Is Your Relationship Causing More Pain than Joy? PLUS Tips to Move Forward
Our words and our actions have the amazing ability to inspire deep, long-lasting love – but they can also do the opposite. Harsh, disrespectful ways of interacting can hurt both us and our partner. We take a look at some signs of an unhealthy or hostile relationship, and what you can do to bring a shift.
Certain attitudes and patterns of speaking and behaving can turn an essentially loving and compatible relationship into a place of pain and resentment. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. You deserve a beautiful, healthy relationship – one that brings more joy than pain.
The first step is to check in honestly about the way you and your partner are relating to each other. If you’re single, this guidance can help you to deal with issues from past relationships and to reflect on your style of communication before you start a new relationship.
Warning signs of an unhealthy or hostile relationship*
- You feel emotionally or physically distant from your partner.
- You or your partner feels the need to always be right.
- You criticise each other a lot – or you would describe your relationship as a judgemental space.
- Your communication involves threats, or you attack each other verbally or in other forms.
- There are often emotional outbursts.
- You interrogate each other – for example, about where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing or who you’ve been with.
- You feel that your partner is indifferent to you, or feel indifferent to your partner.
- You lie to your partner (or have discovered your partner lying to you).
- There is frequent jealousy in your relationship.
- You often complain about your relationship and/or compare it with the relationships of others around you.
- You feel pessimistic about the future of the relationship.
- You blame your partner for the way you feel.
- You give your partner orders.
- You pretend that things are okay when they are not.
*Please note that this list is non-exhaustive and is meant only to guide your enquiry into the quality of your relationship.
What have you learned about your relationship?
If a couple of these points are true, you and/or your partner may be engaging in behaviours that can erode your relationship and create resentment. Of course, it’s normal to have challenges and moments of conflict in your relationship, and that doesn’t necessarily mean these are warning signs! Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to monitor how you relate to each other and to prevent any unhealthy patterns from developing. (You may also like to try this quiz on healthy relationships).
If quite a few of the points above are true, you may be in a hostile – or even toxic – relationship. Remember that deceitful or aggressive behaviours do not belong in a healthy relationship: consider re-evaluating (or even ending) the relationship if many of these feature in your relationship. Your wellbeing and safety is paramount.
10 Steps to Move Forward
Resentment, anger and/or hostility can build in any relationship when we forget to tend lovingly to it. These pointers may help to bring you and your partner closer together:
1. Accept where you are
Recognizing that you are feeling angry or resentful will help you take the appropriate steps to resolve a hostile relationship.
2. Take time out when angry
Taking responsibility for your actions, and learning and practising techniques to control your own anger, is key to a healthy relationship. The good news is that dealing with your anger is a skill you can learn!
3. Give your partner feedback…
Feedback shows the other person how they have hurt you and allows them to evaluate the consequences. Be firm but fair about their unacceptable behaviour.
4. … And listen to their feedback
Getting your partner’s perspective is also as important as expressing your frustrations in a calm manner. Set time aside to talk over why either of you is feeling angry.
5. Avoid constant criticism
No one likes to be blamed and scrutinised. Avoid using «shoulds» and accusations to get your partner to do something that you would like them to do.
6. Never resort to or tolerate verbal abuse (or abuse of any kind)
Swearing, name calling, yelling, blaming and throwing tantrums may provide short-term relief but will only worsen the situation, making the gap in your relationship more difficult to bridge. And because nothing has been solved, the anger remains until the next time.
7. Know that some arguments can’t be solved
People have strong values and don’t give them up easily! During a heated argument, you’re unlikely to convince your partner that you are right. Try to avoid the arguments that may result in unnecessary anger and be conscious about choosing whether you want to be right or happy.
8. Reach out to a neutral third party
Ensure you have a support system, both individually and as a couple. It helps to gain perspective from others. You may even ask a trusted person to act as a mediator during arguments to help to reduce the strong feelings being experienced.
9. Set your bottom line
Your bottom line is the hostile or unhealthy behaviour that you will not tolerate. State your limits (for example, ‘I cannot tolerate you screaming at me’) and stick to them. Decide what constitutes a dealbreaker, and what doesn’t.
10. Seek professional help
Counselling can be a wonderful support if you’re feeling overwhelmed or alarmed by the state of your relationship, or would simply like to learn tips for strengthening the relationship. (Please feel free to book your free 15-minute introductory chat with Expat Nest, so we can see how best to support you.)
Which of these pointers have you found helpful, and what others can you recommend for building a kinder and more joyful relationship? We’d love to hear your thoughts!