How to identify unhealthy relationships

Unhealthy and abusive relationships are more common than you might think. Approximately 43% of college women and 28% of college men report experience some sort of abusive behavior (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or controlling behavior) from someone they were in a relationship with (1).

It’s important to understand what the signs and symptoms of abuse. Physical abuse involves physical violence which could include hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, choking, biting, or forcing sex. Emotional abuse does the same amount of damage without having had to raise a hand. Emotional abuse can include threats to yourself or others, threatening suicide to get you to do something, and putting you down so you feel bad about yourself and feel you don’t have any other options.

Abusers often interfere with friendships and other relationships in an attempt to isolate or control. All of these behaviors are red flags and indicate an unhealthy relationship. Creating an environment that doesn’t tolerate abuse starts with your own self-worth and self-esteem. Understand that you are owed so much more than you are accepting and you deserve to be in a relationship with respect and trust.

54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police because people are afraid to speak up. They may think they’re at fault so they’re afraid to talk about what happened – they are not. You are not at fault if you are in a relationship that involves any type of abuse. You should also know that not every relationship is going to be salvageable and there are times when you might need to walk away from a relationship. If you feel unable to walk away, perhaps because of financial or family responsibilities, there are resources that can help you.

You can work to identify these red flags going forward so that you can walk away from unhealthy relationships before it becomes too much to handle. Abuse tends to start small and get bigger so don’t accept it from the beginning.

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