1. Love Your Partner More Than Yourself
Unconditional love, to a huge extent, is irrational love.
It’s the kind of love that requires you to give your partner your all, no questions asked. It needs you to blindly believe in the process despite its illogical foundations. It demands you to accept whatever it is the relationship has to offer whether that was good or bad.
To be frank, unconditional love is the perfect form of love. But not in a good way.
And that’s because humans are too imperfect by nature. Greed, insecurity, or complacency can easily unsettle the strongest of relationships; these qualities of imperfection we all possess to a degree are too flawed to exist within such an innocent kind of love.
We’ve seen those romantic movies and we’ve read these other-worldly novels. We all want to believe that there’s this magical force of love out that is bigger than us. We all want to experience this special and inspiring story that would merit our lives more meaning and purpose than the ones we already have.
But the truth is that, in a world that’s not so fictional, a lot of those who have practiced unconditional love are the same people who have ended up being taken for granted, disrespected to the point of humiliation, or cheated on.
Because they were being very forgiving and highly available while accepting mistreatment, unconditional lovers tend to set themselves up to get exploited.
That’s not to imply that their partners were evil, even though you might beg to differ. Usually, it’s simply due to the fact that human nature is too flawed to healthily maintain unconditional love in through decades of commitment.
Conditional Love Has The Right Balance
Our imperfect partners sometimes need to be checked every once in a while to remind them of the important values and high standards we set. That doesn’t only apply to just our partners, we must also at least listen to the constructive criticism when it’s presented to us.
This is conditional love in a nutshell.
For a relationship to stay healthy, you have to remain grounded by maintaining your identity as an independent human participating in the relationship. This is something that can only be acquired through self-love, which is exactly the difference between conscious conditional love and blind unconditional love.
If you enter a relationship where unconditional love is its foundation, you risk losing your own identity and become that person who is just someone’s partner, waiting to get taken for granted. Loving someone else more than loving yourself is simply not putting yourself first, and if you don’t put yourself first, why would they do that for you?
To know all about the many ways unconditional love can hurt your relationship, check out this article.
2. Avoid Conflicts
A lot of people in relationships are afraid of conflicts for many reasons. You can be avoiding conflict mainly because:
– You’re an agreeable person who doesn’t like confrontations.
– You’re lazy to get into a heated debate at that specific moment.
– You’re scared of losing them.
In all of these cases, avoiding conflicts only when it’s unnecessary enables your partner to continue doing whatever it is that’s bothering you. Some people, especially agreeable women and “nice guys“, tend to expect their partners to just get it on their own.
But unless your partner is a mind-reader, you’ll sometimes, believe it or not, have to exercise your speaking ability to deliver whatever it is you want your partner to know. If you don’t pass on the knowledge, they will never know.
Too Agreeable And Nice?
If your significant other never knows that, for an example, they should stop doing what’s bothering you because you’re too nice to tell them, then you’ll most certainly develop a passive-aggressive attitude for as long as you keep it to yourself.
And it never just ends there, one day the passive-aggression will explode in a tirade of harsh words. When that happens, not only will your partner not understand where this came from, but the angry thoughts you’ll be sharing because you’ve been passive-aggressive for too long might end up permanently inside your partner’s mind.
Almost always, we end up regretting what has been said when the anger has been manifested for too long.
Understand that being too nice today is only going to make you angry tomorrow. If you have something that’s been building up inside, defuse the issue before it builds up by communicating to your partner calmly.
The sooner you talk, the easier it is to settle your differences, and the more at peace you feel on the long run. Moreover, the more you talk about your issues, the more you also show your partner that it’s okay to talk about their problems as well, which reduces the chances of dealing with passive-aggression altogether.
Too Lazy To Confront Them?
Well, you’ve already failed your shit-test.
You’ve already enabled them to do whatever it is that’s bothering you, and it will only get more difficult to stop them. The more space and room you give them to repeat an unwanted action because you’re too lazy to confront immediately, the more that action becomes more normal. A habit.
You must always keep your standards in check to keep being respected. If you’re waiting to automatically get the respect you think you deserve at all times, you’re highly mistaken and any long-term relationship is proof for that. Because again, human nature.
“When you notice someone does something toxic the first time, don’t wait for the second time before you address it or cut them off. Many survivors are used to the “wait and see” tactic which only leaves them vulnerable to a second attack. As your boundaries get stronger, the wait time gets shorter. You never have to justify your intuition.” ― Shahida Arabi
Scared Of Losing Them?
Your soon-to-be-relationship will go toxic when, for example, you don’t confront the person you have been dating for a couple of months about your desire to date exclusively.
If you’re scared of losing someone, you’ll always end up losing yourself in the process. You’ll always be afraid to comfortably be who you want to be, and that’s a very heavy price to pay in a relationship that’s supposed to be yours.
It doesn’t just end there, you will still end up losing them.
People who are afraid of losing someone always end up facing their fears sooner or later. If your partner senses that you’re too afraid of losing them, there’s a chance that this may be, unintentionally at best, used against you.
Have an abundance mindset, appreciate your worth more than anything else, and you’ll have the strength to choose someone instead of sticking around just because you’re afraid of losing them.
You teach people how to treat you.
3. Don’t Accept Who They Are:
We’ve already gone through the problem with accepting everything your partner does when you love them unconditionally, and now we’ll discuss the issue with consistently doing the exact opposite.
There are many of us out there who are perfectionists, even in relationships. We, with good intentions, like to improve our current situation with our significant others so we can be more satisfied and happy with what we have. If there are flaws we can work on, we’ll get fixated on minimizing their effects till they cease to exist.
However, a lot of the flaws we find in our partners usually have been already brought to light at the beginning of the relationships, yet we sometimes ignore the flaws when dopamine runs high in our minds and when we’re too busy being attracted to our new love prospects.
In fact, we even label some of these flaws as “quirks” — cute imperfections that make that person special and make us love them.
But once we get used to having our partners others around in their PJs a little too much, we get comfortable. We see things differently. Quirks that were easily ignored and even appreciated before start to stand out as negative qualities.
How they rambled on for a while when they got annoyed is no longer cute, it becomes annoying. A chore to sit through. “Shit! They’re gonna complain about their demanding bosses, again? We just did that yesterday,” we think to ourselves.
How they get obsessed over the cleanliness of where they live or eat no longer seems to be quirky, it’s just more frustrating now. “Can’t we just sit and eat right away for once?” we wonder.
We try not to voice our frustrations out of politeness, but at one point, we can’t really take it anymore. This has been going for months, so we come to the conclusion that we have to… “tell it like it is.”
Once we come clean, only then do we realize it was too late to do that. It was out of place. Why did we do that now? Why not before?
Our partner looks at us, startled, “weren’t you always okay with that the past few months? What changed now?”
We then proceed to explain ourselves in the nicest way possible, which usually doesn’t work.
“But you’ve known about this since the beginning and seemed to accept it,” the partner responds disappointedly.
At that point, they do have a point. We even start to feel guilty. We may even question the whole process and ask ourselves, “Why am I not fully accepting them? Am I really in love with them?”
To fix the situation, we learn to make adjustments. We try to find it in us to truly accept their flaws. Because in our honeymoon phase, the flaws didn’t even seem like they were there. Since now things have changed, we realize it’s time to make a conscious decision to see if we do accept the flaws for what they are, which translates to us seeing a future in our relationships despite these flaws.
This is also why conditional love works best — awareness and objectivity play a huge role in seeing the good and bad in our relationships. You need awareness first for seeing the flaws and objectivity second for continuing despite these flaws.
Not knowing how to accept the flaws and proceeding with the relationship anyway usually results in having a toxic relationship because of:
– Resentment and tensions that come with unacceptance: if you live with someone who doesn’t accept you or vice versa, you’re no longer a team anymore.
In fact, the quickest way you can start a toxic relationship is by not accepting them and then staying with them anyway.
– The potential of the relationship becomes more meaningful than what’s actually in front of you; when you hear someone saying, “I’m working on him,” or “if she could just be more of X instead of Y,” you know that’s exactly the case. The relationship, in this case, is unsatisfactory, and there’s the need to mold the partner into something that they’re not.
Even if you accept being changed to fit your partner’s demands, because the change is unnatural and doesn’t truly come from an authentic place, the change won’t be fully respected and trusted. It won’t count.
This isn’t to say that you must never change, but changes have to be authentic and come from within, not because that’s just what your partner wants. You must truly know and appreciate yourself first to understand what should and should not be changed when you compromise for your relationship.
Other than that, there is no relationship without conscious acceptance.
4. Use Emotional Manipulation Tactics
Controlling behaviors come in many different forms in relationships. You can control a partner using physical force, intimidation, or emotional manipulation. The most covert of them all is manipulation because you might never be able to point a finger on it if the manipulator is careful enough.
When you need to resort to violence, that means you’re so unable to control a situation through logic that you need to use your own hands (or tools) to get from point A to B.
If you need to yell at someone or call them names, it shows that you’re so desperate to get them to listen to your arguments that you have to hurt them to get their full attention and compliance.
Having said that, emotional manipulation can actually be the most damaging of them all, even though it’s less physically painful than physical abuse and not as obvious as verbal abuse. Because of how unobvious emotional manipulation tactics can get and how they can always be presented in a form of affection, you can get your head so messed up that you can’t tell what affection actually should be.
And then be happily convinced to carry on with the toxic relationship anyway.
The following are examples of the most common manipulation tactics people usually use in their toxic relationship:
A) Using The “I Just Love You Too Much” Excuse
This line gets used whenever insecure partners get caught being patronizing.
You might think it’s sweet to be obsessed over, but you should never take this as a compliment. This isn’t about you being a lovable sweetheart who’s just too cute to be resisted, but it’s about your partner not capable of maturely managing their emotions in a healthy manner. They’re incapable of keeping their own boundaries in check, and it’s only a matter of time before you find that sweet excuse to be a restricting nightmare.
Whenever this line is being thrown around too much, always make sure you put your partner in their place by letting them know you don’t see obsessive or patronizing behavior as too much “passion”. Politely of course.
B) Withholding Affection Or Communication
This is very common in relationships, and can easily be dealt with by maintaining your frame and not succumbing to the pressure of the silence or withdrawal.
If your partner withholds sex or any physical affection from you because you’re not complying and not accepting communication as grown adults, then you should first calmly let them know that this method isn’t appreciated and will not push you to do anything you don’t want to. You should also tell them that communicating as adults will instead help the situation more. Don’t get frustrated or you will lose your frame.
If they still choose to continue with the immature behavior, then you must stand your ground by ignoring them completely till they come back and apologize for acting that way.
Surrendering to them will only reward their behavior and show them your willing to get pushed around. Surrender once, and this method will be used against you over and over again.
In case your partner does the classic “sleep downstairs” or decides to ban the sex, I’d highly recommend following Bill Burr’s advice:
C) Using Jealousy For Control
This one will only work if the other person is too emotionally dependent and too afraid of losing their partner. Confident and secure people do not need to use jealousy as a way to pressure their partners. In fact, this is a huge red flag. If you notice your partner flirting with or even thinking about it with the opposite sex just to piss you off, let them know you’re not about that toxic life immediately.
Understand that this is a shit-test to test your self-respect.
Always maintain your frame and make it clear that you’re too valuable for this kind of toxic relationship. If the threat continues, you should leave right away without looking back.
D) Using Guilt For Control
The guilt tactic easily works if your partner is too nice and naive. Or if they love you too much that they will do anything for you. It’s a tactic that’s unfortunately very common and is usually the first to be used to start a toxic relationship.
When you’re unable to control your insecurities and handle your differences in a mature manner, it’s tempting to make your partner guilty just to sympathize with you.
The problem with this tactic is that it might work, but even the most naive people will at one point get sick of it. They will feel that they must babysit your insecure self to make sure you won’t get emotional whenever they want to do something that doesn’t fall in your tight comfort zone.
It’s a very suffocating method that harbors resentment that will come out sooner or later.
Like any other emotional manipulation tactic, this should always be called out immediately for not being a way to discuss these insecurities openly.
“Emotional manipulation methodically wears down your self-worth and self-confidence, and damages your trust in your own perceptions. It can make you unwittingly compromise your personal values, which leads to a loss of self-respect and a warped self concept. With your defenses weakened or completely disarmed in this manner, you are left even more vulnerable to further manipulation.” ― A.B. Admin
5. Bring Up Past Mistakes & Arguments
In all honesty: I’ve made that mistake a few times.
Maybe way too many times.
But I’m sure I’m not the only one.
How it usually plays out: we get into an argument, remember that one time our partner made a similar mistake in the past, and then bring that up to support our current argument.
It’s a toxic habit that’s very tempting because it seems so logical and reasonable, but it only seems so from your perspective, without keeping in mind the effect it would have on your partner. It just takes very few exchanges of the same sort to quickly escalate to a toxic relationship.
The main problems with bringing up past mistakes and arguments are that it:
A) Adds More Tension
Every time we bring up something from their past, we’re more likely to face resistance and frustration that will complicate our current argument even more. It doesn’t just end there because our partner will also bring up something from our past to return the favor. Then we get lost in a sea of arguments that have nothing to do with the one we’re currently having.
B) Teaches Us To Watch Each Other’s Steps
And remember it for later.
Nobody likes to be the only bad partner in a relationship. It takes two to play the blame game, and it’s always a very tempting game to play.
“Oh yeah? Will at least that was better than when you didn’t stop her from flirting with you. Remember that? Or is it just me who has to be reminded of everything?”
C) Makes Us Even More Defensive
Bringing up each other’s past mistake will only teach us to be more stubborn in the next arguments. We will just not accept being wrong.
If we already know what it’s going to be like when we admit that we’ve made a mistake, then we’ll be less inclined to admit our mistakes only to go through being reminded of them every time things get heated.
“Why am I going to apologize if I will get blamed for that mistake again anyway?”
Breaking The Toxic Habits
Having mentioned some of the most common toxic relationship habits, it’s safe to say that the easiest part about relationships is having one, the hardest part is maintaining it.
There are so many ways you can have a toxic relationship; most of them can be unintentional or even with the best of intentions. But there are very few ways you can keep the commitment the way it should be.
And most of the time, you can’t have a toxic relationship unless you’re doing something wrong; you’re either performing toxic habits or you’re allowing them. It’s always one or the other. Therefore, you need to have a sense of accountability and responsibility to be able to assess yourself first and then the relationship second, if you want things to move in a better direction.
It takes a lot of maturity, self-awareness, and humility to be able to recognize your own toxic habits for what they are. It also takes a lot of patience and openness to guide our partners to see their bad behaviors objectively.
Assuming your significant other is willing to work with you, the best thing you can do to prevent your relationship from being toxic or heal your already toxic relationship is to lead by example. Instead of demanding or waiting for the changes to take places, showing your partner the way with your actions can be more rewarding than having tens of arguments and discussions.
Because again, you teach people how to treat you.
Please note that this post contains affiliate links. I’m a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
For men (women will have to wait until I find an actual helpful dating book for them): If you have found this article helpful and need more tips for successfully managing a relationship, then I highly recommend checking out this extremely helpful book: “The Tactical Guide To Women: How Men Can Manage Risk in Dating and Marriage” by Dr. Shawn T. Smith, a clinical psychologist who’s an expert in dealing with relationships and their conflicts.
This book has tremendously helped me understand how to know whether my relationship was healthy or not, and gave me tips on what/what not to do to keep things on track in the long run. I’ll be writing a book review in the upcoming weeks for it since it’s another book everyone should read (or listen on Audible) in my opinion.
If you’ve found this article helpful, consider sharing it with someone who could be struggling with a toxic relationship to help them out. Comment below and let me know about your toxic experience and how you’ve dealt with it.