Today we’re having a round table discussion with our friend Ben Day about six relationship behaviors that most people think are normal (or even romantic) that are actually toxic and destructive to your relationships. We also get deep and share some of our personal struggles with these behaviors in our own pasts.
You can check out more of Ben at PeaceThroughProgressCoaching.com
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Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.
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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about normal relationship and communication habits that are actually toxic and destructive. I wanted to say toxtructive.
Dedeker: Toxtructive. I like that. We can make a little portmanteau out of it.
Dedeker: I think the point of portmanteaus is to make two words even more difficult to say together.
Jase: Yes, definitely. The purpose of them is to complicate the language and make it harder to understand and to say.
Dedeker: Toxtructive. Although, I could see that it sounds like talking and being constructive. I could also see it as like, this is when you sit down and you have a really productive talk with your significant other. You are a little toxtructive.
Jase: Yes, a little toxtructive of time together.
Dedeker: We are joined by my near and dear and very old friend.
Ben: Okay. Hold on. He's very old. I am literally the youngest person on this call.
Emily: He's the oldest person we associate ourselves with.
Dedeker: My friend Ben. Ben, do you mind introducing yourself?
Ben: No, I'm Ben. Hello?
Dedeker: We're also coaching buddies as well, because last few years, we've both gotten into doing coaching. We have different niches for sure, but what in particular is your focus when you're working with clients?
Ben: Well, today I just came up with the term of a side hustle specialist basically. My goal is to help people diversify their streams of income, work in areas that they're more passionate about, and live a life that's more on their terms. I help people launch important side project, monetize them and get more in control of what they're doing, who they're doing it with, where they're doing it, when they're doing it, why they're doing it.
Emily: Basically, this is an episode of multi-enterpreneurship.
Dedeker: No, I was going to say, before our listeners are like--
Jase: I think you just branded it. That was it.
Dedeker: Before our listeners are alike, "What? We're talking about side hustles on the podcast now?"
Ben: No. I'm a side hustle guy. I'm sorry, I interrupted.
Dedeker: Yes. Ben is a side hustle guy. You also already in a non-monogamous relationship yourself. You don't need to go into intense detail about that if you don't want to. We have a relationship history together in ancient, ancient history, like 200 years ago, or something like that.
Jase: Like I said, he's very old, a hundred years.
Dedeker: He's a very, very old man. Anyway, but we just--
Ben: I look good for 230, though.
Dedeker: Exactly. We thought that we would have a little round table discussion about, it's particularly inspired by this article that Mark Manson put out, and we've talked about Mark Manson stuff before on this show, about some really common patterns that you might see in relationships, behaviors you may see in relationships or communication patterns that are actually quite normal. I think a lot of people do these things, but they may be, as Jase put it, toxstructive for your relationships.
Ben: Yes, I would clarify that these are things that not only are they normal, meaning commonplace, but they're actually things that I have definitely-- I can think of examples of all of these where they've been presented as being positive, as being romantic, not just normal, because we all are like, "Yes, there's normal things I do that are shitty.", but like that these are thought of as romantic, or as good, and that actually they're very destructive and toxic or destroxic. I just wanted to say that.
Dedeker: Yes. Okay, that's better. I think that's closer.
Emily: He's making all the words today.
Dedeker: I do think that's closer. I will say that these days when-- What I like to do when I'm on a plane, for instance, and I go through the film selection, I like to revisit old classics that I haven't watched in forever, because I'm like, "When am I actually going to watch this in my day-to-day life? I may as well while it's here, and I don't have to hunt it down." I've stopped doing that because I've realized now revisiting a lot of films from the '80s, '9os, even the early 2000's, I'm just like, "There's some really problematic, uncomfortable things around sex and consent in relationships, and it's maybe a little bit funny, but it really is and does not hold up well."
Emily: Yes. Like what exactly?
Dedeker: Well, okay. A couple of examples. First of all, the three of us watched First Night not too long ago. We talked about that on the last episode, where there were definitely things where it's like, "Oh, Richard Gere, you're just really not respecting this woman's boundaries." This woman clearly said no to you six different times and in six different ways, and you're still like, "Whatever, you're still going to fall in love with me and do me." That was sexy in the film. It was painted as romantic, and it was painted as like, yes, she really did want it this whole time, and her nos were, I guess, just meaningless.
Ben: Yes. We see the same thing in music. That was what I was going to say. I've talked before about, you know that parental warning label that gets put on CDs. Not that anyone has those anymore, but that parental warning label about language or adult content or violence or something on CDs. I've said for a time now that I think we should have that label, but for warning this CD contains toxic relationship models and representations like super codependent are very controlling or telling another person what they want rather than listening to them.
Dedeker: Yes. A few months ago, Alex and I revisited Miss Congeniality. Which--
Emily: Oh gosh, I haven't seen that in years.
Dedeker: I will say it was so very, very funny. Michael Caine, still very, very funny. However, there is so much where I was like, "This is a terrible workplace environment where everyone's being-- all the women are being harassed and objectified, and we just play it off for laughs." There's definitely a lot of that where it's like, "Ooh, a lot of this humor just really doesn't hold up anymore." What about you Ben? Any recent '90s films that you've revisited and made you uncomfortable?
Ben: No, not as such, but I do want to piggyback on what you said about First Night and Richard Gere. I hope this isn't giving away the game, but we have a list of several behaviors that we're going to talk about, but one that isn't on the list but that you just brought up is this idea that persistence on a man's part is salutatory and is a sign--
Dedeker: It's like he's really into her.
Ben: Yes. It reinforces the whole nice guy mentality, which conjures up the word in cell in my mind. That's a whole separate conversation. This idea that-- I saw this great meme once. It's like the Morpheus meme, and it's like, "What if I told you?" It was Morpheus, and he was like, "What if I told you that women aren't machines that you put nice guy tokens into to get sex out of?" That idea of persistence really reinforces that idea of like, "Look, if I'm just 'nice guy', which is a false paradigm because you're just doing nice things, but you're not being a nice person, then this person will suddenly change and bend to my will. Speaking of toxic habits that people are told are healthy and good. I had a guy tell me once, I asked a girl out on a date and I told him and I was like, "Dude, she said she had a boyfriend", and he was like, "You sure she had a boyfriend, or was she just saying no in a nice way?" I was like, "Oh shoot."
Dedeker: It doesn't matter.
Ben: It doesn't matter, but I too young and stupid. I went back the next day and I asked her out, and of course, it didn't go anywhere because she had a fricking boyfriend. Setting that precedent of like, "No, you can sell anyone into being with you." "You just didn't try hard enough." That's dangerous. That's dangerous for everyone in the game.
Emily: The idea if you're not married, then you can still maybe go get them. A lot of people, I've heard that trope even if people who are a little older like my parents' age or grandparents' age are like, "Well, if you're not married, then you never know. You might be able to -
Jase: Right, it's still not too late.
Emily: Or something along those. Exactly.
Dedeker: This is kind of a Queenbee, you should've put a ring on it situation?
Jase: Maybe a little bit. More recent, I guess still not that recent example, is the movie Dodgeball, which is a hilarious movie, and a lot of people really like, but even at the time watching that, and it came out in 2005, I think, 2004-2005, even at the time, I was like, "Oh, I see. This is a movie where both the protagonist and the villain sexually harassed this woman until she eventually chooses the good guy." It was very much that idea of like she was not interested in either of them, and they both just kept hounding her and persisting, and the one guy, I guess, did it in a better way. Therefore, he's the good guy, and we should root for them to be together.
Dedeker: That guy was Ben Stiller. Was it Ben Stiller?
Jase: Ben Stiller was the bad guy.
Ben: I think it was Vince Vaughn.
Emily: Oh, so never mind.
Dedeker: Yes, Vince Vaughn.
Jase: Yes, Vince Vaughn was the one who harassed her better than Ben Stiller did. Anyway, it's not even something that we can be like the '90s, right?
Dedeker: No, it's true. It's true. Very recent films as well. Another example of this that we not only see pretty frequently in pop culture, but we also see, I think just in general culture, not even the pop side of culture, it's this idea of buying your way out of relationship problems.
Emily: Apparently my father did this a lot.
Dedeker: Really? What did your father do? What's the Gus?
Emily: My God. . My mother, when she met my father, wasn't particularly wealthy. My father was an orthopedic surgeon in the '90s, or the '80s, I guess. At the time, garnered a lot of money. He helped her with the down-payment on the house, and helped her buy a big bedroom set and a bunch of random shit. Apparently, every time they would get together, he would be like, "Don't you love that watch I give you? Isn't it gorgeous?" Just along those lines of talking about the thing over and over again, and bringing it up when shit was bad and stuff like that.
Dedeker: Yes. I posted about this on my social media a while ago. I was in a relationship once where, gosh, when it became clear to this person that I wasn't going to be monogamous with him, that I very much wanted to be non-monogamous, he was like, "Oh, if I had known, then I wouldn't have paid for your ticket to Disneyland." . Which, okay, it makes me laugh now. At the time, it felt real bad, as I'm sure you can imagine.
Emily: Were you like, "What in the world?"
Dedeker: I was like, "Okay, so my monogamy is worth what? 90 bucks or something?"
Emily: No, like $110, $120 maybe.
Dedeker: At the time, I think it was like 90 bucks, or something like that.
Jase: This was a few years ago.
Dedeker: I was like, "Oh, that's what my monogamy is worth to this person. I was so young, and so silly, and so innocent that now me would ave been like, "Bye."
Dedeker: Back then me was like, "Oh, okay."
Jase: Both of those examples make me think more of the courting phase. That's something that Dedeker has talked about before. She's very hesitant to, if she's dating a man, to let him pay for stuff because from experience, there's that expectation that later on, there's going to be some reciprocal for that, whether it's your monogamy, or just maybe like adoration. It sounds like Emily, your dad might have been going for there. Like, "I've got to be praised for these things. This wasn't just out of the goodness of my heart. I do expect."
Emily: Yes, I guess it's transactional, literally.
Dedeker: Yes. I barely rarely had an experience dating a man where if he paid for, let's say the majority of things, and I'm not even talking close to 100%, I'm saying more than 50% of the time, I very rarely had an experience where there wasn't some kind of strings attached, or when the relationship turned sour, or he disagreed with something that I did that that didn't come up as leverage in some kind of way, of like, "I've contributed all of this, and how dare you act in this particular way?"
Jase: Yes. To clarify, though, that in this example, we're also talking about after you're in that relationship. Say you've been dating for a while, and it's like, "We're not getting along as well or whatever. We want to buy ourselves out of that."
Ben: This is really actually timely. I literally just had an experience with this last night.
Dedeker: You bought your way out of some relationship problems?
Ben: No. It's funny because I really felt like I was doing the right thing. It really smoothed over the situation, and none of this is meant to be like an indictment of who I'm dating or anything, because I don't think they were saying anything unreasonable, but this seems like a really good opportunity to have three experts weigh in on this, and I know this is a good talking point.
Ben: I'm not trying to get coaching, but I'm like other people will probably going to do this. The thing that came up was like, "Hey, I feel like I've allocated resources." This is my partner speaking. "I feel like I've allocated resources to doing special stuffs for us the last couple of times, and I miss that you used to do that a lot, and I'm transitioning between jobs, and my budget has been a little bit tighter. But I also still made this trip. I live in Portland, and I made a trip up to Seattle." They were mentioning like, "I'm feeling a little bit put out, like you're willing to put this money in this one place, but I wish you would take me out to dinner or whatever. I miss that." I was like, "Oh, shit. What do you want?" Then I bought her dinner. I was like, "Oh, you wanted this? Let me just handle that." It really flipped the script really quickly where it was like, "Oh, you wanted this thing? Great. Let me do it for you." The money wasn't a huge issue. Now I'm hearing about this today, and I'm like, "Oh, shoot. Did I just accidentally buy into a toxic thing?"
Emily: I don't think so. I think in that scenario, you had an honest conversation with a person, and they told you about something that they wanted, and you were able to give that to them. As you just said, it wasn't any skin off your back. Also it was just the thing like, "Hey, thank you for being honest with me." Something that potentially you can work on in the future or whatever, but in that moment, I think you gave the person what they needed, and hopefully that did make them feel okay. It's not as though like shit's getting real and you're like, "Here's a necklace."
Dedeker: Let me try to take you out to dinner.
Emily: It's a different scenario, I think. I think you were totally fine there.
Jase: Yes, I think what this example is talking about specifically is when money is not the topic that's being discussed, and it's like we're actually having a fight about the fact that whatever it is.
Emily: We nickel backing or something, we’re switch tracking I don’t know.
Jase: Or it's like that--
Emily: Sorry. You don't know the reference, Ben.
Dedeker: I'll explain later.
Emily: We do. Our listeners hopefully do.
Jase: I'm sorry. To the ones who don't, go back and listen to some of our episodes. Anyway, the point is that you're arguing about something else completely different. Where it's like saying we're arguing about, "I don't feel like you love me." Or like, "You don't seem proud to be around me when we're with your friends," kind of whatever it is, some other topic. Then the solution is, "I'll buy you a car, or-
Dedeker: Or I'll buy us a vacation.
Jase: Which, I guess, to go with our theme of movies, makes me think of 10 Things I Hate About You, when he buys her that guitar at the end of the movie to make up for the fact that he originally started dating her because it was a bet that someone had made with him. Then her line at the end, they make it cute, where she's like, "You know you can't just buy me a guitar every time you screw up." He's like, "Yes, but I figure it's a bass, and a drumset, and maybe a tambourine eventually." He makes a thing out of it. But that is, yes, that. It's just like buying something to make up for something rather than actually fixing it. Rather than actually talking about it.
Dedeker: I want to go just a tiny bit deeper on that one. I think this can also be, not necessarily about just one person buying something for the other, but I feel like I see this with a lot of people where sometimes it's like we always need to have something big and exciting on the horizon to make the relationship feel like it's moving forward, or like it itself is exciting. That can't be thing either like as soon as we start to feel bored, or uncomfortable, we plan a trip. Or as soon as we start to feel bored or uncomfortable, we decide to get married. Or then it's going to be a kid, and then it's going to be like, "l found a house. Let's move to a new house," or things like that. I've definitely seen that. Just the whole dynamic, being that some kind of material or external thing is being used as the replacement for confronting what the actual relationship issues are.
Jase: Yes, totally. Do we want to move on to the next one here?
Dedeker: Yes, let's do it.
Jase: Okay. This next one, for listeners of our show, they're going to be like, "Mm-hmm." That is displays of 'loving' jealousy. That loving is in quotes, if you couldn't tell from my voice acting there.
Emily: . Yes, Ben, do you have any examples of this?
Emily: Like in your own life?
Emily: I don't mean that exactly. Just like, can you give examples, like any arbitrary example of what this might looks like?
Ben: I don't feel like I have very many top of mind, but the relationships wherein I was dealing with a lot of jealousy, I haven't really dealt with that very acutely for a couple of years. I remember when you say that, it does make me think-- I don't know if this constitutes loving jealousy. I don't know if our air-quoted adjective there counts, but when I was in-- I knew that I liked being with multiple people at a time back when I was like 15. When I first got in to spending intimate time with people, I was like, "This is great. We should all do this with everyone all the time. This is a blast." Then I started dating someone, and of course I'm 16, and she's 17. You don't even know Multiamory or polyamary existed at the time.
She would get super jealous. I wasn't cheating on her or anything, but I had female friends I was close with. I had female friends I was flirting with. She was just like little teapot, boiled right over. We had a lot of big talks about it. In a way, I don't know if that counts as loving jealousy, but it, "I know that you-- there's this territorial nature and this feeling that if I'm not all for you, then I must not love you or respect you or whatever."
That messed me up for my whole relationship trajectory. I'm still working on some of the stuff that that did to me. Does that fit the plot?
Dedeker: Yes, definitely. My entry point to this a little bit on the opposite side, that my experiences earlier on and some of my first formative relationships was more that if a partner of mine didn't display jealousy, I would be really anxious. I would feel like they must not actually care. They must not actually love me. Again, it's not like I was going out trying to stir up jealousy or things like that, but it's like the fact that a partner was like, "Oh, you're going to go hang out with your male friends alone for how many hours, and I've never met this person I don't know. Yes, sure whatever." Maybe my partner at that time was experiencing jealousy, but just not expressing it. I don't know. I remember feeling like, "Oh, he has no problem with this. That must mean he's checked out of the relationship, or he doesn't care", which I think is really interesting.
Emily: Yes. When I was in my very first relationship, this person would say things like, "Well, I saw a silver beetle, which was the first car I ever had on Oracle and Graham at three o'clock in the afternoon. Where were you? Who were you with?" It was definitely one of those relationships where at the time, I thought I was going to marry this person. My mom was like, "Maybe you found the one really early." In reality, he was super awful and abusive at the end, but still in the moment, it did feel like well, maybe I should be relaying this information, or even if I don't recall being on Oracle and Graham at 3:00 PM, it means that he cares about me because he's looking out for that or something.
Yes, it does, especially as a young person, it's really difficult to not conflate jealous feelings with feelings of love or caring deeply enough about a person that you really like. You want to know what they're doing and where they are at all times.
Jase: Yes, it almost bleeds over into like controllingness, and a desire to control you is how I show it that I love you.
Ben: I actually wanted to ask. I was realizing I was a little unclear what we were talking about. When I think about jealousy, I've certainly had experiences of being extremely jealous, but I always experience it as personal insecurity and feeling like I am less than or not worthy or what's wrong with me. I was trying to understand, what is this idea of loving jealousy? Is loving jealousy just like almost a cute way of being really controlling the feeling?
Dedeker: I think there's a spectrum with these things, because I think there is a spectrum of 'loving jealousy'. I'm trying to think off the top of my head. It's like people that I know of where-- I know some people who think it's cute when their partner gets a little bit jealous when they're hanging out.
Emily: Or like that guy who was looking at you in the bar like, I'd love to kick his ass. How dare he, versus I know which definitely also makes me be like bleh.
Jase: Those things are not abnormal. Those are actually very normal behaviors for a lot of people.
Emily: No, totally. Yes.
Jase: Most people would look at that as romantic. It's like, "Oh, that's how I know he really cares about me because he wants to fuck up any guy who looks at me the wrong way."
Dedeker: Okay, I will say, I don't know of most people. I think most people have a-- There's a line. I think even if you're very traditional monogamous, even in that context, someone who's extremely jealous and controlling really sucks. I do think there's a line. I do think it's a problem that any jealousy can be seen as romantic or as a sign of love. I think that contributes to that. I don't think that I'd necessarily say that most people would think that your male partner wanting to beat up any guy who looks at you as unequivocally positive. Some people would, but I don't think most people would.
Jase: I think that the people who do think that, there's no hint of being aware that that's weird. It's like no, that's very romantic, and that's how this goes. I know I come back to this a lot on this show, but that's what we see in our movies and in our plays, in fucking Shakespeare, that asshole who ruined relationships for all of us.
Dedeker: Contributed nothing to the human race.
Jase: Yes, thank you. I was hoping someone could quote some Shakespeare better than me.
Ben: A lot of narratives like people who are like, "Oh, I'd kick the ass of any guy who looked at you or whatever." It reinforces these ideas that love is equal to possession. No one can look at you because you are mine. You are not your own being. You are my property, and therefore I will defend my property. That gets semi-conflated into honor. I'm defending your honor, but in reality you're basically just defending your own keep, which still is like, "You are mine, and I will protect me from invaders", which sets up really nasty competition dynamics between people, and we're not able to collaborate, and that's a whole other thing.
Dedeker: Yes. That’s definitely a well-worn path.
Emily: Let's move on to the next one, which is blaming your partner for your own emotions. I'm going to get into this a little bit more in a later episode, for sure. Talking about feelings and facts. This is an interesting one, for sure. Indeed, this is normal relationship behavior. I think it's normal in a lot of ways. People will deflect, people will say, "I'm having a really intense emotional experience, and it's because this person did this thing to me, and my emotional experience is valid and fine." Emotions are valid, but it's a question of whether or not this is actually a thing that like, do you know the whole story, or you just having your cognitive biases sit there and tell you that this thing is happening, and that therefore you should be angry about it? What do you all think?
Dedeker: My experience of this in relationships, and first of all, I will say, I've definitely been a really bad offender of this in many relationships. The way I've experienced this in relationship is let's say a partner comes home from work, has had a bad day at work, is in a bad mood, and just this unwritten, unspoken expectation of well, your job is to make me feel better right now. It falls along this very fine line because it's like in a relationship, if you come home after a bad day at work, it's like you do want to seek the comfort and reassurance of a partner. There's definitely nothing wrong with that whatsoever. I think where it gets toxic is that it is this unspoken assumption of like if I'm in a bad mood and you're not doing anything to fix that, then we're going to have problems.
Jase: Well, it's like that it means you don't care about me. Rather than it could mean any number of reasons why you might not be noticing that, or why you're not reading my mind the way that I think you should.
Emily: Well, yes, we are not mind readers, exactly. It's difficult because on the other end as well, you can sit there and be like, oh shit. They're being terse with me so clearly like they hate me right now or upset with me. I don't know what I did wrong, and I'm worried about that, and so on the other end, it just can be these two people sitting there wanting something from their partner and not being communicative about it.
Jase: Yes, for sure.
Ben: Yes. This has made me think of several things. The first of which is, if anybody wants a good resource on how to develop better skills around this, if you feel like this is one of your own areas for growth, I'm sure that you all have talked about Marshall Rosenberg and nonviolent communication.
Dedeker: Yes, we have.
Ben: Marshall Rosenberg is the father of nonviolent communication basically, to my understanding. There is this amazing, it's like a three hour long YouTube video, but there are shorter versions of it, where he just takes you to school on nonviolent communication, on owning your own stuff, on understanding that your reactions to things are not inevitable. A lot of people think that when they have an emotional response, if they don't understand what they've done to contribute to that, they're like, "How could anyone feel any other way. Anyone in this situation would feel this way", and it's like, no, you just feel this way because you didn't do your own emotional due diligence to make sure you didn't feel this way. He holds people's feet to the fire, and he'll call people out and being, no, sorry that you're actually not owning your shit right now, and I'm going to teach you how.
On the other side of it, what you two were talking about with, my partner comes home, they've had a terrible day at work, and they're looking to me for some form of comfort or something like that, but I'm not in a space where I can necessarily do that, or even I am, but I'm not a mind reader, and I'm not-- Also, their emotions are not my responsibility. It's not my job. I don't think it's anyone's job to make their partner feel better, because you can't, actually. You just can't, so don't put that on yourself. I heard, I think it was Rainer Maria Rilke or some great poet I love, was talking about the idea of love. They said that the real definition of love is two people holding space for each other.
Dedeker: I think that’s, literally, the quote that we used a couple of episodes ago.
Emily: Just a couple of weeks ago.
Jase: I’ve always loved that because I really do think that is the definition of love is giving someone a space to really be authentically themselves, but that also means letting them really authentically fall on their face, and fuck up, and be a little child and throw tantrums, and be like, “I don’t need to make this better. I don’t need to improve this. I love you, and I’m sorry this is happening but this also isn’t my shit to pick up.”
Emily: That’s a really hard thing to do, but, yes.
Dedeker: On the other side of it, I think like what Emily was bringing up that a partner -- I will use the same example -- a partner comes home, really bad mood, bad day at work, that on my side if I’m receiving that, sometimes even unprompted, that then suddenly, I’ll get all this anxiety around like, “Oh, God, I need to do something,” then I end up projecting on them. .
Emily: Totally, and it’s just this like cyclical bullshit.
Dedeker: Yes, and I can totally project to my partner of like, “Well, you came home doing this and saying this, and acting like this, and then that made me anxious, and now it’s all about me and my problems, and now I’m also not taking ownership of my shit.” Yes, like Emily said, it becomes like this cyclical thing of us just throwing our emotions on each other and no one actually taking any GD responsibility.
Ben: GD said. This actually reminds me, I feel bad about bringing this up again, but on the meditation retreat that Dedeker and Emily and I went on a few weeks ago now, one of the things they talked about, and this is a common theme in a lot of Buddhist teaching is this idea that like you don’t know what anyone else’s experience is. No matter how much you might think you do, you don’t.
The example, I think it was in that Buddhism for Beginners book, the example is someone cuts you off in traffic, and you get really angry and you’re like, “Why the fuck would they do that to me? This asshole, they’re so selfish,” they’re whatever, but the truth is, you don’t know why they did that. The truth is maybe their wife is in labor in the backseat and they’re trying to go to the hospital. I know that’s a cliché example, but say it’s that, or say it’s because they just got fired from their job and they’re having a bad day and they’re so in their head that they’re not even thinking about anything else. You just don’t know.
Maybe they’re an asshole, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that the only thing you have any control over is how you react to it and what you do with the situation rather than that. I guess it’s kind of the same thing of this example, even just with our intimate partners. Even if we learn to do that with strangers, sometimes with our intimate partners, it’s harder.
Dedeker: So much harder.
Ben: Because it’s like, “No, but they should know, they should just know this,” or, “I think I know them so well, so I just know why they’re doing this or what they’re thinking.”
Emily: Exactly. Didn’t you say that? I thought that we talked about that like actually as you go further along in a relationship, you actually know your partner less than you think you do, just simply because your own cognitive biases surrounding them permeate most of what you actually think about them and their actions towards you. I think that is a really good thing to think about when dealing with your partner.
Yes, God, I just want to say like I’ve used that, Jase, that you were talking about in working at a restaurant, there are a lot of people who are in bad moods at restaurants. You take it personally. In the moment, you’re like, “Wow, what a bitch,” but honestly, you have no idea what’s happening, their parent could have just died, like anything. Just like kill them with compassion -- not kill them but love them with compassion, love them with kindness.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely. Shall I move us along to the next one?
Emily: Sure. Yes, let’s go on, please.
Dedeker: The next one is holding the relationship hostage. I think this one is tricky, because basically--
Ben: It’s like, “Give me all the wedding rings so this relationship gets it.”
Dedeker: All of the wedding rings, everybody’s wedding rings.
Emily: Oh, man. Wow.
Dedeker: Okay, because this can be things like threatening to leave if your partner doesn’t shape up, or threatening to de-escalate, or threatening to move out, or threatening to divorce or whatever. I think the reason why this gets so tricky is because this can bump up against having healthy boundaries, I think. Because that’s the thing that--
Jase: I think we’re all sitting here--
Ben: Yes, 100%.
Dedeker: That’s what everybody gets so confused.
Emily: It’s on a razor’s edge.
Dedeker: It’s so tricky, because on the one hand, it could be like, “Okay, well my partner is lying to me all the time about all these things. I keep catching him in lies.” My boundary might be I can’t be in a relationship with someone who lies to me all the time. And that’s true.
Again, you’ll have to go back, listen to our episode on the Basics of Boundaries, we go into this conversation much more in-depth. Like me saying, “I can’t be in a relationship with someone who lies to me all the time,” sounds very similar to, “Hey, if you don’t stop lying, I’m going to leave or I’m going to have to step out of this relationship.” I think that’s why this gets a little bit tricky.
Ben: Sorry, I really got to jump in on this one because I actually just had a conversation with my sister about this. My sister is incredibly intelligent and I respect her a ton, and if she were comfortable with me naming her on this, I totally would because I think she’s a great person who a lot of people could stand to learn a ton of things from, but we were having this conversation about boundaries.
We were talking about this and how difficult it is, where sometimes, even when you try to say it in the nicest way possible of like, “Look, if this doesn’t change, I have to make a different decision.” What she said that I thought was really intelligent was, “Boundaries sound like threats to people who don’t want to hear them,” which I don’t think is the entire story but I think it explains a lot of the miscommunication where it’s like, “All I can do is tell you where I am,” and maybe I have to tell you where I am is, “I can’t keep doing this.” That can sound like a threat, so how does one handle that?
Jase: If I may, I want to take this in a direction, maybe a little weird, but to take it to some stuff that’s taught about parenting. One of the principles in parenting is something that can quickly cause a problem in your relationship with your child is essentially making empty threats. Is that like, you have to clean your room, or come here right now, or stop screaming, or whatever it is, or else this, or else like you don’t get ice cream today, but then once you’re at the ice cream place later, it’s like, “Well, okay,” and then you just lose all your credibility.
I would say that actually this difference between like essentially blackmailing the relationship or holding it hostage, versus on the other hand having a boundary, is partly that, is that a personal boundary isn’t something where it’s like -- a boundary isn’t generally phrased like, “Well, I’m not okay with being in a relationship with someone who continually lies to me for more than several years, then that’s not a situation I’ll be in.”
Instead, it’s like, “No, I’m not okay with being in a relationship where someone lies to me.” And so, if that’s actually what’s happening, then you actually do remove yourself from that situation. Whereas the holding it hostage could still come from a good place of wanting to protect yourself or it could come from a place of wanting to control them, but it’s using it as a threat rather than actually like, “I’m going to do this even though it’s hard, because I need to take care of myself,” versus I’m saying this to you to try to get your behavior to change. Do you see what I’m getting at with the difference there?
Dedeker: Yes. I think I really ran up against this the last time I found myself enforcing a boundary, which we’re not going to get into that story here now.
Dedeker: But I did really run up against like how difficult this was because it’s like, okay, I express this boundary to this person of like, “Hey, if this is happening, I can’t be in this kind of relationship.” Then I’m like, but the thing is, in expressing that, like I really do hope that by expressing that boundary, this person chooses to change their behavior.
It’s like I really do hope that, but then the next step being, they don’t or they’re like, “Well, no, I’m not going to make a different decision,” and then I have to follow through with like, “Okay, then I need to step out,” versus trying to rephrase that boundary or trying to tweak it, or change it, or do whatever I can to be like, “Well, if I say it this way, or if I threaten this, or if I do that, then will you change your behavior, then will you make a different decision?”
Ben: And so you get into that concession creep as like Dedeker likes to call it.
Emily: Yes. No, I think you made the right decision in that scenario.
Dedeker: I 100% agree. I guess it also comes down to kind of like what is the goal of you expressing this boundary? How are you enforcing it? Again, if the enforcement becomes more about like, “I’m going to try to enforce this so that they change their behavior,” as opposed to, “I’m going to try to enforce this so that I can stay protected,” it does get a little bit sticky.
Jase: Yes. That is where it does come down a little bit to intention and what it is you’re actually trying to do with these things. Yes.
Jase: Yes. Just for those of you out there who want a deeper dive into boundaries, that is Episode 178 of Multiamory, this podcast you’re listening to. Go back to Episode 178.
Emily: In case you forgot, you’re like, “Where am I? What am I doing?”
Yes. Okay, should we move on?
Jase: Yes. Let’s go on to the next one here.
Emily: Okay, now we’re going to move on to the fifth toxic destructive thing that one can do in relationships, and that is dropping hints and other passive-aggressive forms of communication.
Jase: Oh, boy. Yes.
Emily: Passive-aggressive forms of communication.
Jase: Yes. I mean, this, I feel it goes back to the mind reading thing that we were talking about a little bit earlier. This idea that like, if my partner really cares about me, they’ll just know what I want or they’ll know why I’m upset. That’s what I think leads to this sort of passive-aggressive, like, “Well, if they don’t know, I’m not going to tell them, they need to figure it out.” That’s part of the punishment, I think.
Again, to come back to the fact that this is so normal because we see it in all our media, this is the plot of literally every sitcom ever, and every romcom ever will have something like this, but especially sitcoms about existing families, this is every episode, all the time.
Emily: Can I just say this is interesting, because I just read what Mark Manson said about this. In addition to saying like, “Okay,” instead of stating a desire or thought overtly, your partner tries to nudge you in the right direction of figuring it out for yourself, but then the next thing that he said that’s related to this is, “Instead of saying what’s actually upsetting you, you find small and petty ways to piss off your partner so that then you’ll feel justified in complaining to them.”
Dedeker: That’s interesting.
Emily: That’s really interesting.
Dedeker: Yes. I mean, this just brings back a lot of just uncomfortable memories of my early relationship to his basically all that’s coming up for me right now. The household that I grew up in, I don’t know if I necessarily would want to say that it was like a super passive-aggressive household, but it was definitely not a household of direct communication about things and working things out.
I think I also came into a lot of my adult relationships having a sense of like any kind of direct communication is probably bad and indicates there’s probably going to be a problem, so it’s best to just kind of tiptoe around it and hope that your partner gets the point.
Emily: Yes. That’s an interesting idea.
Emily: It is the tiptoe idea like that’s the better option than just being like, “Hey, you did this thing and I didn’t like it, so let’s talk about it.”
Jase: It is so funny how stuff it, for us now and like what we talk about on this show is just like, “Yes, if you can directly communicate about something, that’s 100% like the best thing to do,” the fastest path to get to understanding. That belief right there is the opposite of what most of us are brought up to think we do in relationships. It’s not the example we’re given in our TV shows, in our movies, or probably most of our parents, too.
Dedeker: That’s true.
Ben: I feel like, I’m just thinking back on my own experience, I feel like I haven’t had a lot of experience with passive-aggressive behavior in relationships, which says to me, it’s like that thing where if like, if you don’t know who the idiot or the creep is in your group of friends, it’s you.”
Jase: You’re just passive-aggressive.
Ben: Which is not necessarily true. And so, I’m like, “I don’t know, I haven’t really been in many passive-aggressive relationships. Oh, my gosh. Shit.” I’m thinking back and I’m realizing that I might have done some passive-aggressive stuff. I mean, certainly not intended to, but actually done it with really good intentions, and it was specifically about jealousy.
Emily: Yes. Like what are good intentions with passive-aggressiveness?
Ben: Well, it’s funny. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m equating apples to oranges here, but I remember trying to talk to a partner who was newer to polyamory and open relationships than I was, and trying to talk to them about jealousy. I had done a lot of my own work on jealousy, so I felt like I was on kind of the “other side of it.” You’re never on the other side, but you get it managed. I had my shit managed, and I was talking about, this is some of the ideology, the philosophy.
These are some of the principles that guide it. I think that a very, very quiet part of the back of my brain maybe that I wasn’t even fully conscious of was like, “Maybe once I tell you this, maybe this will click for you,” which is a little bit passive-aggressive as opposed to being like, “I wish you were more this way,” which is just aggressive.
I was just trying to talk about it, but I didn’t realize that in doing it I was actually like doing violence to my partner. They came back to me and they were like, “I feel so inadequate and less than because I don’t feel the way you described, therefore I feel like a failure.” Like it was a really insidious form of being passive-aggressive, because I thought I was helping. I really thought I was doing the right thing.
Dedeker: That’s really interesting. Some of these things, I think can come from a place of good intentions. Like we often say on this show, a lot of this things can be unintentionally weaponized.
Jase: For sure. Yes. I mean, a lot of healthy behaviors can easily be tweaked into being weaponized. Yes. It’s not just like a blanket, this is exactly the piece that makes it good or bad.
Ben: It’s sort of a study of economics thing, where like if you incentivize a certain behavior, you have to understand that you also perversely incentivize whatever -- I’m sorry, if you incentivize behavior with a goal, you have to understand that you’re also incentivizing other behaviors that get you to that goal. If you’re in sales and you incentivize closing a certain number of sales, you might de-incentivize being an ethical salesperson.
You got to understand like, “If this is the goal and people are hitting it, are they hitting it the right way or are they suddenly doing something that’s way off base but working?”
Dedeker: That is working to reach that goal.
Emily: How many credit cards could I get at Banana Republic? The best credit card salesman, like one of the best in Los Angeles. Is it ethical to get people to get credit cards that maybe they’re going to rack up bills and in debt? No.
Ben: Now I just want to go on tangents about like incentivizing and de-incentivizing and all of that, but I’ll try to keep this on topic, yes.
Emily: Well, capitalism man.
Dedeker: Okay. Let’s bring it back to communication though rather than getting off track about capitalism.
Ben: Different episode. Multi-financiary.
Dedeker: Yes. What I definitely had to learn about myself when I was much more passive in my communication, much more likely to drop hints and just not bring things up directly is, part of it for me was, the models that I saw growing up didn’t really set me up for success, combined with just a straight up fear of like, “It doesn’t feel safe to be direct with anyone.” It wasn’t even specific to the partner I think at that time. It just doesn’t feel safe at all and it doesn’t feel safe to be honest.
Emily: Because why?
Dedeker: Again, because I think I grew up in a family where it wasn’t safe to directly communicate, and then combined with I think just all of our cultural baggage around it not being safe to be radically honest or directly communicate with people.
Jase: By not safe, you mean like that they would just get in a huff about it, or that they would yell back at you, or?
Dedeker: Or in my head that was going to happen, or it would make me look bad, or I would look too vulnerable or be too embarrassed about communicating my needs directly, or I would seem too needy, or like whatever, a billion different reasons to justify me being passive in my communication.
I definitely had to learn some hacks around communicating. I had to learn like, okay, if I sit down and if I write something out ahead of time, that makes it a little bit easier for me to communicate directly about something. If I agree with my partner like, “Hey, there’s something I want to talk about that’s really vulnerable. Could we like actually chat with each other like via text about it? I know that’s not ideal, but can we try that because it feels safer for me to talk about it there?” and then we try that.
Little by little, I had to ease myself into this more direct communication, but I had to do it in via arenas that felt safe, at first, at least.
Jase: I think one of the things that you hit on in there repeatedly, and I think this is an area where I know I feel I can develop in this communication wise is, I think another reason that people feel like they need to be passive-aggressive in whatever is, I think -- I’ve said, “I think,” like seven times, but whatever -- they’re focusing on how they want the other person to change rather than going, “What’s my response, what am I feeling in not feeling safe communicating,” in sort of an ownership of their own experience way.
People get passive-aggressive. It’s really the intention of passive-aggressive behavior is to get the other person to change, and it sort of betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s causing the emotions within you, within the person.
Emily: I mean, that’s the truth for a lot of this.
Ben: Own your shit.
Ben: I’ve found, like for me with Dedeker’s example of, “Let’s maybe do this in a different format,” like for me, it was often I need to write down all the things I want to say beforehand. Then even though we’re talking in person, it’s like I have something to reference, because otherwise, in the moment, I’m going to be like, “Okay, yes, that’s all, that’s good enough,” because I’m too freaked out.
Emily: You also might get emotional in a sense that betrays what you actually want to say.
Like, yes, it may come off as much more intense, or angry, or whatever, just simply because if you don’t know what you’re saying, you could get really upset in the moment and that could cause your partner to believe something else than what you’re actually trying to convey. I don’t know. It is tough, but communication is key, clearly.
Jase: I want to move us on to the last of the six here, and this is the relationship scorecard or keeping score.
Emily: Oh, boy. Oh, boy.
Jase: Yes. Boy, oh, boy.
Emily: Oh, yes.
Dedeker: We know the Bible says that love does not keep a record of wrongs. It does.
Emily: Does it? I haven’t gotten there yet, spoilers.
Dedeker: That’s in Corinthians.
Ben: It’s usually paraphrased as, “Love doesn’t keep score.” What are we talking about? We’re talking about this idea of like you made a mistake once and I’m going to use that against you whenever. That’s like on your permanent record.
Jase: Or, on the other hand, I think it could be like some of these examples we talked about before with buying your way out of things of that like, “Well, no, but I did this one really good thing for you, so I’m up on the scoreboard, so you owe me.”
Dedeker: Yes. It can also be a symptom of what aboutism. This idea of like if my partner calls out something in me, then I can be like, “Well, what about that time that you did,” yadda, yadda, yadda, or, “What about the time that you do that same thing?”
Emily: Yes, totally, totally.
Dedeker: Again, okay, I think this one can get really insidious and tricky because of the fact that maybe there have been some systemic issues or repeating issues in your relationship. Sometimes it might be, “Hey, I’m having a hard time trusting you with X, Y and Z, because of some things that happened in the past.” On the one hand, it’s like, yes, that’s totally valid, like you can have a lot of trauma around stuff that’s happened in the past with your partner that maybe still hurts.
It’s kind of figuring out what’s the difference between that, of like, “Hey, there are past influences that are still holding me back and I don’t feel are healed and it’s preventing me from feeling like I can trust you,” versus what is, “Here’s the scorecard, and you currently are in the negatives, and so therefore, I can’t reward you with my trust.” Does that make sense?
Ben: What you were just saying, is kind of I was writing a note over here thinking of the same thing. Jase, I think you hit the nail on the head. There’s the two sides of it; there’s keeping track of what they’ve done wrong and keeping track of what I’ve done right, or vice versa if you have like a low self-image thing and you’re like, “Oh, they’re always doing this, they do all of that. I suck. I suck. I’m not worthy,” I’m talking myself into a position of weakness.
Jase: Yes, that’s a good example. Yes.
Ben: It really brought up for me this idea at first of like, really, I think that a big portion of healing the scorecard of what your partner has done wrong is forgiveness. I brought up the question, what is forgiveness, really? This is something that I’ve struggled with in my relationships, frankly, of being the one forgiven because I fucked up. I fucked up plenty and I fucked up bad. Sorry, hopefully not too much swearing, but family program.
Dedeker: No, we can swear on this show. It’s fine.
Emily: Yes. That’s a tough one, and also feeling at times like, “Oh, I’m fucking up all the time, I’m the one who keeps getting called out in various ways,” like what is that exactly? Is that just because that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or I’m essentially remembering the times in which my partner is calling me out, or do I really need to look at something that is continuing to be a pattern in our relationship. It’s challenging. The scorecard can come from many different places.
Jase: Especially if you have a combination of someone who does tend to blame themselves with someone who likes to keep score of all the things you did wrong. Those two together can really cause -- can be that times 10, because now you’re both tipping the scales even worse in this way and both reinforcing this idea of the scorecard.
Ben: Sorry. I just want to wrap up one other thing because I don’t want to make it sound like, on that subject of forgiveness, I’m thinking if your partner has had like a series or a history of a certain behavior, I don’t believe that forgiveness and forgetting or the same thing. To me, forgiveness is saying, “You know what? This is what happened and I just fully accept it. My anger, my resentment, whatever feeling I have about it won’t change it.”
Forgiveness is like if you’re holding a hot rock, it’s going to burn you no matter what, you drop the rock, that’s forgiveness, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to go pick up the rock again. That’s sort of the flip side is, forgive absolutely, but certainly don’t forget.
Dedeker: Well, it’s interesting because I don’t think forgiveness is very valued in our culture right now, honestly, on a wider scale, but that can be another topic for another time.
Jase: I wanted to read this example actually that Mark put in this original blog post here. I think this captures some of the nuance that it’s not quite just so like, “Well, you did all these things wrong.” This is the example is, 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 okay because that time you caught her sending flirtatious text messages to her coworker, immediately removes her right to get jealous, so it’s kind of even, right? It’s that too, where sometimes it’s just like one person trying to pile up all the things one person did wrong but the other is like, “Well, but now I can do something shitty to them,” or like, “They can’t be upset at me for a thing because they did something.” It’s like another way of trying to balance the scale.
Dedeker: It’s like the two wrongs making a right situation.
Ben: Yes, actually balance the scales by being shitty too, and we’re equally shitty people.
Ben: Right. I like this last quote here, too. He says in just sort of like what you should do instead of this, he says, “You should recognize it by choosing to be with your significant other, you’re choosing to be with all of their prior actions and behaviors. If you don’t accept those, then ultimately, you’re not accepting them.” I think that’s great. I also think that if you’re not accepting them and their past behaviors, that is also okay, but then just own up to the fact that you’re just not accepting them and don’t be in that relationship.
I don’t want people to think that that means like, “Oh, no, you can’t just ever be upset about anything.” It’s like, “No if it really is I can’t get over this thing you did in the past, then you can be with them because you don’t accept them.”
Dedeker: Well, I feel like, okay, either yes, either it’s you can’t be with them or that’s an indicator of like, “We have some work to do, like serious work to do,” like we need to get into counseling or we really need to practically work to repair this. Again, I think that that takes some analysis and some self-awareness to know like, “Okay if this person did this thing in the past or a number of these things in the past, is this something I can see myself repairing? Do I want to repair it?”
I’ve definitely been in situations where sometimes it’s a little powerful to feel like your partner made all these fuck ups and you’re the good one and you can kind of hold that over them, and like always bring that up. Sometimes I think we can go into these things and not actually want it to be repaired because there’s a little bit of power there.
Jase: For sure. 100%. I can identify with that, yes.
Dedeker: It’s really uncomfortable to be able to recognize that but it is definitely possible.
Jase: Yes. This has been a cool discussion of all these things. I love this stuff. I’m a big fan of Mark Manson’s writing and definitely recommend checking out some of his stuff at markmanson.net. Then also, thank you so much to Ben for joining us and talking about all this.
Dedeker: Thank you for sharing, vulnerably, about your own experiences.
Ben: Yes. Thank you for having me. I hope I was able to contribute in a way that made an impact on someone.
Jase: Yes. No, I really appreciate it. And if people want to know more about you.
Dedeker: Yes. If anyone listened to all that and was like, that’s all fine and good, but I wanted to know more about the side hustle coaching, like that was really what I came here for.
Jase: something it would be that episode.
Ben: Well, you can have that episode one on one with me. My web address is peacethroughprogresscoaching.com. That’s peace, P-E-A-C-E. Through, T-H-R-O-U-G-H, the whole word, not abbreviated. Progress coaching, if you can’t spell those then I can’t help you at this point, dot com, peacethroughprogresscoaching.com. Just send me a direct contact there.
There’s a survey you can take, just so I can get to know you a little bit better. If you just shoot me an email, that’s the fastest way to get in touch with me. Yes, I’m here to help you make your dreams come true and live the life that you want. I’d love to work with anyone who’s interested. I think you’re a great community because you’re following some great leaders in your field.
I’m sorry for any horrible tapping sounds, I hit the table a lot when I talk, so sorry Mauricio so much you can hear that. Yes, and just thanks, thanks for all of your attention and effort.
Dedeker: Yes. We would love to hear from you. What did you think of this list? Are there other behaviors that you can think of? Do you totally disagree with the way that we’ve come down on some of these issues? Can you think of other examples where maybe some of these behaviors are less toxic or may be helpful? We would definitely love to hear from you.