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4 Signs That a Relationship Could Become Dangerous

Jealousy, isolation, and more red flags.

Key points

  • In most unhealthy relationships, there is a giver and a taker, as opposed relationships in which partners are equal.
  • Unhealthy relationships are often built on codependency, insecurity, immaturity, and irresponsibility.
  • A relationship becomes potentially dangerous when it morphs into isolation, bullying, and abuse.

I’ve written several posts about toxic relationships, but there are so many like this we hear little about. I think it’s worth revisiting toxic relationships, especially unhealthy relationships between intimate partners. Although many of us can relate to having people in our lives who are challenging and demanding, and ultimately not very good for us, it’s very different when the person you’re involved with is not only personally troubled, but hell-bent on pulling you into their unhealthy world and making you a part of their troubled lives.

First, I want to talk about some of the factors that describe and often define an unhealthy relationship.

3 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

1. Dependency. While we want someone who is dependable and present, we don’t necessarily want someone who is dependent. This simply means that a person is very needy and insecure, requiring a great deal of time and effort to care and support them. They need you to be around for them for far more time than is healthy. Their dependency eventually infringes upon your time and space so much so that you have less and less time for yourself and your own needs, separate from the relationship.

Over time, the dependent person becomes clingy, seeking more and more attention. Often they become jealous of time with others away from them and, given the opportunity, become demanding and angry when you can’t or won’t meet their immediate needs. It should come as no surprise that immaturity and irresponsibility often accompany dependency, not a good combination when you’re trying to navigate a stable, long-term intimate relationship.

2. Dishonesty. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, but especially that of an intimate partnership. When there is trust, partners can feel confident knowing they are safe. Trust opens people up to be themselves, to feel fully accepted as they are. Being unable to sustain trust with another opens the door to deception, lying, and secrets. After a while, these may get a life of their own where the norm becomes sneaking around, cheating, and more. Once you break a sacred trust, it’s hard to get it back.

3. Controlling. A dependent person wants you all to themself. It may start off subtly, asking you to spend more and more time with them alone because they need you. Eventually, it may become more personal, chipping away at your independence and autonomy. More and more, attempts may be made to isolate you, to separate you from friends and family. A controlling partner may try to sway you, to manipulate your point of view, your choices, and decisions to reflect more of their own. Eventually, control may invade most of your life, having to account for your time, reporting where you’re going and who you’re with.

These then are some of the factors that contribute to an unhealthy relationship. Fortunately for some, an intimate relationship of this kind runs its course and it’s over. Hopefully, you would have learned something from this to make you wiser in the future. If not, you may repeat the pattern, finding codependent people to share a relationship with and playing the whole thing out all over again.

4 Signs of a Potentially Dangerous Relationship

So, what happens when you up the ante, and an unhealthy relationship becomes dangerous? How can a relationship that starts out one way evolve, or devolve, into something that is the antithesis of a loving, caring relationship? More than answering those questions, let’s see how a toxic, unhealthy relationship can develop into something sinister and dangerous.

1. Isolation. Eventually, the expectation of exclusivity, meaning your time and energy exists mainly for this one person, may drive one to cut off ties with close family and friends. In fact, a good determinant of how unhealthy a person is and how toxic the relationship has become is the way family and friends respond to the other. They don’t like them. They can see clearly what is happening but often their concerns and fears fall on deaf ears.

2. Jealousy. Excessive jealousy on the part of the controlling partner can lead to cutting off communications with significant others, further isolating you. By doing this, they have effectively also cut off any reasonable thinking and personal support. They are cutting you off from anyone that could provide sound advice and a safe haven out of the relationship. Unfortunately, if their jealousy is pathological, real or imagined, anyone or anything that takes you away is cause for anger and rage.

3. Bullying and arguing. They’ve obviously “lost that loving feeling.” Maybe that’s what they always meant to do—pull you in with the promise of love, intimacy, and protection all the while knowing that was only a means to control and abuse. After a while, there’s frequent criticism, fault-finding, and humiliation. You become the reason why your partner is always angry. You are every negative thing one can find fault with and blame you for being. You are frequently picked on, argued with, and criticized in public. Anything can turn into a disagreement or argument. Once loved and lovable, you are now the object of contempt and derision.

4. Pathological behavior. Surely, not all unhealthy relationships become pathological, but some definitely do. Narcissistic personality, complete self-centeredness, extreme possessiveness, the need to control, and the sense of entitlement to get one’s way no matter what, often predominate in unhealthy, pathological, and abusive relationships. The abusive partner is often deceptively charming to others, so much so that others would never guess what’s really going on. The abused partner is often gaslighted and afraid.

Abuse in relationships is expressed emotionally, psychologically, or physically and/or all of the above. No abuse is ever acceptable but when it gets physical, time is running out. Sometimes people don’t know what’s coming next. When the relationship looks as if it’s going well, there is a temporary sense of relief until the next time. You just never know. Sometimes people really mean to do harm, but sometimes people just mean to threaten. Given a certain set of circumstances, on any given day, things may just go a bit too far and someone is terribly harmed.

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