7 Signs Your Relationship Isn't As Healthy As You Think

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young couple arguing on couch

Relationships, as you know, are complex. They often teem with hidden messages about where you’ve been and where you need to go.

We all work through our own "stuff" in the context of our relationships, whether you personally recognize you're going through that process or not. And if you pay attention, there are signs you can watch for that will help you navigate both life and relationships in a healthy way.

Sometimes, like it or not, those signs show up as bright red flags telling you a relationship isn’t on solid footing and may not be as good for as you previously thought.

They may even be delivering the unwelcome message that a relationship needs to end and it's time to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend — or end your marriage.

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What it's like to live in an unhealthy relationship

Sadly, living in an unhealthy relationship is often like living with a slowly developing silent killer-type disease. By the time symptoms become unmistakably clear, it’s often too late.

When you're living in an unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to recognize that for what it is. Because relationships have a natural ebb and flow of positives and negatives, you may not recognize damaging behaviors lurking behind the guise of love.

For example, what may feel like much-awaited attention may really be neediness in the long run. And what may sound like a shower of adoring compliments now may be a prelude to manipulation later.

A relationship doesn’t have to be "bad" or destined for a boot to the curb to warrant an honest assessment.

Some signs will point you in the direction of a good spring cleaning, while others will point you in the direction of sage advice and guidance in couples therapy, and still others may point you in the direction of the door.

What’s important is knowing how to recognize when your relationship isn’t as solid as you think it is.

As you read through the following list, ask yourself these critical questions:

  • What does this have to do with my partner’s issues and behavior?
  • What does this have to do with my own issues and behavior?
  • How and why did I attract this to my life?
  • What do I need to learn from this relationship in order to be the best person I can be?

RELATED: 20 Signs You're An Extremely Toxic Person & Are Difficult To Be Around

Here are seven signs your relationship isn't as healthy as you think: 

1. Your core values don’t align.

It’s one thing to have hobbies and movie tastes in common, but those are the frivolities of life compared to what stirs your soul and keeps your life on course.

Building a lifelong relationship with one partner ultimately has little to do with common interests and everything to do with common values.

2. Your life visions are in different galaxies.

As with your values, your visions for life need to be in alignment; not identical, just in alignment.

Perhaps you see only the stability of a home with children and making the world a better place from within your community, but your partner wants to see the world from a gypsy wagon with no forwarding address.

Before you risk heartbreak in the near future, you might want to have a heart-to-heart now.

RELATED: 10 Biggest Signs You're In Love With The Wrong Person

3. One of you is needy.

All that attention early on might fill a void in your life ... for a while. But when it suddenly morphs into clinginess and an inability to handle time apart, you should see the red flags waving.

Both of you need to maintain your individuality, even as you build a separate identity as a couple. Have your own interests, hobbies, friends, and space.

Neediness is an indication of low self-esteem and low self-confidence, and neither of those issues contributes to the strength of a relationship.

4. Jealousy is a frequent issue.

Jealousy is a manifestation of insecurity. It drains the mental and emotional energy of the envious one, and it drains and limits the energy of you both as a couple.

Suddenly, everyone and everything is a potential threat. Blind accusations get tossed around and resentment ensues.

There’s a reason Shakespeare spoke of jealousy as the “green-eyed monster.” As with suspicious minds, jealousy is predatory. It projects personal issues or insecurities onto another person — in this case, a romantic partner.

RELATED: 10 Sneaky Signs Jealousy Is Destroying Your Relationship

5. You are subjected to hypercriticism and emotional abuse.

The insidious damage of emotional abuse is that it slowly erodes your confidence and self-esteem. And it eventually devours your self-worth with an underlying message that no one else will ever love you.

When a partner criticizes every little thing you think, say and do, you will inevitably do one of two things: You will scramble to figure out what your partner wants (which always fluctuates) so you can prevent future criticism or you will feel the sting as a sign that you’re not meant for this abuse.

Constructive criticism that is mutually given with the loving intention of self and relational growth is one thing. Hypercriticism that tears a person down is another.

If you find yourself justifying your partner’s demeaning comments or behavior — or worse yet, assuming responsibility for them — this person is not a keeper, and both of you need to get help.

Just remember that you cannot save your partner, but you can save yourself.

Important note: If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, help is available 24/7/365 via the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

RELATED: 10 Simple Ways To Tell Your Marriage Is Over For Good

6. There’s no trust between you.

Sometimes distrust is a sign of betrayal or neglect carried forward. Sometimes it is an indication that a person hasn’t done the work to earn or regain trust after a betrayal. And sometimes it is a projection of distrust in oneself.

Whatever the origin, a relationship can’t survive without trust.

7. You have to become someone you don’t like to please your partner.

If you have to go against your own integrity to keep your partner “in the game” and happy, there aren’t enough red flags to wave.

Whether you find yourself doing things out of fear or desperation, your gut will tell you that something is very wrong. Listen to it.

You should never, ever be expected to violate your values or do something that makes you feel less than your best self.

A healthy relationship elevates. It doesn’t diminish, and it doesn’t require you to make sure your partner is OK so you can be OK.

It asks a lot of people to step back from a relationship and examine it with objectivity, and especially with self-accountability.

You may not like what you see — in the other person or in yourself.

But remember why you are in a relationship in the first place. You want your life to be better. You want to be better. And you want to feel hope when you ponder the future.

Just because this relationship may not be a pathway to forever, that doesn’t mean it’s not a stepping stone.

Be a courageous guardian of your heart and life. The world needs the happiest, healthiest you.

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Dr. Jerry Duberstein, Ph.D., is a couples therapist and his partner, Mary Ellen Goggin, JD, is a relationship guide. They lead private intensive couples retreats and are the co-authors of Relationship Transformation: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.