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5 Toxic Relationship Habits People Think Are 'Normal'

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Many unhealthy relationship habits are ingrained in our culture. People are sometimes brought up to objectify the relationship and each other. Many times, our partners are viewed as assets rather than someone with whom we share a mutual emotional connection.

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. At some point in our lives, many of us date people who are no good for us; 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 do not 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 find these behaviors part of the norm. Weird, isn’t it?

Through research on healthy and happy relationships in the past few decades, there are some general principles that most people are either unaware of or do not practice. There are common tendencies that couples think are “healthy” and normal, but are sometimes toxic and detrimental. Let us look at some of the most common ones.

1. Keeping tabs on who does what.

It is when one partner continuously brings up and blames you for past mistakes that you have made in the relationship. It turns into a scoreboard of who has done what. 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 can be unhealthy when what you’re 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, 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: 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 is something that you’ve done, then deal with the issue alone. If it is something that really bothered you, then we need to work on dealing with it in the moment and not years later.

2. Blaming your partner for your emotions.

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 instead 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 have had a bad day, gotten off the phone and cancelled all their plans because of your emotional state. Expecting our partner to mirror our emotions can form poor personal boundary establishment and 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 their 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 from free will and not viewed as an expectation. If you do not 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.

3. Buying your way through relationship problems.

Getting gifts is exciting, who doesn’t want a new toy? But there is a big difference between getting gifts just because and continuously covering up relationship issues with superficial pleasures. 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.

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 her partner a new suit or take them out to his favorite restaurant. By allowing this type of behavior, the the girlfriend has no incentive to be accountable for the problems in the relationship. The other person 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.

4. 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 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 they are not obligated or responsible for them but that you would love their support.

5. 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, manipulation and resentment.

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 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 can communicate and express their criticisms without threatening or blackmailing are then strengthening their commitment in the long run.

How do everyday toxic interactions leave you feeling? How can you tell if a relationship goes from bad to toxic? 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 occur.

What would you add? Let Anna know in the comments below.

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Originally published: September 30, 2020
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