5 Tips for Writing About (Unhealthy) Relationships

Writing about unhealthy relationships can be tough. Sometimes we don't realize that the relationships we've kept—romantic or otherwise—are harmful or toxic, until we take a second to step back and observe them form a different perspective. Writing and creating art are great ways to take a retrospective look at relationships. That may sound complicated but no worries, we've got you covered! It's as simple as picking up a pen (or a keyboard). Keep reading for tips, prompts, and examples on writing poems about unhealthy relationships.

  1. Vulnerability Inspires Clarity. Being vulnerable with ourselves is easier said than done, but it is usually in times of vulnerability when as artist's work is most powerful. Before any serious healing can be done you must write from an open place. Think about the relationships around you and take a moment to have some introspective thought. Recognize the signs of healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. Write from the difficult places like pain, insecurity, and shame. Think about times when you've felt like you were in a problematic relationship and write about that. Think  of things that you would not tell others and go from there. Give yourself the privilege of being honest with yourself and remember that you do not have to share every poem you write. As artists we are entitled to hold on to our work, understanding that we write from a place of healing and sometimes, that's too personal to share. Maybe when you're in a different space you'll feel comfortable sharing but don't feel obligated to do so. Some poems are written for your eyes only and there's nothing but beauty in that. This vulnerability inspires clear thought and offers a sense of closure necessary for moving on.
  2. Your Story Matters. There is such an incredible power within your story—whatever it may be—and only YOU can tell it! Writing about your truth can be especially powerful because there will inevitably be so many people who can relate and offer creative and/or emotional support. Not only are you writing your story to heal yourself, but if you choose to share it, you have the ability to heal others as well. There are so many places where you can safely share your work (besides our site of course)! You could create a blog, submit your work to magazines and competitions, read your poems aloud to your friends, or attend an open mic. Having a community of people who resonate with your truth and understand where you're coming from gives you a community of supportive listeners. Sharing your truth can be therapeutic and creative expression works towards mental wellness.
  3. Reflect on the Past, Write Towards the Future: Past relationships can inspire a thousand new lessons on things you'll do differently in life. Think about some of the most trying relationships that you've been in and ask yourself what went wrong. It is so important to communicate with yourself, through your poetry, the things that made you feel uncomfortable or unhappy. In this way, you can understand what you expect from relationships going forward. An easy way to avoid a problematic relationship is knowing yourself well enough to understand that you and the other person might not be a good fit. Now, write about your future. What does that look like? What does a functional relationship look like to you? Write towards your goals, write about your expectations. Let your art empower you with a better understanding of yourself and what an ideal relationship would be for you.
  4. Set a Good Example: There are thousands of examples of inspiring poetry written by YOU and your fellow Power Poets that are based on relationships of all different sorts. Some are about healthy behaviors in a relationship while others focus on the negatives or just how big the little things can really be. These poems show a range of perspectives on different issues that we can all identify with such as trust, dishonesty, insecurity, and possessive behavior. Check out these and more from our #BecauseILoveYou Slam.
  5. Sometimes You Just Need a Little Prompt: Ask yourself questions that encourage you to be honest with yourself. Writing these types of poems can be difficult but also liberating. Here are some poetry prompts that can help when trying to approach writing about a relationship:
  • Write about your first relationship
  • Write about a friendship that you had to end
  • Write about your worst relationship
  • Write a letter poem to someone, maybe a friend you suspect is in an abusive relationship

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If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, check out One Love Foundation for helpful resources.

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