They Are Tempting To Ignore, But Toxic Over Time
Over the past few months, many readers have contacted me after seeing my posts about the signs of emotional abuse in managing relationships and how to start letting go of one.
It’s surprising how many “normal” people are stuck in a long-term abusive relationship that can make their hair stand on end.
Even more subtle, however, are the toxic behaviors that many of us have come to regard as “normal.”
Your relationship may be far from classic control, but there could still be indicators that you deserve much, much better.
Of course, in these cases, it doesn’t absolutely mean that you need to end your relationship.
Often, a few sessions with a couples therapist can help identify these troublesome patterns and establish ways to get rid of them.
Your success in overcoming these obstacles depends on you and your partner’s willingness to work hard to solve the problem: motivation will often be the difference between a relationship sinking or swimming in the long run.
In the meantime, the first step is to recognize the dysfunctional patterns.
These are the most common and “harmless” (though actually anything less) toxic warning signs about relationships.
Do you recognize – in yourself or in your partner – any of these frequent but troubling situations?
1 . Chronic Insecurity
You may think of your partner as simply scattered or unstable.
But the harm of never knowing if they’ll come and do what they say they’ll do—whether it’s paying the electric bill or continuing to work to be with you during surgery—can cause chronic stress and undermine trust within your relationship.
This can create uncertainty about where support should be, adding to doubts about where a relationship should provide security.
And even if your partner isn’t dropping the ball to be manipulative, but just disorganized, overwhelmed, or suffering from attention issues, the effects on a couple’s connection can be serious.
It’s something to look at individually and as a couple.
2 . Joke That Isn’t “Funny” At All
Different couples have different limits on what is funny or harmful in terms of teasing.
And unfortunately, even within the same couple, there can be very different sensitivities about what feels good and what hurts when it comes to playing.
The keys, of course, are communication and respect.
Your partner should be able to resist the urge to tease when he knows that it crosses the line for you, and you should be able to talk about it in a way that feels safe.
Often, partners who repeatedly cross the line into heartache justify it by insisting they are “just kidding.”
But this is invalidating, as effects are just as important as intent in these cases.
3 . Needing To Be Right All The Time
Recently, a reader spoke to my online community about being married to a person who always had to be right, for things big and small.
He needed to overcome all disagreements, make his argument the final point, and “correct” everything she said and disagreed with.
This reader happened to blame the fact that he is a lawyer, but that seems like a lame excuse – his behavior was so excessive it bordered on control and clearly went beyond “lawyering”.
Often, these offenders are acting out of insecurity or anxiety and simply don’t realize how they are hurting the relationship over time.
A couples therapist can help if there is motivation to change.
4 . Being Disdainful Or Intolerant Of Feelings
I’ve heard from other readers who feel they don’t have “permission” to express feelings in front of their partners.
Of course, sometimes these readers themselves may be expressing these feelings in explosive or threatening ways, and so in these cases, your partner’s discomfort is understandable.
But other times, the partner – whether because of a complicated history with their family of origin or just the nature of their personality – creates an environment where they feel unwelcome and unsupported to express even the most understandable of human reactions.
If your partner is constantly making you feel bad by expressing emotions in a reasonable way or by expecting you to always be in a good mood, this can feel like a bottleneck.
The real risk is that this will cause you to bury your feelings to the point where they start to eat you up from the inside.
5 . Infinite Grain Count
It’s great when a couple can establish a general, reciprocal pattern that helps them feel like the work is shared equally (“When she cooks, I clean”).
But the general is the key here.
When it comes to routines, partnerships that can flex and bend when needed are far less likely to break down under pressure.
Over the course of a long, committed relationship, there will be occasions – even if they last for weeks or more – when one person will need to make up for the other’s slack, for the good of not only the partner but the relationship as well.
Gratitude is undoubtedly necessary for these situations and can help make both partners feel good.
But when one partner expects the other to “makeup” or is constantly keeping track of who “owes” what, then it is difficult to maintain feelings of true support, trust, and unconditional love.