Toxic relationships can be abusive, neglectful, and chaotic.
There’s often extremes of highs and lows, an overarching anxiety that envelops you in the relationship space, and constant feelings of self-doubt while being put down, called names and your perspective being put to question by your partner.
And despite how obviously repelling this may sound in the third person perspective, toxic relationships can actually feel addictive, keeping us in the boomeranging highs and lows of it, wherein we’ll stay put for the highs all through the lows.
Remember when Rihanna sang Love the Way You Lie and the whole internet got up and related?
So why do we stay put at all? Why don’t we just leave? Why are toxic relationships this hard to exit? These are probably the most googled questions when it comes to relationship dynamics, with several Quora and Reddit threads all desperately trying to answer it.
The foundations for a sense of safety and security in relationships is, as most psychologists agree, laid down in the formative years of an individual.
The relationship one shares with their primary caregiver, often times the mother, or the father, becomes a blueprint for how every other intimate relationship will be set and perceived in future.
Problems in this primary relationship can set a pattern for us that we may not be able to actively see, making us seek out the same kind of problems from eventual intimate relationships, thus falling into the cycle of bad relationships that come one after the other, only to leave us puzzled as to why it is happening to us to begin with.
Often called the ‘trauma bond’, these are relationships wherein individuals tend to repeat the dynamics experienced within their primary relationships in future relationships of theirs.
There can be a blatant denial of the abuse being experienced, an absence of boundaries, ignoring of one’s own needs and reality, and intense anxiety and overwhelm that’ll often characterise such equations.
While familiarity can feel like safety, and healthy relationships can feel uncomfortable and foreign as you encounter them, it is not impossible to change our own patterns. (You don’t always have to love the way they lie, yes!) It can require a lot of courage to acknowledge what we’re perpetuating, how we’re putting our own selves through hell, as a first step.
Giving yourself the due validation, accepting your feelings, your thoughts, your reality as being valid is key. Putting yourself first can feel like an exercise initially, but it is what you’re going to have to practise to do from now on. However, this next step doesn’t have to be about putting in all the work alone.
The healing journey can be undertaken with the help of a support system that exists for you, or one you can build for yourself even now. Abusive relationships often take up all the spaces in our lives, and we’re left with no support system to fall back on. And as you go on to work on yourself, you can seek out a friend to share accountability with, a family member to support you through it.
Several psychotherapists and counsellors now recognise how hard it can be to be stuck in a cycle like that, and they specialise in helping out individuals according to what they need. You can seek out mental health professionals as well to guide you as you grow.
Remember, toxic relationships happen to us, they don’t define us and nor are they ever our fault. There is always a way out, and everybody deserves to have that way.