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10 Relationship Habits You Don’t Realize Are Toxic

10 Relationship Habits You Don’t Realize Are Toxic

Popular culture has created or encouraged a lot of relationship “norms” that shouldn’t exist, but continue on no matter how many episodes of Jerry Springer air. Some of these have become so commonplace that we don’t recognize how damaging they are and continue to use them because we believe it’s the best way to handle the situation. Over time, our habits deteriorate the relationship, and we end up bitter and frustrated.

Below are 10 of the most common counterproductive ways of thinking that sabotage our relationships, and why they’re so toxic:

1. Over-protection and jealousy mean they just love you a lot

Why you think it’s fine: We’re often taught from a young age that being overprotective or displaying jealousy is a result of someone “caring too much” for us. They just can’t help themselves. They love us so much that they act irrational sometimes. These displays show that our partner loves us more than anyone and is only trying to protect us.

Why it’s toxic: Someone’s inability to control their irrational thoughts should never be taken as a sign of true love. Your partner can help themselves, no matter how much they insist that it’s an uncontrollable gut reaction to someone doing something as innocent as having a conversation with you. if you’re the one being overprotective, recognize that it’s not out of love, but out of some other problem that you’re neglecting.

2. Letting them “win” is taking the higher road

Why you think it’s fine: You don’t understand why your partner is so upset, or you don’t get why they can’t see it your way, and it feels like the argument is going nowhere. So you decide to just give it to them, tell them “Okay” or “You’re right” so it can end. You’ve taken the high road here. You think you’re being the bigger man/woman because you’ve “chosen” to concede, thus ending the fight with you supposedly looking like the mature adult.

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Why it’s toxic: The reality is that this tactic is over-used, resulting in a lot of arguments which are never actually resolved because the “high road” party was either a) not genuinely listening to and considering the other person’s words or b) unwilling to compromise if it means something unpleasant for them.

You make the excuse that you have been the better person in the situation by letting your partner think they won — only it’s not about winning, and your partner likely knows that you’re just placating them and silently resents you for it. Use some introspection, actually hear what your partner is saying, and talk about it like grown ups.

3. Putting your partner’s needs way above yours

Why you think it’s fine: You want them to know you treasure them, so you do all you can to show them that you care about their needs a lot more than your own.

Why it’s toxic: The sentiment is lovely, but if you continuously neglect your wants and needs for your partner’s, you’ll end up frustrated or burnt out. It feels good in the moment to sacrifice for them, but it’s hard to maintain that for very long. Your partner will still know you love them if you don’t always put yourself last.

4. Hinting at what you want will eventually teach your partner to be more intuitive

Why you think it’s fine: These things that you hint at seem so obvious to you, your partner should eventually be able to recognize your “signs” and form the logical conclusion if you just keep subtly working at it.

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Why it’s toxic: What’s obvious to you isn’t to everyone else, and this kind of thinking suggests you think it should be. You can’t “teach” intuitiveness, especially when your partner may have different experiences which make it hard to connect or recognize some of the things that you feel are self-evident. Your partner will actually appreciate you giving them direct feedback and suggestions rather than having to guess.

5. Intense or frequent fights are just a side effect of true love

Why you think it’s fine: This trope seems as old as time and has appeared in more movies, TV shows, and books than anyone could count. The couple that’s passionately love fights fiercely or frequently because that’s how much they love each other. All that passion just boils over into rage sometimes, it’s a sign that you’re truly in love.

Why it’s toxic: How this idea came to be I will never no, but there should be nothing romantic about routine and/or spiteful disputes. At best you could be ignoring real problems in your relationship because you think this level of fighting is normal, and at worst it could be the prelude to an abusive relationship.

6. Making offhand comments is nicer than confronting the problem head-on

Why you think it’s fine: You don’t like it when people are mad at you, even for a short time, and the thought of those situations scare you, so the most you do is make snide or passive aggressive remarks. Hopefully the other person will see what the problem is and do all the work of confronting and apologizing.

Why it’s toxic: Dragging on an issue way past its expiration date is far more unpleasant in the end than the brief discomfort of confrontation. In fact, that discomfort will probably lessen as you observe the difference in your stress levels by pushing through and confronting problems rather than hoping the other person will. You’ll also seem more open and level-headed, which might encourage your partner to come to you with problems before they escalate.

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7. Keeping score of the other person’s wrongdoings is just self-protection

Why you think it’s fine: Okay, so you messed up, but your partner totally messed up that one time so they have no right to get mad at you. An eye for an eye, right?

Why it’s toxic: Neither of you end up actually working through anything because you’re too busy playing the Who Messed Up Worse game. If you’re bringing up something that happened a while ago, chances are you aren’t actually over it and that conflict was never resolved, either. Lose-lose.

8. Your relationship is an appropriate bargaining chip

Why you think it’s fine: Ultimatum’s will make your partner really think about the conflict you two are having. It puts their priorities into perspective.

Why it’s toxic: Rather than making the other person think deeply on the value of your relationship, telling someone you can’t or don’t want to be with them if they do XYZ is emotional blackmail and will make them defensive or like they can’t come to you with relationship issues. Learn to address relationship problems without putting the entire relationship on the line.

9. Making up with your partner with a gift or special trip to show you care

Why you think it’s fine: You’re not literally trying to buy their love/forgiveness, you’re showing them how much you care about them. It will let them know that everything is back to normal and that even though you were kind of mean before, you’re going to be really nice and take them out to a fancy restaurant to prove that you care.

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Why it’s toxic: If your partner is still upset with you, no gift or gesture will truly solve the root of the problem if it’s not related. Buying them that thing they need or surprising them with a weekend beach trip sounds like a good idea, but they don’t need to just be put in a good mood, they need the conflict truly resolved.

10. Biting your tongue is always best so as not to hurt their feelings

Why you think it’s fine: You don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person you love, so you tell little white lies or hold your tongue when your opinion of something they say/wear/do is less than positive. That’s the nice thing to do.

Why it’s toxic: You can still treat your partner well without avoiding all disagreement or criticism. There is a zone between overly nice and total jerk, you know. Most people can recognize the difference between a mean or insensitive comment and one that simply doesn’t agree with them 100 percent.

Featured photo credit: I against I/Raul Lieberwirth via flic.kr

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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1. Value Your Time

Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

2. Know Your Priorities

Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

3. Practice Saying No

Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

4. Don’t Apologize

A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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5. Stop Being Nice

Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

6. Say No to Your Boss

Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

7. Pre-Empting

It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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“Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

8. Get Back to You

Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

“After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

At least you gave it some consideration.

9. Maybe Later

If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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“This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

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Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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