(HealthyAccess)- Relationships can be challenging, and for those with past trauma or loose boundaries, it can be difficult to tell if a relationship is healthy or toxic. We learn the hard way to identify red flags and toxic traits. Yet, some of the relationship habits we think are the most toxic are actually not toxic at all.
That’s right: some habits we may consider toxic could actually be healthy for our relationships. First of all, we know that abuse isn’t one of them. Physical or emotional abuse is toxic 100% of the time. Yet, other behaviors are often slotted into the toxic category that don’t belong there. Let’s talk about those.
#1 Spending Time With Other People
Spending time with other people outside your relationship, whether in a romantic relationship or a close friendship, is essential to individual health. There’s this idea that when we become part of a couple, for example, we should integrate our circle of friends. All friends should be couple friends, and it’s weird to spend time apart, right? Wrong!
It’s absolutely healthy to have separate friends and time apart. Healthy relationships require space. While it can be fun to hang out with other couples or to join friend groups for an evening, it’s perfectly healthy to spend some time apart.
Science even backs up the importance of separate friendships. Research has shown that spending time with friends two nights a week can have actual health benefits.
Taking a break from couple time to hang out with other friends is what people do in healthy relationships. In fact, if the person we’re with discourages us from being around other people when they aren’t present, this is a major red flag. While it might not point to isolation and abuse, it could be a sign of codependent behavior patterns.
#2 Leaving Conflict Unresolved
We tend to have this idea that the healthiest relationships resolve every single problem they have, no matter how small. These relationships flow smoothly and without conflict. The grass is always greener between these couples, family members or friends…right?
The truth is, flawless relationships are fictional.
Even healthy relationships include disagreements–even sometimes deciding to agree to disagree. Plus, there’s always wisdom in choosing our battles. Do we really want to have a huge argument about whether or not someone left the lights on in the house when they went out, or do we just turn them off and move on? If we tried to resolve every single conflict no matter how small, we wouldn’t have time to actually enjoy the relationship. Sometimes, it’s best to let the little things slide and realize that we aren’t perfect, either.
#3 Ending The Relationship
There’s a pervasive idea that once we make a promise to someone, we should see it through to the end, no matter what. People change. Relationships change. We may see a relationship’s end as a sign of toxicity, but it can sometimes be one of the healthiest things we can do.
When we recognize that a relationship is becoming unhealthy or that our needs (or theirs) have changed, ending the relationship is a sign of maturity and acceptance–not failure and defeat. We may think ending it is unhealthy, but there are times when it’s absolutely the best choice we can make for everyone involved.
When we think of toxic relationship habits, we may want to look at John Gottman’s Four Horsemen (of a relationship apocalypse): criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These are the behaviors that can destroy our relationships. Hanging out with our friends, picking our battles, and leaving unhealthy relationships? It turns out that these aren’t toxic habits after all.
~Here’s to a Happier, Healthier Life!
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