We all have unhealthy habits in our romantic relationships or marriages. However, there are definitely some behaviors that are considered more “toxic” or dangerous to the relationship long-term. If you find yourself or your partner falling into any of the following habits, you may want to consider reaching out for help! Many of the habits listed below could lead to major issues and a toxic relationship between the two of you.
Do you have equal power in your relationship? There are a few reasons why this is important. One, you need to have equal say and decision-making power. Two, your relationship is a team. If you find yourself having less than 50% power, it may be time to re-evaluate.
Control can be subtle, but it is a toxic habit in a relationship. Make sure that neither one of you control nor manipulate each other to get a desired outcome. If you feel you are being controlled, work to find your voice and set boundaries to be healthier. If you find you are controlling, encourage your partner to have a say and make decisions together.
Leaving During a Fight
If you walk away in the middle of a fight, you are Stonewalling. Stonewalling is shutting the other person down, with no possible way to work towards a resolution. If you struggle to remain calm in a fight, it’s okay to call a time-out and take a few minutes to collect yourself. But, you have to go back to your partner and work towards compromise or a resolution. Don’t just shut the conversation or conflict down because it’s hard or you are angry.
Don’t send your partner mixed signals. This could sound like “I want you” and then “I don’t care about you”. Be consistent in your commitment to them and be willing to fight for your relationship. Let them know where they stand with you by communicating how you feel. Don’t play mind games. If you are committed, be committed. Don’t have one foot out the door.
Making Your Partner Jealous
If you find yourself trying to make your partner jealous, you may want to think about why this is. Are you flirting with others, or maintaining inappropriate relationships with friends of the opposite sex? This is a slippery slope to trouble if you don’t set some boundaries. If you are trying to make your partner jealous, is it about you needing something you’re not getting? Or are you trying to get back at your partner? For whatever reason you may be trying to stir up jealousy, it’s probably not healthy. Figure out what that is about for you, and have an honest conversation with your spouse or partner.
Do you call each other names in the heat of the moment? Are you unkind and insulting? Think about the impact of this long-term. Eventually something will be said that is so hurtful that your relationship may not be able to recover. Fight the urge to be mean and nasty just to hurt the other person. It’s not productive at all, and breaks trust between the two of you. Plus, if you care about the other person, why would you treat them so poorly?
If the “D” word gets brought up a lot, it may be time to make some changes. Threatening to break up or to divorce your partner/spouse needs to be taken off the table. It’s damaging and detrimental to your relationship. It is a low blow and cannot be taken back. Resist the urge to hurt your partner by threatening to leave. Work to build trust and be loyal to your partner, even when you are angry or frustrated.
Relationships are not all-about-me. If selfishness has entered into your relationship, it’s time to start thinking about the needs and wants of the other person. This relationship is not just about you and what you want. Work to show empathy and sympathy to the other person. Consider their wants, feelings, and needs. Allow them to have a voice and be fair to them.
A You-Message sounds something like “You always leave the dishes in the sink and expect me to pick up after you. You expect me to be your maid and I’m sick of it”. A You-Message is blaming and attacking. It causes the other person to become defensive, and before you know, you’re arguing. Try using I-Messages instead, which communicate how you feel and what you need. An I-Message goes something like “I feel frustrated when you leave the dishes in the sink for me. I would appreciate if you would clean up after yourself”. An I-Message should be received better, create an opportunity to have a conversation, and not lead to an argument.
Sex should never be used as a weapon or a way to manipulate your partner. Do not do things expecting sexual favors or to be rewarded with sex. This can be a slippery slope to harming your intimacy. Don’t lay guilt trips or demand your partner do something because they “owe” you. Treat sex and intimacy with respect and tenderness.
Not Taking Responsibility
The problems in your relationship are not just your partner’s fault. You are 50% of the relationship as well. Take ownership when you make a mistake or hurt your partner. Don’t blame them for everything and pretend that you are perfect. We are all human and do things that are unhealthy at times. Make sure you are owning things with your partner when you let them down.
Don’t shut down your partner. Some examples of this are hanging up the phone with them, giving them the silent treatment, walking away, and withdrawing. When you do any of these behaviors, you take away any chance at working through a conflict or disagreement. You are also relaying disrespect to the other person. Make sure that you stay and are present with your partner, even when it’s hard. Don’t punish or refuse to talk to them or hear their point of view.
It may be natural to share with others outside of your relationship about problems and intimate details about your relationship and/or your partner. Be very cautious about this. Make sure you are not over-involving others, and replacing talking to your partner with talking to them. It’s important to communicate with you partner any needs or issues you are having.
If you and your partner or spouse do any of these toxic behaviors, please reach out for help! Therapy can help you process healthier ways of communicating and resolving conflict. Don’t want until it’s too late!
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.