There was a banging on my window that shook me out of my sleep. Initially, I thought I was dreaming but then it happened again. Opening the window revealed my ex-boyfriend who crawled through, begging for me to take him back after our recent breakup.
It was Christmas break during my first year of college and I was in my childhood room in the house owned by my strict and religious father. Although my ex had come in unannounced it was very likely that my father wouldn’t believe me and I wasn’t willing to risk witnessing the scene that would transpire if he found a boy in my room.
Realizing my ex was drunk, I told him that he could stay until the morning but he had to sleep on the floor. Keep in mind, we lived in a small town and this was before the days of Lyft and Uber. Throwing him a blanket and pillow, I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. Suddenly a piece of paper struck me in the face. It was a letter I had written to my ex ages ago when we were much younger and still in love.
“I don’t want this anymore.” He hissed, before stumbling back to the floor and curling up in a blanket. He left the next morning before I woke and we didn’t speak again… until a few years later when we had a second relationship and I found out he was cheating on me with multiple other women.
Although he was the first of many toxic relationships, at the time I thought that I was simply unlucky when it came to love. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized I was part of the problem.
There was something deep within me that craved chaos.
It wasn’t until much later that I began to identify the reasons why I kept ending up in these tumultuous relationships.
If you are anything like me, here are the reasons why you may keep ending up in dramatic and draining relationships.
#1. You don’t know what a healthy partnership looks like
Growing up, I never saw my parents show each other any affection. My mother had numerous emotional affairs before her physical affair that broke up their thirty-year marriage. My father on the other hand was emotionally abusive and ignorant of her needs.
This resulted in bad advice and even poorer examples from both of them when it came to their children’s relationships.
My mother used to tell me that I should always have a full-face of makeup on in front of my partner and that all men only wanted one thing. My father told me that the more people I dated, the more that I would give away a part of my soul until I had nothing left to give to my “future husband.”
When you don’t have any examples in your life for what a healthy relationship looks like you are far more likely to date someone with toxic tendencies.
#2. You get a “high” from the constant emotional roller coaster
As a relationship coach, I often work with individuals who are in the recovering/processing phase with a narcissistic/toxic individual.
However, as painful as it is to go through that situation there is something almost every single one of my clients says about their unhealthy relationships.
The ups and downs were so exhiliarting they worry it will be impossible to ever have a normal relationship.
When you are accustomed to an emotional roller coaster, normal life can feel boring. There were times in my past when I would briefly date nice men that offered me stability and I would walk away from them because I was addicted to the ups and downs. That was what I believed a “normal” relationship always contained.
#3. Focusing on the chaos can be a distraction
The last unhealthy relationship that I had was with a narcissistic older man. By unhealthy, there were countless bouts of emotional and physical abuse.
Although I was eventually able to cut ties there was a moment when I almost lost my sense of self completely.
As painful and horrendous as that experience was, it caused me to take a good hard look at myself. I had spent the first few years of my adult life chasing relationships to avoid having to deal with the trauma from my childhood and teenage years.
I realized that by throwing myself into the chaos I had been able to avoid my feelings for a long time, but as I slowed down, they were all hitting me at once.
#4. You believe you are unworthy of love
A few years ago I was spending Christmas in Thailand with my boyfriend’s family. On the outside I was laughing and smiling on the inside I felt sick because a little voice in my head kept saying the same words over and over.
You don’t deserve this kind of happiness. You’re broken.
That evening as we watched the sunset from our balcony my boyfriend asked me what was wrong. I answered that I felt so guilty he had taken on my trauma, and I knew I should be happy, but instead I felt an overwhelming sadness.
My boyfriend wrapped his arms around me and simply whispered in my ear, “I hope that one day you are able to love yourself as much as I love you.”
After we got back from that holiday, I found an amazing therapist and began working through my trauma, including my childhood.
I identified the learned behaviors that had been passed on from my parents and I put together a plan to start trying to unlearn the ones that no longer served me.
When you spend most of your life in chaos, normal can feel strange. There are still days when I look around at the life I share with my partner, and I wonder how on earth I got here.
I hope that if you are reading this, you realize that you are worthy of a love that is without turmoil and destruction.
It takes self-reflection and hard work to change relationship patterns but I promise you, there is so much joy to be found beyond the chaos.