Society isn’t always the best measure of what’s “healthy” in a relationship.
I started most relationships in my early 20s with a dizzying amount of stupidity.
Even though my parents had been married for 20+ years, they didn’t have a relationship I would have ever wanted for myself. Thus, my relationship skills had bloomed in a sludge of pop culture manure: rom-coms, fairy tales, novels. Beautiful beginnings with no clear blueprint of how you navigate the muddy middle.
I thought love meant my partner or I had to be a vessel. Either I’d find a man so perfect and needless that I could pour myself into him, or he’d be so utterly broken that I’d be the only one that could help him fill in all of his cracks.
I was set up to believe some habits were healthy when they weren’t. By being in a relationship with toxic behaviors, it would make the entire relationship toxic.
What Is a Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship occurs when one or both individuals lapses into their own self-interest, and the three traits of every healthy relationship — trust, respect, and love — fall out of balance. Often, one or more traits will drop off altogether.
In a relationship without respect, you’ll tolerate being treated like a doormat or discounted. In one without love, you’ll suffer from a lack of affection. In one without trust, you’ll tolerate lying and cheating. Without all three of the traits of a healthy relationship, your relationship will be and/or become unhealthy.
5 Toxic Habits You Might Think Are Healthy
Whether it’s you or your partner acting out a particular habit, it’s not okay. ANY toxic behaviors will swing your possibly previously healthy relationship into unhealthy territory.
1. Being together all the time
It’s common in the beginning of a relationship to become enmeshed, but relationships have to develop to mature.
Mature relationships require both individuals to individuate.
You come to realize that everything you do outside of your relationship (friendships, hobbies, etc.) contributes to you being a better partner.
But some individuals want to stay stuck in what’s called the “honeymoon” phase, a time of constantly being around one another and having no boundaries.
Some people think this is awesome and a sign of love. You could have been dating for months, yet they still are texting you 20 times a day or showing up at your house even though you said you were busy.
While that may seem sweet, no healthy relationship should have sustainedclinginess. It should fall off in phase 2 and can happen again later, but no healthy relationship remains in phase 1.
2. Keeping score
One of my friends keeps score on her partner because it helps her evaluate “who is doing what.”
“Why?” I asked her.
“That way I don’t start doing too much and getting resentful.”
As a recovering codependent, she’s used to doing it all, so it helps her modulate herself better and check in with her partner if she notices they start slacking. I know some others who do it to check to see if their partner is as invested as they are.
For the majority of us, though, we likely overestimate how we contribute and underestimate what our partner does.
We do everything. Our partner does nothing.
I, for one, find it too easy to focus on how I did the dishes five times in one week and conveniently forget how my partner washed my car and did all of the laundry.
I don’t care what the reasoning is, most of us just shouldn’t keep score.
You’re a human who is going to do dumb, thoughtless things, and so is your partner. Healthy relationships understand that mistakes, life, issues, etc. happen, and sometimes we may need to take up the slack for our partner.
3. Buying solutions to problems
Let’s say your partner calls you a “birdhead” whenever they get mad. You don’t like it. It really riles you up and triggers you.
You’ve talked to them about it. You’ve read books together about fair fighting and written out “fair fighting” contracts. You’ve gone to couples therapy. None of those fixed it, but maybe getting married will.
You go back to couples therapy. Nothing changes, but you stay together.
Then you have a baby. Now, to your horror, you’re getting called a “birdhead” in front of your child.
While some “solutions” can be bought and should, it’s always important to evaluate if anything changes/changed afterward.
If it’s all still the same, then what’s the point?
Solutions that don’t work are often expensive bandaids with costly consequences later: wasted time and energy, divorce, child support, etc.
4. Not being direct
My husband is the king of “hints.”
We’ll be in a store or surfing online and he’ll say, “Wow, that would be a gift someone I know would really like.”
While that’s fine and cute, that can get disastrous when you and your partner need to actually communicate something.
Many of us would prefer to hint, evade, or make little passive-aggressive comments to avoid conflict than be direct and honest.
Let’s say you dislike your mother-in-law because she always criticizes how you parent. Instead of telling your partner that, you just try to evade being around her.
“But we’ve got to go to my mom’s,” or “Are you sure the kids will want to be there for that long?” “I’ve got some work to do. You okay if I leave early?”
Eventually, your partner is going to get upset and have it out with you. It’s not kind to expect your partner to read your mind just because you want to avoid conflict.
5. Being jealous
Jealousy doesn’t equal desire or affection, and it definitely doesn’t mean that if your partner isn’t jealous, they don’t love you.
Jealous equals insecurity and fear. People do insane things when they’re insecure and fearful. They disrespect your privacy, stalk you, accuse you.
You either trust your partner, or you don’t.
Simple. You will feel a little jealous at times, but you should believe your partner can handle themselves in a manner that upholds the promises you’ve made each other.
The best things in life are worth doing right, and unfortunately, no matter what you’ve seen in movies or on TV, those likely shouldn’t be seen as #relationshipgoals. “Right” in this case is learning to recognize where you or your relationship might have gone astray and trying to bring it back.
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