7 Toxic Patterns Couples Need To Watch Out For In Lockdown — And How To Fortify Your Relationship

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7 Toxic Patterns Couples Need To Watch Out For In Lockdown — And How To Fortify Your Relationship

It's never been more important to pay attention to the way you're relating to your spouse and family than right now.

During this unprecedented time of quarantine, toxic communication patterns in the way you treat others will be more apparent than ever.

Small things have a way of becoming big things when you're spending a lot of time together with someone. And now is a good time to learn how to stop toxic communication patterns before it hurts your relationship further.

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Just as holiday gatherings are notorious for bringing out the worst in families, being stuck in the apartment with your beloved 24/7 can expose the underbelly of both your character and theirs.

For this reason, being in lockdown with your partner offers you a unique opportunity to pay closer attention to your behavior.

This matters because if you’re not careful and not paying attention, it's likely that your selfish and immature tendencies will rise to the surface and wreak havoc with your hard-won intimacy and connection.

Marriage research suggests that it takes a 5:1 ratio of positive investments to negative ones to keep a marriage strong. This is because it's easier to remember and respond to the bad stuff than the good.

So, what does this mean for you on a practical level? And what steps can you take to ensure stability and equilibrium with your partner?

There are times when you get lazy in your relationship, and times when you're just not your best self. That's normal. But there are some especially toxic behaviors that will always interfere with relationship success.

Knowing what to look out for can help you to be more careful and to take responsibility for your own side of the equation. I invite you to take a moment every day to reflect and recalibrate.

Here are 7 toxic communication patterns you need to watch out for during quarantine so they don't hurt your relationship.

1. Criticism.

Criticism often shows up in the form of blaming, or when you begin sentences with, "You always..." and "You never..."

2. Contempt.

Contempt is criticism that is bolstered by hostility or disgust. It often shows up with eye-rolling, sarcasm, or mocking. It's the exact opposite of respect.

3. Defensiveness.

Defensiveness is when you can't take responsibility for your portion of an interaction and go into defense mode instead.

You'll recognize when you're doing this when your partner says something and instead of acknowledging it, you start your rebuttal with "Yeah, but…" When you're feeling defensive, you stop being able to listen.

4. Withdrawl and avoidance.

Withdrawal is when someone is willing to engage in an important discussion but unwilling to stay with it when it gets uncomfortable.

Avoidance is when a person is unwilling to get into a particular discussion at all.

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5. Escalation.

Escalation is when partners allow a small argument to develop into a big one, where their emotions get more and more aroused and the stakes get higher.

It usually results in one or both people "losing their cool" and becoming hurtful toward each other.

6. Invalidation.

Invalidation is when one partner puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other one.

This can be very subtle, like when your partner tells you not to worry about something you're really worried about and you feel dismissed by them.

Or it can more obvious, like when you resort to name-calling or putting down their opinions.

7. Unfair assumptions.

This is when someone makes unfair assumptions about what they think their partner is thinking.

It’s when you hear things more negatively then they were meant, or believe the worst instead of the best, or you just see what you expect to see.

Now that you've read through the list, you've probably realized that you and your partner are guilty of some of these bad habits. Don't panic!

Recognition is the first step toward being able to reduce the frequency and impact of toxic communication patterns. You've got to recognize the enemy before you can eliminate it!

Keep in mind that the way you feel about yourself often affects the way you communicate with each other, too.

So, when you're feeling anxious about the most recent coronavirus statistics, or disappointed in yourself for binge-watching reality shows instead of doing something more productive, it's often harder to be thoughtful toward your partner.

It's inevitable that what's going on in your mind and heart can get in the way of a good connection. Your thoughts and feelings often morph into filters that prevent you from seeing reality (or your partner's) clearly.

But there is hope!

Here are 7 things you can do to counteract any toxic patterns that try to rear their ugly heads:

1. Check yourself before you speak.

Make sure that you're in the right space to begin an important conversation. If you're feeling anxious or angry, wait until you're not.

2. Make sure you have your partner's full attention before talking.

Doing this ensures that they'll be able to listen to you better, which is, of course, what you want.

3. Make sure you give your partner your full attention.

When your partner has something to say to you, make sure you give them your full attention as well. If you're feeling distracted or bothered by something, communicate that and consider choosing another time to talk.

4. Try not to assume.

Ask for clarity when there is a misunderstanding. Try saying, "Is that what you meant?" if you're not sure or confused.

5. Look for the gold.

When you look for the best in your partner, you have a much better chance of finding it.

6. Express appreciation daily.

When you find the gold, make sure to say something about it. Find a way to compliment your partner every day. ("Thanks for always…" or "I really appreciate how you…")

7. Avoid taking your angst out on your partner.

Don't use your partner as a punching bag for your emotions.

These unusual times can trigger all types of fears and insecurities in you, which you'll deal with in your own unique way. What you don't want to do, though, is to take your angst and stress out on your partner.

Instead, you want to make extra effort to keep your connection strong. A little self-reflection can go a long way when it comes to really loving each other well.

So, let's practice paying more attention to how you're behaving toward your partner, and how you can demonstrate loving feelings for them in practical and visible ways.

When your behavior improves, so does your relationship.

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Debby Gullery is a relationship coach with over 25 years of experience coaching and teaching relationship and marriage seminars.