How to identify dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships

We've seen it before. The yelling, the frustration, and the complete inability to land on the same page. We've been conditioned to normalize it, accept it, and embrace it as it is, even when it lights us on fire and burns us out.


The following videos from Psych2Go, Nerdwriter1, Variety, and The School of Life teach us how to identify and address these dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships through awareness, empathy, and effort in better communication.


1. Identify the signs


Despite Psych2Go's focus on romantic partnerships, dysfunctionally is not exclusive to romance. It can be found in family, friendships, and even in the workplace. And the first step to identifying them is to identify signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Often we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t see when relationships are unhealthy.

2. Recognize what it looks like and how it feels


Film Writer Noah Baumbauch has a unique principle on cinematic dialogues, to portray dialogues as it really is. In The Meyerowitz Stories, Baumbauch makes it point to show that people don't realistically wait for the other person to finish their sentence. That realistically, we talk over each other and fail to communicate what we want more often than we are able to connect.

Communication isn't easy.

In another film, The Marriage Story, Noah Baumbauch portrays soon-to-be-divorced couple Charlie and Nicole as they deal with their deteriorating marriage's fall out. Baumbauch breaks down the scene where the couple's attempt to communicate escalates to "it almost becomes them just hurling insults at each other," as both Charlie and Nicole fail to communicate and accept each other's own feelings of hurt.

There’s a common theme… that it brought up feelings of failure.

3. Be aware and take action


We get used to other people just knowing what we want. We consistently wander around, as The School of Life explains, with "the problems of sophisticated adults insisting on believing that we are as easy to understand as infants," all the while carrying irrational fears that we will be punished for speaking up, furthering the gap in our communication.

We are terrible communicators because we refuse to accept the dignity, necessity, and complexity of the act of communication.

Humans are complex. And both parties must realize that.


We must realize that we each have our own story, our own values, and our own failures. That we cannot rely on other people reading our minds. That we cannot expect the worst in others while expecting them to expect the best in us. That we must put in extra effort in communicating what we want, how we want, and when we want, and that if we are privileged enough, we must gather the courage to speak up or to leave.


In the end, life is too short to be in a dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship where we bring each other down. Rather, life would be better spent on relationships where we are able to lift each other up.

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