Giving Young Adults Permission to Leave Unhealthy RelationshipsMay 22, 2019
During young adulthood, Erik Erikson proposes that conflict centers around building intimacy in relationships or risking social isolation. Based on their intensified need for close relationships, young adults are more likely to find themselves in unhealthy relationships that they cling to out of fear of being alone.
Denial plays a role in identifying unhealthy relationships, as young adults want to believe that they are well-supported and accepted by the people they’ve chosen to surround themselves with. Young adulthood is a transitional phase of people’s lives where they meet a variety of people and play a variety of roles, but struggle to build intimacy at an appropriate pace.
Learning how to recognize and seek out strong, positive relationships helps shape one’s sense of self and future orientation; however, not all relationships they form will be beneficial for their personal growth. It is okay if not every relationship works out, although getting over a breakup or the loss of a close friend can feel earth-shattering.
Signs of Unhealthy Relationships
There are varying levels of unhealthy relationships. They may be one-sided, codependent, neglectful, abusive, or a negative influence. Many unhealthy relationships do not start that way, but become that way over time based on differences in opinions, attachment styles, love languages, mental stability, or future goals. All relationships evolve over time, whether they grow, disintegrate, or change in nature.
- Imbalance in giving and taking
- Controlling decision-making
- Overly critical
- Keeping secrets from each other
- Jealousy or possessiveness
- Unpredictable behavior that makes you feel like you’re walking on eggshells
- Based on guilt or shame
- Frequent or complete avoidance of arguments
- Fast-paced with skipped stages of building intimacy
- Lack of boundaries
- Difficulty saying no
- Restricted independence
- Enables unhealthy coping skills
- Physical or sexual violence
- Fear of leaving the relationship for personal safety or the other’s well being
Removing Toxic Relationships
- Realize it’s not your fault. You are not to blame for the other person’s problems or the effect it has had on you. It is not a reflection of your inability to stay in relationships or your failure to see warning signs if things go wrong. Toxic people thrive off control and often aren’t aware of how their behavior affects relationships.
- Recognize it is your decision to explain yourself. If you feel comfortable expressing how you’ve been impacted personally, tell them. If you are concerned for your safety or mental health, you don’t have to. You do not have to defend your decision to anyone if your gut instinct is that the relationship is toxic.
- Remember that not all relationships are meant to last. Instead of focusing on the hurt or abandonment, consider what lessons you may have learned and remember the positive impact they may have initially had on your life. While the memories may linger, give yourself permission to slowly let them go. Changes in relationships are inevitable and cannot be avoided completely.
Building Healthy Relationships
- Strengthening communication skills involves being able to identify one’s emotions, expectations, and needs and being able to clearly and openly express them with others.
- Creating realistic expectations. One of the main reasons healthy relationships become unhealthy quickly is that they are idealized and then one becomes disappointed when the other does not measure up. Lowering one’s expectations can create more satisfaction in a relationship. While “no expectations” may be a useful outlook on life, it is important to create some expectations of your goals and boundaries in relationships.
- Find common ground. Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect, trust, values, and goals. While quality time and recreation may add to the relationship, it is important to find a balance between the highs of a relationship and comfort in just being present around each other. “Opposites attract” has not completely been debunked, but it can sometimes create a power imbalance or a desire to fix qualities in others that can lead to conflict.
How Trails Momentum can Help
Trails Momentum is a wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-25 who struggle with anxiety and depression, which contribute to unhealthy relationships. The program’s goal is to inspire change in young adults that draws on a sense of community and adventure that helps shift the narrative about a young adult’s trajectory. Students are taught how to connect with the greater world, foster real relationships, and personally develop their own identity. Trails Momentum gives students the opportunity and tools they need to recreate themselves and get on track to a healthy, happy, and successful future.
For more information on how we help young adults heal from toxic relationships and develop healthy relationships, call (877) 296-8711.