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6 Relationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic

No one ends up in a toxic relationship on purpose. But it’s oftentimes seemingly small and ‘normal’ behaviors that contribute to the creation of a toxic dynamic and wear your relationship down. You may not be aware of those behaviors at all, and the truth is, many of them are even glorified in our society as ‘romantic’ (we could name countless “you complete me” relationships from the big screen…). Of course, No one has it perfect all the time. To achieve a good, stable, and fulfilling relationship identifying and addressing issues is inevitable. 

The following six behaviors and habits are very common and can feel normal, but might be damaging your relationship in the long run. 


1. Fear of abandonment Relationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic, man walking away from crying woman

People who have a high degree of attachment anxiety can be susceptible to toxic relationships, according to mental health experts. When someone is preoccupied with whether their partner loves them or will leave them, they might unconsciously try to prevent it. This can manifest itself by being clingy and demanding, or passive-aggressive jealous behavior. Needless to say, this harms the relationship, and only fuels the fear of abandonment. 

Recognizing such patterns in yourself requires a lot of self-reflection. You and your partner need to talk about how the anxious behavior is affecting you as a couple in a non-defensive and non-critical way, and focus on finding solutions as a team, such as seeing a therapist. 

2. Dropping hints instead of articulating your needsRelationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic, couple having serious conversation

We are all different individuals with different needs and desires. Of course, no one can expect 100% of their needs to be met in a relationship, but even reaching that golden middle ground will be impossible without proper communication. And that means, no hints. When it comes to the things that are truly important to you, don’t try to nudge your partner in the right direction of figuring it out themselves. 

Instead, state your feelings and desires openly and clearly, whether it’s ‘I wish you complimented me more’ or ‘I want us to try more new things together.’ Never lead with a false hope that your partner will be able to assume what you want, but rather be upfront about it. Make it clear that your partner is not obligated to fulfill your needs; but you’d appreciate their effort or support, and don’t be judgmental, unreceptive, or dismissive with anything they communicate to you.

Related: 9 Signs That You Are in a Healthy and Happy Relationship

3. Feeling bad about yourselfRelationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic, sad man

Plenty of confident well-adjusted individuals find themselves in toxic relationships. When a person is treated poorly it often has a devastating effect on their self-esteem. Low self-esteem can also create a cycle, where a person becomes overly critical of their partner to compensate for their own insecurity. While a partner plays a crucial role in increasing your self-esteem, the one who has even more power over it is you. 

Try to truly understand what is the root of your self-esteem issue, whether it's the relationship itself or something external, and in that case how it affects the relationship. 

4. Criticizing your partner's reactionsRelationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic, couple arguing

Statements like ‘You need to be grateful that I did you this favor’ or ‘you’re being too emotional, it’s not such a big deal’ can lead to a toxic dynamic in a relationship. Essentially, you’re dictating to your partner how they should feel and respond to a certain situation according to your own worldview. But your partner may be wired differently and how they internalize your words and actions is up to them.

Phrases like the ones mentioned above can make your partner feel like they react in the “wrong” way, and question your ability to accept them as they are. Both sides in the relationship should be able to express themselves and their emotions without fear of being judged.

Related: 8 Ways to Create Emotional Security in a Relationship

5. Frequent mood swingsRelationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic, moods

Of course, we all go through different emotions during the day, but to understand if your mood swings are more dramatic than normal, try to stop and ask yourself how you are feeling about every 3 hours. Is it optimistic? Calm? Annoyed? Stressed? Tired? If the answer differs too often in the course of a day, and you’re experiencing a very wide spectrum of emotions, this may cause instability that will reflect on your relationship. For example, your partner may feel that your reactions are unpredictable and that they have to ‘walk on eggshells’ around you. 

Like anything else, the first step to solving the problem is trying to figure out the cause. Rapid shifts in mood can be the result of several mental health conditions, hormonal changes, certain medications, or even your diet. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a healthcare provider if you need to.

6. Not having separate identitiesRelationship Habits That Seem Normal But Are Toxic, senior couple in matching outfits

There is such a thing as a too-close relationship. “Not having your own hobbies, interests, and opinions is a hallmark of a relationship that is overly merged and too close”, said couples and family therapist Amy Kipp to Huffington Post. Not having strong separate identities will have a damaging long-term effect on your relationship. No one can live a fulfilled life with the belief that they need someone else to make them whole. This mentality can lead to toxic dynamics like codependency, insecurity, and controlling behavior.

Invest in yourself as much, if not more, than you invest in the relationship. Cultivate your relationships with your own friends and family, and find out what makes you happy - only then you can truly share the joy with your partner. 

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