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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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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