Toxic Relationships

I always enjoy seeing others’ websites when they comment on relational problems. That includes both professional blog posts and non-professionals as well, as I think anyone with a history of being in relationships can provide valid insight. I came across 6 Toxic Relationship Habits , and I thought it spoke very clearly on many of the patterns that relationships come across that people believe are romantic aspects of love, but in reality are negative and toxic to healthy relationships.

I began to wonder why popular culture has perpetuated these myths, urging us to believe that a lack of trust, obligatory matching emotional states and blurred boundaries should be something considerred positive rather than negative. I believe it’s a relatively recent phenomenon that has occurred within western culture, as other cultures do not mirror these beliefs in the same way. As an example, if a woman looks at her partner disapprovingly, slamming her phone down on the table and shouting obsenities because she believed her partner gave a seductive look to a waitress in an Eastern Asian cultural, it likely would not be seen as acceptable, and certainly not lauded as an appropriate display of feminism.

How as a species have we differed so greatly on matters of ways to conduct relationships? Most importantly, is there a way we can conduct these loving states without getting caught up in romantic notions of relationships without learning ways of actually living “happily ever after”? I think that the suggestions made in this article are very valid, but most be met within a particular context of each relationship. After these toxic behaviors infect a relationship, is there any way to go back to a healthy set of interaction. In many ways, I think that my theory of competition within the relationship offers a way out of this toxicity. I will highlight how the 5 points made by Mr. Manson below:

1. The Relationship Scorecard
This highlights so much of what I refer to as negatively competitive relationships. Arguing and keeping tally of past arguments only establishes resentments further. A way to turn around this experience is to change the dynamic of scoring, and change the competition. Can you think of things that your partner has done that is caring, loving, and considerate? Can you beat them at it, and then rationalize your behavior to be a better, more caring partner than your spouse? Perhaps even more than you have been before?

2. Dropping “Hints” and Passive Agression
Communication is truly the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, and experiencing a lack of communication in a relationship can be difficult to turn around. A state of safety must be established within the relationship, so that each partner can share their feelings without feeling judged or critiqued. A way to create this at first is through a mirroring exercise, where you reframe or paraphrase what your partner is saying, and then ask them for how they feel about it before you respond. If each partner adopts this pattern, it leads to an environment where feelings can be shared, and communication where each partner feels heard within the relational dynamic.

3. Holding the relationship hostage
A testament to how conflict threatens the integrity of the relationship. Any argument, no matter how small, blows up into screaming, yelling, and walking away from the other person. It somewhat reminds me of two fans of rival sports teams, and their overreactions to a seemingly small play that would otherwise be ignored, if not for the history of their rivalry. The important difference is, part of an aspect of sports rivalry is an inherent agreement to engage in competition with respect, within the rules and confines of the game, and to maintain sportsmanship within the rivalry. So, I suggest the same for couples who threaten to leave the relationship at the drop of a hat – either enage in a respectful competition, or don’t be in it at all; the choice is always up to you.

4. Blaming your partner for your own emotions
Codependecy is a very common, and potentially lethal dynamic for a relationship to have. The ability for each person to experience their own feelings without needing to pacify their partner can be the difference between a healthy relationship and a destructive one. A similar dynamic can be found in team sports where someone is leaving their own position to cover for a teammate. This rarely works, because each person’s role is defined. Similarly, in a relationship, if you try to cover for your partner, neither of your roles truly gets addressed, and you impair both of your abilities to address your own needs. My advice – don’t leave your position. Don’t expect the other person to cover for you and manage your emotions, and don’t return the favor.

5. Displays of “loving” jealousy
This one is all about power, control and trust. That feeling of anxiety that leads to dramatic outward acts is all about trying to control the other person and manipulating them to stay in the relationship to make you feel safe. However, is that really the relationship that you want? Trusting the other person is integral in a relationship, and it’s impossible to build if that person does not have the freedom to make their own decisions about how to act outside of the relationship. If they flirt with someone else, but it goes no further, and they bring that increased sexual energy into the realtionship, is that really such a bad thing?

6. Buying the solutions to relationship problems
Most of us hate to fight. We do it, quite often, but that conflict kicks up many emotions and brings many to an uneasy emotional state. So, we try to sweep issues under the rug. The problem? Issues swept under aren’t resolve, and will continue to come back with a vengence, only get added resentments for sweeping them under in the first place. It’s kind of like teammates who are fighting, and then go to the press to air their differences. Rarely works, and the outward flash to others doesn’t really convince anyone that everything is ok, and probably makes things worse. The solution: keep it in the lockerroom. Rather than buy your partner’s affection for some outward show, address the issue behind closed doors. Address it, resolve it, shakes hands (or hug/kiss – benefit of the relationship and not a sports teammate), and move on.

One thought on “Toxic Relationships

  1. Very interesting take on the subject, Jeffrey. I like that your post focuses on issues we are all potentially guilty of engaging in that turn relationships toxic. So much of the literature, especially blogs, about toxic relationships focus on the problems the OTHER person is causing in the relationship rather than the problems we cause for ourselves. That said, I think a tension and toxicity can arise in a relationship when two people want different things but still want to be together and they hang on for too long and make each other miserable. This is another interesting article I found on the psychological factors that contribute to our choosing toxic relationships (http://www.psychalive.org/2013/08/toxic-relationship/)

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