Are you in a toxic relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Toxic means it is draining your energy, giving you a headache, and choking you. You love him/her, but sometimes you want to break loose from the relationship.
Before considering a breakup, you have to find out what makes your relationship toxic and try your best together to eliminate those reasons.
Let’s talk about that thing you just said. You know, like a minute ago. The person you’re dating/talking to/seeing hasn’t texted you back — it’s been a while — and in order to explain this behavior to someone, you claimed that “they’re just busy.” It seems like an innocent enough thing to say in response to, well, no response. But this excuse and others like it are detrimental to you, your dating life, and your relationships.
“When we’re in relationships that make us feel unsettled and anxious, we try to justify,” says Gabrielle Morse, LMHC, psychotherapist at Manhattan Wellness Associates. “It’s a survival strategy. [People] will often make excuses because they’re afraid of facing the truth and being alone. It [can] also protect [you] from the idea of rejection — being honest and saying, ‘maybe they’re just not that interested’ is hard.”
No one is trying to tell you rationalizing someone’s behavior is an easy mental dance to stop. Letting your imagination run wild is a basic human urge (and also, my brand). You might say or think things like:
- When someone’s not responding, it’s because they’re taking a nap.
- When someone’s not making time for you, it’s because they’re super stressed at work.
- When someone doesn’t integrate you into their life, it’s because they’re just not ready yet.
- When someone’s being a jerk, it’s because they had a tough day.
Sound familiar? Sure, in the moment it feels like you sewed up the wound of anxiety and spiraling, but what you’re really doing is ignoring important underlying questions.
“As you’re making these excuses, you’re creating a vision in your head of what you think the relationship is or what you want it to be,” says Morse. “Rather than fixating on the person’s behavior and whether or not they like you, [work to] focus on if your needs are being met. Rather than trying to understand the person’s logic, ask yourself, Is this relationship satisfying for me?”
If someone treats you poorly, don’t make excuses for them,” says Morse. “There are ways to empathize with someone while still advocating for yourself and creating boundaries.
“If someone treats you poorly, don’t make excuses for them,” says Morse. “There are ways to empathize with someone while still advocating for yourself and creating boundaries. Every day you continue with a person who isn’t meeting your needs or is treating you this way, you’re teaching them that’s OK.” This presents an issue for your future self, as well, because it establishes a pattern of denial and repression. It may cause you to overlook other harmful behaviors, like gaslighting you in every argument and ignoring your needs and emotions. Bottling that shit up is no good — it will come out at one point or another. Whether the excuse is big (“they’re lashing out at me because their parents treated them badly”), or small (“they haven’t answered my texts or calls — their dinner must have gone long”), justifications don’t save us from feeling pain; they inevitably delay it.
“You want to remind yourself of the facts,” says Morse. “There’s no evidence for the conclusion you’re trying to make.” All you know, for example, is that you haven’t gotten a text. There could be a thousand reasons why. Morse recommends thinking through the evidence for and against the “because” you’ve drummed up, because often when you start to challenge your way of thinking, your irrational thoughts lose their power. Then, you can focus on what’s real.
Here are 12 things we need to stop doing in relationships:
1. Telling Everyone Everything: Privacy isn’t just a luxury on social media. The more people you talk to about the problems (and successes) of your relationship, the more people you are inviting to give their opinion–and that can become a problem. It’s natural to want to talk to your friends about what’s going on. I do it all the time, and then I half-regret it. Don’t get me wrong–my friends are the best, and any time a guy enters the picture, they want all the details, because they’re excited for me. And hell, I’m excited, too! So we start compiling a proverbial folder of information similar to a CIA file–full of convo screenshots, pictures, stats, etc.–and constantly update each other on everything that arises with the new boy. I know a lot of people who do this, and it seems innocent. But I’ve learned that a lot of the time, it can do more harm than good.
Because they are your friends and they don’t want to see you get hurt, they do what they think is the right thing to do, which is watch out for red flags, ask a lot of questions, give their two cents and be protective. The intention of all of these things are in the right place, however, we need to remember that a lot of their responses are rooted in their own projections of what love and relationships look like. Any time someone gives you advice on something, it’s coming from their own personal experience with that situation (or what they think is the right thing based on society’s conditioning), which may be completely different than your actual circumstance. Plus, when your friends ask you a million questions that you don’t have the answers to, guess what you’ll be doing for the next day and a half? Overthinking.
Ever been in a situation with someone that seemed to be going great, then all of a sudden they switched up on you and the vibes are all out of whack? What happened?! Well, chances are they talked to their friends about something, and their friends either freaked them out or planted seeds in their brain that made them look at that relationship differently. Or even worse–they read an article about “6 Ways to Know He Loves You,” and struck out on over half of them. People! You can’t generalize what love looks like! Stop searching for answers with outside sources that have nothing to do with your relationship when everything you need to know lives within you! Just listen to your gut and stop second-guessing yourself.
Keep your private life private, especially if you’re in a situation that’s not a clear-cut dynamic. If you’re unsure about how you’re feeling, tune in with yourself first, then if you need an outside opinion, confide in one, maybe two friends (max), but make sure those friends are listeners. Most of the time, we just want someone to listen, not tell us what to do, because deep down, we know what to do. But more importantly, if there are problems in the relationship, talk to your partner first! And those conversations need to be honest, open and active, which brings me to my next point…
2. Surface-Level Communication: So many of us get into arguments with our partner over what may initially seem as frivolous shit. You know what I’m talking about. It’s those fights that have you thinking, “Are we really fighting over this?!” The answer is no, you’re not. Chances are, if you dig a little deeper, that silly fight is rooted in something greater that you two have yet to work through, which is why we need to stop these surface-level conversations when it comes to problem solving.
For example: A common argument that I see springing up between couples is liking photos on social media. “Why did you like her bikini picture?!” or “Oh, you fell for that thirst trap, didn’t you?” so on and so forth. The action is a simple double tap on a screen, but it’s the idea and conclusion we draw from it that causes the problem. It’s not so much that he “liked” a woman’s bikini photo that makes us angry. It’s not even so much that other people may see that he liked that photo and then make us feel dumb, because they know we’re together. It’s the thought that he finds this woman’s body sexy and alluring, and maybe we don’t have that body shape, so now all of a sudden we’re insecure, because we think our man wants that girl, or a girl who looks like her, and that ain’t us. Unfortunately, we are so quick to devalue ourselves and what we bring to the table when different physical attributes are highlighted and fawned over in other women.
The beneficial way of handling that argument would be to create a space where the woman can get to the point of saying it makes her insecure (because she’ll probably run down a list of 241 things before admitting that, which is the root of the problem). In order to do that, it takes work from both partners. When you’re in a relationship, you need to cultivate a place for open and honest communication. It doesn’t just happen. That means that both partners have to come into it with a commitment to be honest with how they’re feeling and with an openness to not only communicate that, but to do some self-reflection so that they can even become aware of where their anger is coming from. That also means that you need to create a safe space for your partner to feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with you. That is so, so, so important. For that to happen, you need to learn how to approach arguments in a calm manner. Don’t press buttons to get people all riled up. Don’t throw verbal jabs. Don’t judge. Don’t get defensive. If anything, use every therapists’ recommended template of, “I feel [blank] when you [do this that or the other thing].”
When I meet men who make me feel safe in not only feeling what I’m feeling, but talking about it with them, we’re able to nip shit in the bud and never talk about it again because we don’t let it happen again! That is the goal with every argument! If you find yourself having the same fight over and over again, chances are it’s because you didn’t get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out what was really wrong. Take the time, grab a gallon of patience, and practice open, honest and vulnerable communication. It won’t be quick or easy, but it’ll be substantial in the long run.
3. Conditional Love: This is something that can sneak up on you. We’re always praising and vowing unconditional love, but how many times have you entered a situation where you thought to yourself, “Well, would they do that for me?” I understand where that question lies, because I’ve asked myself that a million times with different relationships and people in my past, but I can’t say I love someone unconditionally when I’m basing my actions off of a tit-for-tat mentality. You know what that breeds? Conditions. All of a sudden, I find myself loving someone conditionally without even realizing it. And guess what? A lot of that stems from talking to people about my situation, and them feeding me ideas that make me believe I’m being taken for granted (see No. 1). Sometimes, though, they’re right. I am a very giving and loving person, and there are people who take advantage of that, but the best response isn’t so much to now base my giving on what they’re reciprocating. It’s coming back to why am I doing this? Am I helping, loving, being supportive to this person because I genuinely love and care for them? If the answer is yes, then it doesn’t matter what they are or aren’t doing. However, if I’m only acting that way to hopefully inspire and spark a sense of love and care back from them, then that is rooted in self-serving behavior and is disingenuous. I’m not doing it because I love them, I’m doing it because I want to be loved by them.
Loving unconditionally is harder than it seems, because a lot of us are looking to be replenished by those we love, when in actuality, that responsibility lies within ourselves. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing to have someone in your life who fills you up emotionally, spiritually and mentally, without even having to think about it, but that’s not always guaranteed. If you do find yourself getting drained and hurting, then you need to check back with your discernment. Yes, you should love unconditionally, but don’t forget that the first and most important person to receive that unconditional love from you is yourself, so if you’re investing in people who are hurting you, it is your responsibility to cut those ties that do not serve your spirit.
However, should you choose (because it is always a decision) to love someone unconditionally, you need to be aware that you are loving them wholly. You are not basing your actions on their reactions. You are not only giving what you get back. You are not playing a game of chess with their heart. In fact, you shouldn’t be playing anything at all. You’re just loving–completely, sincerely and unconditionally.
4. Being suspicious of your partner
Without trust, a relationship will not last long. You do not want to stay with a person you do not trust, right? You need to stop thinking that your partner is lying or cheating on you just because you experienced being cheated on in your past relationships.
So that both of you will have peace of mind, make a deal that you will stop asking malicious questions or making suspicious comments about the whereabouts of your partner and who you are with when you are not together.
5. Invading the privacy of each other
Although exchanging phone and social media account passwords is already common in relationships, this is still improper. Even if you are a couple, you need to keep your privacy as an individual. Prying into your partner’s personal activities is a sign that you do not trust him/her.
If you want to improve the trust in your relationship, try doing this. This can stop you from being paranoid about your partner’s faithfulness. This will result in a more peaceful relationship.
6. Being clingy and jealous of everyone else
Demanding too much time from each other and commanding all attention to yourself are among the top reasons why a relationship becomes toxic. Both of you need to understand that your social life includes family, friends, and the society too. You cannot stop each other from seeing other people, including those from the opposite sex.
Your relationship should mold you both to be holistically mature. Instead of being clingy, why not encourage each other to balance your social time for your families, friends, colleagues, and this relationship? Being socially healthy can help remove insecurities and trust issues.
7. Making your world revolve around each other
In connection with #3, both of you should think of how you can help each other live a well-balanced life. Do not get mad at your partner because s/he cannot answer your calls because s/he is busy at work. Or do not feel bad when s/he chooses to attend the birthday party of his/her cousin instead of going out with you like what s/he does every evening.
Allow each other to grow in other areas of your life. Both of you need to understand that you have other priorities and you cannot be together all the time. If you are together almost 24/7, you miss other important things in life like memorable moments with families and friends or even career opportunities. Your relationship secludes you from the rest of the world, and that is not healthy.
7. Doing things that can provoke your partner’s jealousy or anger
If you want to avoid fights, then you have to find out the usual reasons of your lovers’ quarrels and do something to avoid them. For instance, if you know your partner does not want you staying out too late with friends, then do not do it. You can still go out with your buddies without going home late anyway. If you were in his/her shoes, you would also be paranoid worrying something bad might happen or fearing that your partner could be with someone else during wee hours.
As partners, you should intentionally talk about the things you like and dislike. If you want this relationship to work, then both of you need to be cooperative.
8. Keeping your partner from seeing his/her friends
Some boyfriends and girlfriends are too territorial that they get jealous even with their partners’ friends. Remember, his/her friends were already in his/her life before you came in. You cannot expect your partner to completely forget his/her friends just for you. This will only cause him/her to lie to you or end up mad at you. Besides, you would feel bad if your boyfriend/girlfriend does this to you as well.
I also suggest that you befriend each other’s friends so that you will know them better. This will help you trust each other more because you personally know the people you hang out with aside from each other.
9. Bringing up past issues every time you fight
Fights and failures between partners are normal. However, if you cannot forgive and let go the mistakes of each other even after making up, then your relationship will not move forward. You will always be bound by the past, and trust issues will be hard to overcome.
Love does not keep records of wrong. Show that you have moved on from an L.Q. by not bringing it up when you have a new fight. Yes, it is hard to forget, but at least get over it.
10. Trying to change him/her to be your ideal partner
Encouraging your partner to grow up from his/her bad habits is a different thing from pressuring him/her to change his/her character. If you are pushing your partner to be someone s/he is not just to fit into your world is unacceptable. An example would be forcing him/her to take a career path that you think is cool but is actually different from his/her passion.
Love a person not for what s/he is, but for who s/he is. Allow each other to freely express yourselves when you are together. You need to be true to yourself and each other.
11. Suggesting breakup every misunderstanding
Never ever call for a breakup if you do not mean it. If you really love your partner and you cannot afford to lose him/her, then do not break up with him/her just because you are mad. Then what? The next day you would call and apologize and get back together? If you keep on doing this every fight, there would come a time that it would be hard to get him/her back because s/he is already tired.
Be mature in handling conflicts. Try to fix things without letting your emotion do the talking. Be careful what you wish for, or you might end up regretting over the “one that got away”.
12. Engaging in physical intimacy
Yeah, I know you’d be rolling your eyes reading this and tell me to get lost. However, aside from my belief in the Bible, I have reasons why I consider this as one of those things you should stop doing immediately in your relationship. I am not being a hypocrite here, but I am actually writing from my own experiences.
Have you ever noticed that it is harder to move on from someone you have had physical intimacies with? It is not just because of the love and time you shared together. It is because a part of your body, spirit, and soul is attached to that person. Especially if you are not sure that s/he is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life, please keep away from this. When you separate ways, it is like a part of your body has been ripped off and you would feel like you could never be whole again. And subconsciously, the more partners you have physically involved with, the lesser your self-respect becomes. Preserve yourself for that someone who is worthy of your being.
Make things right
Making a relationship work takes perseverance, cooperation, and wisdom. No partner nor relationship is perfect, but with your joint effort, what you have can last a lifetime. It is not too late for your relationship. Both of you should be willing to let go of the baggage that keeps your relationship heavy to bear. Then, be willing to make things right by doing the right things.
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