Based on the overwhelming popularity of “Chick Flicks,” romantic comedy movies, and romantic novels alone, we can agree that despite obstacles and mutual distrust, romantic relationships are still very important in our society.
While we have tons of television shows, websites, and magazines showing us how to find, nurture, and communicate love, less attention goes toward showing us how to protect our romantic relationships. It’s worth mentioning that anything we value we must also be willing to defend. And because our romantic relationships (especially marriage or long-term coupling) are precious we absolutely must guard them against people who seek to sabotage them.
Yes, I used to term “sabotage!” Observe any barbershop, hair salon, church, or street discussion about relationships and this topic will inevitably emerge. Who would want to create distrust, tension or disaster in your relationships you ask? Strangers don’t know you or your significant other, so eliminate them as your primary suspects (although this is possible.) Sadly enough, the main people who might want to ruin your blissful love are those you know well and even trust. The key culprits are family members, close friends, and co-workers.
Now you’re asking, “But why would my relatives, friends or co-workers want to destroy my relationship? Aren’t they happy that I”m in love?” Relationship killers are usually people who are bitter due to their own past (or present) experience of being in disappointing, dishonest, abusive or dead-end relationships. Perhaps the person they really loved and sacrificed for, slept with someone else…maybe even a friend or relative of theirs. The potential for relationship bitterness grows when the person in question has a long pattern of sad or hurtful dating experiences. You know the type. They can’t name one relationship that was loving and rewarding…every man or woman they ever dated stole from them, hit them, made them feel ugly and worthless, or cheated.
I’ve been involved in toxic relationships, but only a grand total of two. One woman cheated on me, and unfairly attempted to disrupt my financial health for years afterwards. The other was verbally and psychologically abusive, manipulative, and very selfish and controlling. However she expected me to be loving, nurturing and emotionally accessible whenever she demanded it, and wanted to have control of my finances as well! But I’d be lying if I said ALL of my relationships were toxic. In fact, some were healthy and satisfying. We simply grew apart or came to see we had different expectations or priorities.
So any person that has one toxic relationship after another is probably bad news. People like this blame all their relationship woes on their partners and fail to hold themselves accountable for any of the dysfunction. Such individuals will never experience happiness in the romantic realm until they first deal with and overcome their own demons and self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Only then will they be able to freely love and be loved in return.
Not all relationship-killers operate from the standpoint of bitterness or past hurts however. The second category of people want to destroy or “throw salt” on your relationship simply because they are jealous of you, and/or the love you share with your partner. It literally upsets them to know you are so in love, meanwhile they don’t have a mate at all or one as loving (or attractive, sexy, intelligent or successful) as yours. They find themselves privately asking, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t’ I have someone who loves me, speaks to me and treats ME like that?” “Why does he/she have the type of relationship or mate I want?” “He or she is not better than ME!”
Whether motivated by bitterness, insecurity or jealousy, these are some of the signs that your friend, relative, or co-worker might qualify as a relationship-killer:
- They act inhospitable or unnecessarily hostile with your mate: They may fail to acknowledge his or her presence, speak to your mate sarcastically or not at all, or they may directly insult them in any number of ways.
- They accuse your love interest of being dishonest or unfaithful without evidence to suggest the charge. Sometimes this will come indirectly in the guise of “I know you think the world of this guy/girl, but none of these men or women are faithful, you know.”
- They confront you with a barrage of negative questions designed to make you distrust or doubt the integrity or intentions of your partner: “When is he finally going to propose to you? What’s taking him so long?” “Yeah that was a nice gift she gave or poem she wrote, but don’t you think he/she does that with everybody?” “I know you say you love him, but are you REALLY happy with him?” “If he/she REALLY loved you, they would have bought you this, took you there, or gave you this much money.” “She’s always busy. Are you sure she’s really going or doing what they told you?”
- They will try to make you feel guilty for spending quality time with your mate and not enough time with them…even though they do the same thing when they’re in a relationship! Let’s keep it real…
- They will compare him or her negatively to your former love and even suggest your ex was better for you and that you should go back to them.
- Without having the inside information to make such an assessment, they may suggest that your love is more sincere, demonstrative and reliable than your mate’s and that you “deserve better.”
- They will plead for you to hang out with them more, which in normal circumstances, would be completely understandable. But a relationship-killer has ulterior motives. They either want to take up all of your leisure time in an effort to cause problems with your partner, infect you with distrust in him/her, or they will make repeated efforts to “hook you up” with other people at the club or bar/lounge.
Any trustworthy friend, co-worker or relative that cares about you should be protective of your feelings and happiness. There are times when any one of these people might make accurate and sincere observations about your relationship, but this should be based on accurate information. When they become too pushy in their efforts or overly negative without good cause, you should beware of ulterior motives.
Thankfully, there are ways you can deal with a relationship-killer who has malicious and unreasonable suspicions or intentions concerning your relationship:
- Develop an open and honest line of communication with your mate.
- Trust your own understanding of your mate, how he/she makes you feel, and your own relationship instincts.
- Be discrete about what information you share with people.
- Be balanced. Create quality time for your love interest and your friends and other important people in your life.
- Truly strive to know your partner and resist the temptation to see him or her as perfect. You cannot do this until you have observed them when they are angry, sad, happy, tired, disappointed, and grumpy. When you truly know and understand the person you’re dealing with, no outside opinions can misguide you in the first place.
- Always remind yourself of the person giving you all of this “advice.” Are they involved in a loving and honest relationship, have they ever been in one, and if not, are they qualified to advise you about yours?
- Identify the people in your circle that truly love and care about you when things are great and when things are shaky. Remember the people who tend to practice what they preach and tend to be level-headed in their own lives. Identify those who are honest with you and offer reasonable advice. These are usually the people whose observations are the most sincere and relevant to you.
- Remind yourself that you are entitled to have a healthy romantic relationship if you so choose, and that if your relationship ends, it will be the choice and input of yourself and your partner, not outside forces.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org