When you’re raised by narcissists or toxic people there's a pretty slim chance you’re going to build healthy relationships as an adult. That was certainly my case.
I stumbled through so many terrible relationships that it stripped my faith away from me for a long time. I was convinced there was no such thing as a “good relationship”. I had never seen or experience one, after all. It was a sensible thought to have.
But the truth wasn’t “all relationships are bad”. The truth was that I didn’t know how to form healthy relationships. I had never been given those skills.
Realizing this key truth changed everything. From this shift in perspective, I was able to see the different toxic patterns I was falling into and the toxic relationships I was settling for.
And you can do the same when you find the courage to open up your eyes…
The types of toxic relationships you keep falling into.
Do you keep stumbling into relationship disasters? Partners who cheat? Spouses who abuse you? Belittle you? Demean you? Shut you out, or refuse to take accountability?
When you take a step back, you can see your relationship patterns and the toxic relationships you keep falling into.
A painful first step, it’s also the only first step that allows us to take effective action in healing our relationship wounds (so we can find love for the first time).
While we all know that it has no place in love, too many of us still end up in partnerships where physical abuse is the norm.
These partners hit us, kick us, throw things at us. It’s all about making us feel fearful for our lives, or as though they have the power to end us or the relationship.
Physical disasters are always awaiting at the end of these toxic relationships. There’s no fixing them, or fixing the person who is determined to inflict pain on those around them. Sticking around won’t change things. The only option is giving yourself freedom to find a healthier love.
Do you keep picking partners who push you around? Who controls you? Who belittles you or dismisses the way you feel and the things you want? This is emotional and mental abuse.
It’s one of the most common forms of relationship abuse and one of the most toxic types of relationships we’re most willing to accept.
We allow our partners to demean us and run us down. They criticize us to the point of tears, and make us feel like every thought and every dream that we have is a sheer impossibility.
These relationships are emotional wastelands in which neither partner feels truly connected or safe (Solferino & Tessitore, 2019). Instead, you end up in endless battles and a total state of resentment and distrust. No growth can take place in these emotionally destructive partnerships.
Healthy relationships require integrity. That’s not just a base form of honesty. It includes the emotional connections and safety we feel with one another.
If your relationship doesn’t have trust and it will have even less integrity. In that space, you can’t be honest with one another. Worse, you have no desire to be honest with one another.
Feelings get bottled up and ignored. You sit on your pain and your partner does the same. You know that speaking up will only get you shot down, or worse…ridiculed.
We need integrity in our relationships. We need to know that the other person believes us, and that they’re a safe space to open up when something isn’t going right (either in the partnership or in their personal lives).
A total bore
Not all toxic relationships are turbulent and emotional ups and downs. Sometimes, the most toxic relationship we can get into is the one that’s a total bore. That’s right.
A boring relationship can be just as dangerous as any other. When you get too comfortable, or you align yourself with someone who doesn’t have the same goals, you walk into a quagmire.
You can end up resenting yourself and resenting your partner. What was a wonderful friendship becomes a nasty mess of conflict and unresolved issues. Still seeking the love and happiness you crave, you can start acting out.
Settling for a relationship that’s a total bore can cause tragic self-sabotage, which leaves lingering (and unnecessary) trauma and heartache for all involved.
For those of us raised in trauma and dysfunction, we get the extra risk of trauma bonding. With baselines set to chaos and conflict, we seek out partners who can provide us with that same sense of trauma we became accustomed to as children.
We cling to partners who recreate those traumas. We cling to partners we believe will “fix” those traumas that haunt us. What happens in the end, though, is a toxic, insecure attachment that brings you to your knees.
Look out for trauma forges. Be aware of the relationship that is created in the throes of trauma patterns and unhealthy beliefs. We repeat more of our pain that we care to admit.
Codependent relationships are built on the back of this trauma bonding. Doing everything we can, we try to please our partners, to earn their love, and to fit them in the boxes we know we need and want.
Not everyone we fall for has what it takes to be a suitable partner. Sometimes, we rush into new partnerships before we really know the other person who we’re standing next to. That’s how so many people end up with partners who are total mismatches for them in every sense of the word.
If you leap into relationships for the sake of not being alone, then you’re going to end up in a mess.
You’ll jump right into bed with partners you have nothing in common with. They will have none of the same goals. They will have none of the same ideals or even the same work ethic (in building your relationship).
We get to know who someone is by spending time with them. We experience life with them, and as we have these experiences, we also get to experience the depth of their beliefs, their values, and their dreams.
How to build better relationships…
Rushing into relationships, or settling for people who aren’t interested in growing, is always a mistake. That’s how we end up in unsatisfying and unfulfilling relationships that drive us mad with chaos and conflict. We sign ourselves up for heartbreak by being reckless in the way we give up our love.
If you want to build better relationships, then you have to build a better understanding of relationships and the skills it takes to manage them.
Become a healthier version of you. Learn how to love yourself and become your own ideal partner.
Through this process, we put ourselves on a path to authentic love. We encounter the partners who help fill us up and complement our happiness. Both are able to come to the table as equals, and we are able to recognize a more independent and stable kind of love for the first time.
What kind of love are you going to build? Are you going to keep investing in toxic and unrewarding partnerships that take you nowhere? Or are you going to take a stand for a love that doesn’t hurt and scar you?
Each day is a new opportunity to realize who you are and what you want. True love exists. Forever partnerships are waiting. Give yourself a chance to discover them by taking a stand in the name of your needs.
Solferino, N., & Tessitore, M. (2019). Human Networks and Toxic Relationships. Retrieved 7 June 2021, from http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.18615.68001