October is mostly associated with spooky ghosts, scary skeletons, and excesses of candy the likes of Willy Wonka have never seen. However, October is also domestic violence awareness month, which shines a light on the real-life monsters that exist in all shapes and forms. These monsters are more common than you may think with domestic violence affecting an estimated 10 million people every year. In other words, as many as one in four women and one in nine men experience some form of abuse every year (2022). There is much that can be said about domestic violence, but this blog will explore the differences between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships. Being able to spot red flags and being aware of unhealthy patterns may prevent a potentially dangerous situation.
Let us first start with what a healthy relationship looks like. It is a term used often, but rarely do people explore what it actually means. They may even just assume that the relationship is healthy because they are a part of one. Relationships, whether they be familial, friend, or romantic, all require mindfulness and effort to maintain. A healthy relationship relies on both parties being equal partners in the relationship. Of course, there are situations where one may expend more energy than the other at times, but generally, both parties are giving as much as they are receiving. One of the keys to a healthy relationship is communication. The word communication can mean a lot of different things, but in this sense, it means that both partners are talking openly, honestly, and respectfully, as well as actively listening to the thoughts of their partner. Communication is how relationships begin, but they are also how it is maintained. Another factor in a healthy relationship is respect where both partners value each other completely and adhere to each other’s boundaries. In some ways, being respectful to one’s partner is a version of non-verbal communication.
One may think that the signs of an unhealthy relationship are just the opposites of a healthy one and in some ways, this is true. Not communicating when problems arise, being disrespectful, and being dishonest are definitely red flags to look out for. However, there is more to an unhealthy relationship. Trying to take control of a partner can invalidate their feelings and choices, making them seem unimportant. While a relationship is a partnership, it still takes two individuals to tango, and thus, two individuals’ desires and choices. Not being open to a partner’s choice or attempting to control it can be destructive to the relationship. Another sign is in regard to trust or lack thereof. If one partner does not believe what the other says or feels entitled to invade their privacy, the other can never truly feel comfortable in the relationship as they are often left feeling they need to prove or defend themselves.
The majority of people may think of a physical assault when they hear the word abuse, but abuse is so much more comprehensive than physical. There can be emotional, mental, sexual, spiritual, and financial to name a few. What abuse boils down to is if a partner is doing anything threatening, insulting, or demeaning to the other partner. Power is a huge theme in abusive relationships where one person has control and the other does not. This can lead to isolation, doing things one may not want to do, or getting blamed for the actions of the aggressor.
When compared to a healthy relationship, one may think it is easy to see the differences. However, when a person is living in an abusive situation, it is extremely challenging to see these red flags. If you or anyone you know is questioning the health of their relationship, please give us a call or contact us here. We are happy to assist you regardless of the state of your relationship.
Citation: Huecker, M.R., King, K.C., Jordan, G.A., et al. Domestic Violence. [Updated 2022 Jul 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499891/