I never thought I would have to worry about healthy relationships. My relationships seemed pretty great. I have a close group of friends, two amazing parents, and a wonderful group of women that I get to call my sisters. It took one conversation to make me realize that while I don’t have a directly unhealthy relationship myself, I certainly have felt the effects of one.
For the purposes of anonymity, I’ll refer to the person in the unhealthy relationship as Alex. Alex was a close family friend I had known my whole life. Alex had always provided me with constant love and support, and I trusted them wholeheartedly.
Whenever Alex came home from break, they would always keep their door open. I used to randomly walk into their room and we would relax. But one day five years ago, when I walked up to Alex’s room, the door was closed.
In my entire life, I had only seen Alex’s door closed once: when their parents told them to be quiet because they were going to sleep. I thought Alex might have just been tired from school and was sleeping.
Except, I heard noise coming from Alex’s room. Quickly, I figured out that Alex was Skyping someone. And that person was Alex’s significant other.
The Skyping became more frequent. Alex became more distant and I rarely saw their door open anymore. Our conversations became superficial and, while I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the first sign of the unhealthiness of the relationship. Even when Alex and their significant other moved in, they communicated 24/7.
Overreliance on someone, a classic sign of an unhealthy relationship, was definitely there. Over time, more and more of the signs became apparent. When I stayed with Alex and their partner, I saw the aggression. Alex’s significant other would constantly yell at them for the most trivial things. On their part, Alex tried to play it off and make it look like they weren’t affected.
But when Alex went from easygoing to easily annoyed, I knew that they were not okay. On top of that, our conversations had become completely superficial. We would talk on the phone, but the conversation never lasted more than five minutes. A series of “hellos” and “how are yous” were exchanged, and then awkward silence. No laughing or smiling occurred. It became hard for us to talk to each other and the phone calls became less and less frequent.
Alex’s relationship became increasingly dysfunctional, until it ended.
Now, Alex is trying to get back on their feet and recover from the relationship. We are talking more and I know that soon, Alex will be able to return to their normal self.
But I didn’t write this to talk about my friend’s bad relationship. I wrote it to bring awareness to the fact that unhealthy relationships are an unfortunate reality of life.
I could give you a list of the signs of unhealthy relationships, but at the end of the day, it comes down to one main thing: a change in the person. No matter how little or trivial it might seem, if something seems off about your friend, family member, or acquaintance, it’s worth talking about. While Alex’s relationship didn’t involve physical abuse, many unhealthy relationships do.
The good news is that it is easy for people to become more aware of unhealthy relationships. It starts with spreading information and talking. TMAYD is a simple concept: ask your friends, family, and classmates how they are doing. And most importantly, if something is off, do not ignore it. Communicate with the people around you. It could really make a difference.
The more people know, the better off the world will be when it comes to preventing domestic violence. At MIT, we have several campus organizations that are invested in spreading the message of maintaining healthy relationships. My sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, recently held “Healthy Relationships Week.” While the actual week might be over, the conversation about healthy relationships can and should continue year-round.
Lastly, never forget that one of the most important relationships you will ever have is with yourself. Self-esteem is essential for any relationship. Make sure that you are happy. Because you are important. At the end of the day, all the relationships in your life should all share one important quality: your happiness.