Signs You're in a Dysfunctional Relationship

You badmouth your partner to others

Sure, it makes sense that you’d want to vent to a girlfriend after you have a bad fight, but repeatedly complaining about your partner to other people isn’t a good thing, says licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go? Not only would your partner be hurt if they knew, regularly saying bad things about your S.O. paints a negative picture in the minds of your friends and family that may not be accurate — and that can come back to haunt you in the future.

You can’t get over the past

“One of the most common ways people accidentally sabotage romantic relationships is by projecting past experiences in romantic relationships onto a current relationship and new person,” says Cilona. “Hurt and betrayal from a past relationship can be particularly impactful and can often influence new relationships through things like faulty and unfair assumptions and extreme or inappropriate emotional reactions.” Reactions that are rooted in the past and related to a past relationship, but triggered by an event or behavior in a new relationship almost always cause trouble and dysfunction, he says.

You get defensive

Disagreements happen, and if your partner raises an issue with you, it’s important to at least hear them out. Being defensive, on the other hand, is the opposite of that. “Defensiveness sabotages the relationship because it does not allow your partner to feel heard,” says licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago. And, if your partner doesn’t feel like they’re being heard, it’s probably going to lead to more fighting.

A young couple disagreeing with each other

Criticisms outweigh praise

It’s an easy trap to fall into: You only speak up when you disagree with something your partner says or does, but forget to do the same when they do something great. This can be a dangerous cycle to fall into. “If you are constantly critical of your partner, then it deteriorates the relationship,” Klow says. Durvasula agrees, noting that “not letting your partner know you are grateful for small things” can cause issues.

You brush off partner’s vulnerabilities

Everyone feels vulnerable on some level and sensitive about particular topics. But not understanding your partner's preferences, vulnerabilities and sensitive spots — chronically pushing those buttons — is a recipe for disaster, Durvasula says.

You check your partner’s phone

Even if they don’t know you’re doing a quick perusal of their texts or glancing at their emails, that’s a sign of a lack of trust, which is “almost ubiquitous to troubled and dysfunctional relationships,” Cilona says. The lack of trust may be due to something that happened in your past or perhaps something in your current relationship is causing it. Whatever it is, it needs to be addressed — before you get caught red-handed.


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