“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be,” wrote Maya Angelou.
Your relationship may be perfectly normal and natural – but is it truly living up to its potential?
There are lots of behaviors – especially in our relationships – that are terribly, perfectly normal – but cause lots of harm. Often, we brush off these toxic patterns because everyone else is doing them – and they seem fine.
But is fine good enough? Or can we – and should we – always be striving for better? As George S. Patton Jr. famously stated, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” The fact that the couples around us behave in a certain way does not require us to do the same for the sake of conformity.
Here are four damaging relationship habits we commonly engage in every day.
Spoiler: If you have been in a relationship, you are most likely guilty of all of these.
(I know I am!)
– What is obvious to you is often a mystery to your clueless and beloved significant other. If we want something, it is unfair to expect our partner to read our mind. No matter how connected they may seem, we are bound to come up disappointed when using this strategy. We often do this to avoid appearing overly demanding or unfairly critical. Ironically, however, the effect usually ends up being the opposite. Stating a desire kindly but clearly may feel uncomfortable, but it is far more healthy in the long run.
– Although a little bit of jealousy is normal, it should not be romanticized as we all too often tend to do. Instead, it should be seen for what it is – a sign of a weak relationship. We may feel flattered when a partner is jealous. We see it as a sign that we are valued. However, it is also an indicator that there is a lack of trust, an unhealthy need for control, and a worrying amount of insecurity. Jealousy, though natural, is not a healthy part of a relationship. It is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Not Taking Emotional Responsibility
– Bad feelings are truly difficult to deal with – even for the most stable and functional of adults. It always seems easier to shift the responsibility for them to someone else. A loving partner is usually the perfect target for this. All too often, we will blame our partner for emotions that are not their fault. For example, we may be stressed from blowing an assignment at work, come home to find the house a mess, and become furious with their lack of responsibility. Before blaming our partner for a negative emotion, we need to trace it to its true source – which is often ourselves.
– When we feel insecure in our own behavior, we often hold on to past mistakes our partner has made as a way of validating ourselves. For example, we may decide it’s okay to flirt with a co-worker because our partner forgot to buy us a birthday gift. This behavior is normal, but damaging. It shifts our focus away from working through issues in a healthy way, and instead encourages us to look for flaws in our partner and promote our own sense of self-righteousness.