For over a decade I went through relationship after relationship that followed the same script. I would jump in headfirst, we would fall in “love,” and then anywhere from six months to a year in, I would slowly distance myself and eventually move on.
None of those relationships were with someone that I wanted to build a permanent future with, so part of me assumed that I didn’t really need to work on myself.
Then, I met someone who was everything I had ever wanted in a partner. He was driven, adventurous, thoughtful, and we complimented each other extremely well.
Then a string of events came to pass which made me realize that I would either have to change my behavioral patterns or risk losing this person forever.
Losing my partner wasn’t a risk that I was willing to take, so I worked on four behaviors that I believed were toxic to our future/relationship.
#1. I cut off the relationships that no longer served me
For years after we dated I remained friends with one particular ex. Although there was nothing physical that ever happened between us after we dated, we talked far more than was healthy.
It got to the point where there were several relationships in which I used this ex as an emotional crutch when I felt like I wasn’t getting what I needed from my boyfriend.
When I met my current partner it was apparent that this behavior would be detrimental to us if I let it continue. After almost a decade of staying in touch I talked to my ex and explained that for the sake of both our emotional health, it was time to really let go.
#2. I stopped partying as if I were still in college
A few years ago I woke up in my bed with no memory of how I had gotten home the evening before. Although those types of nights were few and far between a feeling of absolute terror coursed through my body because I couldn’t remember what I had done.
Some investigation dug up the fact that a friend had called me a Lyft and sent me home. That being said, I couldn’t stop thinking about the reality that I had put myself in a dangerous situation and could have easily been taken advantage of.
From that morning on, I have never woken up without a complete recollection of what happened the evening before. That scare was the push I needed to work through my drinking and stop pushing my body to the limits.
#3. I faced the trauma that I had been running from for years
Jumping from relationship to relationship and living a life full of constant conflict and drama allowed me to avoid my past for the first part of my adult life.
Yet as it always does, my trauma began to catch up to me and I realized that for the sake of both my partner and myself, I needed to work through the pain.
An amazing therapist helped me face my past and work through it so that I could build the foundation for a better future. My therapist was able to help me work through the reasons why I was projecting past experiences with other men onto my new partner. Through extensive work, we put together a plan which has helped me grow and heal.
#4. I stopped shutting down whenever I faced conflict
Not giving into fighting was a tactic that I always prided myself on when it came to my relationships.
However, when reflecting on the past I have realized that the truth is that I never allowed for conflict. If anything arose in my relationships I would completely shut down and not engage with my partner to the point where it was as if they were talking to a wall.
Immediately my partner identified that I would shut down if there was any conflict. He confronted me about it and I felt as if I couldn’t speak. Fighting through the urge to shut down was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but I knew that if I didn’t overcome it, I would risk losing my partner.
I began working through my feelings and communicating when I felt like I was shutting down so that he could also adjust his communication tactics. Together, we figured out what works and although I still dislike conflict, I am able to approach it in a healthier way.
It’s not easy admitting that you have toxic traits
When I was a young adult and had just started dating, there were times when I would hear the phrase “He/she has baggage from their last relationship” but I never grasped what it really meant.
Then as years went by and a few scars found their way to my heart, I realized that I carried behaviors with me that had been in previous relationships. I kept repeating the same patterns over and over expecting things to end up differently that time when it always resulted in the exact same ending.
Perhaps if I had changed my patterns earlier, things would have worked out, but I like to believe that those other relationships gave me the building blocks for down the road.
Regardless of my past, when I met the person that I wanted to spend my life with, I decided to do everything I could to be the best version of myself, which included working through my toxic traits.