Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship

What is an Unhealthy Relationship?

An unhealthy relationship is defined as the way of living in which both the partners are dissatisfied and discontented with each other. Distrust and disrespectfulness are the dominant aspects.

It involves deflecting responsibilities, sabotaging, intimidating, and belittling.

There is an imbalance of power. Partners hardly trust each other. Communication lacks and mocking becomes a normal daily functioning. The elements of romantic and intentional jealousy are dominant. 

Threatening and manipulation rule. In such a relationship, partners are living with each other because of helplessness. None of them enjoys the bounties of the relationship, which is being rusted gradually.

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Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship by RelationCounseling.Org

Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship

Following are the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship .

1. Disrespect.

The first characteristic of an unhealthy relationship is disrespect . Words and actions of disrespect show rudeness and bitterness of tongue. A disrespectful partner hardly bothers about the surroundings and starts with abusing language. This element of disrespectfulness includes mocking and plan locking.

Related: What is respect in a relationship


In relationships, mocking is making fun of the partner with hurtful sarcasm and intensive personal joking. It is certainly not joking. It is the disrespect that hurts the sufferer to a large extent and leads to depression. 

Disrespect is a sign of unhealthy relationship
Disrespect is a sign of an unhealthy relationship

Name-calling and eye-rolling are its main weapons. In an unhealthy relationship, there are many ways to hurt the self-esteem of the partners and make them feel inferior, but it’s mocking from where it starts. By considering it a kind of joke, the sufferers at first ignore it but soon they realize that their partner is looking down upon them in this way.

Plan locking.

The controlling attitude of one partner locks the plans of the other. In unhealthy relationship freedom of decision is not valued. Opinions and interests of the sufferer are submerged by mocking and their plans are deliberately destroyed. 

It creates suffocation for the sufferer. Assuring them about their insecurity, their plans are locked and they can hardly take a free decision. 

2. Jealousy

In relationships, holding on to the partner unfairly firmly is jealousy . Those who are jealous are afraid of losing their partner. They want to keep others away from their romantic partner. 

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Jealousy is another characteristic of an unhealthy relationship
Jealousy is another characteristic of an unhealthy relationship

Those who are jealous usually suffer from an inferiority complex. To conceal it they are assisted by concerns and start controlling their partner. Jealousy, when meets envy, becomes vulnerable to a relationship. In relationships, two types of jealousy are prominent.

Romantic Jealousy

In an unhealthy relationship, romantic jealousy occupies a vast space that apart the hearts far away. The complexity of perception in actions and thoughts leads to romantic jealousy. 

In such a case, one of the partners becomes suspicious about the other. Those who suffer from romantic jealousy blame their partner for cheating in the relationship. Regarding their partner, they always have a rivalry in their mind. 

Loss of emotional control and going mad over imaginative rivals are seen when one suffers from romantic jealousy. The romantic partner has to bear taunts in this regard.

Intentional Jealousy

When the relationship becomes unhealthy, one of the partners starts mentioning their ex-partner with all charms and craze. They do it to make their living partner jealous. 

What happens when a relationship becomes unhealthy

The other way to produce intentional jealousy is the male partner will illustrate the beauty of other women and the female partner will exemplify the personality and charm of some other guy. Both or one of them will try to make the other feel inferior.

3. Betrayal

In an unhealthy relationship, betrayal happens when partners or one of the partners violates the contract or vows. It creates a conflict and shakes the very foundations of trust. What remains behind is an unhealthy relationship with all its dullness and gloom. 

Betrayal can be emotional as well as physical. In an emotional betrayal, one tries to alleviate their illegal concerns by blackmailing the other. While less worst is not the physical betrayal that is sheer cheating and violation of vows or marriage contracts.


Deceitfulness is deceiving the partner in a relationship by showing one set of feelings while having the other. It also includes lame excuses. 

What is deceitfulness in a relationship
What is deceitfulness in a relationship

In the start, it can work, but when the other partner becomes suspicious and things come into daylight, all the suspiciousness is converted into staunch truths. In an unhealthy relationship, this aspect is not irrespective too.


If one is in an unhealthy relationship for a considerable time, it means they are facing continuous threats. These threats include sharing private matters and facing enmity if certain conditions are not materialized. 

Threatening is brought into unhealthy relationships to control the partner. With every new threat or with the repetition of threats, relationships keep getting unhealthy.

4. Manipulation.

In an unhealthy relationship, it happens frequently. People who are too innocent or suffer from low self-esteem get struck into an unhealthy relationship where they are controlled easily by their significant other.

What does a manipulative partner do
What does a manipulative partner do

The manipulative partners tend to lie to put all the burden on their partner. To prove themselves chastened, they make lame excuses and put all the blame on their significant other.


In an unhealthy relationship, gaslighting is seen frequently. It is a psychological manipulation in which self-doubt is created to confuse the mind of the partner. 

The main purpose of gaslighting is to occupy the partner fully so that they may not be able to think and act freely.

Gaslighting can be in the following forms when it makes a relationship unhealthy.


Spinning the works of fiction in a relationship is the point from where things start getting spoiled. Continuously lying in a relationship is a collapse to trust. 

To hide their ill doings, one of the partners starts lying to their significant other. Thus, trust is ruined and the relationship becomes unhealthy.

Victim Playing.

Victim playing is ignoring the target until they take their own way or get back with apologies. In victim playing, one of the partners tries to make the other feel guilty. They make them realize that everything that is out of track is their fault. By this act of victim playing, what one gets is false alleviation.

Love Bombing.

Love bombing is not in the initial stage of the relationship. It is realized after it has ceased.

It happens at the start of a relationship, one of the partners reflects utmost love, affection, and care for the other. To drag someone deeper in love, this manipulating tactic is utilized in the early stage. Bombing the love at the same pace is almost impossible in the relationship. 

So when this display of love bombing becomes hard for the one partner, the relationship starts getting unhealthy.

5. Control

Being in a relationship never means becoming dependent, but in an unhealthy relationship, one of the partners is made dependent by the other.

Control is the domination of one partner over the other. They make their significant others insecure and guilty.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship

As control is one of the major signs and characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, it is not only in one department of life. It can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and even financial.

Physical Control

In physical control, there are specific restrictions on one of the partners. Physical control is like psychological control in which the victim hardly comes to know about it when it takes place. 

It starts from when they are told politely that they should do this and not that, wear this and not that, look so and not that. It seems love bombing in its initial stage but soon the victims realize that they are being gold prisoned.

Sexual Control

Pursuing the partner for sex in a way that is undesirable to them is sexual control. In an unhealthy relationship, this sexual coercion with nonviolent means is a pressure on the other partner to indulge in sexual activity. 

Sexual control is usually got by bullying the partners, rational threats, or by calling their names.

Financial Control.

Financial control is the full control of one partner over money. The other has no access. To meet the basic needs of life, they become dependent on their partners. If they are given the money, they have to be accountable for spending it. Regarding finance and budget, one has none to do with them. 

It makes the relationships unhealthy, which further leads to complete destruction.

Related: Healthy boundaries in a relationship 

6. Deflecting Responsibilities.

In an unhealthy relationship, one partner is involved in deflecting the responsibilities. They make lame excuses to avoid the responsibilities of the relationship. 

Deflecting Responsibility is another characteristic of unhealthy relationship
Deflecting Responsibility is another characteristic of unhealthy relationship

For it, they make different excuses like childhood wounds and bad past experiences. Their only motive is to avoid responsibilities somehow. They start blaming their partners. If they are already blamed, they shift it to their partners immediately.

7. Violence

In unhealthy relationships, violence is the extreme point from which the collapse is certain. Repeated verbal abuse, threats, and use of hand are included in a violated relationship. It starts from little conflicts and gradually reaches its peak if not checked. 

It takes place in the shape of escalated arguments and then turns into physical assaults. It is not normal behavior, as it is one of the dark characteristics of an unhealthy relationship. Following are its two main kinds.


In physical violence, one of the partners exerts control over the other. It includes kicking, slapping, hitting, punching, or even any activity that harms the other partner physically. Stress from work problems, financial instability, and bad temper lead to physical violence.

Intending for physical violence is also considered physical violence as it is the point from which one gets courageous to take extreme steps.


Though compared to physical violence, mental violence seems less harmful but actually, it is not. It has its own deterioration. They find numerous ways to inflict mental violence on those who are having a relationship with them. 

Mental violence is a sign of unhealthy relationship
Mental violence is a sign of unheathy relationship

They demand their partners to sacrifice their needs, they make unreasonable demands, and they become overly critical to submerge their partners mentally. It ruins the mental health of the sufferer and they can’t maintain a healthy relationship.

8. Sabotaging

Sabotaging is one of the chief signs of an unhealthy relationship in which one partner deliberately starts damaging the success, reputation, and achievements of the other. Backbiting, rumors, and threats to public, and private information are used to sabotage the partners.

9. Intimidation.

Intimidation can comprise actual violence or threat. Intimidation happens when a partner attempts to rectify the aspects of the life of the other partner by making them feel timid or frightened. 

The main purpose of intimidation is to get control over the partner and make them realize that they are nothing without their partners. It makes the relationship off-color and soon the sufferers start detesting their partners.

10. Belittling.

In relationships, belittling is an immoral attitude. One of the partners makes the other feel bad about herself or himself. Making rude remarks, calling them names, and even coming up with bad comments about the family members or friends of the partner are also included in belittling. Belittling in an unhealthy relationship can be in two ways.


Making the partners feel about themselves is personal belittling. In personal belittling, the accusers call the names of their partners to make them feel disturbed or inferior. They want to make them suffer from an inferiority complex. 

Those who do it are usually snobs and have mental disorders.


Impersonal belittling is to make the partners realize that they are from an inferior family and that their family members and friends are mean. The accuser frequently calls their names and uses bad comments against them. The accused can’t stand it and the relationship becomes unhealthy.

Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship - Infographic by
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Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship.

Disrespect, forceful dependence, dishonesty, hostility, intimidation, harassment, violation of any kind, and controlling attitude are the sure signs of an unhealthy relationship. In the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, there are signs of an unhealthy relationship.


If you find your relationship with the above-mentioned characteristics, be sure that you are having an unhealthy relationship with no future unless you check them with the consultation of an efficient relationship counselor. 

An unhealthy relationship can be turned into a healthy one. What you need is to eradicate the very roots of the causes with the help of your offline relationship counselor.

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Psychology is my passion and keenly observing relationships fascinates me. Sigmund Freud to Albert Bandura and William James to Jean Piaget has been my priorities since I am there at university. read more


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