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3 Subtle Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

Pallavi Barnwal
Updated on March 3, 2022
Table of Contents

We all want love. We all long for love. Love is at the core of everything we do if we think

about it. But despite being a universally practiced and felt emotion, love has not been talked

about in the real sense. Barring the artificially curated social media posts and what we see


on TV, what is real love? I am calling this ‘real’ love because love as emotion itself has been

misinterpreted, distorted, sold zillion times.

What is ‘real’ love?

Well, it is an emotion that connects one to another in a one-sided or a mutually fulfilling

state. More importantly, since it is ever-evolving, real love is not one single state of being.

This is one of the profound understandings I have gained in my life of three and a half

decades. You can never be in a “permanent” state of love. It is bound to be interspersed

with unhealthy states of confusion, mistrust, accusation, conflict, and loneliness. You will

begin to have doubts. Are you really love this person? Has love ceased to exist? Are you

dragging this relationship? This is normal.

I have gone through a journey where the relationship became a piece of dead baggage that I

waited too long to throw away. I wanted to exit safely without causing hurt on both sides.

Ending a relationship is far more difficult than getting into it. So as someone, who

grappled with a dead, abusive relationship, how am I qualified to give advice on love?

Because I am learning to “love better”.

It seems like such a draconian task. Love is something that happens and continues

spontaneously. A lot of people see the idea of working on their love lives as another boring

task that they are forced to do. When I say we can “try” to love better, we are making room

for mistakes and failures, and actively learning from them. Because chaos is the eternal

truth. Nothing remains forever in the same shape and form. When we continue to age, grow,

and evolve, how can we expect to be in a fixed state for love? Love will change, die, and

resurrect for the same or a different person. Make room for that. It will add less pressure to

your pleasure of life and love. Aim to score 65% and not 100%. Doesn't that sound easier?

Yes, I have certainly learned the skill of it basis my own retaliations and mishappenings that I

faced at the hands of my former partner. It started with identifying that I am in an unhealthy

relationship. These are the three signs of an unhealthy relationship, and how I have tried

to navigate my relationships by making a little effort. Again, a reminder that using definite

verbs creates pressure so avoids that.

It’s Not About How A Relationships Starts, It’s How It Evolves

Abusive relationships don’t start out as abusive, in fact, they frequently start as exciting.

Usually, we know to look out for outright signs of unhealthy love. For example, a partner that

screams at you or physically hurts you. These are signs that are quite easy to spot. But

unhealthy love rarely starts off that way. It’s important to pay attention to how your

relationship evolves. Are you comfortable with the pace of your intimacy? Do you feel like

you can have your own life? Are your boundaries respected?

My past relationship started on a great note. We had great sex, great chemistry, common

interests. It was much later that I discovered that this person was a financial disaster, and

was deeply patriarchal and misogynistic. Whenever the discrepancies between who they

were and my view of them showed up, I would shove those thoughts deep into my mind,

refusing to acknowledge them. My learning from this experience is that you always trust your


instincts. There might not be loud signals, but your instincts will tell you that something is not



Isolation creeps in as your partner begins to pull you away from friends– your support

system – and tethers you more tightly to them. They plant seeds of doubt that create a gulf

between yourself and the people you love. If you’ve started feeling trapped in the

relationship, this is a red flag.

Extreme Jealousy

Jealousy is a normal part of any relationship. But in an abusive relationship, there is a

threatening and angry edge to it. In extreme jealousy, the abusive partner will try to control

your behavior through force and manipulation. Your partner may make unfair demands and

frequent accusations of flirting with other people either in real life or online. In my case, my

former partner was extremely envious of my accomplishments and always pulled me down

in indirect ways. He never appreciated my work and would always actively try to degrade my


Have you noticed any of these behaviors from your partner? Please feel free to respond in

the comment section if you want to share your experience! It will help you and others like


Last reviewed on March 30, 2022

Learn more about our editorial process.




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