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:
- A wrong concept of what a relationship must be
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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:
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.
Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com