If you are reading this article I am guessing that, if you aren’t in a toxic relationship right now, you have recently been in one and/or, perhaps, you have been in more than one over the years.
Well, you are not alone! Know that loving toxic relationships is, for many reasons, very common.
Most of my clients come to me because they are struggling in a toxic relationship and they want to understand why they stay. The first thing that we talk about is them – who they are, what they bring into the relationship and their part in the toxicity.
Once they see what their role is in the relationship, they can take the steps to either improving it or walking away.
I am afraid the reasons are many to the question “why do I like toxic relationships?”
Let me share them with you now.
#1 – Your parents.
According to Rebecca Bergen, PHD, “Attachment theory suggests that we create an internal working model of our parents that we later internalize as our own sense of self. This attachment style also affects how we experience ourselves, and, in turn, how we are in relationships.”
In other words, people who have parents who are actively involved and engaged in their children’s lives will influence that child feeling secure in a romantic relationship. However, if a parent is not involved and engaged with their child, that child will not feel secure in their parental relationship and they will bring that insecure attachment style into a romantic relationship.
For one of my clients, she had a terrible relationship with her father. He was mostly absent and, when he was around, he was emotionally unavailable. She would try very hard to get her father to notice her, to no avail. As a result, she felt that she was unloveable. And this feeling she carried into her adult relationships.
As a result, when she entered romantic relationships, she tended to enter ones where she was treated just like her father treated her – where she was abandoned and disdained. Those kind of relationships, while toxic, were what she knew and therefore what she gravitated towards. So, for her, loving toxic relationships, entering them over and over, were the direct result of her toxic relationship with her father.
#2 – Your past relationships.
Be honest. When you buy ice cream, do you always by the same brand?
Do you have habits that you repeat daily because they feel comfortable?
Does doing something unfamiliar give you anxiety?
For many of us, old habits die hard. We like the safeness and security of the familiar and, as a result, we do the same things over and over.
So it is with toxic relationships – we tend to gravitate toward them over and over because they are what we know.
Whenever I have a new client who comes to me about their toxic relationship, the first question that I always ask them is if they have ever been in a healthy relationship. Almost without exception they say ‘no,’ or, if they had been in one, it didn’t work out.
For them, because they have never been in anything other than a toxic relationship, they believe that theirs is perfectly normal. That, while they are unhappy in the relationship, they believe that this is just how relationships are – toxic.
And so they stay, because a happy relationship seems scary and unfamiliar.
#3 – Your insecurities.
In this world where we are constantly bombarded with images of the perfect life or the perfect body, many people are rife with insecurities.
They carry these insecurities throughout their lives, especially when it comes to romance, believing that they aren’t good enough to be worthy of a healthy relationship.
I have a client who has had a rough go of it throughout her life and, as a result, she is very insecure. The path that she thought would be hers didn’t happen and, as a result, she was in a job she hated, living with a roommate at 30.
So, when she started dating, she didn’t believe that she was worthy of being loved and, as a result, she chose men who reinforced her theory. Men who treated her with disrespect, disrespect that she believed she deserved.
As a result, she stayed with these men, over and over, living in a toxic relationship that she believed was the result of bad life choices she had made through the years.
#4 – Your low self-esteem.
Many women who have been in toxic relationship after toxic relationship have very low self-esteem.
They have been treated badly for so long, led to believe that everything that is wrong in the relationship is their fault. They know they should leave a relationship but they don’t, which only makes them feel more horrible about themselves.
So, when they do get out of the toxic relationship, they hold onto the feelings that they had when they were in it, feeling horrible about themselves in the world.
And what do they do? They carry that lack of self-esteem into their next relationship which only leads to the same result – being treated with disdain and disrespect, all they believe they deserve.
#5 – Your need to fix someone.
Are you someone who believes that if you just love someone enough, they will change?
That someone has been brought into your life for a reason – for you to love them enough to make them whole?
Do you believe that you know who they could be if they would let you help them get there?
In my whole life, I have probably encountered one woman who didn’t feel the need to fix a man, who didn’t feel like it was their obligation to do so. As a result, women stay in a toxic relationships for longer than they should, believing that, if they just love their person enough, they will change and the relationship will be better.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work this way. Unless someone actively wants to change, they won’t and no amount of love is going to make them do so.
#6 – Your hopeless romanticism.
One of my biggest frustrations with movies and television is the way that relationships are often portrayed.
How many rom-coms have you seen where the relationship started out as adversarial and then turned to love?
Or relationships where the husband is toxic and the woman holds on, knowing that things will get better and they do?
Or a relationship that has been broken by toxicity ultimately gets healed with just one sentence?
Unfortunately, the way that toxic relationships are portrayed on movies and on television are unrealistic. The toxicity that exists over the course of the show almost always gets resolved over 90 to 120 minutes. This easy resolution leads many women to believe that their toxic relationship is fixable, just like the one they see on TV.
Many women are hopeless romantics because of what they see in the movies. The relationships that she sees every she sits down in front of a screen leads her to believe that she too can have that happily ever after if she stays in this relationship, a dream that, unfortunately, just doesn’t come true.
#7 – Your tendency to self-sabotage.
According to Bismar Anwar, LHMC, “Fear of abandonment or intimacy is a primary cause of self-sabotage, but research also shows that people might self-sabotage for other reasons, too. For example, trust issues, limited relationship skills, unrealistic expectations, or low self-esteem, among other things, are all common in self-sabotaging relationships. Further, we know that these behaviors often repeat across multiple relationships.”
People who self-sabotage are people who don’t trust their partners, without reason. They pick fights. They demand perfection. They are unfaithful. They are passive aggressive.
People who self-sabotage are truly incapable of building a healthy relationship.
Are you guilty of self-sabotaging in past relationships? Know that, if you are, you are most likely addicted to toxic relationships because they feed your need to self-sabotage in a big way.
So, the answer to why we like toxic relationships is not an easy one.
One doesn’t have to have all the reasons listed above to be someone who likes toxic relationships – one is enough.
Know that, if you recognize why you do stay in toxic relationships longer than you should then it will help give you insight about how to get out of it, learn to change your behaviors and attitudes and get the happy relationship that you have always desired.
You can do it! Many women have been able to take a good hard look at themselves and why they love toxic relationships and make change. You can too!