The Montfort Group

The Most Common Toxic Relationship Pattern (And How to Break It)

Toxic relationship patterns are repetitive behaviors couples carry out that damage their bond. One of the most common is often called “demand and withdraw.” One person issues demands and their partner gives them the silent treatment. Here’s why the pattern’s toxic and how to break free from its clutches.

How Toxic Relationship Patterns Damage Your Relationship

When couples engage in the demand and withdraw pattern, they communicate in a harmful way. Demanding your partner behave as you wish gives them only two alternatives. They can give in and become the underdog, or they can fight. This is a toxic relationship pattern.

Neither option fills their need for kindness and respect.

Withdrawal is passive-aggressive behavior, whereby the individual who refuses to talk about the issue silently seethes, building resentment. Not discussing the matter leaves their partner in limbo. No solution can be found without a conversation, and the problem grows.

How to Break the Cycle

If you recognize you and your partner are stuck in a demand and withdraw pattern, you can break free. You aren’t in charge of how your partner behaves, but you can alter the way you respond to challenges in your relationship. 

Rather than making demands, you can talk about your needs and how you feel. Doing so gives your partner the chance to take steps to remedy the situation and help you, or for a mutually agreeable discussion to take place where they explain why they can’t fulfill your need.

If, on the other hand, you are usually the one to withdraw, you can stay with the conversation. Explain you would like to know why having the demands issued met is important to your partner. Get him/her to open up and chat about the feelings behind the appeals made so you learn to talk together in a less threatening way. 

You can also talk about how demands push you into a corner and don’t give you the freedom to express your needs. Once the toxic relationship pattern is broken, discuss how making requests rather than demands are helpful, and the way sticking with conversations instead of leaving paves the way for solutions.

Come Together

This toxic relationship pattern disconnects you from your partner, leaving you both resentful and unhappy. However, you can respond differently to the challenges you face and alter the habit of sabotaging peace in your relationship. Steer conversations toward fulfilling needs so you understand each other better and you will be closer after talking rather than further apart.  

Work on your relationship patterns with us. Contact The Montfort Group in Plano today.

Cory Montfort, MS, LPC-S

Cory Montfort, MS, LPC-S

I completed my Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University where I specialized in working with individuals, couples, and families. I have extensive experience working within the mental health community facilitating groups, conducting assessments, counseling individuals, and performing crisis intervention. I hold an active License in Professional Counseling and am also a board-approved Counselor Supervisor for the state of Texas.

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