what is a unhealthy relationship

6 Signs Youre in a Toxic RelationshipMark Manson2 years agoTheres no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, we get taught the biology of sex,

what is a unhealthy relationship

6 Signs Youre in a Toxic RelationshipMark Manson2 years ago

6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal Cover Image

Theres no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, we get taught the biology of sex, the legal ins and outs of marriage, and maybe we read a few obscure love stories from the 19th century on how not to be an ass-face.

Without clear ideas from adults, what were left with is basically trial and error, and if youre like most people, its mostly error.

Enter: a string of toxic relationships as we fumble through an already complex dating world.

One of the problems is that a lot oftoxic relationship habitsare baked into our culture. We worshipromantic loveyou know, that dizzying and irrational kind that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing. And we scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities.

Men and women are encouraged to objectify each other and to objectify their romantic relationships. Thus, our partners are often seen as achievements or prizes rather than someone to sharemutual emotional support.

A lot of theself-help literatureout there isnt helpful either. And for most of us,mom and dad surely werent the best examples.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

Many of us enter the dating world not even knowing that a lot of our beliefs about relationships are toxic to begin with. So lets first get clear about what a toxic relationship is:

A toxic relationship occurs when one or both people are prioritizing love over the three core components of a healthy relationship: respect, trust, and affection.

This might sound crazy to some people, but love should not be the reason to stay in a relationship, and thats because it can cloud our judgment in these other very important areas.

If you prioritize the love you get out of a relationship over the respect youre given, youll tolerate being treated like a doormat. If you prioritize love over trust in the relationship, youll tolerate lying and cheating. If you prioritize love over affection in the relationship, youll tolerate a cold and distant existence in the relationship.

We tolerate bad relationships for all sorts of reasonsmaybe we have low self-esteem, maybe were not self-aware enough to realize whats going on, maybe we dont have a good handle on our emotions, and so on. But all this does is create a superficial, psychologically unhealthy, and potentially abusive relationship.

6 Signs of a Toxic Relationship You Might Think Are Normal

Toxic relationships can take on a few different forms, but Ive found a number of telltale signs of bad relationships that many people either ignore or, worse, think are actually signs of a healthy relationship.

Below are six of the most common tendencies in relationships that many couples think are healthy and normal but are actually toxic behaviors and harming what you hold dear.

1. The Relationship Scorecard

What Is It?:The keeping score phenomenon is when someone youre dating continues to blame you for past mistakes. If both people in the relationship do this it devolves into what I call the relationship scorecard, where the relationship devolves into a battle to see who has screwed up the most over the months or years, and therefore who is most indebted to the other.

Silhouette of a couple fighting in a toxic relationship

You were an asshole at Cynthias 28th birthday party back in 2010 and it has proceeded to ruin your life ever since. Why? Because not a week goes by that youre not reminded of it. But thats OK, because that time you caught your partner sending flirtatious text messages to a co-worker means you can have at her for her supposed infidelity, so its kind of even, right?


Why Its Toxic:The relationship scorecard is a double-whammy of suckage. Not only are you deflecting the current issue by focusing on previous wrongs, but youre ginning up guilt and bitterness from the past tomanipulate your partnerinto feeling bad in the present.

If this goes on long enough, both partners eventually spend most of their energy trying to prove that theyre less culpable than the other, rather than solving what caused the present issue. People spend all of their time trying to beless wrongfor each other instead of being more right for each other.

What To Do Instead:Deal with issues individually unless they are legitimately connected. If someonehabitually cheats, then thats obviously a recurring problem. But the fact that she embarrassed you in 2010 and that now she got sad and ignored you today have nothing to do with each other, so dont bring it up.

Its crucial to understand that by choosing to be with your significant other, you are choosing to be with all of theirprior actions and behaviors. If you dont accept those, then ultimately, you are not accepting your partner. If something bothered you that much a year ago, you should have dealt with it a year ago.

2. Dropping Hints and Other Passive-Aggression

What Is It?:Instead of saying something outright and out loud, a partner tries to nudge the other in the right direction of figuring it out. Instead of saying whats actually upsetting you, you find small and petty ways to piss your partner off, so youll then feel justified in complaining to them.

Why Its Toxic:Because it shows that you two are not comfortable communicating openly and clearly. A person has no reason to be passive-aggressive if they feelsafe expressing anger or insecurity within a relationship. A person will never feel a need to drop hints if they feel like they wont be judged or criticized for honesty.

What To Do Instead:State your feelings and desires openly. And make it clear that the other person is not necessarily responsible or obligated to those feelings, but that youd love to have their support. If they love you, theyll almost always be able to offer that support.

3. Holding the Relationship Hostage

What Is It?:When one person has a simple criticism or complaint and blackmails the other person by threatening the commitment of the relationship as a whole. For instance, if someone feels like youve been cold to them, instead of saying, I feel like youre being cold sometimes, they will say, I cant date someone who is cold to me all of the time.

Why Its Toxic:Holding the relationship hostage amounts to emotional blackmail and createstonsof unnecessary drama. Even the smallest hiccup in the flow of the relationship results in a perceived commitment crisis. Its crucial for both people in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be communicated safely without it threatening the entire future of the relationship. Without that freedom to be honest, a couple will suppress their true thoughts and feelings leading to the creation of an environment of distrust and manipulation.

What To Do Instead: Its fine to get upset at your partner or to not like something about themthats called being a normal human being. But understand that committing to a person and always liking a person are not the same thing. You can be committed to someone and not like everything about them. You can be eternally devoted to someone yet actually be annoyed or angered by them once in a while. On the contrary, two partners who are capable of communicating feedback and criticism without judgment or blackmail will strengthen their commitment to one another in the long run.

4. Blaming Your Partner for Your Own Emotions

What Is It?: Lets say youre having a crappy day and your partner isnt exactly being super sympathetic or supportive about itmaybe theyve been on the phone all day with some people from work, or they got distracted when you hugged them. You want to lie around at home together and just watch a movie tonight, but your partner has plans to go out and see friends.

As your frustration with your dayand your partners reaction to itincreases, you find yourself lashing out for being so insensitive and callous toward you. Sure, you never asked for emotional support, but your partner should just instinctually know to make you feel better. They should have gotten off the phone and ditched their plans based on yourlousy emotional state.

Why Its Toxic:Blaming our partners for our emotions is selfish and a classic example of the poor maintenance ofpersonal boundaries. When you set a precedent that your partner is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice-versa), this can easily lead to a codependent relationship. Everythingeven down to reading a book or watching TVmust be negotiated. When someone begins to get upset, all personal desires go out the window because now you have to make each other feel better.

The biggest problem about codependent tendencies is that they breed resentment. Sure, if my girlfriend gets mad at me once in a while because shes had a shitty day and is frustrated and needs attention, thats understandable. But if it becomes an expectation that my life revolves around her emotional well-being at all times, then Im soon going to become very bitter and even manipulative towards her feelings and desires.

What To Do Instead:Takeresponsibility for your own emotionsand expect your partner to be responsible for theirs in turn. Theres a subtle yet important difference between being supportive of your partner andbeing obligatedto your partner. Any sacrifices should be made by choice and not because thats whats expected. As soon as both people in a relationship become responsible for each others moods and downswings, it gives them both an incentive to hide their true feelings and manipulate one another.

The greatest gift you can give someone is your own personal development

5. Displays of Loving Jealousy

What Is It?: Getting pissed off when your partner talks, touches, calls, texts, hangs out, or sneezes in the general vicinity of another person and then proceeding to take that anger out on your partner and attempt to control their behavior. This often leads to insane behaviors such as hacking into your partners email account, looking through their text messages while theyre in the shower, or even following them around town and showing up unannounced.

Why Its Toxic:It surprises me that some people describe this as some sort of display of affection, figuring, incorrectly, that if their partner isnt jealous then that somehow means they dont love them enough.

This is absolutely clownshit crazy. Rather than being loved enough, its actually just controlling and manipulative. And by transmiting a message of a lack of trust in the other person, it creates unnecessary drama and discord. Worst of all, its demeaning. If my partner cannot trust me to be around other attractive women by myself, then it implies that she believes that Im either a) a liar, or b) incapable of controlling my impulses. In either case, thats a woman I do not want to be with.

What To Do Instead:Completely trust your partner. Its a radical idea, I know, because some jealousy is natural. But excessive jealousy and controlling behaviors are signs of your own feelings of unworthiness, and you should learn to deal with them and not force them onto those close to you. Without fixing that jealousy, you are only going to push your partner away.

6. Buying the Solutions to Relationship Problems

What Is It?:Whenever a major conflict or issue comes up in a relationship, instead of solving it, you cover it up with the excitement and good feelings that come with buying something nice or going on a trip somewhere.

(Or worselikegetting married.)

My parents were experts at this one. And it got them real far: a big fat divorce, and 15 years of hardly speaking to each other since. They have both since independently told me that this was the primary problem in their marriage: continuously covering up their real issues with superficial pleasures.

Why Its Toxic:Not only does buying stuff brush the real problem under the rug (where it willalwaysre-emerge, and even worse the next time), but it sets an unhealthy precedent within the relationship. This is not a gender-specific problem, but I will use the traditional gendered situation as an example. Lets imagine that whenever a woman gets angry at her boyfriend/husband, the man solves the issue by buying the woman a gift or taking her to a fancy restaurant. Not only does this give the woman unconscious incentive to find more reasons to be upset with the man, but it also gives the man absolutely no incentive to actually be accountable for the problems in the relationship. Whats the result of all this? A checked-out husband who feels like an ATM, and an incessantly bitter woman who feels unheard.

What To Do Instead:Deal with the problem. Trust was broken? Talk about what it will take to rebuild it. Someone feels ignored or unappreciated? Talk about ways to restore those feelings of appreciation. Communicate!

Theres nothing wrong with doing nice things for a significant other after a fight to show solidarity, regret, or to reaffirm the commitment. But one should never use gifts or fancy things toreplace dealing with the underlying emotional issues. Gifts and trips are called luxuries for a reasonyou only get to appreciate them when everything else is already good. If you use them to cover up your problems, then you will find yourself with a much bigger problem down the line.

How to Turn a Toxic Relationship Into a Healthy Relationship

Remember that a toxic relationship is one where love is prioritized over everything else, including respect, trust, and affection for each other. Its more than just a rough patchits a recurring, long-term pattern of bad behavior on one or both sides. So how do you shift these patterns in a relationship?

Now, the road from a toxic relationship to a healthy one is not an easy one. Im going to be honest: most people wont be able to do it. BUTthere is a chance things can change for the better. You have your work cut out for you, but if you can do the following three things, you have a shot at making it work:

  1. BOTH partners are willing to change. Seems pretty obvious, but if one of you isnt serious about making the relationship better, well, thats your answer. On the other hand, if youve both expressed a genuine willingness to work things out, you may proceed
  2. BOTH partners recognize the lack of affection/trust/respect and are willing to work on it. Even if you both want things to get better, you still have to admit that a problem exists and agree on what needs to be fixed. This is harder than it sounds. One person might feel like they arent trusted and so they think thats what needs to be worked on. The other person, however, has no trust in the relationship because there is no affection. Or one person might not totally be honest about what the problem isthey dont want to be the one who says they dont trust the other person, for example. Whatever it is, you have to be clear and honest about whats keeping the relationship toxic.
  3. BOTH partners can communicate in a healthy way without excessive blaming or judgment. You can be willing to work on things, you can even be on the same page about what the real problem is, but if one or both of you is out to blame the other person, its just not going to work. It really doesnt matter whose fault it is if the goal is to move the relationship in a healthy direction. That means both people have to prioritize the relationship over their selfish desires to be right or to win.

Again, fixing a toxic relationship is not an easy thing to do, but most things in life worth doing are not easy. You might also decide to end the relationship at some point, and thats okay, but if youre both willing to work on it, then its worth the effort and the awkward conversations and, yes, even the pain.

If youre ready to embrace the pain and turn your toxic relationship into a healthy one, Ive got just the thing for you. My Healthy Relationships Course in The Subtle Art School dives deep into what creates the toxic dynamic in relationships and how to get out of it. Youll get practical lessons and exercises that you can work through with your significant other. Check it out.

Ditch the toxic relationship cycle

Relationships can be complicated and difficult. But few people know that there are some pretty clear signals to know if a relationship is going to work or not. Put your email in the form below to receive my 51-page ebook on healthy relationships.

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