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The Psychology Shop

Bad Romantic Relationships: Part 1

Do You Have An Icky Boyfriend (Or Girlfriend)? When To Stay And When To Run!

Romantic relationships can be the most thrilling and horrifying events in our existence. Remember your first love? The joy, excitement, and tingling feeling that you had whenever you were with your loved one. Now remember the heart wrenching pain and great sadness when that same relationship ended. It’s no wonder that romantic relationships can bring out the full spectrum of human emotion (and send many people into therapy).

How do you know who to have a long-term relationship with, and who to run away from? In this two part series, we will explore some common signs to look out for when embarking on a romantic journey. Remember, these are only signs and nobody is perfect (really!). Having one or two issues does not necessarily mean that your partner is a dud. But first, let’s go over some of the basics of dating.

First basic: There is an exception to every rule, but remember that you may not be that exception. For example, "it’s best to wait until you get to know someone before you consider marriage". Exception: "My grandparents married after knowing each other one week and were married for 75 years". That may be true, but for most folks, this short dating period usually ends up in divorce.

Second basic: Dating is truly a wonderful invention. It is designed to be a period of time for you to really get to know your partner. Remember, everyone can be on good behavior in the short run, but it is what they do in the long run that counts. The more time you allow for dating, the better you will know your partner.

Third basic: Hitting, pinching, shaking, slapping, name calling, stalking, hurting children, hurting pets are never ever helpful for any relationship. If your relationship consists of any of these…RUN!!!

Fourth basic: A relationship should enhance you as an individual, not make or break you. Thoughts such as "if only I had a partner, my life would be easier" or "I am nothing if I am not in a relationship" are not only frightening but also mean that you are using relationships to "complete yourself". Yikes! That’s putting a lot of responsibility on the person that you are dating.

Fifth basic: Your partner initially became interested in you, as the person you are. If you change for the relationship, you are now losing the thing that your partner was initially attracted to. Be true to yourself.

Sixth basic: "BUT I LOVE HIM…" is not enough of a reason to stay in a relationship that is emotionally or physically damaging. This is especially true if there are children involved. Children learn from their parents, now is a very good time to provide an example of how to choose, begin, and maintain a healthy relationship.

O.K. now take a few deep breaths, relax, and let’s go over some of the warning signs that your relationship may be in trouble. To help you dear reader (and because there are so many "icky partner" warning signs), I have grouped them into the following categories: Drama, Relationships, Communication, Behavior, and the infamous Other category.

Becoming involved with a drama king/queen is guaranteed to arouse many strong emotions. This includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. But who needs strong bad and ugly emotions? Unless you like immense mood swings, it might be better to look elsewhere. Identifying drama icky partners is not hard to do:
  • Does this sound familiar? "I love you, but I'm not in love with you….but I love you" Talk about mixed messages! Remember, love is more of a process, it is not something you can turn on and off like a light switch.
  • How about this one? "I need space…no I don't…now that you are getting closer (emotionally) I need space…". Some folks call this the dance of avoidance, I actually compare it to playing a slot machine. The technical term is intermittent reinforcement. What this means is that initially the relationship is very good and then unexpectedly it gets worse, then just as you are backing away, your partner wants to get close again. Think of it this way (slot machine): you win, win, lose, lose, win, lose, lose, win, win, lose, lose, lose. At first you get the win and just when you are about to walk away because of the losses, you win again. Because of the wins (the good times) it is hard to walk away during the bad times because you never know when another good time will come. Sound confusing? It is if you are in one of these relationships. Just remember, in the end you will lose much more than win. After all, casinos make a ton of money on this principle. I should also add that this type of relationship can be the hardest to get over because of the hope and potential promise that your partner is actually a "good mate". In many ways, these relationships can feel like an addiction.
  • We all make mistakes, that is the glorious thing about being human. When your partner makes a mistake does he take responsibility for it, or does someone else always gets the blame?
  • If you are really in the mood for drama, choose a partner who is already in another relationship or just coming off of one. It is far better to be with someone who is not being pulled by another relationship and can focus on yours without interference.
  • Does your partner avoid your friends and family and encourages you to avoid them as well? Pulling you away from pre-existing relationships with family and friends is a HUGE sign of a potentially controlling partner.
  • There are some truths in old wives tales - the stories that are told over and over again. Some of the better ones include: "you can tell how a person will treat you by the way he treats his mother"; and "never stay with anyone who mistreats pets".
  • How does your partner discuss his or her previous romantic partners. If your partner describes all of his past girlfriends as crazy or evil, what does this say about you? Either your partner is extremely unlucky to only come across such awful people or perhaps your partner does not recognize his own role within these past relationships.
  • If your partner has children, how are the children treated? Are the children supported and have their emotional and physical needs met?
  • Relationships actually require some skill. The longer time your partner has been in previous relationships, the better.