You met someone and they seem really great, or at least they did. You've had some fantastic times together, some intimate moments, and you've even thought at times that this might be "the one". But lately, you're beginning to feel very differently. Something about this relationship doesn't seem to be right and you're not really sure what it is.
Sure you've had some disagreements, but everyone has those right? Maybe you're thinking that you just need to try harder or be a little better for the relationship and then things will pull together. You might even feel like the challenges that you're facing in the relationship are your fault.
Certainly, both partners need to be responsible for the success of the relationship and bring their best efforts to it to have it work. You being willing to look at what you can improve is a great place to start, but is there something more? If you have a feeling that what's happening in this relationship is not "right" or "normal" or there seems to be something unsettling about the whole situation, trust your instincts and look a little deeper.
You are right to look for Love and find it. As far as we're concerned it's the best thing in life. But it's also very important to recognize that not everyone is worth your Love, time, and devotion, and you'll only want to invest that in someone that is worthy of it.
You are also completely right to identify toxic behaviors in your partner and if they show no desire to improve or change, you are right to leave. Life with someone who exhibits these behaviors will certainly be painful and heartbreaking, and you're too good for that.
In this post, we're identifying 4 key toxic behaviors that are unacceptable in a healthy relationship. These behaviors do not create an environment in which Love can thrive. So if you recognize yourself and/or your partner exhibiting these as behaviors, you know there's some work to be done.
1. In every conflict, they turn it around on you.
Now, we're not suggesting that your partner should never point out any of your "stuff". In a successful relationship, you will want your partner to point things out that you can improve on individually and as a couple. You know each other better than anyone, at least you will once you've been together for a while, so of course they'll have supportive insights to share.
But in a toxic relationship, this looks very different. A toxic person will be absolutely unwilling to accept accountability and they will always make it your fault. As soon as you bring something up--a concern, an insecurity, a doubt--they will immediately turn the attention back on you and you'll end up wanting to defend yourself while their behavior gets overlooked entirely.
Someone that does this is trying to set up the relationship so that they never have to assess their own conduct. If they can make you constantly look at yourself, they won't have to look at their own behavior. What is often very confusing about this is they will bring up valid points, so you may tend to think that they are right. The validity of their points is not what's in question--sometimes their points will be valid and at other times not. What is in question is that they invalidate your points.
Here's an example. You might say to your partner something like: "Honey, it seemed like you were flirting with that other woman and that made me uncomfortable."
And he might respond with: "What are you so insecure about?" or "Why are you accusing me of that?" or "Why don't you trust me?" What he is doing is putting the attention on you and removing his conduct from questioning. Even more so, he is attempting to invalidate your experience and take away your voice in the relationship.
Perhaps there IS some area of insecurity for you to look at, but if he's using that as a way to deflect accountability for his own actions, this is toxic behavior and you will not be able to feel safe in the relationship.
An accountable and understanding response would show you that he is interested in your experience and he'll want to know how he can help you feel safe in the relationship.
He would respond with something like, "That wasn't my intention Love. I apologize for making you feel that way, and I can pay closer attention to my behavior in the future." or "Tell me more about that. What was it I did that made you feel that way?"
When you bring something to the table for the two of you to look at, a Loving partner will be open to looking with you. If you cannot voice a concern and discuss it without having it thrown back on you, you will never be able to feel safe in the relationship.
2. In disagreements, they seek to hurt you.
All disagreements are an opportunity to grow closer to each other by teaming up to overcome your differences. In a relationship, you want to work as a team to resolve these challenges in a way that you both feel safe, seen, heard, and honored.
Disagreements are guaranteed, there is no way around them. You should not try to avoid them but rather, as a couple, become skilled at working through them and grow closer to each other on the other side of them.
A toxic person will use disagreements as a way to hurt you and by doing so, gain power over you in the relationship. There is no "wrong" in a relationship disagreement; there are simply two different points of view. Mature couples recognize this and they don't feel the need to make the other person wrong. In fact, because they understand that both perspectives are valid, they seek a resolution that validates both points of view without dishonoring their partner.
A manipulative partner will make your point of view "wrong". They will even go as far as to insult and attack you for having that point of view. Name-calling, insulting, or personal attacks, in any form, have no place in a Loving relationship. Period.
The goal here is not justice, but they will likely act like it is. The goal is power and control. There is actually no consideration given to what is truly "right" in the situation, only consideration to what will give them the upper hand. They only want to "win the fight", so to speak.
They want you to feel so bad and wrong about your point of view that you apologize and ask for their forgiveness. When you do, they will tell you it's OK and that they Love you, but you'll feel belittled because they've just attacked and invalidated you. This is also part of the manipulation. We'll go more into that later.
3. They make you doubt your own rational ideas.
They will do things that undermine what you know to be true. They will tell blatant lies, deny things that you know for a fact are true, accuse you of doing the things that they are doing, use things near and dear to your heart against you (like your family, children or career), and tell you one thing and then do the opposite. Keeping you on unstable mental and emotional ground gives them a sense of control over the relationship.
By planting enough seeds of doubt in your mind that you start to question what you know is right and true, they can take your shaken foundation and rebuild it in a way that suits their paradigm.
They twist events and things you say in irrational ways. Their twist will be very different from how you see things because it is irrational, but they will be so confident in their assertions that it will make you doubt your own rational thinking. Sometimes you'll think that you're the crazy one because they make all of your sane ideas seem wrong.
You may say something very innocent or joking and they'll take it personally. They'll act like you hurt them and maybe even accuse you of being malicious and intending to hurt them. You know that you weren't trying to be malicious and so you'll start to think, "Maybe there's something wrong with me? How could I be so insensitive?".
This has nothing to do with something being "wrong" with you. This is their attempt to make you feel guilty and use that guilt to control you.
You know that this is happening if you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells, you feel like you have to be very careful about what you say to them and how you say it, and/or you don't feel free to express yourself or have a voice.
4. They tear you down and then build you back up.
A toxic partner's goal is really to keep you at your worst. Your confidence, freedom, and happiness are frightening to them. Whatever brings you joy, besides them, becomes a threat and they will seek to take that away somehow because they fear losing their hold over you and the relationship.
When you're feeling high this person will make comments that bring you down. You'll have the feeling that they're always taking your joy from you (because they are). They won't like your friends and won't want you to spend time with them. In general, they'll be resistant to any of your interests that don't involve them. When you get excited about something they will shoot it down and, at times, even directly shoot you down for being excited. In doing this they destroy your confidence and plant the seed that nobody else will want to be with you so that you grow an attachment to them--you'll "need" them.
They want you to believe that being small is the way to get Love, and when you're with them you'll start to diminish yourself to be in a way that is acceptable to them.
In a toxic relationship, you will feel that they are constantly bringing you down to your lowest, and only then do they give you their Love and affection. In truth, this is the only time they feel safe enough to show you Love. In a way, they'll want to reward your being small for them because it validates their own insecurities and makes them feel safe. At these times you will see the good and the gentleness in them and this will give you hope for the relationship.
Don't be fooled by this--everyone has good in them but if they cannot give you that consistently, they have a lot of work to do before they're ready for a relationship.
Sometimes they will feel guilty and be sorrowful and apologize for what they did, but how they attempt to show their Love is not really important. If you notice that they consistently do it when you're at your lowest and tear you down when you're at your highest, this is a toxic dynamic and will never lead to a fulfilling relationship. A loving partner will always seek to reinforce your confidence and build you up, even on your best days.
An important note to all of of this: Our intention is not to brand certain people as "toxic".
We are drawing attention to unhealthy behaviors and tendencies that, to some degree, we all have. Some people are master manipulators and they use these behaviors intentionally to control people, but for most people, that's not the case. Most "toxic" people aren't even aware that they are doing it. They are people who have been hurt in their lives. Maybe they witnessed these behaviors in their pairents or other loved ones, and so they're acting them out in their own relationships.
What's important for you is two things:
1. If you are on the receiving end of manipulative behavior in a relationship, do not stand for it. There is no good that will come from it. It will destroy your dignity and self-esteem. Depending on how entrenched your partner is in this behavior, it may involve leaving the relationship. We have helped many individuals navigate these situations and determine the proper course of action. If you'd like to speak with us about this, click here.
2. If you see these behaviors in yourself, we have some questions for you... What do you want FOR your partner? Do you want their happiness? Do you want them to feel good about who they are? Do you want them to feel good about your relationship? Do you want them to choose your relationship because it's what their heart truly wants or do you want them to be manipulated into choosing it?
We understand that nobody is perfect. We all have our faults and especially in relationships, nobody gets it all right. Our intimate relationships should be a place where we are lifted up, appreciated, and honored. Any other conduct will ultimately lead to unhappiness for both partners. The only way you win is together.
If you find yourself on either end of this behavior please reach out to us. Let us see how we can help.
The Living Relationship
Our story is your story. Two people, perfectly flawed in all kinds of ways, traveling the path of Life together, making mistakes, growing through them, and learning from study, success, and failure.
We say that we Teach the Art of Extraordinary Love!
While we all must travel this journey of Life, with its ups and downs, its joys and its pains, this path is so much better traveled with a partner.
Our commitment is to people having that partnership, to their lives being filled with Love, and to their relationships being safe, healthy, and Loving.
To learn how working with us can transform your life and relationships, or if you'd like to schedule an introductory session with us, click here. We'd love to get to know you and begin building powerful, connected, and Loving relationships together.