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6 Relationship Habits That Are Toxic

6 Relationship Habits That Are Toxic

It’s quite rare that a romantic relationship is easy or simple, especially as time goes on. There are often weird, arguably unhealthy habits that we develop, because we’re human and maybe that’s just something that we do. But you can fix them. Here are Mark Manson’s 6 relationship habits that are actually toxic and how to change them for the better:

There’s no class in high school on how to not be a bad boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe read a few obscure love stories from the 19th century on how not to be.

But when it comes down to actually handling the nitty-gritty of relationships, we’re given no pointers… or worse, we’re given advice columns in women’s magazines.

Yes, it’s trial-and-error from the get-go. And if you’re like most people, it’s been mostly error.

But part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify the relationships they’re in. Thus our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.

A lot of the self help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are notfrom different planets, you over-generalizing prick). And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping 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.

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Below are six of the most common tendencies in relationships that many couples think are healthy and normal, but are actually toxic and destroying everything you hold dear. Get the tissues ready.

1. The Relationship Scorecard

What It Is: The “keeping score” phenomenon is when someone you’re dating continues to blame you for past mistakes you made in the relationship. If both people in the relationship do this it devolves into what I call “the relationship scorecard,” where it becomes a battle to see who has screwed up the most over the months or years, and therefore who owes the other one more.

You were an asshole at Cynthia’s 28th birthday party back in 2010 and it has proceeded to ruin your life ever since. Why? Because there’s not a week that goes by that you’re not reminded of it. But that’s OK, because that time you caught her sending flirtatious text messages to her co-worker immediately removes her right to get jealous, so it’s kind of even, right?

Wrong.

Why It’s Toxic: The relationship scorecard develops over time because one or both people in a relationship use past wrongdoings in order to try and justify current righteousness. This is a double-whammy of suckage. Not only are you deflecting the current issue itself, but you’re ginning up guilt and bitterness from the past to manipulate your partner into feeling wrong in the present.

If this goes on long enough, both partners eventually spend most of their energy trying to prove that they’re less culpable than the other rather than solving the current problem. People spend all of their time trying to be less wrong for each other instead of being more right for each other.

What You Should Do Instead: Deal with issues individually unless they are legitimately connected. If someone habitually cheats, then that’s obviously a recurring problem. But the fact that she embarrassed you in 2010 and now she got sad and ignored you today in 2013 have nothing to do with each other, so don’t bring it up.

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You must recognize that by choosing to be with your significant other, you are choosing to be with all of their prior actions and behaviors. If you don’t accept those, then ultimately, you are not accepting them. If something bothered you that much a year ago, you should have dealt with it a year ago.

2. Dropping “Hints” and Other Passive-Aggression

What It Is: Instead of stating a desire or thought overtly, your partner tries to nudge you in the right direction of figuring it out yourself. Instead of saying what’s actually upsetting you, you find small and petty ways to piss your partner off so you’ll then feel justified in complaining to them.

Why It’s Toxic: Because it shows that you two are not comfortable communicating openly and clearly with one another. A person has no reason to be passive-aggressive if they feel safe expressing any anger or insecurity within the relationship. A person will never feel a need to drop “hints” if they feel like they won’t be judged or criticized for it.

What You Should Do Instead: State your feelings and desires openly. And make it clear that the other person is not necessarily responsible or obligated to them but that you’d love to have their support. If they love you, they’ll almost always be able to give it.

3. Holding the Relationship Hostage

What It Is: When one person has a simple criticism or complaint and blackmails the other person by threatening the commitment of the relationship as a whole. For instance, if someone feels like you’ve been cold to them, instead of saying, “I feel like you’re being cold sometimes,” they will say, “I can’t date someone who is cold to me all of the time.”

Why It’s Toxic: It’s emotional blackmail and it creates tons of unnecessary drama. Every minor hiccup in the flow of the relationship results in a perceived commitment crisis. It’s crucial for both people in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be communicated safely to one another without it threatening the relationship itself. Otherwise people will suppress their true thoughts and feelings which leads to an environment of distrust and manipulation.

What You Should Do Instead: It’s fine to get upset at your partner or to not like something about them. That’s 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 them. One can be eternally devoted to someone yet actually be annoyed or angered by their partner at times. On the contrary, two partners who are capable of communicating feedback and criticism towards one another only without judgment or blackmail will strengthen their commitment to one another in the long-run.

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4. Blaming Your Partner For Your Own Emotions

What It Is: Let’s say you’re having a crappy day and your partner isn’t exactly being super sympathetic or supportive at the moment. They’ve been on the phone all day with some people from work. They got distracted when you hugged them. You want to lay around at home together and just watch a movie tonight, but they have plans to go out and see their friends.

So you lash out at them for being so insensitive and callous toward you. You’ve been having a bad day and they have done nothing about it. Sure, you never asked, but they should just know to make you feel better. They should have gotten off the phone and ditched their plans based on your lousy emotional state.

Why It’s Toxic: Blaming our partners for our emotions is a subtle form of selfishness, and a classic example of the poor maintenance of personal boundaries. When you set a precedent that your partner is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice-versa), then will develop codependent tendencies. Suddenly, they’re not allowed to plan activities without checking with you first. All activities at home — even the mundane such as reading books or watching TV — must be negotiated and compromised. When someone begins to get upset, all personal desires go out the window because it is now your responsibility to make one another feel better.

The biggest problem of developing these codependent tendencies is that they breed resentment. Sure, 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 her emotional well-being at all times, then I’m soon going to become very bitter and even manipulative towards her feelings and desires.

What You Should Do Instead: Take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner to be responsible for theirs. There’s a subtle yet important difference between being supportive of your partner and being obligated to your partner. Any sacrifices should be made as an autonomous choice and not seen as an expectation. As soon as both people in a relationship become culpable for each other’s moods and downswings, it gives them both incentives to hide their true feelings and manipulate one another.

5. Displays of “Loving” Jealousy

What It Is: Getting pissed off when your partner talks, flirts, touches, calls, texts, hangs out, or sneezes in the general vicinity of another person and then you proceed to take that anger out on your partner and attempt to control their behavior. This often leads to insano behaviors such as hacking into your partner’s email account, looking through their text messages while they’re in the shower or even following them around town and showing up unannounced when they’re not expecting you.

Why It’s Toxic: It surprises me that some people describe this as some sort of display of affection. They figure that if their partner wasn’t jealous then that would somehow mean that they weren’t loved by them.

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This is absolutely crazy to me. It’s controlling and manipulative. It creates unnecessary drama and fighting. It transmits a message of a lack of trust in the other person. And to be honest, it’s demeaning. If my girlfriend cannot trust me to be around other attractive women by myself, then it implies that she believes that I’m either a) a liar, or b) incapable of controlling my impulses. In either case, that’s a woman I do not want to be dating.

What You Should Do Instead: 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 should learn to deal with them and not force them onto those close to you. Because otherwise you are only going to eventually push that person away.

6. Buying the Solutions to Relationship Problems

What It Is: Any time a major conflict or issue comes up in the relationship, instead of solving it, one covers it up with the excitement and good feelings that come with buying something nice or going on a trip somewhere.

My parents were experts at this one. And it got them real far: a big fat divorce and 15 years of hardly speaking to each other since. They have both since independently told me that this was the primary problem in their marriage: continuously covering up their real issues with superficial pleasures.

Why It’s Toxic: Not only does it brush the real problem under the rug (where it willalways re-emerge from even worse the next time), but it sets an unhealthy precedent within the relationship. This is not a gender-specific problem, but I will use the traditional gendered situation as an example. Let’s imagine that whenever a woman gets angry at her boyfriend/husband, the man “solves” the issue by buying the woman something nice, or taking her to a nice restaurant or something. Not only does this give the woman unconscious incentive to find more reasons to be upset with the man, but it also gives the man absolutely no incentive to actually be accountable for the problems in the relationship. So what do you end up with? A checked-out husband who feels like an ATM, and an incessantly bitter woman who feels unheard.

What You Should Do Instead: Actually, you know, deal with the problem. Trust was broken? Talk about what it will take to rebuild it. Someone feels ignored or unappreciated? Talk about ways to restore those feelings of appreciation. Communicate!

There’s nothing wrong with doing nice things for a significant other after a fight to show solidarity and to reaffirm commitment. But one should never use gifts or fancy things toreplace dealing with the underlying emotional issues. Gifts and trips are called luxuries for a reason, you only get to appreciate them when everything else is already good. If you use them to cover up your problems, then you will find yourself with a much bigger problem down the line.

Mark Manson is a bestselling author, blogger, digital nomad, and former dating coach. He writes about psychology of modern life and culture. Mark also sometimes gives unconventional life advice. Some people say he’s an idiot. Other people say he saved their lives. You can learn more about Mark and his work by checking out his website.

6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal | Mark Manson

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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

It’s no secret: to get ahead, you have to promote yourself. But for most people, the thought of promoting themselves is slightly shady. Images of glad-handing insurance salesmen or arrogant know-it-alls run through our heads.

The reality is that we all rely on some degree of self-promotion. Whether you want to start your own business, sell your novel to a publisher, start a group for your favorite hobby, or get a promotion at work, you need to make people aware of you and your abilities. While we’d like to think that our work speaks for itself, the fact is that usually our work needs us to put in some work to attract attention before our work can have anything to say.

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The good news is that self-promotion doesn’t have to be shady — in fact, real self-promotion almost by definition can’t be shady. The reason we get a bad feeling from overt self-promoters is that, most of the time, their efforts are insincere and their inauthenticity shows. It’s clear that they’re not building a relationship with us but only shooting for the quick payoff, whether that’s a sale, a vote, or a positive performance evaluation. They are pretending to be our friend to get something they want. And it shows.

Real self-promotion extends beyond the initial payoff — and may bypass the payoff entirely. It gives people a reason to associate themselves with us, for the long term. It’s genuine and authentic — more like making friends than selling something. Of course, if you’re on the make, that kind of authenticity makes you vulnerable, which is why the claims of false self-promoters ring hollow: they are hollow.

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The main rule of self-promotion is to be the best version of yourself. That is, of course, a little vague and is bound to mean something different to everyone. But here’s a few more specific things to keep in mind when working to get the word out about you and your work:

  1. Add value: What separates you from everyone else who does what you do is the particular value you bring to your clients, customers, or users. The same applies to your marketing efforts — people tune out if you’re just blathering on about how great you are. Instead, apply your particular expertise in demonstrable ways — by adding insightful points to a discussion or blog post comments, by creating entertaining and informative promotional spots, etc.
  2. Be confident: If you are telling people something that adds value to their lives, there’s no reason to feel as if you’re intruding. Stand up tall and show that you have faith in yourself, your abilities, and your work. After all, if you don’t have confidence in yourself, why should anyone else?
  3. Be sensitive to context: Always be aware of and responsive to the person or people you’re talking to right now, and the conditions in which you’re relating to them. You can’t just write a pitch and deliver it by rote every time you meet someone — you need to adapt to changing environments (are you at a cocktail party or a boardroom meeting?) and the knowledge levels and personalities of the people you’re talking to (are you describing your invention to an engineer or a stay-at-home dad?). The idea of talking points is useful here, because you have an outline to draw on but the level of “fleshing out” is based on where you are and to whom you’re talking.
  4. Be on target: Direct your message towards people who most need or want to hear it. You know how annoying it is to see someone plugging their unrelated website in a site’s comments or in your email inbox — if we only got legitimate offers for things we had an immediate need for, it wouldn’t be “spam”. Seek out and find the people who most need to know about what you do; for everyone else, a simple one-line description is sufficient.
  5. Have permission: Make sure the people you talk to have given you “permission” to promote yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to start every conversation with “Can I take a few minutes of your time to tell you about…” (though that’s not a bad opening in some circumstances); what it means is that you should make sure the other they’re receptive to your message. You don’t want to be bothered when you’re eating dinner with your family, in a hurry to get to work, or enjoying a movie, right? In those moments, you aren’t giving anyone permission to talk to you. Don’t interrupt other people or make your pitch when it’s inconvenient for them — that’s almost guaranteed to backfire.
  6. Don’t waste my time: If you’re on target, sensitive to context, and have permission, you’re halfway there on this one; but make sure to take no more time than you have to, and don’t beat around the bush. Once you have my attention, get to the point; be brief, be clear, and be passionate.
  7. Explain what you do: Have you ever come across a website or promotional brochure that looked like this:

    Advanced Enterprise Solutions Group has refactored the conceptualization of power shifts. We will rev up our ability to facilitate without depreciating our power to engineer. We believe we know that it is better to iterate macro-micro-cyber-transparently than to matrix wirelessly. A company that can syndicate fiercely will be able to e-enable faithfully.
    (With thanks to the Andrew Davidson’s Corporate Gibberish Generator)

    Some people (and corporations too) have a hard time telling people what they do. They hide behind jargon and generalities.

    Don’t you be one of them! Explain clearly what it is you actually do and, following #7 below, what value you offer your audience.

  8. Tell me what you offer me: Clearly explain what’s in it for your audience — why they should choose you over some other freelancer, business partner, employee, or product. How is what you have to say going to enrich their life or business?
  9. Tell me what you want from me: You’ve made your pitch, now what? What do you want your audience to do? Tell them to visit your site, read your book, but your product, set up a meeting with you, promote you, or whatever other action you want them to take. This is rule #1 for salespeople — be sure to ask for the sale. It applies just as well if what you’re selling is your talents, your capabilities, or your knowledge.
  10. Give me a reason to care: Be personal. Explain not only what you do but why what you do will make my life better. Both iPods and swapmeet knock-off mp3 players play music; but iPods make people’s lives better, by being easier to use, more stylish, and more likely to attract attention and make their users look “cool”. Part of this is showing that you care about the people you’re marketing to — responding to their questions, meeting and surpassing their needs, making them feel good about themselves. With few exceptions, this can’t be faked; even when it can, it’s far easier to just genuinely care.
  11. Maintain relationships: Self-promotion doesn’t end once you’ve delivered your message. Re-contact people periodically. Let people know what you’re up to, and show a genuine interest in what they’re up to. Don’t drop a connection because they don’t show any immediate need for whatever you do — you never know when they will, and you never know who they know who will. More importantly, these personal connections add more value than just a file full of prospective clients, customers, or voters.

Self-promotion that doesn’t follow these rules comes off as false, forced, and ultimately forgettable. Or worse, it leaves such a bad taste in the mouths of your victims that the opposite of promotion is achieved — people actively avoid working with you.

In the end, promoting yourself and your work isn’t that hard, as long as you a) are genuinely interested in other people and their needs and b) stay true to yourself and your work. Seek out the people who want — no, need — what you have to offer and put it in front of them. That’s not so hard, is it?

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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