An unhealthy relationship shows signs and symptoms of a relationship disorder, like an unhealthy body. At times, it relates to the behavior of one or both partners.

The causes of relationship disorders can vary from childhood problems to learned patterns of behavior from adulthood. Childhood patterns of relationship problems are difficult to unlearn, but awareness, acceptance, and therapy can help.

Here are some common behaviors that create relationship disorders:


1. Fear of dealing with problems

Avoiding difficult conversations is a pattern that can lead to resentment in a relationship. When one partner cannot openly express feelings to another, the relationship’s problems cannot be brought to light and resolved. The pattern of avoidance becomes a symptom of a relationship disorder.

2. Distorted thinking

If everything your partner says seems to be hurtful, this tendency to self-harm through your interpretation of others’ words may be a destructive symptom of a relationship disorder. A counselor tells a story of a frustrated husband who was thinking of leaving his wife because he thought she was uncaring. The skillful therapist had the man change his perspective to describe the same uncaring actions of his wife and to reframe them so that she intended to show caring toward him.

3. Love addiction

Another harmful pattern of behavior in relationship disorders is love addiction. Your relationship revolves around your partner’s actions, behavior, thoughts, and words. You wait for your partner to tell you what they want to do and watch your partner’s face for signs of emotion indicating how they feel about you. Such intense focus on the other in a relationship is a giving, loving attitude, but because it ignores the wants of one person in favor of the other, this is a symptom of an underlying relationship disorder.

A partnership requires both people to devote time and energy to developing a strong bond that keeps you connected. Each person should have their own distinct lives, which they enjoy separately, but also enjoy more in the company of their partner. In other words, without your partner, what would you be doing? Do it anyway and invite your partner to participate.

4. Seeking perfection

Perfect almost certainly does not exist; many of us are still seeking the perfect partner. No one can be perfect by meeting all of your expectations all the time, so you cannot assume that someone will. Continuing to focus on making things perfect or finding the perfect partner will be an unhealthy pattern that leads to continuously being disappointed in others. Acceptance of human flaws in ourselves and in others is important to establishing close relationships.

Related Article: 5 Behaviors That Make People Give Up On Love (And How to Heal)


Physical signs and symptoms of relationship disorders

Communication problems and related disorders can cause physical symptoms in our bodies related to the stress we feel.

Symptoms of stress-related relationship disorders include:

– Nausea
– Shakiness
– Sweating
– Blushing
– Feeling hot or flushed
– Worry
– Upset stomach
– Racing thoughts
– Bowel distress
– Changes in appetite

Researchers studying the neurotransmitter oxytocin and the role it plays in forming social bonds find that the loss of affectionate bonds between romantic partners “may contribute to emotional disequilibrium and confer elevated risk for the onset of stress-related disorders.”

When relationship problems are present and our bodies feel distress, we may seek to self-medicate if there is no improvement in the relationship. Researchers studying alcohol problems and relationship health find that “relationship problems and drinking often co-occur, with robust positive associations between heavy drinking and marital discord.”

Negative interpersonal events like those in an unhealthy relationship can predict drinking and alcohol-related problems. The researchers found that jealousy in a relationship led to low measures of relationship self-esteem, which was also related to alcohol drinking patterns. In contrast, the research shows that “relationship satisfaction, commitment, and closeness” were all found to moderate the association between jealousy and alcohol-related disorders in a relationship.

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Oxytocin and stress-related social disorders