How to Avoid an Unhealthy Relationships
Abuse and Self Care, Encouragement, Health

How to Avoid an Unhealthy Relationship

Last week was important for me and my family. It marked five years since something quite tragic happened to us. I shared about it here in three parts: it took that many to get the story of That Day and our lives since it, out.

How encouraging and healing that experience has been and the support was overwhelming.

I shared because when we raise our voices, others will feel empowered to raise theirs…to share their stories, to encourage others, to leave their harmful situation.

Sharing helps lessen the stigma about domestic abuse. It’s important to know that verbal, emotional, and mental abuse are every bit as much abuse and, as damaging as, physical abuse. It’s just that the scars are often invisible.

Because I entered into my relationship at such a young age, just 19, I know how impressionable young women are and how easy it is for us to settle, at any age. Sometimes we just want someone. And we feel that anyone is better than no one.

But that isn’t true. The wrong person is not a good filler for loneliness. The wrong relationship can be far more lonely.

And being un-mated doesn’t have to equate loneliness.

You are a person all on your own. You are unique with interests and dreams and hopes. And coupling up with the wrong person–someone potentially unhealthy for you–could deter you from those goals and squash your interests and dreams. And hurt you.

I want to share with you some things that you may miss or dismiss that really can become a problem if you don’t address them immediately. I want to dispel some misconceptions. I want to spare you. 


When someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they don’t respect you. When a person tries to convince you to do something you’ve been clear you don’t want to do (sex, alcohol, drugs, affection, risky behavior, move, quit your job, change your tastes in music…), they’re not being respectful of you. If you’ve said “no”, then you mean no and that, should be that. Someone who continues to push your boundaries is not someone you want to explore a relationship with. I can tell you that pushing your boundaries consistently is only the beginning. This is a “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” concept.

Possessiveness is not love.  Wanting to be with you every possible second, calling repeatedly to check up on you when you’re apart, demanding to know your whereabouts and expressing disbelief even though they have no reason to doubt you, acting jealous when you’re with friends or family without him or her: is not love. That’s being possessive. It’s not something to be charmed about. It’s not loving. It’s definitely not attractive. Don’t fool yourself into thinking “Aw, he just worries about me because he loves me.” Or “He can’t stand to be away from me for a second. That’s so sweet.”

This behavior isn’t sweet. It’s concerning, at the very least. Someone who loves you worries about you, sure. But they also trust you. They trust you to go where you say you’re going. They encourage you to have healthy relationships with friends and family. They respect that you need time to yourself and have your own interests apart from them. And they have their own interests apart from you. That’s healthy.

Insults and putting their hands on you is not acceptable.  We all get a bit cross from time to time. We are human. But healthy, respectful humans own it and apologize and know better than to make it habit. They don’t get aggressive with others and NEVER put their hands on another human in a hurtful manner.

It’s never “just a shove” or “He only hit me once” or ” He said he was sorry” or “He’s under so much stress. He didn’t mean it.”

You can’t change a person. Please hear me on this. I sure didn’t hear it way back when. In fact, I enjoyed the challenge of changing someone. I liked the fixer-upper guy. That kind of guy needed me. He played on my rooting for the underdog personality. Do not pursue that guy. 

You cannot change a person. Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking “he’ll change once we get married.” Sure, he just might change…for the worse. Whatever trait or behavior it is that drives you nuts or hurts you now, will not get better and you cannot change it.

 and if they don’t think they’re in need of changing, they never will make the effort. And no amount of begging or trying from you will make a difference.


You can be strong all on your own. A person doesn’t complete you. You need to be complete in yourself: in your confidence, your talents, your belief system, your goals. A mate doesn’t make up another half of you. You each need to be whole on your own. When you come together in a healthy relationship, then you coordinate each with the other. You draw strength from each other. Your beliefs generally align and often do your goals or at they least go in the same general direction (if one wants to settle down and have children and the other wants to travel their whole life, you may not be a perfect match).

Unless you’re really sure this person is good for you and you for them and there are no red flags, take a time out. Get some clarity. Ask what friends think. You may not want to hear it, but you need to if they have a bad vibe. Listen to them. Our loved ones can often to see things we can’t because we have love goggles on. If a relationship is meant to be, it will survive the break you take to make sure this is good for you.

I’m not the Love Guru, but I do speak from experience and believe me, I’ve learned so much that I can share so you can be spared from mistakes I made, red flags I missed, pain I felt.

You are worth waiting for. Pay attention. Don’t mate up with someone who wouldn’t be good enough for your sister, your daughter, your mother or your best friend. If you wouldn’t let them excuse away behaviors, don’t you do it either. Mr. Right will come along. Make sure Mr. Wrong isn’t sitting at his place when he does.

(Come back Wednesday when I’ll share a few more heartfelt things I’ve learned through my journey and how my new relationship is so much richer for it).


Melanie S. Pickett, blog


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  • Reply Shira Garnett April 24, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Excellent read!

  • Reply Lecy | A Simpler Grace April 25, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I love this! I was in such a relationship in the past and didn’t realize how damaging it was on my heart and mind until after I got out. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  • Reply Starr April 25, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    This addresses so many things that usually aren’t addressed until it’s too late. I want every girl of dating age to read this! Thank you for sharing your story and how women can find their worth in themselves.

  • Reply brianna george April 26, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head about loneliness being a catalyst to unhealthy relationships. So often we just want to be loved we distort what love is supposed to be and look like. REAL Love is sacrificial and always thinks of the other and not ourselves. 🙂 Yes, there is a balance that is needed to make sure you are healthy too, but loving another should fill us, not deplete.
    brianna george recently posted…You are Not “Too Much”My Profile

    • Reply April 27, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      So true, Brianna. I think sometimes we use another person to fill a gap they cannot fill. We must first be comfortable with ourselves and healthy before adding another person to the equation. 🙂

  • Reply Stacey Patrick April 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Well written! So glad you are taking the time to write about the hard stuff. That is so important to do, and helps us to make the right choices. One quote you wrote, stands out greatly to me… “And being un-mated doesn’t have to equate loneliness.” Love this!

  • Reply Kelly S April 26, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    I have a friendship that is very hard. I appreciate your wisdom here. I am thinking about it as I move forward. Healing or releasing…Lord, give me wisdom!
    Kelly S recently posted…What the Bible Says About Standardized TestsMy Profile

  • Reply Shelby April 27, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Melanie, I have walked through chunks of what you have walked through in my marriage to my late husband. It is my huge regret that I did not listen to my friends nor pay attention to the warning signs before I remarried. If I had been clear-headed, as you were, and, truthfully, if my one of my friends had told me a comment he made to her when they first met, the relationship would have ended before it really began. Now I’m married to him. There’s no physical violence but all the other stuff… it’s there. And every single day I want out.

    Now, though, since we ARE married and he hasn’t really given me a biblical reason to leave, I am desperately pleading with God to fill my heart with love for this man, to be a good biblical wife and for the Lord Jesus to soothe all the empty, lonely, hurting places in my heart.

    I am in awe of the honesty with which you have written of your experiences. As I said, many of mine are the same but I don’t have your guts. Your sharing will make a difference!

    • Reply April 27, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      I’m so sorry, Shelby. Consider I Corinthians 7:15 and Colossians 3:19. I always thought adultery was the only biblical justification for divorce. I always wondered how God would expect anyone to be bound to a marriage in which they were oppressed, threatened, and in danger, though I never questioned it heavily. It wasn’t until about a year ago that my eyes were opened during a sermon to what I believe is a verse providing for such situations. It’s definitely something to ponder and study and I will be praying for you!

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