Ask Joey: How can I find healthy love?

Joey Garcia

Are you clinging to a bad relationship to avoid being alone on Valentine’s Day? Falling in line with the cultural pressure to couple might give your ego a brief boost, but in the long run, it’s detrimental to your health. Unhappy matches produce stress. Chronic stress is the foundation for many serious illnesses.

Chronic stress interferes with our capacity to love ourselves, and that impacts how we love others. If you want to grow in self-love this Valentine’s Day, learn to love solitude. When you enjoy being on your own, staying in a bad relationship quickly loses its appeal.

If an attachment to being attached leaves you unable to make a decision about your dating relationship, this “Dump That Date” list can help.

Your partner wants to save, change or fix you.

Does your partner invest heroic amounts of energy trying to transform you into her or his ideal? That’s a red flag. Yes, love can arouse awareness that it’s time for a new belief system, attitude or action. But that awareness should come from inside you and be led by you. When you request support your partner can pitch in. But anyone trying to change you wants to date his or her preferred version of you, not you.

Your partner hits, threatens, pushes or scares you.

Abuse should never be tolerated, ever. Leave.

Your partner tries to convince you to lie for him or her.

Don’t erode your integrity to score points with your partner. Lies create distrust, not intimacy. Who has he or she sweet-talked into lying to you?

Your partner gawks at others or flirts openly.

Disrespect means he or she is not ready to date. Someone with the capacity to care about you is attentive and focused during your time together.

Your partner is racist, sexist, homophobic or elitist.

Immaturity reveals itself in many ways, including the inability to accept others as fully human and as made in the image of God. Don’t waste your time trying to establish a romance with someone harboring more fear than love.

Your partner resents time you spend with family, friends or alone.

This is the behavior of someone who believes they own you, like a vehicle or a pair of shoes. If you desire an equal relationship with another adult, find a person who understands you are capable of nurturing emotional connections with family and friends without threatening your primary dating relationship.

Your partner cheats, physically or emotionally.

Truth and trust are essential ingredients of a healthy relationship. When one partner prefers infidelity to honesty, he or she is admitting to an inadequacy as your equal. Believe them. Let go and move forward.

Your partner lies to you.

Dating partners lie when they are afraid of being seen as less than perfect. If you can’t be vulnerable with each other, true emotional intimacy will never grow.

Your partner puts you down.

Insecure teenagers jockeying for attention from their social groups use sarcasm and put-downs. But an adult who puts you down, then says, “Just kidding!” is using you to wipe away his or her low self-worth. Show your self-esteem by ending the relationship.

Your partner spends more than she or he earns.

Mature adults can live with delayed gratification. Don’t get trapped paying for someone else’s childish attitudes toward money and possessions.

Your partner drinks excessively or uses drugs.

Dating an addict is a chaotic, crazy-making lifestyle. Of course, you are actually dating the drug or booze, since the real person rarely peeks out. Ditch denial and get sober about your addiction to roller-coaster relationships.

You and your partner have to be together all the time and worry what the other is doing when apart.

Infatuation lacks the trust inherent in true love. Obsessive togetherness will leave most emotionally healthy people feeling smothered. Constantly checking in means the couple never allowed trust to develop. Therapy can help.

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