© 2019 Alexandra Maria Santos.  All rights reserved

The difference between a healthy and toxic relationship is how partners intentionally choose to work with each other’s triggers and vulnerabilities, and this is the motto of this article.

Anytime a committed couple faces a crisis, whether from inside or outside the relationship, they move automatically toward strengthening their bond. They expect that there will always be threats to their connection, and that love can always weaken under continued onslaughts. These are the times when they make their relationship their highest priority and find reasons to be grateful for what they have.

When outside influences undermine their faith in the relationship, they talk openly about those vulnerabilities. Their honest and intimate capability to communicate allows them to talk about virtual outcomes without their having to live through them, and to revitalize their relationship if the threats take hold.

We crave successful and healthy romantic relationships, or at least that’s the thing we consciously need and want. In this particular article, I will share with you one story, because more than psychological terms, we need real events to understand how we can damage our relationships if we aren’t careful.

A few days ago a man, whom I know, texted me on Facebook messenger because I posted a picture of my partner wearing the Sporting Lisbon Club shirt. Not really surprisingly, the conversation went to one sphere that most of you, perhaps, had faced before.
Seemingly harmless conversations to understand how strong the bond with your partner is, and if there is any chance to erode.


Man: Sporting shirt?!

Me: Yes, a Lion is a Lion.

Man: I thought you had found a good man, but it doesn’t seem that. In bed, he should be a lion and protect you, outside better find another club.

Me: He is a lion inside and outside the bed, Portuguese men don’t satisfy me, and are intellectual repulsive for that reason my actual partner is a foreigner.

Man: I’m sure he is a lion, and glad he is! You deserve the best Alexandra I was trying to make a joke about the club.

I believe someone insecure or unhappy with the relationship would take the sex thing and lead this conversation into flirting terms, and what more, only “god” knows.
Days before this episode, my partner faced something similar where it was shown to him a conversation between girls talking about how cute he is but unfortunately has a girlfriend. At least, I have to thank my partner for his honesty and share with me the situation.

In Emotional Intelligence terms, we can identify the following questions:

  1. What is the propose of sharing “bullshit” and trying conversations with sexual connotations, knowing you are in one relationship?
  2. How do they deal with emotional pressure and demands in one relationship?
  3. Are these people aware of the implications and consequences of their “inoffensive” acts towards other’s relationships?
  4. Do they have the ability to use other’s shoes and feel what they might feel?
  5. In this “fucking” social media fake era, is everything allowed?
  6. Can we trust these people?
  7. What is the real meaning of friendship?
  8. How should the couple react? What strategies should be applied?

Let’s be clear those situations have a subtle touch of naughtiness and debauchery. It’s like throwing clay at the wall to see if there are vulnerabilities between the couple, erode trust and in the future replace partner emotional support.

Wyndol Furman, Ph.D. is clear: “don’t commit to a relationship unless you and your partner had experienced a difficult time and has found in each other, helpful support.”

Being in a relationship is using insight about each other’s vulnerabilities, and insecurities as a way to protect us in private and public places.

One of the reasons we pair up is to have a safe zone that protects us and gives us peace to relax. Sadly, partners in a committed relationship often fail to see each other as allies against the attacker’s life throws at them; work, stress, or intruders trying to seduce them. The truth is holding off committing to your partner to protect yourself only blocks yourself. The relationship is a synonym of Interdependence not of Independence.

True security in a relationship requires interdependence.

Interdependence is the ability to depend on your partner while also being able to stand on your own feet. To take the responsibility for your part of the relationship.

Emotionally unavailable people don’t like hearing what their partner thinks about or feels if it’s not what they want to hear.

To love isn’t only want, is understand.

In attachment world, we evaluate how well partners offer each other a safe haven – a place of emotional and physical refuge – when one of them is hurt, and a secure base from which they can go explore the world with curiosity knowing that they have a person who is cheering them on and will be there if needed.

Making time to give and ask for support is a key way in which you can show your partner that you care for them, understand what they’re going through, and have their back. How we provide that support and what we say is crucial. 

Not keeping secrets is a vulnerable place, but it is the only place that allows you to invest in the relationship and get the returns you deeply need.

To conclude,

We can’t underestimate the importance of one stable social circle beyond your intimate relationship, but a real friendship never adopts behaviors that can threaten your relationship. A real friend will ask how is your partner, will be happy because you are happy. Will respect you and never tease you with images or conversations that, deep inside, they know it’s wrong to share or have.


A relationship between committed partners is like The Three Musketeers. The symbolic triangle of long-lasting love is made up of each individual partner and the synergistic creation you think of as the relationship between them. That means that each part of the triad supports the other two.

This devotion is neither blind nor automatic. The partners in an honest, up-to-date relationship know that either voice is a representative of the other and each partner strives to speak accurately and authentically for what the other wants and needs. When either partner or the relationship, itself, is threatened in any way, the unit becomes stronger.

These couples grow closer when their relationship is challenged by outside influences. They trust each other’s truths first and are not led astray by other’s negative stories. Their intention is to become more as one, to create a union grown stronger by loyalty and support. That means that any outside influences that pull one partner away from the other are challenged by both. 

Do you know the song I’ll stand by you, from The Pretenders?

Oh, why you look so sad, the tears are in your eyes,
Come on and come to me now, and don’t be ashamed to cry,
Let me see you through, ‘cause I’ve seen the dark side too.
When the night falls on you, you don’t know what to do,
Nothing you confess could make me love you less

It represents what love and a relationship should be, your HOME!

With almost 35 years old I would have so much to say, but with this article, I want to wish you well, and please don’t engage in things that you will regret later and hurt others.

“People may know what a healthy romantic relationship looks like, but most don’t know how to get one. Psychologist and researcher Joanne Davila describes how you can create the things that lead to healthy relationships and reduce the things that lead to unhealthy ones using three evidence-based skills – insight, mutuality, and emotion regulation. Share this with everyone who wants to have a healthy relationship.”

With love,

Alexandra Santos

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4 comentários

  1. Hi Alexandra. Congratulations on another great article. As a psychologist I found the content of your article very interesting, explanatory and makes us wonder how a healthy relationship should be. Respect, trust, communication, empathy and interdependence are the most important pillars for building a solid and healthy relationship. And this work and investment must be done together, side by side and eye to eye, not letting third-party toxicity and emotional dependency gain ground. A happy and healthy relationship is a work for two and requires great maturity and personal and emotional growth. Best wishes.



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