Why You Keep Getting Stuck in Toxic Relationships

E.B. Johnson

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by: E.B. Johnson (Image via Twenty20.com)

Do you keep stumbling into the same bad relationship over-and-over again? Do you choose toxic partners who abuse you, take advantage of you, or manipulate you into places you don’t want to be? In order to get ourselves on track, we have to become more aware of the patterns and beliefs that lead us to the doors of our toxic partners and spouses. Want happier, more fulfilling relationships? Be honest about the decisions you’re making and commit to falling in love with yourself.

We choose the people who fill our lives.

While we choose to pick partners who don’t have what we need, that choice is rarely (really) in our hands. It’s a choice we make based on the lessons and beliefs we carry with us through life. Were you brought up in a toxic or turbulent home? Do you have a history of bad relationships and even worse breakups? All of these tie into the decisions you make for yourself and the patterns you set in life and in love.

Our partners choose how they behave, but we choose our partners.

If we want to attract better partners into our lives, we have to accept the role we play in the process and the patterns that bring them to us. We learn how to settle for the lowest quality spouse, and that’s something we have to work hard to unlearn. That requires first identifying the root causes behind our desire to settle for toxicity, though. We have to be honest, fall in love with ourselves, and elevate our social circles through awareness and mindfulness.

Why you keep going back to toxic partners.

Do you continue to cycle through bad partners and toxic relationships? That’s not a coincidence. You’re attracting these people and opening the door for them, and there’s a reason these patterns exist.

Drama addiction

There are some people in this world who can find that they easily get hooked on drama. It may make them feel important, or it may make them feel more “at home” (if coming from a toxic upbringing). On the flip side, those who find themselves looking for excitement can find themselves stumbling into toxic relationships. Rather than seeking excitement and drama, we should be seeking connection and peace.

Bad precedents

Did you grow up in a turbulent or chaotic home? Childhood trauma and dysfunction is one of the most common reasons we find ourselves in toxic intimate relationships in adulthood (Riggs, 2010). Maybe your caretakers were toxic and taught you to love toxic people. Perhaps they chased toxic partners and handed you a lesson to do the same. Our parents set the precedent that we follow for most of our adult lives.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is one of the most toxic traits we can possess, and it’s earned from a number of experiences ranging from childhood to adulthood. When you allow the world (and toxic partners) to destroy your sense of self, you become separated from your confidence. This allows dangerous people to push in the door — and your boundary lines. When you don’t respect yourself, you won’t ensure that anyone else respects you.

Desire to sabotage

Living with low self-esteem can create a self-loathing. This self-loathing leads down the road to self-sabotage, which in itself is a toxic behavior. We often use our intimate relationships to punish ourselves and rip ourselves apart. Did you ever consider the fact that your tendency to pick toxic people is an effort to destroy yourself? You may also be afraid to commit, so you set up relationships you know will implode.

A need to “fix”

Many of us develop the toxic idea that we are responsible for “fixing” our partners. Primarily, this idea is developed in childhood. Perhaps you were taught by your parents that you had to chase partners and “fix” them in order to receive love. Or, you made endless attempts to fix a parent who was struggling with their own live. Unfortunately, you can never “fix” someone else. We make the choice to change ourselves, or we don’t.

Bad breakup habits

When you get stuck in a pattern of bad breakups, it becomes a sort of “norm” that your body and mind adjust to. This doesn’t make it healthy or normal at all, though. It’s essential that we don’t become numb to the emotional chaos in our lives, lest the patterns become so set that we are never able to overcome them. We have to cultivate awareness, no matter how painful the process may be.

Over-inflated ego

Believe it or not, ego can be one of the reasons that we fail to end the toxic partner pattern. We may be so full of ourselvesthat we refuse to see the mistakes that we’re making over-and-over again. In the same vein, we may be determined to see the good in the partners that we pick — no matter what. Because we believe that our relationship reflects on our value. To admit that we picked a bad partner would be to admit that we get things wrong.

How to break the cycle and find happiness.

It’s up to you to break the pattern and quit playing the game of toxic connection. Finding the ideal partner doesn’t come down to finding someone that looks different. It comes down to changing the way you think and the way you act. When we improve the relationship we have with ourselves, we improve the partnerships we build with others.

1. Find self-love

You can hardly attract a partner who loves and values you when you don’t love and value yourself. Self-love is the building block on which we build long-lasting relationships. When we love ourselves without condition, we learn how to love others in the same way. This attracts more selfless individuals and enables us to stand up for ourselves against those who try to take advantage of us.

If you’ve taken on a number of toxic partners because of your low self-esteem, now is the time to course correct. You do this by getting into a relationship with yourself and falling in love with that person — before anyone else.

Self-love is not selfish. It bears the same principle as putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else. You can’t be the best partner until you love and value yourself. You can’t attract the best partner until you believe in your right to have the best. Revel in your strengths. Embrace your weaknesses, and fall as deeply in love with who you are (inside and out) as you would anyone else in this world. Loving yourself is the best safeguard against potentially toxic partners.

2. Build better boundaries

Boundaries are important in every relationship, but they are especially important in our intimate relationships. Our boundaries allow us to communicate what we want and what we expect. It also allows us to remain in a state of comfort in our environments, while protecting us from those who would come in and destroy our wellbeing. The stronger our boundaries, the stronger our relationships are.

It’s time for you to set stronger boundaries — both for yourself and for those around you. You need to set a line for yourself when it comes to relationships and make sure that you don’t cross it. Likewise, you need to ensure that you stop allowing others to cross your boundary lines and demand respect in and out of your intimate relationships.

Get clear on who you want to be surrounded by, and how you want to be treated by them. Figure out what you expect from a relationship and also take some time to figure out where your absolute bottom line is. What behaviors are you absolutely unwilling to tolerate? When does a quirk become a point of disrespect? You’re the only one who can figure out where the line of your comfort lies. Be radically honest and explicit when setting your boundaries.

3. Cultivate self-awareness

How much time have you committed to increasing your self-awareness? In order for you to spot your patterns and stop them, you need to develop the ability to view your life (and your thoughts) from a higher, removed place. Awareness is a powerful tool, and one that can enable us to identify more wholesome, committed partners who want to come into our lives. Build greater self-awareness and you will gain more control over the quality of your relationships.

Stop running from the truth and embrace a higher awareness of self. You need to listen to your elevated thoughts; you need to listen to your intuition, and you need to listen to your emotions. What happens when you settle for a toxic person? How is your inner world destroyed? How is your happiness wrecked?

Become aware too of your needs. What do you truly value in a relationship? What does the ideal partner look like to you? You need to have a clear picture of this person and an unwavering belief in your right to be with them. The more aware you become of your needs and your wants, the less willing you will be to settle for toxic people who offer you neither of those things. Embracing your emotions and your needs will improve your ability to identify those who really value and love you.

4. Elevate your social circles

We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with, and the same can be said of the people we invest in romantically. Our partners (more often than not) come from the reaches of our social circles. By elevating our social circles, we elevate the opportunities we have to connect with someone who’s aligned with us. Our friends and loved ones should be a reflection of who we are, who we want to be, and what we love about life.

Elevate your social circles and start surrounding yourself with a higher caliber of person. Look around. Are your closest friends there because they love you? Or are they there because of what you have to offer them? Look back at your past partners? Have you been settling for those who don’t have your best interests at heart?

Take an inventory of your social circles and pay special attention to anyone you may be romantically interested in. Do they bring more positive into your life than negative? Do they constantly take from you, but never offer anything in return? Consider what your ideal friend or partner looks like. How do they treat you? How do they make you feel? These are the people we should be pursuing, not those who destroy our lives with their toxic behavior.

5. Get away from negativity

You don’t have to entertain negative people and negative partners. Even if you’ve been taught to settle, you can stop that pattern by mindfully committing to different behaviors and decisions. One way to do that is by mindfully distancing yourself from negativity and negative people. Build walls around your wellbeing and you’ll build more stable relationships in which you are authentically valued.

Build a wall between yourself and the negative people in your life. Our partners come from the pool of people we have around us. If you surround yourself with dangerous, manipulative, or negative people — those are the partners you’re going to find.

Distance yourself from negativity. Build a wall against it in your life. Cut out the negative people and the negative situations that you can. Fill their space with people who love you and experiences that make you feel as though your life is rewarding. Back away from the bad so that you can embrace the good. Distance is a good thing when it comes to minimizing the opportunity for bad or toxic partners to come into our lives. Stop running toward things you know aren’t good for you.

Putting it all together…

If you have a pattern of falling for toxic partners, it’s up to you to overcome it. We decide who we bring into our lives, and we decide to settle or stand up for the right partnership. Instead of tumbling from one toxic partner to the next, we have to make a stand for our happiness. Break the cycle by getting to the root of your willingness to settle for less than you deserve.

First, fall in love with yourself before anyone else. When you love yourself, you create a sense of self-esteem and the courage to go after the life (and relationships) that you actually want. Set stronger boundaries for the people who enter your life, but set strong limits for yourself as well. Don’t cross the line and put yourself in compromising positions. Build a greater self-awareness and come to realize your own toxic tendencies and behaviors. Elevate your social circles and stop surrounding yourself with people who want to take more from you than they give. Above all else, though, distance yourself from negativity and negative people. When you leave the door open for the bad, you leave the door open for bad partners to come in. Protect yourself and your wellbeing by correcting the patterns.

  • Riggs, S. (2010). Childhood Emotional Abuse and the Attachment System Across the Life Cycle: What Theory and Research Tell Us. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 19(1), 5–51. doi: 10.1080/10926770903475968

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Writer. Host. Certified coach. Host of the Practical Growth Pod. Master Practitioner NLP. Get all my books and resources at the link below.

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