THE DEATH OF THE TOXIC RELATIONSHIP:
HOW EVERYDAY BEHAVIORS ARE ACTUALLY TOXIC.
Growing up, we were taught a whole lot, but never took an actual class on ”how not to be a shitty partner.” Sure, they taught us the biology of sex, human sexual behavior, the legitimacy of marriage, and some may have even read love stories from the 18th and 19th centuries on love. But when it comes down to the nitty- gritty of relationships, most people are clueless. Most are given advice by the same people who practice those same dysfunctional relationships. You see, women have the power to mold the relationship; our roles, and how we view real or perceived conflicts are just a few factors. Once we figure out why we make the choices we do, we can begin to change our way of thinking and choose the healthiest options. But only very few are able to do so successfully. Often times we see women who are dominant; women who are controlling and obsessive and women who don’t put into practice the wisdom they possess. The problem then becomes that it’s those very same women who subsequently don’t recognize the signs of toxic everyday behaviors.
I believe that many unhealthy relationship habits are ingrained in our culture. We all worship the romantic love that we see in movies and read in books. Men and women are brought up to objectify the relationship and each other. Many times our partners are seen as assets rather than someone with whom we share a mutual emotional connection. A lot of self-help books don’t help either when they try pitching that men and women are from different planets. We are more alike than we know (sorry John Gray). And let’s face it; most of us don’t grow up with the best examples of what healthy relationships look like (sorry mom and dad). Toxic relationships are everywhere we look. Most of the times we date toxic people; at other times we have friends, family and co-workers who are toxic. Then there are those people who fill our lives with happiness, those rare souls who don’t want anything more than to see us happy. Guru’s teach and talk about ways of protecting our energies from these toxic people, but what no one seems to talk about is the toxic behaviors that are part of everyday “normal” life. Most people actually find these behaviors part of the norm. Weird isn’t it?
Through psychological research on healthy and happy relationships in the past few decades, there are some general principles that most people are either unaware of or don’t practice. There are common tendencies that couples think are healthy and normal but are actually toxic and detrimental. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
Five toxic relationship habits that most people think are normal:
- Keeping tabs on who does what: – I find this particular habit very disturbing and see it more than I should. It’s when one partner continuously brings up and blames you for past mistakes that you’ve made in the relationship. It turns into a scoreboard of who has done this or didn’t do that. Both parties blame each other and keep tabs on each other. “You were rude to my mother at the party in 2013; don’t do that again tonight.” And months later you are still reminded of your behavior. Or, “I always walk the dogs at least twice a day and you only walk them every so often.” Keeping tabs within the relationship is very unhealthy, what you are then doing is trying to justify your own wrongdoing by bringing up past scenarios and manipulating your partner to feel guilt for something that was done in the past. If this becomes a habit then instead of a way of dealing with the current issue as both partners use all their energy to prove who is right and who did what instead of working on the actual problem.
What to do: Take a look at yourself and your partner; recognize that by choosing to be with them you are also choosing to be with all their prior behaviors and actions. If it’s something that you’ve done, then deal with the issue alone. If it’s something that really bothered you, then perhaps you should have dealt with it then and not years later.
- Blaming your partner for your emotions: -Women have a tendency to do this (I used to be one of them). Yes, we all have good days and bad days. However, let’s say you’ve had a bad day where everything seemed to go wrong and you come home and your partner is not attentive and isinstead super busy either with phone calls, answering important emails, or is running late to a meeting. All you want to do is relax and have a drink. Sure, while they never asked, they should have known that you’ve had a bad day, gotten off the phone and, cancelled all their plans, because of your emotional state. This behavior is a form of selfishness and poor personal boundary establishment which develops into codependent tendencies. Your partner should not be responsible for your emotions and vice versa. Next thing you know you find that you’re always asking permission to go out with friends or who is allowed to come over. All activities — even simple ones — such as watching TV or reading a book must be compromised. Because when someone gets upset, all desires and needs go out the window and it becomes your responsibility to make the other person feel better. Codependent tendencies often turns into resentments. Sure, we all have bad days and sometimes we get mad and upset when we are having a bad day and our partner is not attentive. But if it becomes a habit, an expectation rather, that your life should revolve around his/her emotional state then sooner or later you will become full of resentments which are detrimental to the relationship.
What to do: Take responsibility for your own emotions and make sure your partner does the same. Being supportive is not the same as being obligated and any sacrifices that are made should be made out of free will and not viewed as an expectation. If you don’t want your partner to hide their true feelings and emotions from you, do not force them to be responsible for your mood swings and bad days.
- Buying your way through relationship problems: – Getting gifts is exciting, who doesn’t want a new toy? But there’s a big difference between getting gifts just because and continuously covering up relationship issues with superficial pleasures. This behavior is very toxic and could lead you straight to the divorce attorney. Not only do you shove the real issues under the rug (which do re-emerge in greater depth) but it sets up unhealthy precedent within the relationship. Both men and women have a tendency to do this, it is not gender based. For example, a girlfriend or wife gets caught lying about an important issue and instead of getting to the root of it she decides to buy him a new suit or take him out to his favorite restaurant. By allowing this type of behavior, the woman has no incentive to be accountable for the problems in the relationship. The man then has more reasons to be upset with the woman. The issue is not resolved it is in fact shoved under the rug.
What to do: Deal with the problem. – Talk about it. Communicate! Talk about ways to restore the problem. By no means is it wrong to buy gifts and spoil your mate, and even after a fight it is normal to do nice things for your partner to reaffirm your commitment. However, there is a difference between buying gifts and trips to appreciate them when things are going great as a means of luxury and replacing dealing with the problems in the relationship by buying the gifts.
- Passive aggressive behavior:– Instead of openly expressing to your partner what is bothering you, you begin to act a certain way that clues them in that you are indeed upset. You begin to piss them off and rather than state your case. This “hint” dropping behavior shows that you are not open or comfortable in expressing your feelings. You are unable to communicate openly without feeling judged. If the relationship is healthy, then there is no need to be passive aggressive because you know that you can safely express any anger or insecurities.
What to do: Get comfortable with stating your desires and feelings. Make sure that they know that they are not obligated or responsible for them but that you would love their support.
- Relationship hostage: – This is one of the more common toxic habits that people assume is normal. It occurs when one partner has a complaint or criticism that turns into blackmail and ends up threatening the commitment of the relationship. For example, if your partner feels like you’ve been cold to them, instead of saying “I feel like you’ve been cold to me lately,” they will instead say “You are always so cold to me; I can’t be with someone who is always cold.” That becomes emotional blackmail and it creates tons of unnecessary, avoidable drama. Every minor issue then becomes a commitment crisis. Both partners should know and realize that it is normal and healthy to express any negative emotions to one another without it threatening the relationship itself. Otherwise they suppress their emotions and that can lead to distrust and manipulation.
What to do: Do not be afraid of getting upset or mad at your partner for something negative that they do. We don’t always have to like everything about them. Chances are we won’t, that’s part of because we are humans and not robots. Make sure to know that committing and liking the person is not the same. You can be committed and still not like everything about them. Or you can be devoted and be angered or annoyed at the things they do at times. Two partners who are able to communicate and express their criticisms without threatening or blackmailing are actually then strengthening their commitment in the long run.
How do every day toxic interactions leave you feeling? How can you tell if a relationship goes from bad to toxic? Here are everyday patterns of behavior that are toxic to your well-being. Identify them and then ask yourself are you a victim of these behaviors? If you find yourself a victim to these behaviors, it’s time to re-evaluate your relationships. Realize that until you stop allowing these behaviors in your life, they will continue to do so.