Unhealthy relationships can take many different forms, and there are also many different strategies for improving them. The difficult thing about improving relationships is that they involve two people, and in order for a relationship to improve, usually both people have to be involved and committed to the relationship’s improvement. However, there are some preliminary things you can do first as an individual to gain some clarity and make yourself feel better about the situation.
Do some self-assessment to find out what your expectations and needs are in your relationship. You may need to see a therapist if you are unable to determine what these expectations and needs are on your own. Don’t worry; going to a therapist doesn’t mean you are crazy. Therapists are trained to help their clients see things as they really are, and people who see therapists often are able to be more objective about their situations. During this self-assessment, either with a therapist or on your own, you should be able to determine whether you are expecting too much or too little of your partner.
Once you are clear about your needs and expectations, look at your behavior in the relationship. Do you tend to give up your own identity and see yourself as one half of a single entity instead of a whole person who deserves to have his or her own life? If you have given up friends, hobbies, or your dreams and goals to spend all of your spare time with your partner and devote yourself completely to this person, these are signs that you are too dependent on your partner for happiness and fulfillment. So become less dependent! Spend a few nights a week out doing things you enjoy. You could start by taking community college courses in subjects you are interested in or doing volunteer work. Finding yourself is fun, and it reminds you that your life does not have to revolve around your partner. Doing things for yourself can also reinforce your self-esteem and inspire you to start asking for what you really want and need.
Another aspect of how you behave in your relationship is how you communicate to your partner. Do you refrain from communicating clearly because you think your partner should be able to read your mind? While it would certainly be great if he or she could, remember that this is not realistic, and in order to improve things between you and your partner, you need to tell your partner what you need. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your partner if you can. If you have been avoiding communicating because you are afraid of what your partner will do or say, remind yourself that you deserve to be heard, and there’s no way you will get what you want if you are too afraid to vocalize what that is. You don’t have to yell and scream at your partner. Just sit them down and have a calm discussion, be open and completely honest, and remember to receive what they have to say just as fully as you want them to receive what you have to say.
If you have done self-evaluation, worked to improve your own life and self-esteem, and tried to communicate your needs to your partner, and you find that there are still significant issues that need to be addressed, try couples’ therapy. If therapy doesn’t help, you may need to seriously consider ending the relationship. Remember that you don’t need to stay in any relationship that does not contribute to your highest good and well-being.