If you are reading this, you probably either have been involved in or had a front row seat to watch someone else’s toxic relationship unfold. I have had the privilege of experiencing both, and yes I meant privilege. My toxic relationships are what got me healthy. It was like a boot camp for emotional/mental health. Does it work that way for all people? No, but it works that way for the people who ask to be better, stronger, braver, and more compassionate. Toxic relationships show us our darkest shadows and our biggest attributes. When we take the relationship by the reigns and start seeing it as an opportunity to look at ourselves, we come out shining!
(If you are involved in a physically abusive relationship, PLEASE consult with a professional who specializes in domestic violence. There are safety precautions that may be necessary. When we start getting healthier, an abuser can get more violent in the transition. Sick people like to keep us sick. They will do their best to keep us down. PLEASE, first and foremost always keep yourself safe. This doesn’t mean stay, it just means you have to use more caution.)
Awareness is Key
First, we must see our part in our unhealthy relationship. This wasn’t easy for me. There were many realities I avoided facing when I was involved in these relationships. I wish I could say that it only took one bad relationship to figure out my stuff, but I will just say, even in a healthy relationship, I still get faced with some of the darker sides of me. The difference is awareness and using healthy tools to not let darkness cast a shadow on my joy. Here is what I picked up along the way:
1. Law of Attraction is always at play
If we are in a toxic relationship, we attracted it to us. The question is why? My self-worth was part of that answer for me. I had no idea how cruel I was to myself. Over time, I learned I could only accept the amount of abuse that I gave to myself. If it went over the cruelty of how I treated myself, I would leave. When I realized I attracted the relationships, I saw that they acted as a mirror of how I was treating myself. I had to start to dig deep to figure out what it was that I didn’t like about myself. I will tell you, it wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of tears and layers of shame and guilt that went all the way back to childhood. OUCH! I didn’t realize how much I avoided looking at myself until I learned from a college professor that we are as sick as our partners. It may present differently, but if we are in the relationship we are responsible for our part of the sickness.
Another big piece of my attraction to these chaotic relationships was codependency. I was attracting unhealthy partners because I needed to be assigned a savior role…YIKES! I don’t like admitting it, but I wanted to rescue someone from the trenches. Really, anything to avoid looking at what was holding me back.
After facing the darkest parts of me, I had to figure out what I did want in a relationship, so I made a VERY long list. I kept it positive and used language such as, I want someone who lives a healthy lifestyle. Instead of saying, I don’t want a smoker. I learned the hard way that when we focus on the don’t, we get it! If I love and respect myself, I will attract the same qualities in a partner.
2. If I’m reacting, I’m triggered
If I am engaging in the very behavior I’m condoning, I’m just as much at fault for the results. Here’s a lesson I needed to learn, there doesn’t have to be a screaming match. When two people are screaming at each other no one gets heard. We are not listening, we are fighting to be right.
When I’m hurt by my partner’s behavior, it’s usually because of some unhealed part of me from the past. I may be reacting to their defense mechanisms that were familiar to me from a previous relationship. I might be reacting to my old defense mechanisms. What I realized is that even just a silly word can throw everything off. The word may not even have the same meaning for the person in front of me, yet because I’m reacting to an unhealed hurt, I react out of fear.
3. I Can’t Hide from My Insecurities
We can’t hide from our insecurities. They will find us!! We need to deal with them instead of covering them up or masking them. All we will do is create problems that don’t need to be there. If we have jealousy issues, it is our job to look at ourselves before taking them out on our partners. If I don’t trust my partner to be loyal, I obviously have trust issues. Is it because I chose a man who is not ready to commit? Have I lied to myself about how ready I am to be in this relationship? The truth is, when we are healthy we realize we don’t HAVE to trust the person we are with, we have to trust ourselves. We NEED to trust our intuition, guts, and instincts. When we are healthy, we are not carrying around all the hurts of our past. We aren’t held hostage by old relationships. When we are loyal to ourselves, we attract loyal people.
Any relationship, toxic or not is a great place to see where our insecurities are holding us back. My thoughts about my relationships show me so much about how my own internal dialog is getting in my way. As I get healthier, I have watched the dialog change. I have learned more efficient ways of communicating without taking my insecurities out on my partner.
4. If I Don’t Love Myself, I Won’t Attract A Healthy Partner
How can we recognize something we don’t know at our own core? My toxic relationships really pointed out how much I didn’t know about what love is. I would make excuses for abuse. I held onto empty words and promises. I allowed them to be disrespectful to me in private and in public, yet I would defend their love for me, or what I thought was love. The truth is, until I learned to love myself, I didn’t know what peace was. I had no idea how much I perpetuated my self-hate by the relationships I was choosing.
5. Giving Too Much is NOT Healthy
When I give to others to the point where I’m not taking care of myself, I’m not acting in a healthy manner. Self-care is essential. When I became resentful of what I was contributing to the relationship, because they weren’t giving back, I was putting their needs before mine. Not only does the law of attraction always work for me, but it always works for them too. If my partner wants someone who will take care of them and put them first. They put that out there. Maybe that is what they are used to, it may be what their mom did for them. The vicious cycle continues and we are now the caretaker they attracted. I attracted them, because I wanted to feel needed.
Now, I realize that my self-care is important. If I’m giving too much, I stop taking it out on my partner and I start putting the attention I was putting into them into taking care of myself. This can be hard getting used to, but I can tell you it makes for much healthier relationships. We both get the best of me, and I am able to receive and recognize the best in return.
6. I’m Responsible for My Happiness or Unhappiness
No other person can control my feelings. I choose how I feel. I choose the actions that lead me to feeling better our worse. I choose to perceive situations that feed the direction I’m subconsciously or consciously going. Learning that I’m not responsible for other people’s thoughts and feelings helps me continue to grow. My job is to do the best I can at whatever I’m investing my time in. If that is not enough for someone, then maybe we are not the right fit. I need to hold myself accountable for what energy I’m putting into a relationship. If I don’t want a toxic relationship, I can’t put out toxic energy. I need to watch where I’m focusing my thoughts and feelings. Am I getting caught up in other people’s drama? Am I watching television that makes me feel anxious and angry all the time? Can I see more solutions or more problems?
After figuring those things out, I need to figure out what actions I need to take in order to engage in a more loving energy. Do I need to volunteer my time to a cause? Do I need to spend more quality time with loved ones? Do I need to invest more time and effort into self-care?
Overall, I grew by understand that I had to change in order to change the relationship. Leaving toxic relationships behind was a true achievement for me. They taught me SO much and made me the loving person I am today. I’m grateful for the lessons and the awareness. Life is now what I hoped it would be. Even my darkest days have light, because I know I’m growing stronger, braver, and more loving with each passing day.
With Love and Gratitude,
If you liked this piece, check out the rest of my work by exploring my past work. You can also choose to follow this blog via e-mail. Just keep scrolling down. Whatever you choose, I hope you are working your way to a better tomorrow.