Are you hurting your relationships?
A truth I always had difficulty digesting was the fact that a toxic relationship requires two people.
I’d been in my fair share of unhealthy relationships, but certainly it was always the other person’s fault, right? If I’d just picked the right person, then it would have been healthy, right?
If you find yourself repeatedly in unhealthy relationships, it might be time to take a look at the only common denominator: you.
For myself, regardless of the relationship (friend, co-worker, romantic, etc.), the same things kept happening: drama and fighting followed by abrupt endings/break-ups/ghostings, etc.
I didn’t become aware of my part in my relationships until after the toxicity of my first marriage stabbed me in the eye with ugly vengeance. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I’d participated and stayed in a very unhealthy situation for nearly 10 years.
I define toxic behaviors as any behavior “that poisons a relationship and limits our or another person’s growth.”
Please note that I’m not calling people toxic, but their behaviors. We all make mistakes and need to grow. We should not be defined by our behaviors, even if they are a pattern.
While we may not always be aware of our own toxic behaviors, here are the 5 most common ones that may be hurting your relationships:
1. You try to control them too much.
I would have never labeled myself as controlling because I was “just being helpful.”
In actuality, I was an advice bully. I believed I knew what was best for everyone around me, and if they’d just follow my advice, then they’d understand!
If someone tells you “no” and you persist, you’re trying to control them.
If you ask someone to do something more than twice, you’re trying to control them. It doesn’t matter if you’re being helpful. If someone hasn’t followed your advice after you’ve given it twice, let it go.
If you ask someone dozens of questions about why they’re doing something, you’re trying to control them.
People are going to do whatever they want to, regardless of whatever you attempt to make them do. The best thing you can do for yourself is quit trying to control others and put the focus back on taking care of yourself.
2. You overreact and get angry.
Because I wasn’t the best at communicating my issues or needs within any of my relationships, I often exploded over seemingly minor things, which pushed people away.
When a friend of mine asked if another friend of ours could join us for coffee, I snapped, “Why do you never want to hang out one-on-one with me anymore?”
When my ex-husband bought me flowers for our anniversary after we’d agreed to no gifts because our money was tight, I snapped with, “You always do this kind of shit! You totally ignore reality!”
In both of those situations, conversations/discussions should have been had, not explosions. With the friend, I should have addressed the fact that I was wanting some one-on-one time. With my ex-husband, I should have accepted the gift graciously, but reaffirmed our need for a budget.
3. You insult aspects of their life (career, family, etc.).
One of my friends was in a relationship for years with a guy who treated her like a booty call She only came over on nights when he didn’t have his daughter. He never introduced her to his friends or family. She wanted more, but he wouldn’t give it to her, and she just kept sticking around, hoping that would change.
Anytime she moaned about the state of their relationship, I’d say something disdainfully like, “Okay, booty call. I bet he’s really going to start dating you seriously any time now.”
Eventually, she stopped talking to me about her relationship — or anything else.
4. You despise their interests.
Even if you don’t understand why someone enjoys something, it’s your job as their loved one to be supportive.
One of my friends used to dress up as Princess Leia and go to Comic-Cons.
“Why do you do that?” I asked.
“Because I like it.”
“Don’t a bunch of nerds just constantly hit on you?”
“Meh, not really. They usually don’t even talk to me.”
“Weird,” I said, and I didn’t ask her about it again.
What I’d clearly expressed in that short exchange was that I was judging her. Her interest was “weird,” uncool, abnormal, and that I wasn’t the kind of safe person she could count on to support both her and her interests.
5. You compare them to other people.
“The barista at Starbucks told me I looked nice today. Why don’t you ever compliment me?” “When are you going to get a real job like your brother?”
While you can compare someone positively (“Julie complained that Matt never touches her in public. I’m so glad you’re affectionate with me!”), it becomes toxic when you’re constantly comparing the people around you in a negative way.
The best place to start to improve our own relationships is with ourselves. A relationship always takes two people, and if it’s not healthy, it likely means you are acting out on some unhealthy behaviors too.
The first step in changing is in becoming aware. Notice if any of the above ring true, or if you immediately get defensive when you read one (“I’m not controlling! S/he always is!”). Often our defensiveness is a sign that it’s something we need to address (but likely don’t want to).
Don’t use awareness as an excuse to beat yourself up. Instead, take it as an opportunity to choose to get better. You can make a choice to do something different!
Want a more targeted way of addressing your own toxic behaviors? Sign up here to get a FREE copy of my “Are You Toxic?” worksheet packet.