denial About How Your Toxic Relationship Is


14. They make you feel guilty about everything

You can't do anything without them being mad at you.

15. They constantly rub it in when you are wrong

You can be right nine out of ten times, but they'll always remember the one time you were wrong.

16. They bring up the past a lot and hold a grudge

They're always keeping score.

17. They ignore or exclude you

They can go days without talking to you.

18. They tell mean, inappropriate and demeaning jokes

Their sense of humor is vile and inappropriate.

19. They get really angry when you speak to your family, and they refuse to spend any holidays at your family's house

They don't like to be around your family because they can see right through them.


20. They constantly call or text you, when you are not with them

They always blow up your phone when you're not in their immediate line of sight.

21. They threaten to commit suicide if you leave

Anytime you try to break up with them, they tell you they'll hurt themselves. So, the question is, if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, why do you stay? There is no easy answer to this.

There are many theories as to why people stay in abusive relationships but, no one has come up with one definitive answer. Is it a result of an unhealthy childhood? Maybe. Is it socialization? Maybe. Or, is it genetic? Maybe. It’s important to remember it’s not your fault. Emotional abusers are very manipulative. Emotional abuse needs to be taken seriously. Don’t ignore it or try to fight back. It will only make things worse.

Here's how you should handle emotional abuse:

1. The first step is awareness

You need to learn all you can about the perpetrator and emotional abuse. You also need to stop believing the nonsense you have been told. You can choose to leave. Remember, the longer you stay in the relationship, the longer it takes to get over it.


2. If you decide to leave, admit to your mistake

You chose the wrong guy, and that’s alright. Now you know what you don’t like. You’d be surprised how many people have gone through it. A lot of people don’t like to talk about it. There is a lot of shame. But, we have found that talking about it can help you.

RELATED: 15 Delayed Red Flags That Show Up After You're Already Invested In A Bad Relationship

3. Remember who you used to be

How did you feel about yourself before the unhealthy relationship? What types of activities did you enjoy? What were your dreams and goals? It’s easy to lose yourself, but you can pick up the pieces and move on.

4. Set new relationship standards

What were some of the red flags at the beginning of the relationship that you ignored? Always be aware that you can’t change a man. Ask yourself why you gave him so many passes.  Now, make a list of your "must-haves" and "can’t-stands." You can even add what would be the icing on your cake to the list.




5. Don’t expect to be happy immediately

Getting over an emotionally abusive relationship takes time. Take it one day at a time. Remember to breathe. Your breath is very soothing. Inhale slowly and exhale slowly. Stay in the present. We can’t go back and we can’t predict the future. It’s like cleaning out a room. The room needs to be cleaned out, painted, and then reorganized.

6. Learn to trust yourself again

We all make mistakes. Make sure to tell yourself you are much wiser now. Start your day with a positive affirmation. It can be simple. One of my favorites is, ‘I am enough.’ As time goes on you will build your strength up and be able to trust in yourself again.


7. Believe there is someone better out there for you

It’s easy to feel hopeless. Even if you have been in a string of bad relationships, there is still someone out there better for you. Someone who is more deserving and who will appreciate you. He will love you for you.  He won’t expect you to be perfect all the time. And he will have your back no matter what.

8. If you decide to leave, it’s best to cut off all contact with your ex

That means no harmless texts or lunches. Resist the urge to see him on Facebook or any social media, for that matter. Having access to his cyber life is only a crutch. This will keep you stuck in the past.

9. Allow yourself to feel lonely

A break-up is never easy, even when you are the one doing the breaking up. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, "I don’t want to leave my relationship because I am scared I will feel lonely." Feeling lonely is part of the process. When you end a relationship, you are grieving. When the grief process is over, you will have learned something. After people have ended a bad relationship, they feel a lot better than they did in the relationship.

10. After ending the relationship, it’s important to remember why you ended things

It’s easy to remember the good things about the relationship and your ex. Maybe, in the beginning, it was good and that’s why you stayed. If you have to, write a list of why you left. Say it to yourself over and over, it will help you be stronger. Maybe he cooked dinner, but it’s not that great if he only cooked meals he liked. And, after being in a relationship for a year he still doesn’t know your favorite foods. Remember the bad choices he made, and how they hurt you. 


11. Take care of yourself

Give yourself as much time as you need to get over it. A pint of ice cream, magazines, and a good dose of reality TV are perfectly alright. You may decide to stay in for a weekend or two. As long as it doesn’t last too long and you can get back into your regular schedule again. Then, you can go to the gym or for a long walk on the beach.

When you feel you can move on, congratulate yourself for being strong and wise enough to leave. I know it’s not easy. By leaving, you have given yourself a gift. You are saying goodbye to a relationship that isn’t working for you and allowing happiness into your life. If you have decided to leave, then own it. Rely on your support system and find a good professional to help you heal which will help you make better choices in the future.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: If Your Boyfriend Has These 12 Toxic Traits, He May Be A Sociopath


Lianne Avila is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a practice in San Mateo, CA. Her work has been featured in Psych Central, BRIDES, and Prevention.