Are All Relationships Toxic? Navigating the Internet Memes and Free Relationship Advice

Are All Relationships Toxic? Navigating the Internet Memes and Free Relationship Advice April 8, 2022

There are such a variety of memes and inspirational quotes out there suggesting that if your partner (or friend) doesn’t check certain boxes off lists that it’s because they are “toxic” or “narcissists.” The remedy of course is to disconnect from them, run from them, cut them out of your life. Label them and lose them. But my question is, does that really solve the conflict? If someone doesn’t behave the way you want them to, or the way some internet meme claims is representative of a “good partner,” is the answer simply to cut them out of your life?

One example is this meme floating around that you will know who your “divine partner” really is by the lack of arguing that occurs in conversation. This idea that truly healed, conscious individuals will never feel provoked to argument or disagreement is laughable, and miserably delusional. People argue and disagree with one another, especially those of us in partnered relationships. If a conversation turns into an argument, it’s not just because your partner is toxic, it could be because the conversation activated an emotional experience from another time and has been thrust into the present moment. That’s not a sign that your partner isn’t “the one” but a sign that your partner may have some wounds from this thing that we call life.

That’s not to say that you should remain in a relationship that is verbally and physically abusive. But you shouldn’t expect a relationship to always go your way. Every conversation you embark on with your partner doesn’t need to necessarily be measured against some internet metric. And I would caution you to heed any advice that suggests the best method is to sever the connection. Doesn’t that seem suspicious to you?

You are the only one who knows what takes place within your intimate relationships. You are the only one who has the information necessary to determine the trajectory of the relationship. Not the internet. Popularized terms, like “gaslighting”, “narcissist”, “toxic masculinity”, etc. are slowly entangling themselves into our thought patterns. These terms, along with pseudo-psychological babble are negatively influencing us to believe that everyone who disagrees with me or fails to understand me must fall into such categories.

None of us have been given the proper tools and resources we need to engage in relationships. Public education doesn’t teach us how to have healthy relationships, there is no politician campaigning on healthy relationship development, and least of all, Hollywood is never going to model healthy, conscious relationship dynamics. So we are left with our own devices and Google searches and social media memes to develop an understanding of how to navigate relationships. And just like news reporting, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there.

Many people are looking for quick fixes and reactive remedies. They want their relationships to be easy and smooth with no upset. And if that’s what you are seeking, then take the internet advice that’s been ready-made to grow the dating pool.

But, if you are seeking genuine aid to improve your relationship dynamic, you must model the behavior you wish to see. If you want to see change, you must be the change. If you want less arguing, don’t argue. If you want less gaslighting, don’t gaslight. If you want more affection and attention, then reduce the accusation and assumptions that you bring to the dynamic of the conversation.

Notice most free advice out there doesn’t ask you to hold yourself accountable first. It’s always about how the other person is failing to meet some standard and because of that, they are no longer worthy of being in a relationship with you.

So much time is exerted on one partner making demands and then keeping a record of every time those demands are not met. It’s as though people keep mental tallies every time their partner disappoints them or fails to meet their expectations. Very rarely does the advice out there ask you to reflect on your own habits and behaviors so that you may see if you are also imitating the very behavior and attitude, that is “problematic” to the relationship.

Before we go pointing our fingers at the speck in our partners’ (or friends’) eyes, let us check out our reflection in the mirror to see if there is a plank in our own eye. More than that, if you aren’t willing to consider that your partner may not have been given the tools and resources they need to effectively communicate and relate to you, are you being understanding? We are so quick to dismiss people who misunderstand us, but very rarely do we ever consider that we may be misunderstanding our partner.

Very rarely do we consider that both people involved in the relationship come from separate and different experiences that influence how we relate to one another. We model programs of our childhood dynamics. We model behaviors and imitate the attitudes of those that we spend the most amount of time with. What if your partner has been imitating you this whole time and you haven’t realized it?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s entirely possible that you have been navigating an incredibly toxic and unhealthy relationship and it’s taken memes or quotes or free advice for you to see and put words to what you have been experiencing. I am not advising you to stay in dangerous or demeaning relationships.

What I am asking you to consider is whether you are exempt from the allegations and accusations that you may launch at your partner. I once accused my husband of gaslighting me only to realize that I was guilty of doing the same thing only a few hours before. Programs run deep in all of us. Sometimes, it takes a long time to deprogram. Other times, we don’t realize that the behavior of our partner is often a reflection of ourselves and our own behaviors. Let us be mindful of this before we cut and run from any relationship. And, before severing ties, be sure to confront issues and conflicts and address behaviors and patterns that are problematic and lead to more conflict. Unless and until we are direct about the dynamics that are upsetting and difficult for us, nothing can change. Communicate to your partner what you find to be “toxic” and give them a chance to make a change before you cut them out of your lives.




About Danielle M Kingstrom
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