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Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

Although it seems like an unsolvable mystery, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Yes, there is an underlying pattern to always getting into toxic relationships, but in order to break this pattern, you must take a look at the bigger picture…

For example, you may end up getting into toxic relationships if you rush into the relationship and commit too soon before knowing the other person well enough, ignore the red flags, or are part of the vicious cycle.

But once again, you must take a look at the bigger picture. These simple points won’t help you understand the depth of the issue.

In this article, we will take a look at the underneath reasons, as well as the solution to this frustrating and persistent problem.

Case in point, there are two main reasons why we repeatedly end up in toxic relationships:

  1. A wrong concept of what a relationship must be
  2. Our own unresolved emotional conflict.

Both problems arise from that deep-seated, cultural aversion to deal with emotions… because we don’t know how to do it. But more on that later.

Let’s first take a look at why having a wrong concept of what relationships should be can send you to the wrong person’s arms.

A Wrong Concept of a Relationship

Think about it for a moment, how is it that toxic relationships evolve? From beginning to end.

My model goes as follows and you can see this patter in all toxic relationships:

First comes infatuation. We often base relationships on physicality. And once physical, sexual attraction is covered we have sufficient elements to start a romantic interaction.

With little knowledge of how the other person behaves in a serious relationship, we delve into the next phase of toxic relationships: The honeymoon phase.

Now, I am not saying that attraction and the honeymoon phase are in themselves toxic. No, they can be perfectly sane, but you will see how this gives room for the future toxicity to slip by unnoticed…

Phase two is the honeymoon phase, and here the usual is to overlook the toxicity. To hide traits of personality that we know may be a problem for the other…

But it’s all right! We’re “falling in love”, right? It is ok to hide undesirable aspects of ourselves. This is how love works.

Wrong!

Our whole social conditioning is wrong here, because, in stark contrast to what you may be thinking, love is rational. Of course, it is mainly emotional, but if we forget about the rational part, everything is lost.

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We allow toxic behaviors. We ignore the red flags… and all in the name of love.

But that’s part of the next phase. The honeymoon phase of idealization and omission is unsustainable. And so, the toxicity will start spilling over. That’s when the next phase begins…

The masks-off phase.

This is when, after feeling a certain security in the relationship, we allow the toxicity to show.

There is enough trust, we are more invested in the relationship and we no longer bother in hiding or concealing the toxicity.

As an example, this often happens after marriage to couples who don’t have enough experience with the other person in terms of coexistence.

But it can happen earlier and without necessarily being married. The important thing to remember is that it is a phase where the toxic partner starts pushing boundaries.

And lastly decay and separation.

You already know what that is: conflict, deterioration and eventual separation.

But what does this have to do with constantly getting into toxic relationships?

The fact that this whole model is wrong and you cannot rely on it.

This model is socially ‘normal’ and we think things must be this way. But you must reject it and instead, use a model that allows for honesty and transparency.

Instead of rushing into commitment after every light turns green (physical attraction, then honeymoon phase, then increased commitment), you must take your time to get to know the other person — to really know them deeply and honestly.

Step 1: Take your time to know the other person and never rush

Never follow the same “requirements” for a relationship.

If a successful honeymoon phase is enough for most, demand more of yourself and the relationship. Don’t deepen the commitment unless you know the honeymoon phase is over and still, the love is there.

Step 2: Never ignore the red flags

Or, to put it in better terms, to remember that love is rational.

If you ever find yourself justifying an unacceptable behavior, a harmful reaction, a damaging attitude… you are in front of a red flag. Don’t lie to yourself.

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If your relationship stays rational, if it stands the test of what a non-toxic relationship is… that’s good.

And you will realize you don’t need to rush. You can extend the period of knowing the other person for as long as you want, until you are convinced it is something you want.

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid feelings. Not at all, feel as much as you want, enjoy love to its fullest… but don’t call it love when it is hurting you.

That is not love. That’s just lying to yourself and fostering a toxic relationship.

Remember that it’s never late to end a relationship that is not good for you.

If you failed to see the red flags, if you rushed through the process and are now involved in a toxic relationship, take the step and end it.

Yes, there are cases when the relationship can be repaired, but honestly that is very rare.

It is much better to be patient and to get to know the other person fully before taking a step in the wrong direction with them.

In this day and age, we are in desperate need of honesty in all aspects.

That’s what you must ask of the other person… but how can you expect honesty? How will you know if the other person is transparent and honest?

You cannot know it. But the best thing you can do is to first bring that to the relationship.

Be the change you want to see may sound like a cliché, but it woks wonders in relationships.

That’s another thing that is wrong with how we conduct ourselves in relationships. We take honesty for granted. But in reality, people are flexible in this aspect.

Step 3: Remove the ambiguity

We assume the other will be honest and never talk about it. We never make a big deal of it.

And the same goes for love. Maybe honesty is there, but if love is not we can end up with an abusive partner.

The cornerstone of a healthy relationship is made of both love and honesty.

Love may be taken away at moments to condition or manipulate the other.

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And when dishonesty starts appearing, it does so in small ways. That’s part of the masks-off phase.

It starts as little things that can be overlooked. And where do you think this all ends?

Exactly! In tortuous and complicated relationships destined to failure!

What I mean with this is:

Make honesty a big deal. Make love a big deal.

And be the change. Be both loving and honest.

Be explicit about it, talk about how important honesty is for you and how you are going to bring it to the relationship and you expect the same thing from everyone around you.

Most, if not all, toxic behaviors depend on dishonesty, so if you go to the root of toxicity you leave no room for it in the relationship.

And now comes the real challenge: Dealing with our own unresolved emotional conflict.

Our Own Unresolved Emotional Conflict

As difficult as it may seem, you may very well be part of the problem. No, not as in “it’s your fault”, but more as in “be aware of where your actions and decisions lead you”.

I’ll explain:

Although it may seem like our inner conflict can only affect ourselves, it always, always ends up surfacing and affecting part of our external reality.

This subject is too complex to be dealt with here, as it all depends on personal experience.

But we can still talk about the pattern of your behavior that can lead you into toxic relationships.

Nobody likes to talk about this because responsibility is something we avoid, but if you want to have healthy relationships, this is a must.

We are talking about how unresolved emotional conflict will be “translated” into a toxic relationship. And the best way to talk about this is through real-world examples…

Think about this:

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If I had low self-esteem, I could more easily tolerate neglect and toxic behaviors. Because my inner voice would tell me “it’s not that bad” or that “I deserve it”…

But what if I was insecure instead?

Well, that could likely push me into the direction of a manipulator.

Someone who could easily play with my insecurities and just use me, with no love necessary for this happening…

And what if I confused drama with emotion?

Yep. I would end up involved with a person who equally likes drama. And this would not be a victim-abuser case. We would both be more or less responsible for the toxicity.

Like I said, this is more complex because it depends on your individual experience.

Still, this is something you must look into, because your inner conflict can, and most likely will end up reflecting in our relationships.

Either we tolerate toxicity because of our inner conflict, or we ourselves become part of the toxicity.

This is why it is often stated that one cannot love another if one doesn’t love oneself first.

Too few words if you ask me, but it’s true anyways.

If you’d like to learn more about how to love yourself, take a look at this article: Why Is It Okay To Love Yourself First

Summing It Up

If you want to have healthy relationships, you will follow the steps outlined in this article:

Don’t you ever rush. Take as long as you want to know the other person, making sure this goes beyond the honeymoon phase. See who they really are after the “spell” of the honeymoon phase.

Remember love is rational, and never ignore the red flags — Never. Doing so is just lying to yourself. If you see behaviors that should not be there don’t lie to yourself. You will not succeed at changing the other.

Make honesty and love the cornerstone of your relationship. Be outspoken about it. Don’t let ambiguity lead you into a toxic relationship. If any of the two are taken away… have the courage to end it, because it will just get worse.

And also, you will work on yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

More by this author

George Alonso

Mental Health Expert, creator of the Transcendental Mindfulness Therapy.

9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind Having an Emotional Breakdown? 15 Ways to Re-Center Yourself Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional? How to Handle Relationship Fights to Connect Deeper with Your Partner Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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