Red Wine, Bluebirds, Pillows & Head: 9 Toxic Behaviors to Avoid In Relationships

Cole Schafer Blog

You’re standing in a room with your girlfriend and you say something horribly hurtful to her. She reaches for her purse, and takes a full swing at your face. She is crying hysterically, because what you said cut her to the core. And you are bleeding from your nose, now sporting a welt in the shape of the Michael Kors logo on your forehead.

10 minutes later the storm has passed, she is holding you and nursing your wounds with an ice pack, and you’re telling her how sorry you are about the terrible things you said. The two of you get over it, have hot make-up sex and it’s all okay… because you love each other. Right?

Throughout the remainder of this post, chances are I will say some things that piss some people off. That’s okay, because it’s things everyone needs to hear. Let’s have a serious discussion about Toxic Relationships.

It takes two to tango and it takes two to be toxic. So, please don’t share this post to piss that one horrible ex off that broke your heart -- that’s toxic. I am going to let you in on a little secret from my dear friend Ernest Hemingway, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

My job as a writer is to share my life experiences to help you become stronger where people, places and things broke you. I never want my writing to be used to further break people who are already broken.

In other words, always share these types of posts with good intention -- to mend not to break.

Toxic relationships come in many forms. I have seen them in mother-daughter relationships, I have seen them in friendships, and I have certainly seen and felt them in intimate relationships.

Due to the fact that toxicity seems to be most present in intimate relationships, that’s where I intend on focusing today’s discussion.

9 Toxic Behaviors to Avoid In Relationships

1. Ignoring The Elephant in The Room --

Couples are notorious for covering up serious relationship problems with MHD’s (Momentary Happiness Distractions). A few great examples of these would be vacations, sex, date nights, drugs & alcohol. Instead of addressing the problem, getting vulnerable and working through it, they think that grabbing a steak dinner and downing a bottle of red wine will magically patch the hole in the relationship. When in reality, it is just acting as a momentary distraction from the real issue at hand. Once you shit the steak out in the morning and the hangover begins to set in, it’s amazing how the elephant is still standing in the middle of the room.

2. Jealousy Is Not Cute -- 

Listen, it’s not called protective when your boyfriend wants to bash a dude’s skull in for hitting on you at a bar… it’s called fucking crazy. Nor is there anything cute about your girlfriend erupting into a meltdown when the attractive female server looks at you like you're the T-Bone steak. We brush these habits off as being “protective” or “cute”, when in reality they are extremely unhealthy behaviors. You and your partner are not one another’s possessions, the two of you are CHOOSING to be in a relationship with one another. That’s it. 

I totally understand there are times where we must put our foot down and speak up. 

I am just saying there is a difference between being protective and being a lunatic. If he or she is acting like a jealous lunatic, stop reinforcing the bad behavior by acting flattered that they threatened to kill someone in your name. That’s just weird. 

3. Making Your Partner Your Only Source of Happiness --

You are responsible for your own happiness. It is a toxic habit to rely on your partner for your own individual happiness. Your happiness isn’t defined by the current state of your relationship, nor the mood of your significant other. When we invest so much of ourselves in another person, it can be difficult to not allow them to have some sort of impact on our emotional state. With that said, it is placing way too much pressure on your partner to make them responsible for the entirety of your happiness. It’s hard enough to keep ourselves happy, let alone someone else.

4. Relationships Take Three Pillows --

Shout out to Ian Holbrook for this one.

Imagine three pillows positioned side by side on a bed -- each of these pillows represent independence and unity in the relationship.

The pillow to the far left is where your head is lying, and this pillow represents your independence, your life and your passions. The pillow to the far right is where your partner’s head is lying, and this pillow represent their independence, their life and their passions. The pillow in the middle represents the relationship and all the wonderful stuff that makes relationships… well, wonderful.

A healthy relationship requires the presence of all three of these pillows. What you will find is that many relationships only have two pillows. Where one partner has given up their pillow, their independence and their passions -- residing fully on the middle pillow (the relationship) and their partner’s pillow (their independence, life and passion).

When we try to control our partner’s pillow, that’s when things become toxic. Many of us have the misconception that we have to give up our own independence and passions to sustain a healthy relationship, when in reality this is far from true.

Having separate pillows where you and your partner can rest your heads, makes the middle pillow much sweeter, softer and sexier.

Never give up your independence, and never force your partner to give up theirs. Millennials, independence is not taking body shots off attractive people at bars and texting/DMing whoever you want, this is called disrespect.

Independence is about having the freedom to pursue your passions and be your own person, inside and outside of the relationship -- as long as it shows respect to your partner. 

5. Love is About Letting Someone Go --

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You find a stunning little Bluebird in your backyard, and you see that it has been abandoned by its mother and has a broken wing. You spend the next six weeks caring deeply for this Blubird as it grows stronger, healthier and happier within the safety of your home. One day the Bluebird flaps its little wings and begins flying around the house. Your heart begins to flutter with happiness as you watch how excited the little Bluebird is, but then you realize it’s time to open the window and let it spread its wings.

This is the toughest behavior for people to wrap their head around, but it is the most important of the bunch. If you don’t remember anything else, please remember this. Let her or him go. Love is not in holding someone in your arms forever and keeping them from their dreams, it’s about loving them so much that you are willing to suffer through the pain of letting them go. 

Encourage him or her to travel the world, to see the highest of mountains, the vastest of seas and the greenest of jungles. 

If they are your passion, encourage them to follow theirs. 

6. Competing With Your Partner --

This is a really simple concept. When you partner does something well, you should be elated, you should be proud of them and you should lift them up. I have seen a lot of relationships and have been in a few where everything seems to be a competition. Where couples who claim to love each other seem to be rivals with one another. If you don’t genuinely want to see your significant other do well, then get out of the relationship.

While you are both individuals, you are also a team.

7. Keeping Score --

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“Fucking seriously, Donald? You’re mad about me not texting you last night while I was out with the girls? You liked three of these bitches pictures a week ago and I didn’t say shit! Here, I have screen shots!”

This habit is so toxic people. Every relationship does it, every single one. I used to be the king of this. The bottom line is that it is manipulative and vindictive. It is placing your partner’s feelings second to your own, and is Cancer to the relationship. When a fight is resolved, it is resolved and it is over. The hatchet can’t be pulled out of the ground to be used for your advantage later on.

When couples fight to win and to pat their own egos, then there isn’t really any reason to fight? You fight and you argue to resolve a problem -- not for one person to win and for the other person to feel like shit.

Keeping score is meant for sporting events and exchanging head, not successful relationships. 

8. Disrespect --

I wear my heart on my sleeve, as I am sure you have gathered from my writing. Due to the fact that I have had quite a bit of practice writing, I have become pretty good at verbalizing my emotions and feelings. I can come up with 10 ways to tell a girl she is beautiful, but I can also come up with 10 ways to tell a girl how she just pissed me off.

In turn, I am capable of making someone feel really good about themselves and really bad too. Over the past few months I have been actively working on only expressing the good, and meditating when I am upset and feel the urge to express the bad.

It is important to remember in relationships that loving someone doesn’t mean you’re entitled to hurt them. I know this sounds rather trite, but I see it all the time. It is amazing the things people have said, I have said, everyone has said… in the name of “love”.

First and foremost, love is about respect. Yes, I think it is important to help your partner grow, and sometimes that takes telling them something they don’t want to hear. But there is a difference between encouraging growth with your partner’s best interest in mind, and tearing you partner down -- this line has become blurred.

9. Love is a Commitment, Not a Feeling --

I have discussed this topic before, but it is hugely important so I will touch on it again. The actual feeling of love comes and goes. I wish I could tell you that you will always feel like your boyfriend or girlfriend hung the moon, but unfortunately this just isn’t true. If it were possible for us to always feel the same love we felt at 18 years old, I am sure divorce rates would go down considerably.

Love is about committing to love someone even when it is difficult to. Committing to respect someone even when you don’t feel respected. Committing to stay faithful to someone even when the relationship is at its darkest moments.

Too many of us are constantly measuring the health of our relationships on that “feeling” of love, when in reality a relationship is about the “commitment” to love.

Toxicity in relationships stem from couples placing too high of emphasis on the "feeling" rather than the "commitment".

Lastly

I am NOT a relationship expert. In fact, I tend to be really bad at them. The reason I feel comfortable sharing these points with you today, is because the majority of them are based off of things I have learned from myself in past relationships.

I have demonstrated every single one of these behaviors at one point or another in my relationships, and have certainly been toxic to others at certain times in my life. 

My final piece of advice is to take some time to reflect on your behaviors in past & present relationships, and notice if you find any toxic patterns. This post was intended to bring these patterns to your attention, so that you can be better in the relationship you are currently in, or the next relationship you find yourself in. 

Cole Schafer