Toxic Relationships: Have you ever felt like you had to walk on eggshells in a relationship? Or had a partner who criticized you or made you feel bad when you were succeeding?
It’s often easier to see a toxic relationship from the outside than when you’re in the thick of it. Sometimes it can even be hard to tell the difference between something that can be worked on and a major red flag.
For today’s new video, I’ve gathered 12 of my most important pieces of advice over the years on how to spot a toxic relationship, set standards, and ultimately find the love you’re looking for so you don’t end up in a relationship that damages your self-confidence.
Today I’m sharing ways that really indicate someone is poisonous for your life.
They Inflict Damage
The first one: In an argument, they look to inflict damage, not solve problems.
I always think about it like scorpion mode: you get near a scorpion, it gets afraid, and it stings you. And you’ll also find, by the way, that when you’re doing something that makes them feel insecure—let’s say you’re going out in the evening, and it’s something that maybe they’re not invited to, and maybe this is just something you’re going to on your own—if they’re feeling insecure about it, they won’t come to you with that vulnerability.
Instead, they’ll make it a fight, and then go to one-upmanship or revenge. So now they’ll go out, but it will be about one-upping you, doing something that will make you even more jealous than they feel right now. Again, it’s about inflicting damage, not about solving problems.
They Treat Everything Like an Attack
Number two: They treat everything like it’s an attack.
You may come to them in a completely civil and rational way and choose your words very carefully, and say: “Listen, I just wanted to talk to you about that thing this week.” You’ll find that they will meet that with aggression.
By the way, one of the common side effects of this, and you may have seen this for yourself, is you’ll find yourself now afraid to bring up problems with them. You sit there agonizing over what words to use, and treading on eggshells as you say something. If you’re doing that to the extreme, it means that you don’t have a healthy relationship with constructive criticism in your relationship.
They Make You the Bad Guy
Three: They make you the root of all evil.
So now instead of admitting that something is actually their fault, that they need to change something, they’ll make you the problem. They’ll convince you that the problem is coming from you. And this is one of the really insidious parts: They can make you believe that things are your fault that have nothing to do with you.
Sorry to interrupt the video. But if you’re watching this, and your love life is a priority for you this year, and you want to meet your person, I have a free training called Dating With Results that is going to help you do that. And you can watch it right now. All you need to do to sign up is go to DatingWithResults.com. I’ll see you over there. And now let’s get back to the video.
You Get Love From Them at Your Low Points
Number four, they’ll show you the most love when you’re hurt.
One of the common patterns in toxic relationships is that the toxic person will accuse you of things, they’ll cut you, and they’ll hurt you. And when you’re on your knees crying, begging . . . when in that moment where you’re at your lowest ebb and they realize they’ve been able to break you, then they’ll switch. Then they’ll show you love. And here’s why: Because at that point, they feel like it’s safe to do so. Because in the moments where you’re feeling strong, they’re feeling weak.
They’re Uncomfortable With Your Success
Which brings me on to point number five: They get uncomfortable with your success.
You’ll find that a toxic person will belittle your ambitions—will make you feel unworthy even when you’re doing well. When you do well, when you have an achievement, they won’t celebrate it with you and get excited with you. They’ll brush it off, or they’ll change the subject relatively quickly. Or they’ll find a problem with it. You come home saying you got a promotion and they’ll say, “Well, won’t that now be a lot more work?”
So this video isn’t about coming from a high and mighty place and us looking at toxic people and saying “There’s something wrong with you. Oh, I realized you’re the problem, not me.” It’s not that we’re perfect and they’re not.
We’re not perfect. And that’s the whole point. You need to come to a relationship to meet a team player who is also imperfect, and you can help heal each other. You can’t heal each other, of course, since that’s something only we ourselves can do. But we can provide an environment for our partner where it’s possible for them to heal, where it’s possible for them to become strong, to become great. Mark Twain said that “the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
“It Should No Longer Surprise Us”
Our emotions get very heavily involved in the people close to us, whether it’s the person we’re dating or in love with, whether it’s our siblings, our parents, our best friend. There are things we may deeply want to change and may even get to the point of saying, “I need to change this or I can’t have a relationship with this person.”
There gets to be a point in life where we’ve communicated calmly and in a neutral way what it is we would like to change about the dynamic—where we have given many opportunities for that change to happen and space for that change to happen. And where we have it confirmed over and over and over again that this change just appears to be too big of a shift for this person.
Either the shift never happens at all or it’s never sustainable—it’s a five-minute shift. And then they always end up snapping back into their default position and behavior. And when that happens, we have hard decisions to make. There’s a point at which the source of the problem actually jumps—it transfers from that person to us because that person is who they’ve been.
Yeah, that’s right.
That should no longer surprise us. They are who they’ve been. We’re now the person who’s continuing to complain about old information. And we have to then look at ourselves and say, “What’s going on with me that I either can’t leave this person or can’t stay with this person and shift my expectation of them?”
Because if we stay with someone who won’t change, and we’re unwilling to shift our expectations, then we become the reason we’re complaining.
Which isn’t excusing their behavior. They could be a terrible person, but why is it we haven’t adjusted our expectations of this person? What’s going on with us that we’re unwilling to revise our image of this person and of this relationship that we have with them? Why have we not lowered our expectations? Why do we still have expectations that are entirely speculative? Because we’ve never had those expectations met in the past, not sustainably. So we still speculate on the expectation of what they can be.
No New Reaction Is Going to Change Them
You’ve probably been through every kind of emotion with this person there is. You’ve cried. You’ve been angry. You’ve been depressed. You’ve been guilty. You’ve been frantic. You’ve despaired. You’ve been through everything you can go through with this person. You’ve begged for change. What emotion have you kept up your sleeve that you’re going to bring out next year that’s suddenly going to change this person? I have to know.
If you’re telling yourself that they’re going to change, what’s the reaction that all this time you’ve been storing to suddenly get a different result? Because chances are, you’ve already cycled through all of them many times.
Empirically, you have to ask yourself, “Has this person ever changed? Or has this been a repeatable pattern throughout my relationship with them?” And if I’m still talking about it now—with my friends, with a therapist—if I’m still ruminating about it constantly, then it’s still happening. And the answer is no, it has not changed.
The Danger of Empathy in a Toxic Relationship
In my own life, empathy has been something that if I’m not careful, means that in a relationship, there’s no limit to how far I can fall. Because if every time someone comes back to you, and they do something wrong, you’re able to process that by saying, “Well, yes, that was awful, but I understand why they did that. I understand where that’s coming from. I know all about their terrible childhood and what they’ve been through. I know about that awful, cataclysmic event in their life that precipitated this behavior,” we can do that with every possible thing a person does.
Even if you decide someone is a narcissist—they are absolutely a diagnosable narcissist—empathy doesn’t stop there. You can still look at a narcissist and go, “They can’t help it. This is something that they were either born with or that they developed at an age where they were still developing and it’s made them into this person who does these awful things. Who acts so selfishly. Who is always about themselves. Who disregards my needs. Who cannot see me and my pain. But they can’t help it, they are doing their best—quite literally, this is the best they can do. And I still care about them. And I don’t want to abandon them.”
So your empathy can produce that mutated kindness and that guilt with absolutely anybody at the most extreme possible levels of bad behavior.
Who’s Taking Care of You?
If you’re taking care of them and making sure they’re okay, and they’re taking care of themselves and making sure they’re okay, who’s taking care of you?
It’s quite a common thing that you hear, but in order to be there for other people, your own cup has to be full. And your priority in life should always be to make sure that you’re okay.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to put yourself first in every single situation. And in fact, you shouldn’t. It’s really important to put other people first sometimes and to put those you love before you when they need you more than you need them in that moment. But ultimately, your empathy toward other people cannot come at the detriment of actually making sure you’re okay.
That’s when you have to suspect yourself, I think, as to whether or not it’s really empathy or are you just caught in a toxic cycle where it’s serving some kind of need for you?
Well, I think that that’s exactly right. And what happens is, because we’re so close to this person, we’ve heard all of their stories. And people who are really good at mobilizing your empathy get very good at telling stories that make them sympathetic.
And by the way, we all have things we’ve been through in our lives that could have made us worse people or better people, right? Everyone has things. But there are certain people who are really good at taking their past and constructing a narrative that creates excuses for really bad behavior in the present. And if you’re somebody who is truly empathetic, and you’re prone to feeling sad for people or seeing people as sympathetic, then it can be quite easy for someone who’s manipulative to use their past as a way to mobilize your empathy.
And it could also happen in reverse, by the way. If they know that you pride yourself on being generous, being kind, being empathetic, and then you start calling them out on their behavior and having more boundaries, they can then attack you for that and say, “Oh, you see yourself as this empathetic person? Well, right now, you’ve got absolutely no care for what I’ve been through and the ways that I’m struggling. You’re always playing this empathetic character, and yet right now you’re just abandoning me.” Now they can weaponize it in the other direction and get you feeling guilty that you haven’t been empathetic enough.
Listen to Your Resentment
And it’s particularly dangerous when someone who takes a lot meets someone who is predisposed to giving too much. That becomes a very toxic combination.
We can get into the kind of language issue of constantly labeling everyone as “toxic” all the time, and that, I think, is a dangerous thing to do. Because most people are not all good or all bad. Everyone is a combination of both. There are some pretty bad ones, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that most people I’ve ever known are a combination of good and bad.
The problem is when we encounter someone where the dynamic between us and them is really bad, where it produces a kind of toxic result. And I’m going to give you four things today that will help you break free of a dynamic like this, and in the process, massively build your confidence and develop a better life and better relationships.
Number one, listen to your resentment, but be impatient with your complaining. The resentment is powerful. The resentment is telling you, “Something feels wrong. This giving that I’m doing . . . something about it doesn’t feel right. It feels like there is a complete asymmetry in what we’re bringing to this relationship.”
Think about it: When we give to a charity, we don’t feel resentful afterward, do we? Because it was just generosity. It was just giving; it was doing something good. So then why in this situation does the giving lead to resentment? Because the giving has become a compulsion. So that resentment is something we need to listen to, but the complaining is something we have to be incredibly wary of.
And we’ve all done it. I’ve done it. I’ve been in situations before—in some cases, for years—where I complained about someone over and over and over again. But my behavior around that person never changed. And we have to get to a point where we have an intolerance for our own complaining, because complaining can just become a kind of pressure valve that lets the air out of our resentment until we decide to just go back to the same behavior. We don’t actually do anything. Complaining becomes a surrogate for action.
Convert Complaints to Standards
Take your complaints and convert them into standards and boundaries. Every time you complain, I want you to hear what you’re complaining about and go: “Well, okay, if I was to actually implement something that dealt with that complaint, what would it look like, either in the form of a new standard or a new boundary? What would I say ‘no’ to? What would I start saying ‘yes’ to in myself or in the things I want to do? What behaviors would I change around somebody? Where would I stop listening or having a conversation with someone about a certain thing if that conversation is never productive, or if it always leaves me feeling like I’ve been berated for something that I don’t deserve to be berated for? Where am I actually going to say, ‘enough’? Where am I going to do something that I really want to do, even though my normal reaction to doing that thing would be to feel guilty about it?”
Take your complaints and make them actionable. Complaints are passive. Standards and boundaries are where all the results are. That’s where the action is.
Don’t Expect It to Feel Good (Initially)
Don’t expect having these new boundaries and standards to feel good, at least initially. Because the truth is, it probably won’t. You’ll put your foot down on something, you’ll say “no” to somebody, and the first thing that will happen is you’ll feel this rush of shame: “Who am I to ask for this? Who am I to say ‘no’? Who am I to have needs?”
And then you’ll feel guilt: “I feel guilty. I shouldn’t have done that. I should be doing more. I should be showing up for this person.”
And then you’ll feel fear: “I’m not doing enough, so I won’t be loved. This person is not going to want me. This person is not going to see me as important or valuable or a good human being anymore.”
All of this leads to us wanting to backtrack. And what we have to remind ourselves in that moment is that those emotions are exactly what got us into this situation in the first place. So they do not serve us now, not in this context.
And if we’re worried we’ve gone too far: “Oh, I’ve gone too far by saying ‘no’ to that. I’ve gone too far in asserting my needs.” Well, firstly, you will go too far sometimes when you’re trying to recalibrate. That’s the nature of it. You’re still practicing, so you’re going to get it wrong sometimes. But your bigger fear should be doing it wrong by doing too much, not doing it wrong by not doing enough, especially if this is your pattern.
Making Room for Real Love
Realize that doing things that are right for you, finally, is actually going to be the thing that allows you to give real love to this person. In other words, when you’re free of the compulsion of giving out of obligation, you’re free to give out of love, you’re free to actually give authentically.
And the irony is, when you come from that place, you actually start thinking creatively about “What would I like to do for this person?” not “What do I have to do for this person?” So it’s: “What would I like to do? What would be a really beautiful, loving thing to do for this person?”
And now you’re into a relationship that will see if it can stand up on those terms. Because also, let’s not forget, when you take away those things that you do compulsively with someone, they will now be confronted with who you are—loving you for who you are, not for what you do. Not as a transaction. Not loving you because they need you, or because they’re dependent on you, or because they don’t want the giving to stop, but just loving you for you.
Now, that will either be enough for them or it won’t. Wouldn’t you rather know? But what happens is you now get to love and give from a pure place. They get a chance, a shot, at doing the same, and the relationship will now reveal itself to be what it actually is: either something worth keeping, or something that was never worth as much as you thought it was in the first place.
Finding the Love You’re Looking for
Dating is hard, isn’t it? It’s confusing. It can be stressful. It can be exhausting. It can be fruitless and lead to burnout. Well, I want to fix those things for you, because finding love is a beautiful thing. And it’s a deeply human need we have that is not going away, regardless of how frustrated we get with the dating process.
So if you want to escape the horrible dramas of modern-day dating and actually just find the love you’re looking for, I have a free training called Dating With Results, where you can just give me one hour of your time. It’s completely free, and I will show you the roadmap for finding love in your life today, this year, quicker than if you didn’t watch this. You can find it right now for free at DatingWithResults.com. I’ll see you over there.
The post 12 Hard Truths You Need to Know to Avoid Toxic Relationships appeared first on Get The Guy.