Signs of a Dysfunctional Relationship

by Catherine Scruggs, M.A.

About Catherine Scruggs, M.A.

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Catherine Scruggs began writing professionally in 2011. She has also worked as a college instructor and a psychotherapist. Scruggs holds a Master of Arts in psychology from Columbia University and is working to obtain her doctorate in clinical psychology at Alliant International University.

Signs of a Dysfunctional Relationship

Relationships can be hard and take work. But, they should not be that way all of the time. Love is not supposed to hurt. A healthy relationship includes feeling good when the other person is near and wanting to make the other person feel good. People in a healthy relationship nurture each other and bring out the best in each other. There are telltale signs a relationship is dysfunctional.

Addictive and Obsessional Behavior

Obsessive behavior in a relationship, such as repeatedly calling or focusing all your attention on the other person, is unhealthy. Feeling as if you cannot live without the other person is also not healthy. A person loses his self when he is behaving this way in a relationship. And, he will create what he fears the most; he will push the other person away.

Constant Unhappiness

Love is not supposed to hurt. Every day cannot be perfect, and everyone is not perfect. But, if a person is constantly unhappy, or unhappy more than she is happy in a relationship, it is dysfunctional. Relationships can be difficult, and there is no perfect relationship. But, people in a healthy relationship are happy in the relationship and enjoy being with the other person.

Imbalance of Power

People are equal in a healthy relationship. If one person has more power in a relationship, the other person will lose himself and his self-esteem and his sense of self-worth will decline. It hurts when one person is more in love with the other and/or dependent on her. Two people can share the joy of a healthy relationship when they come together as two loving, independent people.

Frequent Arguing

There are problems in every relationship. People in a relationship inevitably argue, but when arguing is excessive, it is a problem. Constant arguing wears on the relationship and drains it of any joy. It is not healthy for people to argue a lot. It actually causes physiological changes. As stress increases so does the flow of adrenaline, and too much of this causes physical and mental illness.

Feeling Trapped

Feeling trapped in a relationship is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship. In a circumstance such as this, the person feels she cannot terminate the relationship. She feels there is no way out, and she stays in the relationship. Some reasons for this feeling are fear of the unknown, fear of being alone, and fear the other person will be hurt.

Jealousy

Some women find it flattering if a man is jealous of another man talking to, or even looking at, them. However, it is actually unhealthy and a sign of a dysfunctional relationship. A woman, or a man, is not an object to be coveted. Trust and honesty in a relationship give no reason for jealousy. Jealousy indicates a lack of trust.

Control

Words like "let" and "allow" used in the context of a relationship is dysfunctional, because they are a sign someone is controlling someone else. Adults should not be told what to do or told whether or not they can do something. A partner in a relationship is not a parent or guardian. Each person is the navigator of his own ship

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is an obvious sign of dysfunction. The relationship should be terminated immediately if there is physical abuse. This is for safety's sake. Physical abuse usually escalates and can be lethal. If there are children involved, they should be removed from the environment immediately. Physical abuse should not be tolerated.

Emotional Abuse

Threats, manipulation, hurting the other person hurt and trying to instill fear are a few examples of emotional abuse. It is hard to prove emotional abuse, because it leaves no physical scars. But words can and do hurt. There is no reason for someone to emotionally abuse a person. If this is happening in a relationship, it is a sure sign of dysfunction. And, the safest thing to do is end the relationship.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is similar to emotional abuse; it, too, is hard to prove. Saying negative, rude and mean things to someone is verbal abuse. Name calling, telling someone she is worthless, pathetic and a loser are all examples of verbal abuse. If this is occurring in a relationship, it is dysfunctional. It is just as painful as any other form of abuse. The best, safest option is to terminate the relationship.

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