“How to deal with a relationship where the partner is toxic?”

Submitted Request..

This post is an answer to a submitted question. It aims to provide help and solutions to overcome the issue.

Podcast version: HERE

Anxiety and distress occur when we try to control things that are outside our power.

Submitted Question:

"How to deal with a relationship where the partner is toxic? I am in need of some guidance as I have been in a relationship for a few years and am now faced with the issue of how to react when I feel as though my partner is frequently being toxic. My partner is very standoffish and not one to admit when they are wrong. I am frequently critiqued and complained to that I don't do enough and that they want me to be more like characters from movies and such. Additionally, they are very selfish and visibly unsupportive of my newer lifestyle and dreams.

I admittedly have plenty of faults of my own but knowing myself and coming to terms with who I am, I don’t believe that I deserve the way I am treated and constantly be the one blamed as wrong.

How can I approach and try to improve this situation?"

My Response if we were in a coaching setting. Although without being able to ask questions I may assume or use scenarios to fill in the gaps.

I am truly sorry to hear that you find yourself in this difficult situation. It can be incredibly challenging and overwhelming when faced with such circumstances.

Reacting will lead to what I call defensiveness every single time. It's were each individual takes a position and defends it. Sounds like the bank account of goodwill in the relationship is bankrupt. I have a full definition of what goodwill is but in short it's warm loving feelings toward one another that fosters compassion, empathy, curiosity and understanding. It is this reservoir of goodwill that allows us to approach situations with an open mind and a genuine desire to understand each other's perspectives.

When we react defensively, it is a withdrawal from the bank account of goodwill.

Instead of engaging in a constructive dialogue, we become focused on protecting our own positions and proving ourselves right. Creating a barrier between the two parties, hindering, stunting the growth of the relationship and preventing you from truly understanding each other.

By making a conscious effort to step away from reactive responses and instead cultivate an atmosphere of goodwill, it will create a space where compassion, empathy, curiosity, and understanding can thrive. I work closely with my clients on how to do this successfully and make it so easy a third grader could do it. 

You see every single relationship has a bank account of goodwill.

Every interaction there's either a deposit or withdrawal.

Unfortunately deposits are much smaller the withdrawals, and I suspect that the bank account has been depleted for some time.

Think back to when you were in the honeymoon phase you did small things that were signs you thought about them, did them unconditionally and had warm loving thoughts about them all hours of the day. The silly awkward things they did was cute. This is a signal of a healthy bank account of goodwill. By focusing on how to build the bank account of goodwill back up, it fosters a deeper connection and builds a stronger relationship. Choose to respond with love and understanding rather than react defensively.

Consider this, is your partner someone you would be ok with if they didn’t change at all? If from your heart and soul the answer is yes, then it’s focusing on what you can control. Build up the bank account of goodwill by doing things via unconditional love. This means doing the smallest things the gesturers you used to do without any expectations, or intent. 

In any relationship that is involving two people that live together I always reflect on how dogs are. What I mean by that is their unconditional love, acceptance, their fun loving gratitude and excitement when we arrive home even if we were gone just an hour. What I know to be true is that us humans are really not that different than any animals we want to feel wanted, needed, appreciated, important, and loved. I know that I am WAY more likely to come straight home and with eagerness if I am greeted with unconditional love, vs negative energy. And a BONUS each greeting will facilitate a deposit in the bank account of goodwill.

I want to focus on the question, and it’s the word “reaction” this overall that was sent in stood out to me the most. Reaction is in my mind a sharp response to get even or protect yourself in some way. Keeping the score up, get even all defensiveness. One thing I like to point out is that when our language shifts from “WE” to “ME” it is a sign that there’s a disconnect in the relationship, and you’re both on different teams.  In a partnership, marriage or any other relationship that has two people navigating life together I often suggest paying close attention to your thoughts, and word choices and when choosing statements that have WE in them will convey to the other person that you’re in this together. It’s not a you and me against each other or this situation or problem. It’s us fighting together to create healthy communication and resolving this issue that’s separate from us. 

I noticed as well this term “toxic” used a couple times. This is a label, labels create a box to put people in and it fosters more distance, more disconnection, more division.

When we label someone our brain will start to search for evidence and it will find it.

There's a lot of labels and titles flying around the internet "being toxic" is one of many, when we label someone with any label good or bad, we start to collect proof that they are this. When it's something negative it shifts the energy in the dynamic and the other person senses it and feels judged, criticized, less than and the worst feeling on earth: not good enough.

The energy we put out is what we get in return.

What's the energy you want in this relationship?

How do you want to feel?

Really getting clear on this, articulating it with 10 or more statement or positive words will offer you with the wisdom on what to do.

What you can control is just your thoughts, feelings and actions.

When you shift your thinking, by choosing how you want to feel you'll not only gain a sense of control. Your feelings and energy will naturally shift, and weather it's positive or negative it's contagious. Because us humans mirror each other.

So if you bring empathy, compassion, and looking at your partner through the lens of seeking to understand their reality, they will reflect that back and you're well on your way to improving the bank account of goodwill.

Recognize what's within your control and what's not. Then respond to these things/events accordingly.

I hope this helps. I wish you all the best. Please share this with anyone you believe would benefit from the insights. Post a comment, I read and reply to them all. Thank you in advance!

If you want to send a question, please send to hello@katherine-hood.com please include: 

  • A coachable question (something that addresses what's in your control, your thoughts, feelings or actions.)
  • And context, explain a situation in the past, currently going through, or worries/concerns of the future, giving me some details on your thoughts and feelings about it. 

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