3 Toxic Relationship Habits People Think Are Acceptable
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
How often do you hear complaints from your friends about their partners? If not complaints, don’t they come up to you to unload their heavy hearts?
Honestly, I had always been this complaint box, where people come up to and dump their relationship’s pain. Yesterday, while commuting in public-transit, I came across a commuter who continuously blabbered about his broken love life.
Learning from others’ pain, I‘ve realized that we are making our relationships toxic in the quest to acquire and experience everything fast.
Whether you’re in a relationship or not, you can distinguish a healthy relationship from a toxic one.
However, I believe no relationships are toxic; it’s our habits that spoil relationships.
“A toxic relationship is like a container where you’ve stored two rotten items; items keep rotting inside, making the container (relationship) stink.“ — Jon Willimans
Most of us are aware of these toxic signs but choose to ignore and avoid them until it takes a toll on their mental health. Whenever you encounter these signs, it’s an alarm to step up, make amends, and save the relationship or separate ways mutually.
#1. Downgrading and Belittling
The individuals having these habits continually badgers and nag you about your behavior. They make fun of you and your lifestyles.
I have been in this one. I was so relaxed and ecstatic because I had my best friend as my roommate. Never did I know that he would belittle me and embarrass me for my shortcomings. He never tried to help me overcome my weaknesses in keeping tidy but teased me in public. I felt so humiliated that I finally changed rooms, but I learned tidiness.
I followed Mark Twain’s advice:
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that but the really great ones make you feel that you too can become great. When you are seeking to bring big plans to fruition it is important with whom you regularly associate. Hang out with friends who are like-minded and who are also designing purpose-filled lives. Similarly, be that kind of a friend for your friends.”
The worst part about belittlers is that they don't care about emotions. If you break down in front of them, they will come up with, “It’s just a joke. Can’t you take that silly joke? etc.” But the fact is they aren’t kidding; just trying to cover up for their sins.
Sometimes this behavior is called gaslighting. It is an emotional and psychological abuse where perpetrators badger the victims to such an extent that they start doubting themselves. It is more of an invisible mental assault.
Traits of a belittler or a gaslighter are:
- They are hypervigilant; they notice your every wrong move.
- They’ll predict the outcomes of your task. (Last time, you burned the pancakes, so this time too, I guess the same, etc.)
- They confuse you with their remarks. They’d contradict their statements. (e.g., Sometimes they’d ask you to serve meatballs on the spaghetti, and when you do that, they’d complain not to.)
- They make you feel embarrassed and force you to apologize, often. (e.g., Most often, a complainer won’t demand an upfront apology but make offensive remarks.)
- They make fun of you and your behavioral traits in private and public.
- They intimidate you that you start self-doubting.
Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT, a master's in Clinical Psychology and Certified Hypnotherapist, who has treated individuals and couples for 30 years worldwide, states that gaslighting and belittling can destroy your self-confidence and self-esteem self-trust. It also makes you fearful of loving again.
What you can do:
You can never deal with a belittler or a gaslighter, but you can save yourself. You can heal yourself. You will never win against a gaslighter’s fat egos, so you must try to defend yourself rather than attack.
Stand up for yourselves and speak up if you feel like a victim. Discuss and define each others’ boundaries and spaces clearly. Ensure that both of you follow that.
Besides, practice some mindful exercises to make yourself mentally healthy and resistant to your partner's stimuli. After gaining self-confidence through mindfulness, devote some time for self-care like spending time with friends and family, cultivating a hobby, writing a journal, practicing affirmations, etc. Sharing your pain with empaths would help you feel some calm.
Even after this, if you feel that the situation is beyond your control, involve external help. But again, this is the last step that you should do (if needed).
#2. Codependency in a Relationship
I have seen this trait very closely in my family. My cousin’s partner was codependent in their relationship. I know how depressing it feels because whenever my cousin would come up to me to unload her pain, she couldn’t speak up. The worst part of this trait is codependent individuals aren’t aware of their habit because it had become a part of their personality.
According to Medical News Today, codependent persons(in relationships) are the ones whose life entails around their partners. Codependency occurs when one person is doing the heavy lifting of a relationship by pleasing and caring, and in the process, they often lose themselves.
Most people in relationships try to make their better halves happy, even if they’re unhappy. They believe that their happiness depends on their partner’s cheerful mood. And to make their partners happy, they’ll try and do everything possible. It isn’t a bad thing at all.
But there’s a limit. You can’t just keep building other’s homes by removing bricks from your own home.
Since their happiness depends on their partners’, the givers keep asking their partners:
- Do you love me?
- How do I look?
- Am I bothering you?
- What shall I wear, cook, buy, etc.?
This emotional dependence slowly strangles love in the relationship. Concerns and caring take the form of botheration and annoyance. People start to lose their real independent selves in pleasing their lovers.
Shawn Meghan Burn, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, states in one of her articles that,
“The imbalance in relationships is untimely sustainable but does not last long enough. Since the partner is utilizing all the physical and emotional resources in satisfying the spouse, it leads to a stressed relationship, irritation, antipathy, and finally, divorce or breakup.”
What you can do:
Okay, lovers in codependent relationships are not bad at all. They’re just suffering from some insecurities and jealousy issues. But they can overcome it.
Beverly Engel, a recognized psychotherapist and acclaimed advocate for victims of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, write:
“If you live your life to please everyone else, you will continue to feel frustrated and powerless. This is because what others want may not be good for you. You are not being mean when you say NO to unreasonable demands or when you express your ideas, feelings, and opinions, even if they differ from those of others.”
Besides, Dr. Holly Daniels, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, suggests that partners must learn when it’s the correct time to give, take, and wake away. Partners must respect each other’s will and preferences by making an effort to know each other better; when they do that, the relationship flourishes.
For givers, they must learn to be on their own by valuing themselves first before reinforcing their relationships. They can focus on pursuing their passions and doing what they want without the fear of being judged by their partners.
For takers, they must identify the efforts of their partners and appreciate them first. Next, they should initiate a conversation to know about their partner’s preferences. Showing affection and concern would ease their spouse’s insecurities.
#3. An Attention-Seeking Individual
As humans, everyone needs attention and appreciation from others. But excess of anything is harmful.
It’s a myth that only women are attention seekers in a relationship.
This fact reminds me of my friend Lily. She was timid and reserved in our friend’s group. Then she fell in love with a guy named James, who was an attention seeker.
Whenever James used to hang out with us, he continuously talked about his branded clothes and high profile business connections. He never allowed Lily to take center stage in the conversation. Any conversation with him became a monologue. He always bragged about his hobbies and social media without considering what Lily felt and wanted. He was full of drama, in short. Ultimately, their relationship ended on a sour note.
If you find these following signs in your partner, you can tell that he/she is an attention seeker:
- They leave no chance to hog the limelight.
- They keep interrupting your talk as they’re the worst listeners.
- Their every conversation is about bragging and full of bravado.
- They love creating a scene anywhere. (e.g., Even if an attention-seeker has a bad day, they’d tell the entire office about it.)
- They lack maturity, a sense of what to speak, how much to talk, and when to say.
- They argue a lot until they win the argument.
“The problem with living with such an attention seeker is - they overshadow your personality, leaving very little room for growth and expression. Besides, if you try to deny their presence, they’ll try to make a plan of their life to get noticed.”
What you can do:
“The hunger for attention is an enemy of self-love.”― Edmond Mbiaka
Attention seeking partners are not bad or evil; they are dealing with some insecurity and self-esteem issues. Talk about it and help them recover from it first.
Sometimes, it’s best to give them what they want but again, marking a mental boundary is inevitable. It would help if you decided mentally when and how much slack you want to cut for your partner. Do not tolerate your attention-seeking partner’s negative behavior because that will encourage them to do more.
Instead, stay calm and try to explain the shortcomings (in private). The next best technique is appreciation. Try to praise them (don’t fake it) genuinely for their strengths. This gesture will help them improve their self-image and manage their self-esteem.
Attention-seekers are like spoilt kids who need love, care, and attention. It is not their personality but a bad habit that they can overcome. Help them to the best of your ability, but it’s best to walk away if it becomes intolerable.
Despite noticing these signs, some of us choose to stay in a toxic relationship because they can’t see their lives without them. Some of us can’t tolerate the loss of time, energy, and efforts involved in the relationship.
But life is not meant to be lived. You must feel alive each day, and that’s why we have relationships.
Besides, everyone deserves the right to be treated with love, respect, and care. You have the power to steer your life.
So, instead of avoiding and ignoring these signs, you must do something about it because you get one life and one chance to make it worthwhile.