Many couples seek therapy because they suspect their partner or their relationship has become toxic.
What is a toxic relationship?
A relationship becomes toxic when those periodic disagreements that every couple has become the norm. You're having more bad days than good days together.
The attempts to repair the hurt through gifts, obligatory "date nights," or exchanging apologies that you don't fully mean, become less and less effective.
What couples really want to know when they come to my office is, "Which one of us is right?"
It takes two people to create a toxic relationship; very rarely is it only one person's fault.
I was happy to contribute to Lauren Schumacker's piece over at Romper.com about how to tell if your relationship is toxic. She was able to compile a pretty good list and some helpful advice (some of it from yours truly) about what to do if you suspect your relationship is toxic.
For example, any statement that is "below the belt," that takes a "cheap shot," or hits you in a sensitive area can indicate a toxic relationship. For example, if you've expressed insecurity about your relationship with your parent, saying something like "You're just like your father," can be toxic. It's not intended to be constructive, or expressing any particular feeling. It's meant to harm. If you're not comfortable with a recent change in your body, or sensitive that you're in a dead-end job, pointing out these things you're not proud of can be particularly hurtful.
These are red flags because they aren't intended to be constructive. They're not meant to express a certain feeling, or to explain someone's point of view. They are simply to hurt you, sometimes out of retaliation.
What can you do?
Wait until a less heated moment! You won't be clear or assertive if you're upset; particularly if you've just heard a really mean statement. It can be tempting to want to retaliate and say something mean back.
At a later time, bring up the specific statement. Repeat it, so there is no question about what you're referring to. Explain that it was unacceptable, and ask your partner not to use it again. You don't even really need to explain way. You can acknowledge the hurt that was behind it, and try to find out what they really meant to communicate.
It's not "shutting your partner down" to ask them to hold off on certain statements. You are still interested in hearing what they meant to say, but will only accept it in a civil way.
Read more of Lauren's article by clicking here.
If you and your partner feel like you keep hurting each other's feelings and just wish you could "start fresh," call (562) 704-4736 for a free consultation about how couples therapy can help you create a new version of your relationship. Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas.