How to Not Be A Toxic Girlfriend

Riley Blue

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Before I had ever dated a boy, I thought I would be an amazing girlfriend.

I had read tons of romance novels (those ‘Mills & Boon’s and ‘Sidney Sheldon’s borrowed from the school library and devoured in secret). I felt my books gave me every lesson I would ever need to know about dating.

I was wrong.

I was nineteen-years-old, in my second year of college, when I got into the first romantic relationship of my life.

I thought we would be happy forever.

I was wrong.

I remember that day clearly when I was so mad at my boyfriend, that I stood up in the middle of our date. I picked one of the restaurant’s porcelain dishes, smashed it to the floor, and stomped off in anger, leaving my boyfriend in the middle of a room crowded with people staring at him in shock and disgust.

From all my dreams of being the perfect girlfriend to being someone who created a scene in a public space and embarrassed my boyfriend and myself — I had no clue how I’d gotten there.

Now that I am older, I have come to understand that whatever had gone wrong with my first relationship, the problem wasn’t because of my boyfriend. The problem was because of me.

I was the one who was a toxic girlfriend.

After a lot of reflection, I identified four toxic traits that limited all the wonderful things that can be experienced in a relationship.

1. You Measure Love by Comparison

It was our first year anniversary. The boyfriends of the other girls in my hostel went all out to make them feel special. They ordered elaborate presents, bought beautiful flowers, baked delicious cakes, and showered them with love.

And so, when my boyfriend and I were supposed to meet, I came with a head full of expectations and a heart full of hope.

To my dismay, there he stood — empty-handed.

There were no plans for a fancy dinner, no surprise presents, no tickets to a movie I had always wanted to watch.

I was so disappointed, I burst into angry tears. My boyfriend stood there open-mouthed, trying to calm me down, not sure what he had done wrong.

Why this is toxic

The truth is that every relationship is different, and what works for someone might not work for others.

My then-boyfriend didn’t believe in giving presents. For him, loving meant spending quality time together. While I did appreciate those special moments and the whispered sweet nothings, I was so blinded by envy about how the other girls were treated by their partners, that I failed to appreciate the effort my boyfriend was putting into our relationship.

How you can get over this

Don’t compare your love with others. Just because your significant other is not as “romantic” as they show in movies or as the partners of people around you, don’t assume their love for you is any less.

Instead, make an effort to understand your partner’s love language, the way they express their love, and revel in the celebration of your togetherness.

2. You Expect Your Partner to “Understand” You

14th of February was important to me, especially because it was our first Valentine’s Day as a couple. I wanted to make it special.

I could have talked to my boyfriend, but I didn’t. I dropped subtle hints that I wanted a grand celebration, expecting him to understand. Needless to say, he didn’t, and I was so disappointed, I ended up screaming at him for five hours.

Why this is toxic

While every healthy relationship requires a certain level of trust and mutual understanding, it is unrealistic to expect your partner to magically understand what you want and act accordingly.

No matter how much they love you, there will be times when your partner fails to live up to your expectations.

How you can get over this

Rather than giving them the cold shoulder and being mad at them for not behaving exactly as you had wished, it is best to communicate.

I could have avoided all the heartache if I had simply told my boyfriend that I valued the day, and we could have had a nice date rather than me hurling insults at him.

Your partner isn’t a mind-reader. Don’t expect to them start behaving like one.

3. You Don’t Tell Them What’s Troubling You

Being the shy introvert that I was, I didn’t like it when my boyfriend introduced me to his friends. Their boisterous conversations made me feel left out and low on self-esteem.

But, how could I tell that to him?

Love is all about putting up with things you don’t like, right?

Why this is toxic

This went on for a long time until finally I burst into a rage and told him that I hated his friends and never wanted to meet them again.

This wasn’t true. His friends had never done anything to make me feel bad. But, I was so consumed by my self-pity and the unexpressed hurt, that the focus shifted from the actual issue.

How you can get over this

Now that I am older, I have learned that remaining silent about resentments always backfires. The longer you let it build, the harder will it be for you to hold it in. And then, one day, it will burst, culminating in a huge quarrel that might break your relationship apart.

It is always easier to communicate and reach a fitting compromise. True, it is not possible to be happy all the time. But, if you talk, you will be the one responsible for the way you are feeling and not blame someone else for it.

4. You Expect Them to Have Time for You Whenever You Need Them

Books and love songs taught me that true love is overwhelming. It overwhelms your senses and fills up every void in your life. This may be why I used to get impatient and angry if my boyfriend didn’t pick up my calls or responded to a text immediately.

I expected to be his number one priority, irrespective of what we were doing. I used to get hysterical on the nights he went out with his friends, dumping my sadness on him, expecting him to cure my loneliness.

Why this is toxic

The truth is that no matter how much he loves me, my boyfriend doesn’t need to drop everything he is doing and come to my aid just because I am “feeling sad”.

How you can get over this

What was missing were healthy boundaries and an identity of my own outside of being his girlfriend. I didn’t have too many hobbies to fill my time, and I expected him to replace the lack of everything else with his presence.

A lover cannot be expected to fulfil the emptiness in your life. That no matter how much you love them, they cannot complete you.

I smashed the dish to the restaurant floor because I was consumed by emotions I couldn’t express. I was carrying months’ worth of resentment in my heart, that I couldn’t bottle in any longer. Sadly, I was young and inexperienced and let this toxicity consume my relationship.

My boyfriend had a big heart and tried his best to empathise, but there is only so many times you can repair something that keeps breaking over and over again.

This relationship didn’t end well, but it left me with some priceless relationship lessons that I am going to keep applying all my life.

If you love someone, don’t compare their love to movie love, or what the people around you experience. Communicate clearly and don’t hold resentment in your heart for long. Build your own identity outside of the relationship. Accept the fact that you won’t be their first priority at all times, and it is okay.

If you learn to accept your own toxic traits and are willing to work on them, you will have better relationship skills and be able to hold on to people who love you without hurting them.

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