What makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy or even abusive? The key elements in any relationship are communication, respect, trust, honesty, equality, allowing for personal space and time, making mutual sexual choices, being equal partners regarding finances, and engaging in collaborative and supportive parenting.
Unhealthy Relationship Signs
In an unhealthy relationship there may be a lack of communication where there are no fights or discussion. Rather, you just don’t communicate at all. Either partner may be disrespectful and inconsiderate of the other. There may be a lack of trust or invasion of privacy. There may be lies and dishonesty from either partner. One partner may be more controlling, feeling their choices are the most important.
You may only spend time with the unhealthy partner or their family/friends/etc. The unhealthy partner may guilt or pressure the other into sexual activity and ignore any boundaries set by the other partner. Partners may not discuss finances or one partner may be in charge of the finances.
Abusive Relationship Signs
In an abusive relationship the abusive partner will only communicate through arguments, threats, insults, demands, or demeaning ways. The abusive partner will mistreat the other not respecting feelings, thoughts, decisions, opinions, or physical safety. An abusive partner will flat out accuse the other partner of cheating when it’s not true. They may check your clothes, underwear, and body for “signs” of cheating. They will deny any abusive action by reversing the blame or making excuses.
An abusive partner will control the other partner making all decisions by themselves and without any input from the other partner. An abusive partner with isolate the other partner from friends, family, or any type of external support. They will want to control where you go, what you do, who you see, and who you talk to. They may require access to your phone and track your phone.
Another tactic is the abusive partner requiring you to share a “couples Facebook” or other social media accounts instead of having your own. This makes it difficult for the other partner to even join private groups for support without the abusive partner knowing about it. An abusive partner will force sexual activity and/or pregnancy. Even if the partners are married, this is considered marital rape. Consent to sexual activity is still required, however the abusive partner will not care about consent from the other partner.
An abusive partner will control all finances. They will not allow the other partner access to finances (even their own income), disallow the other partner to work, or even quit their job as a manipulative tactic to make it feel like it is impossible to leave the situation. An abusive partner will engage in manipulative parenting, using the children as pawns to gain power over the other partner, and telling the children lies or negative things about the other partner.
God’s Love and Mercy Applied to a Healthy Relationship
None of us are perfect, and we will all make mistakes. The key here is awareness and the ability to change our behavior when we make a mistake. In a healthy relationship, there should be open communication, trust, and honesty in order to resolve conflict in a healthy way. This should never be one sided, and forgiveness is a big part of any relationship. The process of forgiveness involves both people applying God’s mercy to their relationship.
The mercy and grace that have been given to us through Jesus and his death and resurrection is supposed to be paid forward. True love mimics God’s love for us. Someone who actually loves you will not engage in abusive behavior towards you. They will respect boundaries, give you personal time and space, not desire to control you or isolate you, will trust you, and will treat you equally.
In order to able to resolve conflict in a healthy way, it is important to establish healthy boundaries for both partners. These should be communicated and not assumed. Couples should work together to find the root issue of any argument or disagreement. You have to learn to talk about the real underlying issue to avoid constant fighting.
In some situations you may need to agree to disagree. Focus on what really matters, you will not always agree with every issue. If the issue is too important for you to drop, there may be a compatibility issue. Compromise is always important when resolving relationship issues. Be willing to meet in the middle – this requires both partners to loosen their grip and lower their wants and “requirements” to reach a solution that uses middle ground to benefit both partners and resolve a conflict.
Ask yourself: Is this issue really important? Does it change how the two of you feel about each other? Are you compromising your beliefs or morals? If yes, it’s important that you feel comfortable standing up for how you feel. If not, maybe this is a time for compromise. Also, consider your partner’s arguments. Why are they upset? What does the issue look like from their point of view? Is it unusual for your partner to get this upset? Does your partner usually compromise? Are you being inconsiderate? (thehotline.org)
Also make sure you aren’t dragging personal unhealthy baggage into a new relationship. There are individual problems then there are relationship problems. The two should not be confused. This important if considering counseling – you should discern between whether or not this problem is based on an individual issue that you didn’t resolve from your past or an actual marital problem in order to determine if individual counseling or marriage counseling is needed. It may be beneficial for both parties to meet with a counselor individually at least a few times before attending marriage counseling.
A healthy relationship doesn’t mean everything is perfect. A healthy relationship means that you as a couple are compatible and also able to communicate, understand, trust, and be honest with each other and treat each other equally and in a way that shows you love each other. Being able to engage in calm communication and conflict resolution is a result of actual love, compassion, and empathy for the other partner.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-6
– Pastor Sarah Grace