Many times people tell me that you have to learn to forgive and forget to be in relationships. That is not always true. There are some giant red flags that spell “Get Out!” for many. For people who have been in unhealthy, even abusive relationships, they can play down the unhealthiness of the situation. If you want a healthy relationship with a good person, you must be able to say NO to all of these points. If you can’t, your relationship or you need work in therapy:
1. Safety: Are you or were you physically, mentally, emotionally or verbally harmed? Were there times you were afraid of what your partner would do or say? Were there times you just dreaded seeing this person?
There is no room in a healthy relationship to have fear of anything, even being called a name. That’s verbal abuse and shows a lack or respect and self-discipline. We all want to call our partner a name now and again, but healthy loving people refrain. It also doesn’t mean that you’re afraid because the person will become abusive. Many of my clients are afraid their partner can’t “handle” things and will leave if things get to be too much. If you’re afraid to say something because your partner is so thin-skinned, they will bolt at the first sign of trouble, leaving you to deal with stressors alone, that isn’t safe. “Safety” issues occur on a scale. There is safety from being verbally, emotionally and physically abused and safety to be free to say what you want to say without fear of reprisals, including your partner jumping ship because you’re stressing him or her out with something you truly need to talk about. No need to walk on eggshells whether your partner is an ill-tempered brute or just too fragile to bear life on life’s terms.
2. Self-esteem: Did you/do you feel guilty, “less-than”, not good enough, not worthy in your relationship? Does your partner or ex partner criticize your behavior, your looks, or any other traits and qualities? Do you own that criticism and internalize it? Do you beat yourself up because of what you’ve done or continue to do? Are you taking the blame for the failures in the relationship? Has your partner broken up with you more than once because you haven’t changed or haven’t changed enough and you’ve been searching for the magic solution to make this person stay once and for all? Have you jumped through emotional hoops for your partner because he or she never seems to be happy with you? Have you ever hated yourself for being a fool for your partner?
Healthy relationships accept each other warts and all. If we have issues, we can ask for help and support but derision and criticism is NEVER okay.
3. Job/career: Did you call in sick because of being emotionally upset? Did you miss work to do things for your partner that he or she would not take care of? Did you neglect your job or career for your relationship? Did you obsess about your relationship to the detriment of your professional life?
We all carry our feuds and personal strife to work but if it’s really eating away at us that we are unfocused for all or part of the day or week, we need to think about that. We all deserve to go to our place of unemployment refreshed and nourished from our time AWAY from our place of employment. If your blow ups are so big or your partner is bothering you when you’re trying to work and keep a clear head, that’s not good.
4. Children: Were your children neglected when you were arguing with your mate? Were you frustrated or too upset to do things with/for your children? Did you swing between neglect and over-indulgence of your children out of guilt? Have you left your kids too long at a sitter or daycare because you needed to do something with your partner? Are you irritable or emotionally unavailable for your children because of the drain of your relationship? Do your children act rude to you because you’ve had no boundaries with your partner or you’ve been such as doormat for everyone, your chldren see you as one? Have you ever thought that your children may be rude to you because they don’t respect you and they don’t respect you because of the role you play in relationships?
Children need boundaries, as I talk about in both of my books, because it makes them feel secure (even if they rebel or scream about them). Your children want to know you are there for them and that you can protect them.
5. Finances: Did you spend money on the relationship that you did not have? Did your partner siphon money off from you? Did your partner ask you “lend” him or her money and you loaned it even though you knew he or she did not have the means to pay it back? Do you spend money on self-improvement because your partner is critical of certain areas? Do you spend money on gym memberships or diet programs because your partner is critical of your weight? Do you spend above your means to be more attractive? Do you pay for things that your partner should pay for or help you pay for? Are you financially frustrated with your partner?
We all can have money issues but if we are bankrolling an irresponsible person constantly, it needs to stop. If we’re spending money on ourselves needlessly to try to please someone else, it needs to stop.
6. Stamina: Does the relationship drain you physically, mentally, or emotionally? Do you lose sleep or neglect your health because of the relationship trauma/drama? Do you have trouble sleeping or turning off your thoughts and that results in being a mess the next day?
This plays into your professional life and finances and time for your children as well. Your relationship should not be draining you of life itself.
7. Legal: Did you ever do anything in your relationship that could get you into legal trouble? Are you so wiped out that you forget small things like getting your car inspected or you are upset and speed or you become so upset you drink and drive? Are there things you are doing that could get you in big or small legal trouble that you would not be doing if not for this relationship?
Legal is a big issue and not just confined to big ticket items. A client of mine once ended a relationship the day she got her first speeding ticket after storming out of the house which she did on a regular basis. She said, “I was driving blind and fast. Crying and freaking out. A woman police officer stopped me and said I was going to kill someone like that. It was the first time I was caught, but not the first time I’d done it. I left a few weeks later.”
8. Physical: Has your partner cheated on you and brought the possibility of an STD into your relationship? Did you neglect doctor and dentist appointments? Did your partner coerce you into sex when you weren’t feeling well? Did your partner fail to care about you when you were ill? Did you neglect your diet, your exercise, your daily vitamins? Did you lose interest in your self-care regiment?
A healthy person takes care of him/herself no matter what. If your partner is an impediment to that, time to get honest about it.
9. Knowing what a good relationship entails:Have you forgotten that healthy relationships involve give and take, compromise, caring for and about the other person, acting in accordance with what you say you feel, acting with love and affection, nurturing and encouraging another person, being your partner’s best friend, helping and encouraging a partner to expand their horizons (not narrowing them), being a good and constant support for the closest person in your life. Have you forgotten all that?
In a healthy relationship, you are not always on the defensive. In both of my books I talk about how partners support and nurture each other. If you’re just trying to survive between horrible blow-ups, you are not in a good relationship.
10. Love: Have you forgotten that true love is reciprocal, unconditional love? Have you forgotten that love is an action? Have you given up ever finding reciprocal, unconditional love?
Unconditional love does NOT mean, I love you no matter what you do to me. It means, I love you under any condition life throws at us. It means that when the roof is leaking and the dog is whining and the baby is teething, you’re not yelling at me, you’re helping me figure out how we go from here. When it’s a beautiful day and everything is going right, you love me and if it’s a horrible day and everything is going wrong, our love is a port in the storm.
You’ve probably guessed that yes answers mean it was not good for you. The more yes answers the worse the relationship but even one yes answer is bad news and less than you deserve. Use this checklist to think about and assess your relationship and what you want/need/deserve in the future. What you deserve are all NO answers.
It’s NOT pie-in-the-sky. All no answers are real and if you don’t believe it, you’ve been in the wrong relationship with the wrong person for too long.
No relationship is worth even one “yes” on this column. It’s better to be alone than to have your safety, professional life, children, finances etc compromised. Being alone is hard but being with the wrong person is even harder.