Can you tell a toxic romance from a healthy one? Many of you have been through a series of relationships in your life that can be defined as toxic. These relationships cause pain, self-doubt, heartbreak and anguish. You may wonder why you are attracted to toxic people, and why this keeps happening to you. Nobody wants to be in a toxic relationship, so how does this keep happening?
Why do we repeat these patterns in life, and how do we change them so that we can have healthier, more loving and connected relationships? I can give you a lot of psychology-speak about why this happens; but instead I am going to give you something that I believe is more valuable: A way to transform your thinking about relationships and some real-world advice about creating more positive interactions.
This will hopefully help you to identify the difference between a toxic romantic relationship and a healthy one, and will help you and your partner to transform your relationship into something beautiful, loving and positive. You see, it’s not always about the other person. Many times it’s we, ourselves, who are making poor choices, repeating negative patterns, and treating our partners in ways that can result in a toxic relationship.
Here are 5 things that can make all the difference. These are habits that healthy couples practice that will transform your relationship into a heathier, more loving and happy place.
- Stop dwelling on the past: Keeping score and a running tally of past mistakes and slights is a sure way to poison the present. Letting go of the past is difficult, especially if there are hurt feelings and resentments. Bringing up the past is “fighting dirty” and not a healthy way to interact with your partner.
- Compromise has to be learned: When you are rigid and unwilling to give, this creates resistance and resentment. Compromise is a part of all healthy relationships and it’s not always easy. If you love someone, you must be willing to put their needs first even when it’s difficult, and you may end up on the giving end more than they do. It’s not always equal or 50/50. If you can accept this truth, you can be much happier and healthier in your interactions with your partner.
- Authenticity is everything: Honesty and integrity are key ingredients in a healthy love relationship. You must do away with game-playing, keeping secrets and anything that takes away from being vulnerable, raw, and authentic with your partner. You must be willing to show all of yourself. This is the path to a healthy and loving relationship. You must give all of you to your partner.
- Communication is crucial: When you hold back from expressing yourself, fail to communicate or isolate yourself, you’re setting up a scenario that is not sustainable. There must be communication about everything between you and your partner in order to keep your relationship healthy. Stay too quiet and your partner will think you have something to hide. This creates suspicion and assumptions that can lead to toxicity in the relationship.
- Give each other space to breathe: The amount of time you spend together will vary from couple to couple, but one thing is clear. You cannot spend every waking moment together. Healthy couples have individual lives that complement each other. They are codependent in a way that allows each partner to grow and evolve with the love and support of their spouse. Unhealthy codependency does not allow for this evolution and growth. The relationship turns toxic for lack of this healthy “away” time. In this way you bring to the relationship new experiences and passions that help your partner and your relationship grow in unimaginable ways.
These are only a handful of habits that healthy couples have, but I believe this is a good foundation to begin with. Think of your partner as being separate but equal, and your role in the relationship is to help them to feel loved, supported and important to you. If you stick with these fundamental precepts, you will be headed in the right direction.
Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.