Most of us have experienced it… found ourselves in the same negative and toxic behaviors in our relationship… seemingly repeating themselves over and over again. These behaviors will significantly harm or destroy the dynamics of the relationship. Can you relate?
Identifying, recognizing, and owning these behaviors is crucial for changing and improving the relationship. Take a look at some typical negative and toxic behaviors that couples may find themselves in and identify some of your own repeating patters:
- Constant Criticism: Regularly pointing out flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings in a partner can erode self-esteem and create a hostile environment.
- Defensiveness: Responding to criticism or conflict with defensiveness, excuses, or counter-accusations instead of open communication and understanding.
- Stonewalling: Withdrawing from conversations or refusing to engage emotionally, effectively shutting down communication.
- Controlling Behavior: Attempting to control or dictate the other person’s actions, decisions, or interactions with others.
- Dependency and Codependency: Relying excessively on one another for emotional or financial support or an unhealthy level of emotional reliance on each other, often to the detriment of individual well-being.
- Manipulation: Using tactics like guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, or playing mind games to get one’s way.
- Neglecting or Ignoring Needs: Continuously neglecting the emotional, physical, or psychological needs of one or both partners.
- Unresolved Issues: Avoiding Resolution: Not addressing and resolving past issues or conflicts, allowing resentment to build up.
- Grudges: Holding onto past grievances and refusing to let go or forgive.
- Self-Centeredness: Consistently prioritizing one’s own needs and desires over the needs of the relationship.
- Dishonesty: A pattern of lying, hiding information, or not being transparent with each other.
- Constant Arguing: Frequent and intense arguments over small or trivial matters can create a hostile environment.
- Avoidance: Avoiding conflicts altogether or sweeping issues under the rug instead of addressing them.
- Failure to Learn: Continuously making the same mistakes or repeating harmful behaviors without learning from past experiences.
- Avoiding Resolution: Not addressing and resolving past issues or conflicts, allowing resentment to build up.
- Grudges: Holding onto past grievances and refusing to let go or forgive.
- Social Isolation: One or both individuals withdraw from social activities, hobbies, or friendships due to the relationship.
- Emotional Withdrawal: Consistently emotionally detaching from the relationship.
- Emotional Abuse: Engaging in behaviors like belittling, name-calling, demeaning, or humiliating one’s partner.
- Jealousy and Possessiveness: Experiencing intense jealousy, suspicion, or possessiveness that leads to controlling or monitoring a partner’s activities.
- Lack of Trust: Distrusting a partner without a valid reason, often leading to privacy invasion or accusations of infidelity.
- Lack of Communication: Failing to communicate openly and honestly about feelings, needs, and concerns, which can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved issues.
- Avoidance of Conflict: Ignoring or avoiding conflicts altogether rather than addressing and resolving issues.
- Passive-Aggressiveness: Expressing anger or resentment indirectly through sarcasm, backhanded compliments, or silent treatment.
- Blame-Shifting: Refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions or mistakes and instead blaming the partner for everything that goes wrong.
- Disregarding Boundaries: Ignoring or disrespecting personal boundaries and limits set by one’s partner.
- Withholding Affection: Using affection, intimacy, or emotional support as a bargaining tool or a way to punish a partner.
- Financial Control: Exerting control over finances, limiting access to money, or using money to manipulate the partner.
- Isolation: Isolating a partner from friends and family, making them reliant solely on the relationship for support and validation.
- Gaslighting: Manipulating a partner into questioning their own reality or sanity, making them doubt their perceptions, memories, and feelings.
- Dishonesty: Lying, hiding information, or not being transparent about important issues.
- Competitiveness: Turning the relationship into a constant competition rather than a partnership where both individuals support and uplift each other.
When speaking to couples in my office, I have noticed how toxic patterns in the relationship can be identified but most people identify their partners behavior, and not their own. It is much easier to blame your partner rather than take responsibility for your own actions.
When individuals repeat their own toxic behaviors, they are contributing to the toxicity of the relationship.
This is harmful to the overall health and well-being of the relationship.
Recognizing and addressing these behaviors is essential for creating a healthier, happier, and more nurturing partnership. Couples who find themselves in these negative patterns often benefit from seeking professional help, such as couples therapy or counseling, to facilitate communication, understanding, and positive change. Change is not easy and it rarely feels warm and fuzzy. It takes work.
Why we repeat toxic behaviors.
We all repeat negative behaviors for various reasons, and understanding these reasons is crucial for breaking these patterns and promoting personal growth. Here are some common reasons why people repeat negative behaviors:
- Habituation: Over time, negative behaviors can become habitual. When a behavior is repeated often enough, it can become ingrained in one’s daily routine and difficult to change.
- Immediate Gratification: Negative behaviors often provide immediate gratification or relief from discomfort. People may engage in these behaviors as a quick way to alleviate stress, anxiety, or boredom.
- Emotional Coping Mechanism: Negative behaviors can serve as coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult emotions. For example, overeating or substance abuse might temporarily numb emotional pain.
- Lack of Awareness: Some individuals may not be fully aware of the negative consequences of their actions. They may not realize the harm they are causing to themselves or others.
- Emotional Triggers: Certain situations or emotional triggers can prompt negative behaviors as a reflexive response. For example, stress might trigger anger or irritability.
- Low Self-Esteem: People with low self-esteem may engage in negative behaviors because they believe they are unworthy of better treatment or don’t deserve positive outcomes.
- Peer Pressure: Social influences and peer pressure can lead individuals to repeat negative behaviors, even if they know it’s not in their best interest.
- Lack of Coping Skills: Some individuals may lack healthy coping skills to deal with life’s challenges. Negative behaviors might be the only way they know how to manage stress or discomfort.
- Fear of Change: Change, even when it’s positive, can be intimidating and uncomfortable. People may repeat negative behaviors because they fear the uncertainty that comes with change.
- Underlying Issues: Negative behaviors can be symptoms of underlying psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or addiction. These conditions may require professional treatment to address.
- Environmental Factors: External factors, such as a stressful job, an unsupportive environment, or a history of trauma, can contribute to the repetition of negative behaviors.
- Lack of Motivation: Changing negative behaviors often requires effort, motivation, and a belief in one’s ability to change. If an individual lacks motivation or self-efficacy, they may struggle to break these patterns.
- Instant Gratification Culture: Living in a culture that promotes instant gratification and quick fixes can make it challenging to resist negative behaviors that offer immediate rewards, even if they lead to long-term problems.
- Relapse: In cases of addiction or recovery from negative behaviors, relapse is common. Relapse doesn’t mean failure; it’s an opportunity to learn and grow stronger in the recovery process.
Breaking negative behaviors involves self-awareness, self-discipline, and a willingness to change. Strategies may include seeking therapy or counseling, developing healthier coping mechanisms, setting goals, and building a support system. It’s important to remember that change is a process, and setbacks may occur, but with persistence and support, individuals can break free from negative behavior patterns and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.
In my next article, Repairing Toxic Patterns in Relationships, we learn how to repair these toxic patterns. Remember that repairing toxic patterns requires commitment, effort, and ongoing dedication from both partners. It’s important to understand that change won’t happen overnight, but with persistence and a shared desire for a healthier relationship, it is possible to break free from toxic patterns and create a more positive and loving dynamic.
Dealing with relationships can be difficult and overwhelming but you are not alone! If you are struggling right now, let’s talk. You can book an in-person or virtual visit.
Email or call anytime to schedule an in-person or virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.