The 10 Big Differences Between Functional And Dysfunctional Relationships

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Some people wouldn't know a toxic relationship if it bit them in the butt. I'm always surprised how some people can float around in unstable relationships, not realizing that how the two of them interact is completely harmful.

Most of the time, I would wager that when you feel bad about yourself or have grown up and experienced toxic people in your life, you often associate these behaviors as "normal" because it's all you know.

But if you want to know if a relationship is functional or totally, utterly dysfunctional, here are the 10 big differences that clearly delineate the two.  See where your relationship lies.

Here are the 10 big differences between functional and dysfunctional relationships:

1. Stability

Functional: A functional relationship is marked by stability. Stable moods between the couple. Stable relations. Stable commitment. Every relationship has moments of instability and mystery, but for the most part, things will be smooth. Functional relationships command stability.

Dysfunctional: Constant ups and downs, and instability and uncertainty, are the true marks of a dysfunctional relationship

2. Longevity

Functional: A functional relationship is marked by longevity in which the partnership evolves healthily together over time.

Dysfunctional: A dysfunctional relationship is constantly in flux. The two are never in sync for long before breaking up again.

3. Respect 

Functional: A functional relationship is characterized by respect and love for who the person is.

Dysfunctional: A dysfunctional relationship oozes issues of control and power issues. A partner who tries to control what you do, who you see, how you look, how you act, where you go, and when you do XYZ is a controlling partner and that's not a sign of a healthy relationship.

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4. Intimacy 

Functional: A functional relationship is one in which sex and affection are given freely and not as a reward for "behaving," unless of course the two of you enjoy S&M, which is a whole other scenario.

Dysfunctional: A dysfunctional relationship is riddled with coldness and sexual power dynamics, meaning one party will cut the other party off from affection as punishment. Affection and sex will be given out in drips and drabs or as "rewards" for when the other partner is good. On the flip side, the whole relationship could consist of just sex and nothing else.

5. Support

Functional: A functional relationship is supportive. Someone who is supportive will see you through medical school, reminding you that you're capable of achieving such a huge goal. A supportive partner will be there to pick you up when you falter and encourage you to do things you fear you're unable to

Dysfunctional: Someone who is abusive will make nasty comments about how medical school detracts you from him or her. Someone who is abusive will never root for you or support your huge life choice. An abusive partner will use your insecurities to his or her advantage, and discourage you from achieving anything, lest he or she feels like a lesser person in your great big light.

6. Emotional presence

Functional: Are the two of you emotionally present for one another? If so, you have a functional relationship. That means you check in with how the other feels, offer support during difficult times, not withdraw affection or praise, remember things important to you, and want to spend time with you.

Dysfunctional: If either one of you or both of you is emotionally on another planet, it's dysfunction city, sweetheart.

RELATED: 4 Signs That You're In A Healthy, Worthwhile Relationship — Finally!

7. Openness

FunctionalA functional relationship has open communication and ideas. Open communication means the two of you can share how you feel about each other without the other shutting down completely or tearing away at how the other person feels. It means sharing feelings without tearing down your partner or being verbally abusive.

Dysfunctional: A dysfunctional relationship is secretive, restrictive, and has many walls and parameters. When your partner is secretive, cuts you off while taking, has set rules for how you two discuss things or is verbally abusive to you, your relationship is toxic.

8. Compassion

Functional: Do you two have compassion for who you both are? Does your partner value who you are as a person and does he or she understand your flaws, rather than using them against you? A functional relationship is compassionate, not judgmental.

Dysfunctional: Or are you both nitpicking and devaluing the other person's point of view? Do you tear at each other and have expectations of one another that are not reasonable, considering your two personalities and individual strengths and weaknesses?

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9. Security

Functional: A functional relationship has two partners who make each other feel secure in the connection. There are no games and no desire to make the other person "work" to earn your love.

Dysfunctional: When the two of you are constantly questioning or feeling insecure about the connection, it's a dysfunctional relationship. If your partner constantly makes you jealous or you constantly feel jealous even when you shouldn't, they are insecure.

10. Passion

Functional: Passion and love. Attraction. The two of you still want each other. Sounds like a healthy and connected functional relationship. 

Dysfunctional: Disinterest. Disregard. Inattentive. Sounds like an apathetic and dysfunctional relationship.

RELATED: How To Know The Difference Between Healthy And Unhealthy Relationships

Laura Lifshitz is a writer, former MTV personality, and Columbia University graduate who writes about divorce, relationships, women’s issues, and parenting for The New York Times, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.