I’ve only been in two long term relationships in my life. Both of those relationships ended fairly amicably, leaving me with a false sense of arrogance in regards to my role in my romantic life. I thought I was the ideal partner based off of these two experiences, but failed to realize where I fell short. It wasn’t until I sat down and had a deep conversation with my most recent partner that I came face to face with some of my toxic behaviors. We always communicated very well with one another throughout our relationship, so it was quite jarring to me for them to expose the flaws in areas I thought I was excelling in.
No one wants to be labeled as a toxic person, especially not myself. There are so many articles and social media posts explaining how toxic people are these manipulative, detached, malevolent villains, but it is also important to know that many people like myself sometimes genuinely do not realize how some of these behaviors can be damaging. However, whether intentional or not, part of growing and evolving as a person is addressing those ugly parts of yourself that you would rather avoid, and I did just that.
Based on personal introspection and valuable input from my previous partners, I made a list of my behaviors that were unknowingly harmful to my relationships.
- Offering Unsolicited Advice
I don’t have all the answers to life’s challenges, but when it came to my partner’s life, I was suddenly filled with the need to fix all of their problems with unprovoked advice. I found myself doing this quite often, stemming from the desire to simply help, but it was actually doing more harm than good.
I realized that not every problem needs an immediate solution. Sometimes, what your partner needs is you to just listen and support them emotionally. Whether they face that problem later on or not, the best thing to do in that moment of vulnerability is to show empathy.
- Not Understanding Partner’s Love Language
It wasn’t until recently that I discovered how important it is to respect and be in tune with your partner’s love language. I truly underestimated how much this aspect can affect the relationship when it comes to intimacy and how rigid I was when it came to coming to a mutual compromise for this issue. Reassurance seemed to be the ongoing issue and me not understanding how valuable that simple thing was to my partner. I had my mind made up about what my love language was and completely neglected what they wanted.
To be honest, this issue is still a work in progress for me. It’s a challenge for me to get out of the mindset that my partner should just know how I feel towards them.
- Unhealthy Expectations from My Partner
I would often refer to myself as a control freak but never in the context of relationships, until now. Thinking that my partner needed to handle every situation like how I would handle it was one of the many unrealistic expectations I had. There was a general need for my partner to live up to this idea of what I wanted them to be and act.
I realized that I was projecting my own insecurities of not living up to my set expectations on to my partner. I needed to address this problem on a deeper level through therapy and not feel the need to be in control of every aspect of my life in extension to my partner.
Although I took the step to identify my toxic behaviors, it does not mean I am suddenly some self-actualized flawless being. I still have a lot of growth to do and many more experiences with different partners that I have yet to have. However, one thing that I had to remind myself throughout this process was that I wasn’t this horrible empathetic person that the internet tried to tell me that I was. Just like a lot of people, many of these behaviors are not intentional. No one wants to purposely hurt their partner, but it’s rather a reflection of failing to identify what’s wrong internally.