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What to Do About an Unhealthy Relationship

Here are some red flags that your relationship is in the danger zone and what can be done to repair an unhealthy relationship.

"It's better late than never." You have probably said this or heard this at least once in your lifetime, but when it comes to the health of important relationships, this very catchy phrase is in some cases the seal of death.

Nursing a troubled relationship back to health through therapy can be a difficult task, and can be even more so when emotions of love and friendship have deteriorated to the point of intense dislike, or even hatred.

Yet, couples often seek therapy after a separation has occurred, soon after divorce has been considered, or, in some cases, while already in divorce court. Although it is not impossible, even at these late stages to restore a relationship back to health, attaining a positive outcome this late in the game is more the exception than the norm.

Surprisingly, one of the main reasons couples fail to seek therapy early is their unwillingness to come to terms with the extent to which their relationship has deteriorated, and/or the embarrassment of admitting to others that they are having problems.

There can be a sense of hopelessness and unwillingness to invest in therapeutic work, which is the result of a build-up of resentment between a couple. As individuals become resentful of each other, their defense mechanisms progressively become entrenched as adaptive coping styles and further emotional investment, or any commitment to therapeutic work necessary for healing, is considered a threat. Due to this unwillingness to commit to therapeutic work, couples who do seek help early on often abandon therapy sessions before any positive goals are accomplished.


 

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Undoing the damage caused by two resentful people acting out against each other in a relationship is sometimes beyond the scope of therapy. Even when professional therapeutic help can conceivably be effective, such a great amount of time and patience is required that couples are often unwilling to invest themselves in therapy when so much damage has already been done.

There are often clear signs that a couple needs to seek therapy immediately to nurse their relationship back to health. A brief questionnaire is included at the end of this article - it provides some key indicators of the health of a relationship.

Here are some red flags that your relationship is in the danger zone and what can be done to repair an unhealthy relationship.In addition, the following are some red flags that your relationship may be approaching serious damage. If you are currently experiencing any of these indicators, you may want to seek the help of a qualified therapist:

  • The only conversation you and your spouse have with each other is about everything that is wrong with your relationship.
  • You have a long list in your head of all the things your spouse has done to offend you, and you literally go through that list everyday.
  • You cannot remember the last time you where intimate with each other - or when you are, it is not satisfying, and on some occasions even the intimate moments end with an argument.
  • You frequently wonder whether you would be happier with someone else. You have sometimes mulled over the idea of calling an old flame, or flirting with someone you think might be interested in you.
  • You spend a great deal of time expressing how dissatisfied you feel in your relationship to close friends, or family. Everyone knows you are unhappy.
  • You and your spouse are more like roommates, than a romantic couple. You have started to live different lives, and form separate interests; you are no longer partners.
  • You are constantly involved in power struggles; it has become more important to be right than to work on healing and recreating friendship between you and your spouse.

If these scenarios describe your relationship, remember that when it comes to seeking therapy, late is sometimes just as good as never.

Last Updated: 25 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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