Unhealthy Relationships with Power and Control Issues

Unhealthy Relationships with Power and Control Issues

How do I know if I have unhealthy relationships? No doubt humans are relational beings and healthy relationships are necessary for our wellbeing. Relationships play a vital role in the human experience; they can seriously harm us, and they can seriously heal us.

Relationships have ups and downs and for better or for worse seasons. Growing up in unhealthy relationships or being around unhealthy relationships can make it difficult to recognize unhealthy behaviors in oneself or others. During childhood, we begin to develop core beliefs about who we are. These beliefs are predominantly shaped by our experiences with our primary caregivers and they will certainly play a role in how we interact in relationships during adulthood.

We all experience some level of wounding in childhood. While having nurturing parents contributes to positive core beliefs, it does not always buffer other early life experiences that can create wounded or negative beliefs about oneself. Hurtful childhood relationships that inflicted any form of abuse or neglect are sure to leave core wounds that create false and self-defeating beliefs. Some examples are: “my needs are not important, I am not worthy of love, I can’t trust others, I am dirty or ugly, I have to be in control to be safe, I am not enough or I am too much.” The good news is, that even someone with core wounds and several self-defeating beliefs can heal those wounds significantly and learn to reframe their thinking. With self-awareness, healing, and intentional living, one can overcome many barriers and choose to live with a healthy sense of self.  Thus, one can have healthy and fulfilling relationships.

We have all heard the age-old adage “Love is Blind,” and many often enter adult relationships, particularly romantic ones, with a sense of eagerness rather than intentional conscious awareness. As the relationship progresses, our unaddressed core wounds can shape the relationship. Some relationships start off with yellow warning flags and partners grow so accustomed to dysfunctional coping mechanisms in each other that they hardly seem to see the flags turning orange and red. When someone enters a relationship with a seriously wounded sense of self, they can be vulnerable to maltreatment or possibly inflict injury in the relationship. When one partner endures chronic un-met needs, they may attempt to cope by lowering expectations for the relationship. Eventually they find themselves in a relationship that is troubling or even toxic. People may need support to discern the signs of a hurtful or harmful relationship.

Here are a few signs the relationship with your partner or anyone who is important in your life, may be unhealthy.

  1. We fight often.
  2. I/ they hide things or avoid certain topics to avoid angry outbursts or to “keep the peace” in the relationship.
  3. I/ they keep secrets in general.
  4. I feel “guilty” a lot, particularly in this relationship.
  5. I often feel like the relationship is one-sided.
  6. They put down my hopes and dreams when I talk about them.
  7. They often refuse to do things that I need or that matter to me.
  8. I cannot go anywhere without them or make any choices without their approval.
  9. I feel insecure when I am with this person. Sometimes I wonder if I am enough.
  10. They are abusive in anyway, physically, emotionally, verbally, psychologically, spiritually, or financially. Meaning they use shame, control, manipulation or force in any of these areas.
  11. I often change to be more of what they want me to be. I am trying to be their ideal version of me.
  12. I generally feel unhappy or lonely in this relationship.
  13. I rarely express my true feelings, and this leaves me frustrated and resentful.
  14. They complain about me to family members or friends or they routinely avoid my family and friends.
  15. If I had to rate them on a scale of 1-10 on qualities like warmth, trustworthiness, dependability, and empathy I would rate them lower than a 5.

I have included a link to the Power and Control Wheel from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. This is a helpful resource to identify patterns of abusive behaviors.


Written by Ellen Drews