6 Toxic Relationship Habits That Most People Think Are Normal

There’s no class in high school on how not to be a bad boyfriend or girlfriend.

Certainly, they teach us the biology of the legality of marriage, and maybe read some obscure 19th-century love stories about how not to be.

But when it comes to actually deal with the tiniest details of relationships, we don’t get recommendations…or worse, we get advice columns in women’s magazines.

Yes, it’s trial and error from the start.

And if you’re like most people, it’s mostly been a mistake.

But part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are built into our culture.

We love romantic love – you know, that dizzying, irrational romantic love that somehow smashing plates off the wall is kind of endearing.

Men and women are created to objectify each other and objectify the relationships in which they relate.

Thus, our partners are often seen as assets and not as someone to share emotional support with each other.

A lot of self-help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women aren’t from different planets, you’re too general).

And for most of us, Mom and Dad certainly weren’t the best role models either.

Fortunately, there has been a lot of psychological research on healthy and happy relationships over the last few decades and there are some general principles that keep coming up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow.

In fact, some of these principles actually go against what is traditionally considered “romantic” or normal in a relationship.

Below are six of the most common trends in relationships that many couples consider healthy and normal, but are actually toxic and are destroying everything you love.

Prepare the tissues.

1. The Relationship Performance Score :

The “keeping score” phenomenon is when someone you’re dating continues to blame you for past mistakes.

If both people in the relationship do this, it turns into what I call a “relationship scorecard,” where it becomes a battle to see who has made the most mistakes over the months or years, and therefore who owes the other the most.

Why It’s Toxic:

The relationship performance score develops over time because one or both people in a relationship use past mistakes to try to justify current fairness.

Not only are you straying from the current issue, you are also letting go of past guilt and bitterness to manipulate your partner and feel wrong in the present.

If this goes on for too long, both partners end up spending most of their energy trying to prove they are less guilty than the other, rather than solving the current problem.

People spend all their time trying to be less wrong for each other instead of being more right for each other.

What you should do:

Deal with issues individually unless they are legitimately connected.

If someone often cheats, this is obviously a recurring problem.

But the fact that he embarrassed you years ago and is now sad and ignoring you today has nothing to do with each other, so don’t bring it up.

You must recognize that by choosing to be with your partner, you are choosing to be with all of the previous actions and behaviors.

If you don’t accept the actions and behaviors of the past, ultimately you don’t accept it.

If something bothered you a year ago, you should have dealt with it a year ago.

2. Leaving “Clues” And Other Passive-Aggressive ways of communication  :

Instead of stating a wish or thought openly and clearly, your partner tries to push you in the right direction for you to discover for yourself.

Instead of saying what’s really bothering you, you find small, petty ways to annoy your partner so you feel justified in complaining to them.

Why It’s Toxic:  Because It Shows You Two Are Not Comfortable With Communicating Openly And Clearly With Each Other.

A person has no reason to be passive-aggressive if they feel safe expressing any anger or insecurity in the relationship.

A person will never feel the need to give “clues” if they feel that they will not be judged or criticized for doing so.

What you should do:

Openly declare your feelings and desires.

And make it clear that the other person is not necessarily responsible or obligated, but that you would like their support.

If he loves you, he can almost always be supportive.

3. Holding the Relationship Hostage

Which is:

When one person has a simple criticism or complaint and blackmails the other person, threatening to compromise the relationship as a whole.

For example, if someone feels that you’ve been cold to him, instead of saying, “Sometimes you’re cold to me,” he says, “I can’t date someone who’s cold to me all the time.”

Why It’s Toxic:

It’s emotional blackmail and creates tons of unnecessary drama.

Every insignificant hiccup in the flow of the relationship results in a perceived crisis of commitment.

It is crucial for both people in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be safely communicated to each other without threatening the relationship itself.

Otherwise, people will repress their true thoughts and feelings, which leads to an environment of mistrust and manipulation.

What you should do:

It’s okay to be upset with your partner or not like something about them.

This is called being a normal human being.

But understand that committing to a person and always liking a person are not the same thing.

One can be committed to someone and not like everything about that person.

One can be eternally devoted to someone being annoyed by their partner at times.

On the contrary, two partners who are able to communicate feedback and criticism to each other just without judgment or blackmail will strengthen the long-term commitment.

4. Blaming Your Partner For Your Own Emotions :

Let’s say you’re having a bad day and your partner isn’t exactly being super nice or supportive at the moment.

He was on the phone all day with some people from work.

He got distracted when you sought empathy.

You want to stay home together and watch a movie tonight, but he has plans to go out and see his friends.

So you criticize him for being so insensitive to you.

You’re having a horrible day and he doesn’t do anything about it.

Of course, you never asked, but he should have known to make you feel better.

He should have gotten off the phone and abandoned the plan to hang out with friends based on his bad emotional state.

Why It’s Toxic:

Blaming our partners for our emotions is a subtle form of selfishness and a classic example of poor maintenance of personal boundaries.

When you set a precedent where your partner is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice versa), then you develop codependent tendencies.

Suddenly, he’s not allowed to plan activities without checking with you first.

All activities at home – even everyday ones like reading books or watching TV – must be negotiated and compromised.

When someone starts to get upset, all personal desires go out the window, because now it’s your responsibility to make the other person feel better.

The biggest problem with developing these codependent tendencies is that they breed resentment.

Of course, if my girlfriend gets mad at me once because she’s had a bad day and is frustrated and needs attention, that’s understandable.

But if it becomes an expectation that my life revolves around your emotional well-being all the time, I will soon become very bitter and even manipulative about your feelings and desires.

What you should do:

Take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner to be responsible for their own emotions.

There is a subtle but important difference between supporting your partner and being forced to.

Any sacrifices must be made as an autonomous choice and not seen as an expectation.

Once both people in a relationship become blamed for each other’s moods, it gives them incentives to hide their true feelings.

5. Display of “Amoroso” Jealousy :

Getting upset when your partner talks, flirts, touches, calls, texts, or spends time in someone else’s general company, and then you become irritated with your partner and try to control their behavior.

This often leads to insane behavior like hacking into your partner’s email account, investigating text messages while he’s in the shower, or even chasing him around town and showing up unannounced when he’s not waiting for you.

Why It’s Toxic:

It surprises me that some people describe this as a kind of display of affection.

They think that if their partner wasn’t jealous, it would somehow mean that they weren’t loved by their partners.

This is absolutely crazy to me.

It is a controlling and manipulative attitude.

It creates unnecessary drama and fights.

This sends a message of a lack of trust in the other person.

And to be honest, it’s humiliating.

If my girlfriend can’t trust me to be alone with other attractive women, it implies that she believes I am either a) a liar or b) incapable of controlling my urges.

In both cases, it’s a woman I don’t want to date.

What you should do:

Trust your partner.

It’s a radical idea, I know.

Some jealousy is natural.

But excessive jealousy and controlling behaviors towards your partner are signs of your own feelings of unworthiness, and you must learn to deal with them and not force them on those close to you.

Because otherwise, you will only push that person away.

6. Solving problems by buying gifts :

Whenever a major conflict or relationship issue arises, instead of resolving it, the person covers up the negative emotion with good feelings that come from buying something nice or traveling somewhere.

My parents were experts at this.

And that took them very far: a major divorce and 15 years of not speaking to each other since.

They both told me independently that this was the main problem with their marriage: continually covering up their real problems with superficial pleasures.

Why It’s Toxic:

Not only does this push the real issue under the rug (where it will always resurface even worse next time), but it also sets a damaging precedent for the relationship.

This is not a gender-specific issue, but I will use the traditional gender situation as an example.

Let’s imagine that whenever a woman gets angry with her boyfriend/husband, the man “solves” the problem by buying the woman something nice or taking her to a restaurant or something.

Not only does this encourage the woman to unconsciously find more reasons to be upset with the man, it also gives the man absolutely no incentive to actually be responsible for the problems in the relationship.

So what do you end up with?

A husband who looks like an ATM and an incessantly bitter wife who feels like she’s not being heard in the relationship.

What you should do:

Simply deal with the problem.

Has trust been broken?

Talk about what it will take to rebuild it.

Does anyone feel ignored or unappreciated?

Talk about ways to restore those feelings of appreciation.


There’s nothing wrong with doing nice things after a fight to show solidarity and reaffirm commitment.

But one should never use gifts or fancy things to replace underlying emotional issues.

Gifts and travel are called luxury for a reason, you only appreciate them when everything else is fine.

If you use them to cover up your problems, you will encounter a much bigger problem in the future.