How To Prevent Toxic Thoughts From Sabotaging Your Relationship
There are all kinds of things that can ruin a perfectly good relationship. For instance, cheating and incompatibility are two major ones. But according to experts, there is one thing that can sabotage a relationship more than anything else.
"Negative thoughts can be the ultimate relationship killer," licensed psychologist Nicole Issa, Psy.D., tells Bustle. "There is a very tight feedback loop between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So having negative thoughts can send you down the rabbit hole."
According to Dr. Issa, it's important to know that your thought patterns can lead to major relationship issues. For instance, early childhood experiences with your parents can cause you to believe that you're unworthy of love. Because of that, you might go into every relationship thinking that your partner is going to leave you at some point, and you may be scared to speak up.
"The reality is that we create our own reality," matchmaker and dating coach Joann Cohen, tells Bustle. "If we believe that we have a good relationship, then we work through things believing that things will always be OK. But when you approach a relationship with negative thoughts, you are always expecting the worst not only of your partner, but for the outcome of your relationship."
To prevent negative thoughts, it's important for you to find ways to turn them positive. So here are some things you can do to prevent toxic thoughts from sabotaging your relationship, according to experts.
1. Think About The First Time You Fell In Love With Your Partner
Relationships go through ups and downs. When you're going through a rough patch, it's easy to let that cloud your judgement. When negativity about your partner's "true" feelings for you start to invade your thoughts, think about the first time that you fell in love with them, and think about how you felt. "If you close your eyes and see the bright-eyed person you fell in love with, things will seem much more positive and doable," Cohen says. Sometimes, we just need a little reminder of the good times in order to overcome the bad.
2. Separate The Past From The Present
To be fair, letting go of the past completely is easier said than done. "We all keep a piece of our past with us to somehow 'protect us' from being hurt again," Cohen says. "But if you continue to bring your old relationships into your new and the hurt along with it, then you are self-sabotaging and creating the reality that things just don’t and won’t work." In order to prevent your past from creating toxic thoughts, try to separate your past from your present. Your ex is not your current partner, no matter how much they look, talk, or act the same. If you can differentiate your past relationship from your current one, it will be much easier for you to stay more present.
3. Find Other Ways To Channel Your Energy
Toxic thoughts have a way of making you do irrational, relationship-sabotaging things like hacking into your partner's phone or putting yourself down. In order to curb this tendency, Dr. Issa says to understand what your thoughts are causing you to do. For instance, why do you feel the need to text your partner 20 times in a row just to "check in"? Chances are, you're looking for some validation or reassurance that your partner still cares. "When you notice yourself having the urge to do [these] things, take a time out for yourself and practice some skills to help yourself like counting to ten and breathing," she says. Find ways to lower the intense feelings you're having so you won't act out in ways you'll just regret later.
4. Never Assume You Know What Your Partner Is Thinking
More often than not, negative thoughts come from assumptions that aren't always based in reality. "When we put our negative feelings onto someone else or project them onto your significant other, what you are going to read is negativity from the other person," Cohen says. The key here is to never assume. Don't jump to conclusions. If you can't help it, don't stew over it by yourself. Get to the bottom of it and communicate with your partner. "Try to take their words on face value or ask for clarification," she says. "Never assume you know how they feel."
5. Have One Go-To Person To Vent Your Relationship Issues To
When you're mad at your partner, it's not uncommon to lay out all of your issues to anyone who'll listen. But as Cohen says, "When you do that, you are creating a rift between your significant other and your world. This will breed more negativity than you know." If you really have to vent, choose just one go-to person and stick to them. "Telling everyone your ugly business is not helpful and will only foster more negativity and hurtful feelings," she says.
6. Make A List Of Your Toxic Thoughts And Come Up With Positive Alternatives
Preventing toxic thoughts from sabotaging your relationship will take some self-reflection. One of the best things to do while you're reflecting is to physically write out all of your typical thoughts that lead to fights or even breakups. Take it a step further and write down hard evidence for or against each thought. After you do that, come up with an alternative thought that's more accurate and adaptive. For instance, if you think that your partner isn't interested in you anymore because they haven't responded to your text, make a list about all the other things they might be doing. "Think about other times they took a while to respond or evidence that they're still interested," Dr. Issa says. "The alternative thought here could be as simple as ‘just because I haven’t heard from them yet, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested.’" According to her, the more detailed you are, the more effective it will be.
7. Take Breaking Up Completely Off The Table
Regardless of what your toxic thoughts are, it usually stems from the same place — fear. More specifically, the fear that your partner will leave. "I use the analogy, when you [commit], you 'burn the ship,'" Cohen says. "When you burn the ship, there is no way to get off the island, so you have to work together in order to make it work." If there's no other alternative, you start to see the good in a situation. Taking the possibility of breaking up out of the equation (i.e. "burning the ship"), can help you approach your relationship from a place of love and not fear. When your words and actions come from a loving place, it will be much easier for you to stay positive.
At the end of the day, a thought is just a thought. It's not necessarily the reality. If you don't allow it to consume you, your relationship will be much better for it.