There’s a ton of content out there about what constitutes a healthy partner; emotional maturity, loyalty, openness, kindness and many other desirable (and quite frankly – fundamental) traits. Whilst these are things we should absolutely look for in another person, we need to recognise that people can be very good at exhibiting the traits we want to see.
I can’t help but find these “signs of a healthy relationship” articles and TikToks patronising. In fact, they really annoy me. I click on them sometimes to see if there’s any revolutionary update in the world of dating, but lo and behold, it’s the bare-minimum traits I already listed. I’ll often go through the responses and find comments like “my ex was like this and he was still a piece of shit” and my oh my – the relatability factor is strong with this one.
The culprit? Mirroring.
“My ex was like this and he was still a piece of shit”
People can mirror you to seem like the perfect person, like you can relate to them in some way to increase their likeability factor. It’s all a ruse to get in your pants or have access to an ego-feeding supply. But facades like this don’t last and when the cracks begin to show – assuming you’ve progressed into a relationship, you’re likely already trauma bonded and hoping things return back to the good old days of woo-ing and fireworks (read: love-bombing). This state only leaves us terribly confused and wondering what we can to do make things better. A losing battle that only winds up with you depleted and a shell of your former self.
So what am I doing? Or more importantly, what can you do to assess the health of a relationship? It’s nothing revolutionary – it’s simply gut feelings.
And listening to them.
If their charming smile and words of poetry still manage to make your heart melt and your stomach sink a little, then something clearly isn’t sitting right on your scale of safety. Devil’s advocate could argue you’re being too anxious, paranoid or harsh – but aren’t these the very things that keep us trapped in unhealthy cycles? The feeling we’re being “too” something?
If that feeling still persists – debunk your perceptions by asking the necessary questions you need answers to. And if things still don’t feel right, then trust your subconscious and do what you need to do to move on. No amount of tattoos or perfectly waxed eyebrows should keep you trapped in something potentially toxic. Something is being triggered here. You might not know why or how, but I’m a firm believer we have a sixth sense for dubious behaviour.
On the flip side, we need to accept humans aren’t perfect and we absolutely cannot expect them to show love and interest in the same way we do. So whilst you might be conversing with a seasoned fuckboy (and let’s be honest, the chances are high) – you could be in the presence of someone who’s genuinely a sweetheart, but hasn’t had healthy communicative styles modeled to them. Just err on the side of falling for potential.
What I’m trying to say is no matter the situation, always remind yourself that room to learn and grow is a right of passage for everyone. Yes – even the fuckboy. We’re full of imperfections and some red flags…might be not red flags. It all goes back to your gut feeling and what you deem acceptable in a healthy dynamic. If something seems off, it probably is, but check in with yourself first before jumping the gun.
I guess the tiny caveat to the above, is you definitely don’t want to be in a situation where you become a soundboard or “therapist” for the people you meet either. Even the genuinely nice ones can be emotionally draining. It’s their responsibility to do the inner work, not yours.
And if they’re not respectful of your boundaries? Charge them. Coaching is a $2 billion industry.
So yeah – that’s why I don’t bat an eyelid at the tell-tale signs. Whilst they have their place and act as a good indicator, they’re not gospel. Your gut is.
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