Human relationships are complicated, mainly because humans are complicated. It takes us a long time to grow up and take responsibility for ourselves and our lives and in the meantime our relationships suffer.
Below are five examples of toxic relationship habits that are very destructive, but often so ingrained in relationships that they are accepted as the norm. As such partners are not often not able to recognize the harm they are inflicting on one another.
It’s not easy to find a way out, but misery in a toxic relationship need not be a life sentence.
1. The relationship scorecard
A relationship scorecard develops when parties in a relationship keep on blaming each other for past “wrongdoings”. The point is to see who has trespassed the most over the months or years, and therefore who is most in debt to the other one.
This is this toxic behavior because it’s the insidious use of past wrongdoings in order to score points in the present, dredging up your negative feelings from the past because of something that happened then and using it now to make your partner feel bad in the present.
There are a few things to realize here and if you do, you can turn this morbid habit around.
- Don’t confuse issues on purpose. Leave the past where it belongs; don’t drag it into the present. Don’t link something that happens today with something that happened a year ago. The fact that last year on your birthday he was nasty and today on your birthday he is quiet, has nothing to do with each other, so don’t mention it.
- Handle things when they happen and finish with it. If something about your partner bothers you, talk about it and decide if you can live with it or not. If you accept your partner warts and all, then it’s unfair to later complain about or criticize her about her habit to talk incessantly.
2. Passive-aggressive behavior
This can take the form of ignoring your partner or shopping for a fight without coming right out and saying what’s really bothering you. For some reason you can’t state your case directly, so you go nit-picking and finding fault. The other famous one is to simply ignore your partner – having a quiet fit.
This is toxic behavior on several levels. First of all, ignoring someone shows the height for disrespect for the person you chose to spend your life with. Secondly, this is a clear sign that your relationship has serious communications problems.
There is only one thing to do in this situation: whatever is upsetting you, you have to first broach the subject of your inability to communication openly and with ease. Open communication channels is the basis for any relationship. If you can’t get that right, you’re in whole of you-know-what.
3. Threatening to end the relationship every time something goes wrong
There are a number of ways this can play out. First, where one partner feels insecure about the relationship and interprets any small disagreement as a threat to the relationship itself. You might not feel so chirpy today and she immediately thinks you are bored with her and the relationship.
A second way this can play out is where any behavior, preference, routine, relationships with others, family members, etc. become the other person’s reasons for not finding the relationship worth staying in. For example, instead of saying “I don’t like to spend Saturday afternoons on my own”, you say: “Relationships like this where people always want to spend time with their family on weekends don’t work for me.”
This is not only toxic behavior, it’s downright immature and comes from being self-absorbed. It’s melodrama at its worst.
There are bound to be things about your partner that you won’t like. That’s called life. You don’t need to call an end to the relationship whenever something offends you. Best to get to know the person very well before you make a commitment, so your commitment is not threatened at every bend along the road.
4. Making your partner responsible for your emotions
Your partner is not the solution to your emotional issues. He or she says something and now your feelings are hurt, and that’s why you’re now in a bad mood. We tend to see our hurt feelings and bad mood as the other person’s fault when in actual fact the other person didn’t cause our emotional reaction, that’s all part of our own sensitivities.
Also, if you’re having a shitty day, your partner is not in charge of making it a better day. You are.
Why it’s toxic: Blaming our partners for our emotions is a subtle form of selfishness, and a classic example of the poor maintenance of personal boundaries. When you set a precedent that your partner is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice-versa), you will develop codependent tendencies.
Take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner to be responsible for theirs.
5. Finding distractions to obscure relationship problems
This behavior can also take different forms and its danger is that it comes across as affectionate behavior.
It happens when parents focus all their attention on their children, making them the center of everything, boosting them, showering them with attention at the cost of their own relationship. Beneath all that family cheer are hidden the disappointments and failures of the relationship between the parents as a couple.
It also happens when, instead of making a difficult decision that might involve conflict, the issue is obscured with a sudden move to a new locale, a nice trip or buying something special that one of the partners always wanted.
The problem is obvious: issues within the relationship never get resolved and are always boiling under the surface.
There’s only one thing to do in such a situation: find the courage to talk about the elephant in the room. Either face it and resolve it or resign yourself to a relationship that will definitely come to an end.