“The Chaotic Whirlwind of Toxic Relationships”

by Megan Brice, M.S.

Why are toxic relationships so appealing? From the outside looking in, we can see the damage being done. Over and over again, we hear our friends and our families say, “I don’t see why he’s with her, she’s so controlling.” or “He treats her like crap. How does she not realize that she is his punching bag?” Logically, we know that our loved ones deserve better and it’s baffling when we see them accepting this type of hurt. It’s so easy to see it objectively when it’s happening to someone you care about.

But have you ever been inside one?

Do you remember the thrilling feeling of being in love? Thinking that no one could possibly understand your relationship because this person is different? The fire and the passion of being around that person even though your friends and family are hesitant about your new found excitement?

Being in the middle of a toxic relationship is much like being on a rollercoaster while the others around you are are inspecting the structure and finding some major safety violations. But you don’t care! You’re already on the ride and having SO. MUCH. FUN. Why can’t they just hop on board and be supportive?

As much as you want to overlook the cracks in the foundation, the major safety flaws, there’s a critical moment when you need to consider your own happiness, care, and safety. I had a client describe their toxic relationship as a dog that throws up and then goes back to eat it. It looks like puke, it tastes like puke, but still they go back to eat it. What a graphic, unpleasant, but so accurate metaphor.

I think the thing we need to remember whether we are watching others go through the whirlwind of toxic relationships or if we’re the ones in the throws of it; it isn’t all bad. There’s a reason we fall in love with these people. They are captivating and consuming and as much as we hate to admit it, we play a role in the continuance of these toxic relationships. The memories of the good times and the healthy pieces (however little they may be), keep us hooked into this relationship in the hope that sometime soon, the rollercoaster will stop, get a tune up, and everyone will get on. But for a lot of people, it’s hard to get on board when you know that the problem is a structural, foundational issue. An issue with the entire rollercoaster, not something a little tune up can fix.

When we’re in relationships, we dance with our partner and create patterns and relational expectations of how we want and need to be treated. Continuing these patterns after an unhealthy event can become problematic through the duration of the relationship. I can’t speak for everyone’s relationship or where they are at but for me, it took being the bad guy and sticking to it, regardless of that tiny shred of hope that things will get better or can be reconciled. It meant taking a stance in my own self care and being unwilling to compromise what I need and deserve in a healthy relationship. It meant loving myself more, even when I didn’t feel like it.

Loving yourself begins with listening to yourself. We often think that others know what is best for us and sometimes, they are right. However, that shouldn’t stop you from tuning in to what your intuition is telling you. Our intuition is a powerful feeling. Take a couple deep breaths, and stop fighting and defending yourself. Accept your feelings because they are real and valid.

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