We all want a perfect happy romantic relationship. However, it takes a lot of courage, conscious effort, and work to build such a connection. And as cliché, as it sounds, communication is the key to a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, this is what most couples lack.
In fact, instead of connecting with each other in a healthy manner, they tend to unconsciously use negative and manipulative ways to get what they want. This is called toxic communication; and it’s one of the main culprits behind unhappy breakups, abusive relationships, and bad mental health. In this article, we’ll walk you through some tell-tale signs of unhealthy and harmful communication, how to identify them, and what steps you can take to save your relationship from it.
What is Toxic Communication?
Simply put, toxic communication is any type of communication that hurts others, misleads them, and creates problems. Instead of clarifying things, it causes more misunderstandings and distrust. Relationship psychologist Shelley Sommerfeld says,
“Communication is important [in relationships] because it fosters trust and connection.”
On the contrary, negative communication and behavior patterns do the opposite. Everything; from blaming, name-calling, ignoring, and gaslighting to yelling, intimidating, and being aggressive, all comes under toxic communication. It always starts small but if you’re not careful, it can end up trapping you inside an abusive and toxic relationship.
Reasons Behind Negative Communication Patterns
It’s not necessary that toxic communication stems out of malice. Actually, most of the time, it happens at a subconscious level and reveals the deeper insecurities of the individual. Possible reasons why partners act unhealthily towards each other could be fear, abandonment issues, rejection, the need to be loved, personal insecurities, hypersensitivity, pride, narcissism, the need for control, volatile emotions, past trauma, etc. Of course, it doesn’t excuse their destructive behavior but it does help us understand and resolve the issues better. Here are a few negative communication patterns so you can walk out of a toxic relationship:
Individuals who do not communicate well will immediately walk out of conversations that they find uncomfortable. They will manipulate the situation to penalize their partner or other person involved in the discussion. It is their response to conflict management. In the end, the toxic partner comes off as self-sacrificing.
You can identify negative communication based on the tone and intensity. The pattern confuses the other individual to out-power the partner. It results in a huge fight where everyone forgets why the miscommunication began. An escalated conflict after five minutes or the next day when the matters get out of control.
A negative partner will interpret dialogues that benefit their perspective. They will clearly say the partner’s feelings are unjustified and wrong. As a result, the partner loses influence in the relationship. An empath will factor in their partner’s feelings for a mutual understanding.
Types of Toxic and Unhealthy Communication
Here are some common ways unhealthy communication between couples occurs.
In this type of negative communication, one partner constantly criticizes, judges, and puts down the personality and character of their partner. Instead of focusing on problematic actions, they make it about how bad of a person you are.
Contempt and Sarcasm
It is common for people to insult their partners using sarcasm and contemptuous remarks. These are often little off-handed comments, eye rolls, mocking laughs, and scoffing at what you said.
Gaslighting refers to when someone makes you doubt your own reality, distort your truth, and makes you question whether something truly happened or not. They usually change the story and make you believe their version.
This occurs when one partner completely refuses to communicate and gives you silent treatment. Leaving an argument mid-way and shutting out all attempts to talk come under this negative pattern.
This is another unhealthy communication pattern commonly found in couples where instead of acknowledging one’s mistakes, the person gets defensive as if they’re being attacked. This ends all attempts at trying to communicate and resolve any problem in a healthy way.
This is similar to defensiveness, except a level higher. In this toxic pattern, individuals believe they’re the victim in every situation and everyone is out to get them. They’re hypersensitive and lash out at you before you can criticize them. They can’t see anything wrong with their own behavior.
Controlling and Manipulative Behaviour
This is an extreme type of toxic communication where one person manipulates and controls the other in order to get what they want. They may believe that they know best and disregard the feelings, opinions, and priorities of the other partner.
Passive Aggressive Behaviour
People get passive-aggressive when they cannot openly express their frustrations, anger, stress, and other negative feelings. Instead of clearly conveying the issue, these people believe that their partner should know everything without telling them.
Negative Body Language
This includes non-verbal intimidation such as throwing or breaking things, physically intimidating the other partner instead of yelling or screaming, as well as distancing oneself from the other, and refusing physical affection.
10 Key Signs of Toxic Communication that are Hurting Your Relationship
Although there are many signs that indicate harmful communication in a relationship according to individual cases, the following signs are more common.
- Your self-esteem has lowered since this relationship started.
- You feel confused and on edge.
- Your attempts at talking and trying to resolve issues end with even bigger arguments.
- You feel like you’re constantly sacrificing your opinions to make the other happy.
- Problems get swept under the rug without proper resolution.
- Your partner uses non-verbal forms of intimidation such as intimidating body language to get you to comply.
- You feel unhappy and drained.
- The same issues and arguments come up over and over again.
- Your partner tries to control your time, habits, money, hobbies, lifestyle, etc.
- You feel like your relationship is not going anywhere, there is no growth.
Can you Fix Unhealthy Communication Patterns to Save Your Relationship?
Once you’ve identified negative communication patterns, here are some steps you can take to save your relationship if you truly like your partner.
- Don’t immediately confront your partner; sleep it off and take some time to reflect on your relationship. Does the relationship make you more stressed and unhappy than safe and joyful? Which issues occur repeatedly?
- Get clear on your feelings and behavior – How do you feel in all this? How are you contributing to the issues?
- Try to understand things from your partner’s perspective – oftentimes, they are just as equally hurt and in need of understanding and safety as you are.
- Have a serious talk with your partner – Don’t think of it as an argument and focus on actively resolving the issue. Set clear boundaries.
- Consult a professional couple’s therapist to overcome differences and find healthy ways to communicate. According to an extensive study, conflict management, forgiveness, and open communication are the keys to improving and maintaining romantic relationships long-term.
- If the conflicts don’t get resolved, make the hard decision to break up. It will be better for you in the long run.
Final Words To sum it up, there are various ways toxic communication can manifest in relationships and destroy them. Couples who want to stay together should actively try to avoid unhealthy communication and behavior patterns and instead act out of respect, love, and trust.