Both healthy and toxic love lead us to make many mistakes. In large measure because we do not realize that we learn to love little by little.
Last update: October 01, 2022
People form bonds from the moment they are born. Perhaps to love, or its derivative to love, are the verbs that we most conjugate during our life path; yet, we rarely do this explicitly. But who teaches us to love? What are the learning tools and resources we have available to do this? If it is so important to love, why isn't there a subject in school that teaches us to distinguish between healthy love and toxic love?
The answer is simple: we rarely stop to think that we learn to love step by step, which is a way of acting that is assimilated with experience. To a large extent, we think so because we don't have memories of moments we never loved.
Our first word comes after the first hug. We begin our schooling long after missing someone for the first time. We are born totally dependent: we depend on the will of others, or rather, on the love of others to survive.
Also, just as we don't take into account the fact that healthy love is learned, we don't usually question how we manifest it.
We are quite good at noticing the wrong gestures of others, vice versa generally we are not very good at identifying them in our behavioral model.
Love and brain
To a large extent this occurs because in the brain, loving implies protecting, taking care of the other.
Positive verbs that represent, in principle, healthy love and that go in the opposite direction of harming, hurting or treating someone badly.
Also, when we see that one person treats or manipulates another, we usually don't think that you love them. We question the feeling, not the way to manifest it, when in reality what fails is the way to manifest it.
we engage in behavior that harms the people we love
We often behave badly, moving away from healthy love. On the other hand, there are people who act according to systematic relational patterns that are capable of harming the partner.
In this article we will talk about the main differences between healthy love and toxic love. For this purpose, we will take couple relationships as a reference, but these indicators can also be used for any other relationship between two people where the essence of the bond is emotional.
5 differences between healthy love and toxic love
In the first phase of a relationship, the intensity is usually very high. What will the other be doing? What worries him? Do you feel good? What can I do to spend a little more time with him / her today?
In this sense, as Katie Hood says, it is not so important how a relationship begins, but how it continues.
In any case, however intense the relationship may be in the beginning, it is important to evaluate how it feels; that is, if the other, animated by a strong desire to be with you, also knows how to leave you moments to breathe.
It is necessary to assess whether their "hunger" for knowledge is aimed at discovering who you really are or if, on the contrary, it is aimed at controlling your movements.
The intensity at the beginning of the relationship often masks the symptoms of a wrong way of loving. Yet, at this early stage, love is often healthy, until it changes when the relationship stabilizes. In this sense, if the beginning is important, the evolution of the relationship is more important.
People who love in a pathological way tend from the beginning to remove the partner from one's social circle rather than trying to integrate.
They severely judge the possible mistakes that the environment can make with the person they love and, far from seeking reconciliation, they tend to try to separate.
They draw up a list of negative things and recite it to the other, animating the confrontation and, consequently, the distancing. “I told you that your brother is selfish”, “Your friend just wants to take advantage of you”, “You yourself told me that two years ago you were sick and he called you very few times”.
We have all used these phrases at least once. This conduct is very common in people who want to monopolize all the space of the partner.
Often these behaviors occur instinctively, without thinking about it. We all happen to behave selfishly towards our partner, but it's important to keep in mind that we can do better.
The need for control
As a rule, the more control over our environment, the more confident we feel about ourselves. Taking a certain course and seeing that with it we get a direct or indirect influence on the behavior of others is always a positive reinforcement.
When we love the wrong way, this need or will transcends the boundaries between what is healthy and what is not.
The problem arises from an error of judgment: consider the partner as an extension of ourselves. Or, to think that we are in a superior position to the other, like a general leading an army from his control tower. "You have to do what I tell you", "All you do is make mistakes, you'd better pay attention to me."
Jealousy stems from a misunderstanding that leads us to think that the partner is our property. Many times we don't realize that we treat people as if they were cars, land or houses.
To recover what we think we can lose, we can say phrases like "you don't love me like you used to". On the other hand, extreme jealousy, far from healthy love, also manifests itself in distrust.
“Why did it take you so long?
"The meeting lasted longer than expected."
"Yes, of course."
That "yes, sure" is a "I don't believe you". It's a cowardly way of saying, "I didn't like the fact that you were late." I mean, if you're late again, you better have a good reason.
Many forms of wanting evil have to do with the wrong formulation of our desires in which the other is a liar, someone who pays little attention to us or doesn't care how we feel.
Healthy and toxic love: contempt
“Why are you trying so hard? We both know you won't make it ”. We all felt that our partner set a goal beyond his reach.
We were all tempted to spare him that suffering. But healthy love involves negotiating with our own temptations, with what we would do on impulse.
However, people often have resources that we don't know about. Yet we tend to ignore these resources, because they require a greater expenditure of energy. If we gave them a hand, it would be easier to achieve that goal.
Loving in a healthy way also means allowing the other to learn wrongly and to value their abilities. Maybe the goal is achievable: it's just a matter of changing strategy.
For example, we can reduce our working hours and let the partner have an extra afternoon to prepare for exams. Or sacrifice some time after dinner to help him prepare for an important interview. Take a look at his resume and help him improve the content and design.
To love is to build rather than destroy. To love sincerely implies sharing our vision of reality, to the extent that it helps the other.
There is a much more subtle form of contempt which consists of treating the other as if he were crazy, accusing him of being too sensitive because he reacted after making a very offensive comment. Many people criticize their partner in front of relatives and friends, with actions or words that should be reserved for the intimate sphere.
Others point out their partner's mistakes, ignoring the fact that perhaps those mistakes are the natural consequence of failing to fulfill our responsibilities.
Healthy love begins by putting ourselves in the other's shoes
Healthy love begins with putting yourself in the other's shoes. It is animated by the effort to know rather than judge, by the humility of recognizing that our vision will certainly be much more partial in making decisions.
To love, in the frame of healthy love, implies understanding that one can love better. Because it is a field in which to continue learning, honestly and keeping to ourselves that part that we could consider sincerity, but that contributes little or nothing to the relationship.
To love in a healthy way means to allow the other to help us, value his efforts and increase his self-esteem. The temptation to put him in a vulnerable position must be avoided to increase his insecurity and gain control over his life.
On the other hand, it can also happen that it is the partner who loves us in the wrong way. In these cases, we have the opportunity to tell them. "Mom, dad, grandpa, brother, I know you love me, but you're not doing it right." Many ways of loving can simply change with this sentence, with an invitation to the other to reflect.
As for the acceptance process, there will be times when we will have to move away from people who are unable to harbor healthy love.
Learning to distance ourselves, for our good, from the people who really love us but at the same time hurt us, is fundamental. Yet even this is not taught to us in school.