Every couple is different and their dynamic is different as well. People have their own needs and they are not always similar, so it’s hard to say what works for one couple will work just as well for another.
However, it seems almost unanimously we’ve come to regard certain relationship habits as toxic. But are they really? It’s time to break down these little things couples do that we regard as toxic when really, they’re key to a happy, healthy relationship.
1. Not responding right away
You live your own lives! You’ve each got a million other things going on, and you shouldn’t be each others number one priority literally every single moment.
I get irritated when my clients and colleagues expect this of me as well — when they send me an email and then send me a follow up an hour or two later, asking, “did you see this? Did you respond to so-and-so?” If they violate it enough times, I will reset expectations on what appropriate response time is, given the message.
There are half a dozen things in the queue ahead of your message for anyone’s attention, so unless it’s on fire, you do not need an immediate response.
2. Not bringing stuff up
Look, not everything needs to be discussed. There’s some shit my partner does that irritates me, and I’ve never mentioned it. (And I am sure it’s true the other way around.)
Life is “The Boy Who Cried, Wolf.” If you make a fuss about “everything” — or even too many things — eventually your “fuss” will become meaningless. (And on the contrary, if you are even-keel most of the time, when you finally speak up about something being important, people will actually listen.)
I’m not suggesting you “bottle.” On the contrary, I’m suggesting you deal. There’s a difference between something that’s actually important, and something that you’re projecting on, feeling insecure about, need to self-manage or using to abstract feelings about something else.
You don’t constantly need to be prodding each other over everything. Handle some shit on your own.
3. Being honest
And then talk it out.
Mark Manson pretty much nailed it when he wrote,
“It’s important to make something more important in your relationship than merely making each other feel good all of the time.”
But we do enough beating around the bush in everyday life as it is — don’t do it with your partner.
I’m not suggesting we should go around being hurtful, and I do think that diplomacy in discussion goes a long way. But if you’re so afraid of a sensitive partner’s reaction that you can’t bring something up, something’s wrong.
4. Leaving the room — or going to bed mad
After over two years with a toxic partner who would draw drunken “discussions” out into the early morning hours when we both had work the next day, and now dating someone who’s willing to “drop it and talk things over tomorrow,” and I can say with absolute confidence that the latter is better.
Every single time we’ve had what felt like a “fight” or “disagreement” at night, by the time we wake up the next morning, it’s a quick exchange (“I’m sorry I did/said __” “thanks; I’m sorry I __” *kiss*) and we move on with our day.
If your “discussion” is going on for more than a reasonable about of time — 10 minutes seems like more than enough time to get things out on the table — then I might suggest everyone take some time to cool off and regroup.
5. Not “needing” the other person — and them not being your “everything.”
You shouldn’t need them, and they should not be your entire life. Only in codependent relationships, where two people are overcompensating for a feeling of listlessness or lack of meaning in their lives by becoming enmeshed or overly-attached to someone, is this a thing. Don’t do this thing. Build your life.
6. Having your own lives
You are not attached at the hip, and pretending you are isn’t cute after 7th grade.
Be your own people. You’ll bring a lot more to the table if you are.
Self-love is not selfishness.
- Selfish people are overcompensating for a debilitating lack of self-love.
- Only people who love themselves can love others.
Self-love is self-care, self-awareness, self-respect and self-esteem.
It sets the standards for how others should treat us, and it also gives us the skill set for how to treat them.
Self-love means meeting your own emotional needs rather than expecting/demanding/needing/building dependency on another person to meet them. It means caring enough about yourself to have an answer to “what do you want?”
8. Finding others attractive
You’re a human. I’m a human. Your partner is, also, probably a human.
Humans are attracted to other humans. I don’t want to date someone who mentally dampens anything, and as long as he’s not being a jerk about it, he doesn’t have to pretend he didn’t notice anything.
9. Breaking up if it’s not working
What’s toxic is holding it together with forced “date nights” and “trying new things” and pretending you’re not having the same talk over and over and over.
What’s healthy is pursuing what you need to be healthy. And what’s real love is letting them do the same.