Valentine’s Day is here again. Suddenly, love is in the air. Heart-shaped chocolates, romantic candlelight dinners, red roses — you name it. Portrayals of romance are everywhere.
But, love is not as simple as a romantic dinner and flowers, giving the right gift, going to the Nicholas Sparks movie or showing up in the rain with a declaration of true love.
If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so much confusion or heartbreak in our world.
Often our social media world and Hollywood’s definition of “love” does no justice to what love actually is. Even worse, we ignore how previous relational wounds, our upbringing and experiences impact our understanding of what it means to love and be loved. Some can ignore red flags and see only what we want to see. Love can be blind. In the end, we can get trapped in unhealthy relationships. If our version of love is harming us or someone we care about, then don’t call it love.
5 Signs of an emotionally unhealthy relationship:
1) Do I overlook inconsiderate and irresponsible behavior?
Your partner may blow off commitments or consistently prioritize other things over you. They may not respect the boundaries that you have established. If you consistently feel undervalued, there might be something wrong.
2) Do I feel emotionally or physically unsafe or even tolerate abuse?
You may find yourself giving excuses for your partner’s harsh words or actions. If you notice you are justifying your partner’s behavior or that person has to convince you their actions are loving, you can be sure you are experiencing some form of counterfeit love. If you are being emotionally, physically or sexually harmed, remove yourself from the situation immediately and seek professional and legal help.
3) Do I do things I don’t want to do to gain approval?
You may say yes to things you normally wouldn’t to sustain the relationship. If you’re exhausting yourself trying to make someone else happy so they’ll stay in “love” with you, that is a red flag. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but your partner’s happiness shouldn’t always have to come at the expense of your emotional health.
4) Do I tend to see my opinions and views as less important than those of my
Your thoughts, feelings and opinions aren’t given equal consideration and authority in the relationship. If your partner doesn’t allow you to vocalize your perspective and doesn’t consider you to have equal ownership, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
5) Do I lie to myself or others about my relationship?
You choose to convince yourself and others that this relationship is the best thing since candy hearts. Even though many aspects of the relationship are hurtful, the thought of being alone is terrifying, so you put up with dysfunction to stay in a relationship. This final indicator is one of the biggest hurdles you must overcome in order to make a change for the better and protect yourself from counterfeit love.
If you answered yes to more of these questions than not, you may be in a relationship that’s locked in an ugly pattern of manipulation and heartbreak. You should love being in love! And if you’re truly being honest, you know when you don’t. There’s nothing more painful than being in a relationship with someone you love who doesn’t love you back.
As scary as it may be, admitting your relationship possesses a form of counterfeit love doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. In fact, calling out the underlying problems and committing to address them, as a couple, unleashes the power of hope for your relationship.
Remember, in the end all that really matters is the real stuff — who you loved and who loved you.
Tim Clinton, Ed. D., LPC, LMFT is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors, the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. The author of over 30 books, he is professor of counseling and pastoral care and executive director of the James C. Dobson Center for Child Development, Marriage and Family Studies at Liberty University. Follow him @DrTimClinton.