We’ve all been in that relationship where something just doesn’t feel right. We spend more time arguing (or trying to avoid the next outburst) than we do enjoying each others company and frankly it’s flat out exhausting! Of course things don’t typically start off this way. The honeymoon phase usually lasts just long enough that these recurring conflicts show up disguised as minor setbacks instead of red flags. And who doesn’t love ignoring big, shiny, red flags?
Relationships are work. They involve compromise, honesty, trust, and forgiveness. So how does one recognize when their relationship has become toxic? Better yet, how do you know when to pull the plug and walk away?
4 Signs You’re in a Healthy Committed Relationship
In my personal opinion, there are several indicators that you are in a healthy relationship that is adding value to your life rather than depleting you of your energy.
These are the basic characteristics that any relationship will mimic despite the intricacies of it’s dynamic.
You Communicate Openly
Open dialog creates the foundation in which a healthy relationship is born. Without a safe space for both partners to openly express themselves (despite how uncomfortable the topic may be) you end up setting yourself up for failure. Setting the stage early on in the relationship will help to avoid miscommunication and ensure that both partners feel heard.
You respect the other person’s triggers even if you don’t fully understand what has set them off. If they need time to process their emotions in order to come to some sort of resolve, you allow them the necessary time and space. So often we want to “fix” the problem as we are experiencing it and our emotions are elevated. I have yet to see this method result in anything other than further escalation.
On the flip side, you welcome confrontation with open arms and view it as a learning experience rather than an opportunity to jump right into fight or flight mode. We love a good excuse to engage in toxic coping skills derived from childhood trauma. Do yourself a favour and cut that s*!t out!
You Set Boundaries
What is a healthy boundary and why are they so important? Boundaries are clear and concise limits we set with others to ensure we do not jeopardize our overall mental and physical well being. In order to implement boundaries we must first get up close and personal with ourselves, our non negotiables, our values, and most importantly our awareness of self!
Below are just a few examples of healthy boundaries.
- You make “me time” a priority
- You spend time with your friends without your SO
- You do not partake in toxic forms of communication (text battles/yelling/name calling)
- You communicate your feelings and do not project them onto your partner
- You prioritize your health (gym/yoga/clean eating/therapy)
- You do not allow others to disrespect you
- You validate your emotions as well as others
- You take a break to reflect when you are feeling overwhelmed
You Work Together as a Team
Life in general can be stressful and overwhelming at times, it’s unavoidable. That is why it’s SO important that you and your boo work collectively towards a common goal or vision.
She’s had a bad day at work and needs someone to vent to, you lend an ear. She got into an argument with her best friend and doesn’t know how to handle it, you’ve got her back. This is what being in a healthy relationship looks like. Two equals coming together to build each other up and support one another when it feels like their world is crashing down around them.
You are a team! And we all know there is no “I” in team hunny.
You do NOT Pass Judgement
I’m just going to come right out and say it. Loving partners don’t judge each other. Period. Not their passions, feelings, traumas, or coping skills. Don’t get me wrong, we are all guilty of engaging in self destructive behaviour from time to time, but if there is anyone on the face of the planet that should have your back when the going gets tough, it’s your SO.
Who knows you better than your other half? Who else knows to give you some space when you’re overworked and on the verge of a burn out? Who knows the week each month where you desperately need chocolate and cuddles? Who knows when you’re heads in the clouds and you need someone to gently pull you back down to planet earth? She does. And if she doesn’t, you may want to ask yourself why that is…
Now that I’ve touched base on the non negotiables (or relationship “musts” if you will), let’s have a look at those shiny red flags we all love to pretend don’t exist.
Your Dreams = Her Dreams
In any relationship, there should be a certain level of common interests and similar lifestyles which have ultimately drawn the two of you together in the first place. Yes, opposites do attract, but when it comes down to a lifelong partner ,you have to make sure that you’re both dancing in the same direction with a mutually sought after vision for your future. Problem is, we sometimes get too enmeshed in one another’s lives, it can become hard to tell whether we are working towards our goal or bae’s.
A strong and stable couple should have “we goals” in addition to “me goals”. After all, you are two unique individuals with vastly different dreams and desires. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I notice my partner giving up their own goals and ambitions to appease me. Major turn off! And major red flag. Confidence in who you are as an individual and knowing what you want for yourself (whether someone else likes it or not) is sexy. Don’t ever lose sight of who you are and what you’re passionate about in order to appeal to the other person. If they truly love you, they will support your journey.
Spending an Incessant amount of Time Together
You love someone so much you can’t think of any other way to spend all of your free time! I get it. And yet this form of codependency is short lived amongst most couples, and here’s why. You absolutely MUST prioritize yourself while striving to achieve balance in all areas of your life, not just with your partner. Connecting with friends, family, and coworkers adds value to your life in a way that your intimate relationship can not. Social interactions with someone other than your lover provide an alternative perspective, they allow you to learn and grow as a human being and create a strong, healthy support system.
Time away from each other doesn’t mean that you don’t care or don’t want the other person around. In fact it’s quite the opposite. By setting boundaries and creating space for activities outside of your relationship bubble, you show your partner that you respect their needs as well as their time. Additionally, this allows you to miss the other person and reconnect on a more intimate level when you do reconvene. Do you boo!
You’ve Stopped Pursuing Your Hobbies
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that your hobbies, your passions, and your side hustle require your undivided attention. Always. No one should ever make you feel as though you have to put your passion projects on the back burner! Sometimes all we need is a breather, a moment of silence to indulge in the very essence of our being and allow our minds to escape the stress of everyday life.
Does your partner encourage you to pursue your goals? Do they motivate you to spend time doing the very thing you love the most? Or are they always complaining that you don’t spend enough time together or do anything fun? Your hobbies are what make you who you are. Sure, every once in a while (if you feel like switching things up) you can invite your SO to join you at the gym, or take a yoga class. But if they continuously make you feel bad for doing the things you love, they may not be your person.
Over Promise and Under Deliver
This is HUGE! The first time I was introduced to this concept I was 18 years old and working for lululemon. From a business standpoint, I had personally experienced and understood it fully. But I never imagined it would surface in my intimate relationships…isn’t your partner supposed to pull through when they make a commitment to you? Yes, yes they are.
Here’s the thing, if you don’t intend on doing the things you say you’re going to do, why fill the other person with false hope and expectations that you don’t whole-heartedly plan on keeping? Why talk the talk if you’re not willing to walk the walk ya know what I’m saying? I fully understand that forming healthy, daily habits takes time. It is not an overnight switch and requires a tremendous amount of will power. At times we genuinely want to do something so much that our excitement fuels our ambition! Motivation may fizzle out when it comes time to implement (after all we are only human) and we can’t follow through with EVERY plan we make, whether to ourselves or others.
If she promises every week that she’s going to “change”, or re-commits to a regimented fitness routine that falls short after a period of 48 hours; if she makes plans and cancels/changes them (99.9% of the time) or talks about her goals and dreams but refuses to put them into action, she’s got a classic case of over promising only to disappoint and under deliver. And it down right sucks. You may even find yourself dismissing your partner when they do share a goal with you as their track record leads you to believe that they really don’t mean what they are saying anyways. If they can’t keep a commitment to themselves, how can you expect them to do the same for you?
Knowing when to pull the plug on an unhealthy, toxic relationship isn’t always obvious. And it’s typically an unpleasant and V uncomfortable experience for all involved. It’s not supposed to be amicable or make you feel good, that’s why it’s referred to as a break up, something broken that can not be fixed by optimistic thinking (aka avoiding the very obvious red flags for what they really are). Allow yourself to be ok with not being ok!
Welcome heartbreak with open arms and allow yourself to FEEL. Our generation has established a very strange relationship with emotions, we just can’t ok? Uh uh. Put down that bottle of Prosecco and stop engaging in ego fuelled smack talk about your ex because they were obviously crazy and didn’t realize how good they had it with you.
Communicate, set boundaries, work together, and acknowledge when you’re being judgemental (nobody is perfect). When we take the time to get to know ourselves, we vibrate at a different frequency, attracting positive, like minded people into our lives. Maybe you haven’t met her yet because you’ve been too busy ignoring shiny, red flags…