Modern times are full of obstacles. Our life is filled with so many questions like, how to balance between career and personal life, how to lean in when so many situations seem hostile to the idea, how to raise well-adjusted kiddos in a rapidly changing world – and the list goes on. One item that often rises to the top of people's list of concerns is making sure their relationship is on steady ground. This can sometimes be a bit of a squirrelly issue, since some relationship habits that seem healthy, or are widely accepted in society as normal, are actually quite unhealthy - or even toxic. Here are some signs:
Conflict disguised as passion: Modern culture tends to romanticize relationships that frequently cycle between intense conflicts and equally intense reconciliations. However, they are often quite insidious. Essentially, the pattern of fighting and intense reconciliation is a way of connecting while avoiding deep intimacy, but experts describe the frequent intense conflict indicates difficulties with conflict resolution and communication. These difficulties can be rooted in problems ranging from the relatively benign - such as immaturity - to the deeply toxic ones, such as narcissism or abuse.Keeping peace: Sometimes it can feel easier to just ignore something that bothers you for the sake of keeping peace. However, according to Psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, although swallowing your feelings may seem like a good way to keep from descending into a downward spiral of conflict, the reality is that ‘conflict avoidance has its limits’. Sometimes a difference arises that is too big to ignore. When these types of issues come up, conflict avoidant couples don't have a way of working through the issues together. Swallowing your feelings and not talking about something upsetting is a recipe for problems later in the relationship, since the small and seemingly not-worth-discussing issues can build up and take on a life of their own.
Keeping score: This is a tricky one. Many of us want not just a relationship, but a true partnership - so you want to be sure that you and your significant other are on equal footing. But where does the quest for equality stop and score -eeping begin? While we all want a 50/50 relationship with our partner, keeping track of what you have done, pointing it out to your partner, and noting when you feel that your partner is falling behind in their commitments are surefire ways to create conflict. Instead, the experts recommend working out a plan with your partner to determine ‘who does what’ in the course of your daily life. This plan can include household chores, finances, child care etc. and can also accommodate your individual preferences, schedules, strengths and weaknesses.
Tit-for-tat: The tit-for-tat pattern follows closely behind keeping score, since they tend to go hand in hand. In this scenario, one partner tells the other something they are upset about - usually something the other person has done or failed to do - and the other person responds with a list of equally, if not worse, things that their partner did wrong. It may feel natural to want to defend yourself, but you are actually deflecting responsibility and piling one problem on top of another by doing so. Your partner is looking to be acknowledged and understood so that they can recover and move on, but tit-for-tat keeps that connection from occurring.
Never fighting: While fighting all the time is not healthy, neither is the idea that we should never fight with our partners. Conflict in a relationship is normal and it is a sign that growth is trying to happen as it is a way to express strong emotions. A refusal to fight or argument blocks that growth, and often keeps people locked in a pattern of suppressing their negative feelings. It is impossible to be in a relationship and not have differences of opinion or to feel frustration or hurt. Not having even occasional arguments means that people are not being completely honest with each other. It also means there is little opportunity to address issues that need to be fixed.Jealousy: Jealousy is hard to navigate: people often mistake it as a sign of love, but it is also associated with toxic behaviors like possessiveness and abuse. Jealousy can be a serious problem in relationships - and that jealousy arises from insecurity, not the love or affection that a person has for their partner. Adding to the confusion is the fact that jealousy - which, let's be honest, many of us feel at one time or another - requires a delicate balancing act in order to deal with it in a healthy way.
Relationships, especially in their early stages, can be very hard to navigate. They can be even harder to navigate due to some of the relationship myths above, so your own sense of intuition can come to your aid here. If it feels wrong, uncomfortable, or just off, it is okay to listen to those warning signs. By nurturing your relationship with yourself as well as your relationship with your partner, you can identify and take action if toxic relationship habits become an issue.