Toxic relationship habits most people think are normal

Toxic relationship habits most people think are normal. – By Mark Manson

There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe we read a few obscure love stories from the 19th century on how not to be.But when it comes down to actually handling the nitty-gritty of relationships, we’re given no pointers … or worse, we’re given advice columns in women’s magazines.

Yes, it’s trial-and-error from the get-go. And if you’re like most people, it’s been mostly error.

But part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing—and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify their relationships. Thus, our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.

A lot of the self-help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are notfrom different planets, you over-generalizing prick). And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow. In fact, some of these principles actually go against what is traditionally considered “romantic” or normal in a relationship.

Below are six of the most common tendencies in relationships that many couples think are healthy and normal, but are actually toxic and destroying everything you hold dear. Get the tissues ready.

1. The relationship scorecard

What it is: The “keeping score” phenomenon is when someone you’re dating continues to blame you for past mistakes you made in the relationship. If both people in the relationship do this it devolves into what I call “the relationship scorecard,” where it becomes a battle to see who has screwed up the most over the months or years, and therefore who owes the other one more.

You were an asshole at Cynthia’s 28th birthday party back in 2010 and it has proceeded to ruin your life ever since. Why? Because there’s not a week that goes by that you’re not reminded of it. But that’s OK, because that time you caught her sending flirtatious text messages to her co-worker immediately removes her right to get jealous, so it’s kind of even, right?


Why it’s toxic: The relationship scorecard develops over time because one or both people in a relationship use past wrongdoings in order to try and justify current righteousness. This is a double-whammy of suckage. Not only are you deflecting the current issue itself, but you’re ginning up guilt and bitterness from the past to manipulate your partner into feeling wrong in the present.

If this goes on long enough, both partners eventually spend most of their energy trying to prove that they’re less culpable than the other, rather than solving the current problem. People spend all of their time trying to be less wrong for each other instead of being more right for each other.

What you should do instead: Deal with issues individually unless they are legitimately connected. If someone habitually cheats, then that’s obviously a recurring problem. But the fact that she embarrassed you in 2010 and now she got sad and ignored you today in 2013 have nothing to do with each other, so don’t bring it up.

You must recognize that by choosing to be with your significant other, you are choosing to be with all of their prior actions and behaviors. If you don’t accept those, then ultimately, you are not accepting them. If something bothered you that much a year ago, you should have dealt with it a year ago.

2. Dropping “hints” and other passive-aggression

What it is: Instead of stating a desire or thought overtly, your partner tries to nudge you in the right direction of figuring it out yourself. Instead of saying what’s actually upsetting you, you find small and petty ways to piss your partner off so you’ll then feel justified in complaining to them.

Why it’s toxic: Because it shows that you two are not comfortable communicating openly and clearly with one another. A person has no reason to be passive-aggressive if they feel safe expressing any anger or insecurity within the relationship. A person will never feel a need to drop “hints” if they feel like they won’t be judged or criticized for it.

What you should do instead: State your feelings and desires openly. And make it clear that the other person is not necessarily responsible or obligated to them but that you’d love to have their support. If they love you, they’ll almost always be able to give it.

3. Holding the relationship hostage

What it is: When one person has a simple criticism or complaint and blackmails the other person by threatening the commitment of the relationship as a whole. For instance, if someone feels like you’ve been cold to them, instead of saying, “I feel like you’re being cold sometimes,” they will say, “I can’t date someone who is cold to me all of the time.”

Why it’s toxic: It’s emotional blackmail and it creates tons of unnecessary drama. Every minor hiccup in the flow of the relationship results in a perceived commitment crisis. It’s crucial for both people in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be communicated safely to one another without it threatening the relationship itself. Otherwise people will suppress their true thoughts and feelings which leads to an environment of distrust and manipulation.

What you should do instead: It’s fine to get upset at your partner or to not like something about them. That’s called being a normal human being. But understand that committing to a person and always liking a person are not the same thing. One can be committed to someone and not like everything about them. One can be eternally devoted to someone yet actually be annoyed or angered by their partner at times. On the contrary, two partners who are capable of communicating feedback and criticism towards one another, only without judgment or blackmail, will strengthen their commitment to one another in the long-run.

4. Blaming your partner for your own emotions

What it is: Let’s say you’re having a crappy day and your partner isn’t exactly being super sympathetic or supportive at the moment. They’ve been on the phone all day with some people from work. They got distracted when you hugged them. You want to lay around at home together and just watch a movie tonight, but they have plans to go out and see their friends.

So you lash out at them for being so insensitive and callous toward you. You’ve been having a shitty day and they have done nothing about it. Sure, you never asked, but they should just know to make you feel better. They should have gotten off the phone and ditched their plans based on your lousy emotional state.

Why it’s toxic: Blaming our partners for our emotions is a subtle form of selfishness, and a classic example of the poor maintenance of personal boundaries. When you set a precedent that your partner is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice-versa), you will develop codependent tendencies. Suddenly, they’re not allowed to plan activities without checking with you first. All activities at home—even the mundane ones like reading books or watching TV—must be negotiated and compromised. When someone begins to get upset, all personal desires go out the window because it is now your responsibility to make one another feel better.

The biggest problem of developing these codependent tendencies is that they breed resentment. Sure, if my girlfriend gets mad at me once because she’s had a shitty day and is frustrated and needs attention, that’s understandable. But if it becomes an expectation that my life revolves around her emotional well-being at all times, then I’m soon going to become very bitter and even manipulative towards her feelings and desires.

What you should do instead: Take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner to be responsible for theirs. There’s a subtle yet important difference between being supportive of your partner and being obligated to your partner. Any sacrifices should be made as an autonomous choice and not seen as an expectation. As soon as both people in a relationship become culpable for each other’s moods and downswings, it gives them both incentives to hide their true feelings and manipulate one another.

5. Displays of “loving” jealousy

What it is: Getting pissed off when your partner talks, touches, calls, texts, hangs out, or sneezes in the general vicinity of another person and then you proceed to take that anger out on your partner and attempt to control their behavior. This often leads to insane behaviors such as hacking into your partner’s email account, looking through their text messages while they’re in the shower or even following them around town and showing up unannounced when they’re not expecting you.

Why it’s toxic: It surprises me that some people describe this as some sort of display of affection. They figure that if their partner wasn’t jealous, then that would somehow mean that they weren’t loved by them.

This is absolutely clownshit crazy to me. It’s controlling and manipulative. It creates unnecessary drama and fighting. It transmits a message of a lack of trust in the other person. And to be honest, it’s demeaning. If my girlfriend cannot trust me to be around other attractive women by myself, then it implies that she believes that I’m either a) a liar, or b) incapable of controlling my impulses. In either case, that’s a woman I do not want to be dating.

What you should do instead: Trust your partner. It’s a radical idea, I know. Some jealousy is natural. But excessive jealousy and controlling behaviors towards your partner are signs of your own feelings of unworthiness and you should learn to deal with them and not force them onto those close to you. Because otherwise you are only going to eventually push that person away.

6. Buying the solutions to relationship problems

What it is: Any time a major conflict or issue comes up in the relationship, instead of solving it, one covers it up with the excitement and good feelings that come with buying something nice or going on a trip somewhere.

My parents were experts at this one. And it got them real far: a big fat divorce and 15 years of hardly speaking to each other since. They have both since independently told me that this was the primary problem in their marriage: continuously covering up their real issues with superficial pleasures.

Why it’s toxic: Not only does it brush the real problem under the rug (where it will always re-emerge and even worse the next time), but it sets an unhealthy precedent within the relationship. This is not a gender-specific problem, but I will use the traditional gendered situation as an example. Let’s imagine that whenever a woman gets angry at her boyfriend/husband, the man “solves” the issue by buying the woman something nice, or taking her to a nice restaurant or something. Not only does this give the woman unconscious incentive to find more reasons to be upset with the man, but it also gives the man absolutely no incentive to actually be accountable for the problems in the relationship. So what do you end up with? A checked-out husband who feels like an ATM, and an incessantly bitter woman who feels unheard.

What you should do instead: Actually, you know, deal with the problem. Trust was broken? Talk about what it will take to rebuild it. Someone feels ignored or unappreciated? Talk about ways to restore those feelings of appreciation. Communicate!

There’s nothing wrong with doing nice things for a significant other after a fight to show solidarity and to reaffirm commitment. But one should never use gifts or fancy things to replace dealing with the underlying emotional issues. Gifts and trips are called luxuries for a reason, you only get to appreciate them when everything else is already good. If you use them to cover up your problems, then you will find yourself with a much bigger problem down the line.

The toughest yet humbling journey to 5545m up

It was in 2016 when I agreed to join in the adventure. Rob and I immediately gave our stern yes to our dear friend Gabby T, the amaze balls organiser. Thank you Gabby for inviting us and thank you for your patience. We appreciate it very much. 
How hard could it be right? I mean, some videos that I’ve watched since, seems easy. If they can do it, then so do we, right? Well, the only way to find out, I would say. 

Let the journey begin…

Day 1 

On the 20th April 2017, all 5 of us arrived at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu, feeling pumped, excited and nervous. I remember having the same conversation with Gabby. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling as I did. But, I know I am all packed and ready to take on the challenge of a lifetime. I can’t wait! So, this is when our early nights begin. 

Photo by Gabby T.

Day 2

On the 21st April 2017, we boarded one of the most dangerous flight in the world heading to Lukla. After seeing so many videos and hearing too many stories, no doubt it will be such an amazing experience. Those pilots man! They’re good! Really good! Hats off to them. And of course the flight itself is a great warm up before the trek to Phakding at 2600m. Nervous? No. Instead I was freaking out deep down inside. What’s in store ahead of us? Guess we shall find out. Being introduced to honey ginger lemon tea that became part of my diet instantly. Didn’t realize it will stick around till the end. Recommended by Raju, the guide. 

Photo by James Tee

Day 3

On the 22nd April 2017, one of the toughest trek up to Namche Bazaar at 3535m. This will give you a taste to what’s coming in the next 5 days. You’ll be mentally and physically challenged throughout this one. If you are afraid of heights, my goodness I have no idea how are you going to cross all those bridges, And the cold, strong wind that keeps slapping against you, almost making you slipped off your track if you do not keep your balance. Exaggerating? No. Our guide told us that just a week before a tourist have slipped and fell to its death. So, being focused is the key. My legs were shaking as we hiked up that steep narrow path. I keep telling myself, “One step at a time”. I don’t have to rush. If i follow the rhythm of the sherpas, I will be okay. It was tiring but the view. My goodness! Absolutely stunning! In my head, chocolate donuts keep appearing. And I mumbled it all the way up. Whatever motivates me to move, I did it. I will scream it out loud if I need to. Oh, speaking of donuts, if you happen to be there, find yourself the Hermans Bakery. You will not regret it. Makes me wonder why Malaysia with lots of opportunities and possibilities can’t even bake bloody great bread! And there they are, up high above, where most things that are built must be carried on the sherpas back or by yaks. And not to forget, are all of the stories from other hikers regarding Diamox, the pill for altitude sickness. The only pill to cure that sickness. We decided to follow our guide Raju’s advice. “If you’re not sick, then why take it.”

Day 4

The 23rd of April 2017, was indeed one of my favourite days where we got to visit the statue of the man himself, Tenzing Norgay. In that damn cold weather, my tears of proud, humbled happiness dried out instantly. Tenzing and Edmund Hillary became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest at 8848m on the 29th May 1953. Just below the statue, it’s written…

“Life is full of accidents, and among them are many accidental heroes – small and ordinary men who happened to be in the right place at the right time and whom circumstances has spotlighted on the world’s stage. But the Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay is not one of these… it was no accident that it was he, rather than someone else, who achieved what he did. It was William Blake, long ago who wrote of his tiger, tiger burning bright, but his imagined king of the forest burned no more brightly than does this latter-day, flesh-and-blood tiger of the snows. There’s is a flame in Tenzing, a marvelously strong and pure flame that no storm of a man or nature can extinguish. It is compounded of dream and desire, will and struggle, pride and humility; and in the end, with the deed done, the victory gained, it is the man’s humility that stands out above all his other qualities in his moment of triumph what he felt in his heart was gratitude to Everest.” – James Ramsey Ullman. 

To all who dare to dream and to all those who walk this path, “Be great, make others great.” – Tenzing Norgay.  

Thank you for being such an inspirational role model to mankind. I salute you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As my tears flow, I made a promise to myself. Greatness is to be shared. I will make myself proud, I will be the strength to others and I will be great. I remember seeing positive faces that day. All five of us were inspired. I went to bed with a huge smile. Massive. Everest here I come!

Photo by Gabby T.

Day 5

On the 24th April 2017, we’re off to Tengboche at 3850m. Our first sight of the mother of all mountains. What a sight! What a view! Again, I’m in tears. It was a tiring and worrying journey as you slowly and painfully willed yourself to stay as strong. That biting cold breeze even in the striking hot sun hurt, especially in the evening. And all I can tell myself is, “Not long now. It will be worth it.” That view, just energized us. For most of us, it will be our last shower till we descend again. And toilet break, you’re better off to do it in nature. Trust me. Unless you don’t mind to take a shit, in the pile of shit, as high as mount Kinabalu from who knows when. 

Day 6

On the 25th April 2017, up to Dingboche at 4350m we go. It’s a long way up. You can see helicopters in and out throughout the day. We know what that means. Stories of failure, sickness or deaths seems like nothing new up there in the mountains. I certainly learned this, always listen to your guide. They know better and they know best. Their advice is crucial. The temperature dropped drastically. The air gets thinner. We felt it. I can feel it in my bones. For someone who is born and bred in country such as Malaysia, that was the most worrying battle against nature physically and mentally. But I have everything to protect myself. I shouldn’t be worried. I will be fine. Two of our friends have been affected by the altitude but luckily Diamox helped. I’m so glad they’re okay. I believed they will be better. I wish hard for them to be better. Thank gosh! But then, the Diamox contemplation begin with the rest. Should we? Or shouldn’t we? Should we trust our guide? Or should we trust the other hikers that have successfully made it up and down?

Photo by James Tee.

Day 7

26th April 2017 was an acclimatization day. Yes, in Dingboche still. We need it. We deserved it! This rest day was designed by the company for a reason. As much as an athlete you think you are, you still need to listen to your body. And to be this high up from the sea level, you have challenged your self, testing the limits of human endurance. I took it easy that day. Whatever left of me will be the strength to keep myself and the rest of the gang going. We’re in good spirits. I have a great feeling. And also the best part of being here was this special bakery called Mama’s bakery. We found it by its smell. That sweet yummylicious smell. We had a chance to meet the great Tibetan owner, baker and a story teller. His life story had me in tears. What a journey he has gone through, from his childhood till now! Simply incredible. I remember at that moment, I felt sad, truly sad with what China has done. “Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth.” “Power kills, absolute power kills absolutely.” – Rudolph Rummel. Why China? Why? And I wonder. Thank you mister baker. You will be truly missed. I wish you and your family the best. And may your business bloom so that that your wife will be forever happy. 

Day 8

27th April 2017 we trek to Lobuche at 4910m. Painful. But not as painful watching our both sherpas who have been with us since day 2 carrying our luggages on their backs all the way up wearing sandals. That’s right, sandals!! Between both of them, I reckon they carried at least 30-40kgs each easily. Tigers of the snow indeed. I will never forget the smiles on their face. Always with a smile. And they are fast too. Simply amazing. Oh! How I envied them. Dhanyabad (it means thank you) Sir and Dikbadoo. I hope I spelled their name correctly. Without you guys, our journey would have been impossible. I salute you. Both of you. 

Day 9

On the 28th April 2017, this will mark as the day of my historic victory. We first trekked to Gorakshep at 5160m before 3 hours trek to Everest base camp. It was one of the longest hikes we had to go through. My whole body was aching. All I remembered was being in a zombie like state of mind. When I asked Raju, our guide what it’s like to get there, his response was amusing. “A little bit up, a little bit down. Nepalese flat.” 

The long dangerous trail to Everest base camp feels forever. A couple of time, I panicked when we had to crossed over by relying on one rock to another. You just don’t know which will moves. One wrong step can be harmful or even deadly. I can feel the stress on my ankles. Where is it? When it’s gonna end? I asked myself repetitively. Our victorious march finally comes to an end when we saw the sight of piling rocks covered with prayer flags. Oh what a feeling! There were tears flowing. There were scream of joy echoes around us. We did it! I’ve made it to the base camp. Not just any base camp. Fucking Everest base camp man! The best feeling ever! As I hugged the rock which had the hand written words “Everest Base Camp” I took a few seconds of silence to pay respect to those who have passed away getting to where I am. It’s unfortunate we can’t stay longer as the weather did not permit. As the cold wind was getting stronger, and the snow falling harder, we had to trek 3 hours back to Gorakshep for a night in. As we headed there, Rob seemed to be wobbling away from side to side. Unlike him to do that. Especially when next to you is a drop of 20-30m deep down straight to hell. Could it be the altitude? I don’t know. All I know is I have to get him back to Gorakshep quickly. I use my voice to lead him the way. Certainly one of the scariest moments in my life. All sort of things crossed my mind at that time. But I can’t panic. It will affect my breathing. Not now. Not here. I remain calm as much as I can. Thankfully after Raju’s advice and a night rest in, he recovered. Such a relief. 

Day 10

29th April 2017 is when our journey down the mountain began. Wheehooo! We made it to Pherige just before the blizzard. What a beautiful sight really. I remember how cold it was. My fingers and toes had been getting cramps now and then. So annoying! I’m so looking forward to head down to the warmth and hot shower. 

Day 11

30th April 2017 and we’re off to Namche. It will be long hours of trekking but Hermans Bakery is calling. That sweet warm bread. I can almost taste it. I can almost smell it. It feels like you are back to civilization even though it was only Namche. The best hot shower ever! My hair is soft again. Oh my gosh! Indescribable feeling. I can’t even start to describe Gabby’s and my face at that time. Just pure joy. 

Photo by James Tee.

Day 12

1st May 2017, off to Lukla we go! It was indeed a long hike back. James were on a horse ride down. Smart guy! By now, my knees and my spirit were at 30%. After giving all I’ve got since day 1, I can feel the pain slowly sneaking in. But I know I’ve got to get through this. And it’s the only way home. Rob walked with me all the way down. One step at a time. The rain doesn’t help either. The slippery path gets me. Slow and steady till the end. After the long hours in the rain, finally the sun appears. We’ve been lucky the whole trip with the brightest blue sky every morning. Puts a smile to my face. I miss you sun. 

Day 13

2nd May 2017, we’re back in Kathmandu. We’ve chosen to stay a night at Yak & Yeti hotel. Oh! I can’t wait to have that glass of wine to celebrate. The boys were already excited to pay a visit at the casino. Thanks to Raju for arranging it a day earlier for us. As we head back, we bid our farewells to our dear sherpas. It was quite a moving moment for me. I wish them well. Will I ever get to cross the same path with them again? I don’t know. 

Day 14

On the 3rd May 2017, we’re off to Gokarna Forest Resort for just pure relaxation. Food, shopping, massage and chill. Yes!!!!!! 

Day 15

4th May 2017. Food, sleep, repeat. 

Day 16

5th May 2017. I’m looking forward to get home. But there’s something about leaving this place. The mountains. The animals. The people. The air. The view. The hardship. The simplicity. The sadness. The liveliness. The emptiness. The happiness. I was too afraid I might forget. Puts me to tears every time I think of it. Well, I certainly do not miss the cold that’s for sure. It was a liberating journey discovering new places, people, cultures and scenery. It has open my mind of how tiny we are. It is exciting, humbling, empowering, liberating and rewarding. I would certainly recommend to anyone to go for this journey. Go out and discover nature. Feel the dust in your face. Feel the ground as you walk. Touch the frizzy fury yaks. Give the dogs a pat. Pee in the mountains. Let the wind push you away. Look down the cliffs. Look up around you. And don’t forget to smile.