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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.

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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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