How To Prevent Toxicity In Your Relationship, According To Experts
In order to prevent toxicity in your relationship, it can help to establish a few everyday habits, with the goal of keeping your connection strong. These habits can run the gamut from communicating more often, to going on dates, to practicing gratitude. Basically, whatever you think your relationship needs in order for you and your partner to feel good.
Because without these basics, it's possible you won't feel heard, that someone will feel misunderstood, or that arguments will go on unresolved. The list goes on, and it "can take a huge toll on the relationship because it can allow you to feel resentful towards your partner," Ariel Sank, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker who is experienced working with couples, tells Bustle. And that is, of course, only one of the many emotions that contributes to toxicity.
It can help to keep in mind, though, that "few relationships start toxic," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Most of them become toxic over time as negative habits and patterns develop. By working to keep toxicity away on a regular basis, you’re being proactive in keeping the relationship healthy, rather than fixing an issue down the line." Here are some great ways to start, according to experts.
1. Be Intentional
"So many of us are moving through our day on autopilot," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. And while that's understandable to a degree, if you fall too much into a groove, toxicity can creep its way into your relationship.
Without realizing it, you may stop spending quality time together, you might not pay attention to what the other is saying, and you might not notice when a problem is brewing — all things that can leave you both feeling disconnected.
And yet, as Cook says, "if you are intentional about the health of your relationship, and make it a priority in your daily schedule, this can ward off a declining romance."
2. Show Love
"We often love our partner the way we want to be loved," Cook says. "For example, maybe you love when your partner does the laundry for you, so you try doing more household chores for your partner." But it can help to talk about how you both like to be loved, and then do more of that for each other.
"While [doing chores] may be helpful, it is a missed opportunity as it could be that your partner feels the most loved when you give thoughtful compliments or physical touch," Cook says. "Knowing how your partner loves to be loved is essential." And being aware of that every day can help.
3. Have Fun
Hey, life can be stressful. And the more you let outside stressors seep into your relationship, the greater the toll it will take. So be sure to have fun and keep things light, whenever possible, as a way to weather these ups and downs.
"It’s so important to keep laughing with your partner," Cook says. "Check your ego at the door and take time to just be silly together." By having fun and being positive, toxic habits will be less likely to take hold.
4. Appreciate The Little Things
"Many relationships turn toxic because both partners start focusing on the negatives in the relationship and each other," Bennett says. So if you don't already, make it a habit to notice little things you do for each other, and then bask in that gratitude.
"By being grateful for each other and showing it, you keep the relationship focused on the positive aspects of your life together," Bennett says. It's yet another habit that can keep the scales from tipping towards negativity.
5. Spend Quality Time Together (And Go On More Dates)
"A lot of times, when we are in relationships we are so busy with the day-to-day tasks that we forget how important it is to take a step back and be present [...] by spending alone time together," Sank says. But the good news is there are plenty of ways to turn this around and replace it with something more helpful.
You could, for instance, make a point to have breakfast together every morning, watch your favorite show at night, or even go out on special dates more often. As Sank says, "This can be so helpful in reducing toxicity as it will allow you to be fully present with your partner and just enjoy their company without getting wrapped up in the stress of your everyday tasks."
6. Work On Having Open Communication
"By having open communication with your partner, you are providing a space to talk about your feelings or concerns rather than [letting] things [get] bottled up, which can lead to resentment and toxicity," Sank says. And thankfully, this is a skill you can practice every day.
It might mean setting aside time in the evening to chat and/or vent about your day, or making a point to check in more often. "Everyone has different communication styles so it is important to learn and understand your own style as well as your partner's," Sank says, and then make that a priority.
7. Talk When You're Upset
Along those same lines, it can be beneficial to address problems as soon as they arise instead of holding them in, waiting for your partner to notice, or becoming passive aggressive — all things that can lead to toxicity.
"If you’re upset with your partner, have any issues in the relationship, or are simply having a bad day, be upfront and honest about your feelings," Bennett says. By saying it out loud, and finding a time to talk about it, you can address these feelings instead of allowing them to fester.
These habits, while very simple, can help you both keep toxicity out of your relationship. They allow you to check in with each other, listen, and make the relationship a priority, which are all things that make it difficult for toxicity to form.