Struggling in Your Love? Take This Toxic Relationship Quiz!
Learning about toxic thoughts that destroy loving relationships
Posted Feb 07, 2016
If you are having significant problems with your intimate partner, this may indicate that your relationship is getting, or already is, toxic. Below is a list of the 9 primary toxic thoughts as featured in my book, Why Can't You Read My Mind?
While there may certainly be kernels of truth underlying some of these types of toxic thoughts, for couples who have healthy relationships, it is the extent to which you distort, exaggerate, and overly focus on them that can suck the joy out of healthy love. Being able to look for, and then dwell on, your partner's positive qualities and behaviors is the key to overcoming these toxic thoughts about him or her.
As you read through the list below, put a mental check mark (or print out this page and get out your pen) next to each toxic thinking pattern you do toward your partner. Even though this list is not an empircally, validated formal assessment, you can at least get a sense of how toxic your relationship is by reviewing these nine, common occuring toxic thoughts.
How many of these do you or your partner struggle with?
___The All-or-Nothing Trap: You see your partner as either always doing the wrong thing, or never doing the right thing. ("He always has to be right!")
___Catastrophic Conclusions: One partner exaggerates negative actions and events concerning the other partner. ("She bounced that check and now we are definitely heading to the poor house!")
___The “Should” Bomb: One partner assumes the other will meet one or more of his or her needs—just because he or she should know that need. ("You should knowhow much I hate my job, even though I tell everyone what a great opportunity it is.")
___Label Slinging: You unfairly, and negatively, label your partner and lose sight of his or her positive qualities. ("You are so lazy!")
___The Blame Game: You unfairly, and irrationally, blame your partner for relationship issues, or bigger issues. ("My life only sucks because of you!")
___Emotional Short Circuits: Emotional short circuits occur when one partner becomes convinced that his or her partner’s emotions can’t be “handled. ("No one can possibly ever reason with her!")
___Overactive Imagination: In this case, you reach negative conclusions about your partner that are not based in reality. ("She's so preoccupied lately; she must be having an affair.")
___Head Game Gamble: You try to outsmart your partner by erroneously assuming he or she has certain motives. ("He's only being nice to me because he wants to play golf this weekend.")
___Disillusionment Doom: This occurs when partners focus on idealized expectations of their partner that are rooted in the past. ("All he does now is worry about his job; he is just like all the other guys who never cared one bit about my needs.")
Happy, satisfied couples that do not get bogged down in toxic thoughts have a better, more realistic, and healthy way of thinking about each other. It is this way of thinking that enables such couples to improve communication, solve problems, and enhance romance. This true foundation for a happy relationship, this elusive secret to your success, can only be found, or built, in one place—your own mind.
[Let me add: You did not get into your relationship to be treated poorly, ignored, or abandoned. Being abused or denigrated, subjected to reckless spending, deprived of asex life, or forced to put up with problematic, immature behavior is not what I'm asking of you. If this is occurring in your relationship, your partner needs to make major changes. Individual and couple's counseling may be needed. And if your partner will notcooperate with counseling, you need to face the fact that he or she will probably never change, and then decide to try living with him or her the best you can, or move on to a new and hopefully more satisfying relationship. I am all for trying to save relationships, but in the face of repeated hurts and insensitivity, it may be best to move on.]
For problems with challenging children and teens, see Dr. Jeff's book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, recommended for parents of defiant children by the Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist with over twenty-five years of experience specializing in child, adolescent, couples, and family therapy. He holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and completed his post-doctoral internship at the University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center. He has appeared on the Today Show, Court TV as an expert advisor, CBS Eyewitness News Philadelphia, 10! Philadelphia—NBC, and public radio. Dr. Bernstein has authored four books, including the highly popular 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (Perseus Books, 2015), 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child (Perseus, 2007), Why Can't You Read My Mind?, and Liking the Child You Love, Perseus, 2009).