Misery Loves Company: A Guide to Unhealthy Relationships
Have you ever looked online to find resources to help you keep your relationship healthy? There are plenty of tips, recommendations, and “ten easy steps” guides online hoping to keep your relationship steady. But what about unhealthy relationships? What exactly does an unhealthy relationship look like? What makes it so unhealthy? And why can they be so hard to heal?
Let’s take a look at what someone might do to ruin a relationship so that you can tell if your relationship might be unhealthy, or if you’re engaging in behaviors that could potentially become unhealthy.
This is a guideline for developing the tools and techniques to reduce your relationships to smoking craters, and to maximize the chances of catastrophic failure and personal unhappiness.
If that doesn’t sound like your thing, you might want to read this anyway so as to get a sense of what not to do.
A bad relationship must start somewhere, and oftentimes the most basic tools can be surprisingly powerful. Some of the tools you’ll need as you start your journey into misery are so simple that you may possess them already and not even know it, and storytelling is one of the simplest and most effective means of strewing mayhem into a relationship.
Human beings are a storytelling species, and the way we tell stories helps shape and define the way we see the world. It’s such a fundamental part of who we are that we tell stories without even being aware of it. Human beings experience so many different sensual inputs and intuitions at once that sometimes we do things without consciously knowing why, and when we need to justify our actions, we’ll tell a story! Sometimes we also create stories to explain the behavior of those around us without knowing anything about their intentions or circumstances.
If you want to make your relationship as unhealthy as possible then make stories about the behavior you see in your partner! Whenever you experience a negative emotion from something they do, assume that your emotions are telling you the whole and absolute truth, and then make a story about how your partner is intentionally trying to provoke that anger or sadness in you! This is a surefire way of ruining your relationship, especially if you don’t interrogate the stories you tell or try to communicate with your partner.
You can learn to turn this kind of storytelling to your advantage if you want to wreck your relationships and piss off the folks around you.
Speaking of communication, let’s take a look at how your communication can be as unhealthy as possible. One thing you’ll hear over and over again, both in polyamorous and in traditional relationships, is that communication is the single most important part of building a happy, healthy relationship. This is absolutely true; often, the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship simply comes down to the quality of the communication in it.
One way of making sure your communication is of absolutely lowest quality is to assume that there is a hidden meaning in everything your partner says. With enough creativity, imagination, and stubbornness, you can invent all sorts of hidden meanings in your partner’s words, no matter how clearly and directly your partner speaks.
Perhaps your partner says, “I really like when my partner does the Reverse Monkey With Lotus Blossom and Chainsaw position in bed.” You can turn this into a perceived criticism of you by saying “Well, I don’t like the Reverse Monkey with Lotus Blossom and Chainsaw, so clearly, what you’re really saying is that you don’t like being with me.”
On the other hand, you can take the initiative in throwing off your communication by speaking in riddles and being as indirect as possible! This lets you avoid stepping outside of your comfort zone and can give you escape routes to avoid confronting problems.
Dropping hints about what you want without actually asking for the things you want is almost sure to create frustration and anger, because if you don’t end up getting what you want, you won’t really know why. Is your partner simply not picking up on your hints? Is your partner deliberately not giving them to you? Is your partner not paying attention to you? This technique offers endless opportunity for second-guessing and confusion.
These roadblocks to clear communication pair well with the storytelling skills mentioned above: they go together like gasoline and a raging inferno.
Weaponize Your Relationship
After those preliminary stages of making stories and muddying your communication, some of the most advanced and damaging tools in sabotaging a relationship come from weaponizing the expectations and boundaries you share with a person.
There are some fairly obvious ways to do this. One of the best is to find something that makes you uncomfortable, then use your discomfort to enforce a boundary on your partner. “It makes me uncomfortable when you talk to any of your ex-partners. Or to anyone who’s more physically attractive than I am. So, I’m telling you to cut off all contact with your exes, or with anyone who makes me feel threatened or uncomfortable.” Just like that, you can assert boundaries on your partner’s behavior in a disruptive way.
It’s remarkably easy to make folks feel bludgeoned and beaten while maintaining the appearance that you’re just being reasonable. This is possible by focusing your expectations or concerns on the other person so that you dictate what you want, rather than let your partner feel like they are in an open conversation looking for solutions and understanding.
Sex and intimacy are another important and foundational part of relationships that can be used to break that relationship apart. When sex is transformed from a shared experience and means of engaging with one another into a form of control, it can really screw things up! Continuous and intentional rejection of sex can have harmful effects on how your partner perceives your desires, as well as damage their own self-confidence and sexual wellbeing. When you use sex as your preferred method of enforcing the behavior you want, making intimacy contingent on control, then you’re well on your way to unhappiness!
If you’ve read this far, you’ve hopefully realized that nobody should really try to follow any of the steps discussed above. Intentionally trying to ruin a relationship and make others miserable is a deeply toxic and damaging path that has no good outcome. What’s also important though, is that even when we are doing our best to create a healthy and safe relationship we can engage in and rationalize behaviors that are unhealthy and harmful without realizing it. Storytelling, unclear communication, and weaponization of boundaries as described here are a few ways that we can ruin relationships, and sometimes we can engage in these behaviors without seeing how unhealthy they really are.
If you think that there are unhealthy behaviors in your relationship, then therapy might be one path available to you on the path to healing. Sex therapy is a judgement-free form of therapy that can address your sexual desires and needs without shame and can open up a space to bring back honesty and clarity to your communication. If you think that therapy might be the right path for you, contact me, and we can set up a free 20-minute session to discuss your path towards a healthy relationship.
Sophia Lou. O’Connor, MA, Ph.D (Cand)
Psychotherapist | Trainer | Educator
Tel: (720) 935 2706