Do you struggle with toxic thoughts about your partner? Why we are so misguided in blaming our partners when we fall out of love? Read on to know about the silent killer of loving relationships?
It seems everywhere we turn, we see and hear about miserable people and their unhappiness stems largely from what they feel is missing in their intimate relationships. Tensions are higher than ever as stressed couples are forced to spend more time than ever together and silently stew, in this current pandemic. We overhear complaints about relationships from people who confide in us and when we are hurting, we may confide in others as well.
Sample soundbites that you may instantly recognize are:
“She is totally selfish!”
“He never gets it!”
“He’s so obsessive and picky, he even likes his jeans ironed!”
“It is always about him!”
“She always believes her opinion is the only one that counts!”
Years ago, on a warm beautiful day, I climbed Squaw Peak in Arizona. There I was, getting directly in touch with Mother Nature, hiking up this scenic mountain when, to my astonishment, I heard some hikers complaining about their spouses and significant others as they passed by!
There’s no escaping relationship angst—even in the wilderness. And, more recently, almost twenty years later, while hiking in Valley Forge Park near my office in Pennsylvania, I witnessed a young couple, seemingly in their thirties, arguing. Even from ample social distance, I could hear the woman emphatically exclaim that her male partner was “totally dense”, while he looked off before screaming at her that she was “nuts.”
There is a lot of walking wounded out there. These are the scores of people who feel unfulfilled, or worse, emotionally neglected or abused, in their intimate relationships. It seems that everywhere we turn, we unfortunately see and hear about people who are unhappy and emotionally hurting, often severely, in their quest to feel loved.
I know in the heat of the moment people believe, really believe in their heart and soul, that they are telling me the truth: “She is so lazy!”, “He really doesn’t listen,” “She always talks too much,” “He’s inconsiderate beyond belief…” Such distorted thoughts shine like beacons of truth amidst the sea of frustration that people in poor, problematic relationships feel they are drowning in.
But hold on. Really think about it. It’s virtually impossible that your partner never listens to you or never performs a considerate act. It may honestly seem that way to you at times, but I have yet to meet a person who never, ever listens, or who is incapable of being considerate. Of course, when one partner accuses the other of “never listening,” he or she reacts and sends the couple off on a whole new tangent that usually goes something like this: “That’s not true. Just last night I listened to you for two hours…” Or “Well how about what you did…”
I don’t know any mind readers. I also don’t know any blameless people. I don’t know anyone who can handle being told, “You’re nuts!” or “You’re the worst nag,” or “I have never met anyone as difficult as you!” Yet, these were the kinds of toxic thoughts (e.g., exaggerations, labels, all-or-nothing beliefs) being verbalized to me as if there wasn’t a doubt they were true. And the emotional damage resulting from these toxic thoughts is huge.
In my more than thirty years as a psychologist, I have repeatedly seen that if couples can manage their toxic thinking toward each other, a tremendous obstacle to communication, empathy, trust, and all the good relationship stuff was suddenly removed. Only then were they in a position to work through their problems together.
Over the last thirty years, I have seen that the nine specific types of relationship-sabotaging, destructive thoughts I discovered have emerged again and again with most individuals and couples who see me for relationship counseling. Some couples had three different toxic thought patterns at work in their relationship, others had six or seven, but one thing was for sure. Every couple had at least one.