If you have a track record of unhealthy and toxic relationships, you can chalk it up to bad luck and call it a day. Or, you can go the smarter route and figure out why all your relationships have been so unhealthy. Do you seem to attract toxic partners? Or maybe you have a knack for screwing things up? If so, it may be time for a little self-reflection.
Looking into the past, and figuring out where things went wrong — as well as how you and your partners have both contributed to problems — can be an incredibly eye-opening experience. "Awareness and allowing yourself to have your feelings about connection and intimacy is a way through to breaking the pattern of bad relationships," couples therapist Julienne B. Derichs tells Bustle.
"I suggest taking some time for yourself ... to write down your thoughts and feelings about yourself, love, what a healthy relationship looks like, what you learned about relationships as a child growing up, and what your fears are around relationships," Derichs says. "Remember that for you familiar may not always be healthy." Which is why you definitely want to avoid the unhealthy patterns below — all in the name of breaking the cycle of toxicity.
1. You Have Unrealistic Expectations Of Your Partner
If you go into relationships with unhealthy (or unreasonable) expectations, then it may explain why they so many end in disaster. "We all have a 'perfect' image in our minds of what a partnership is, and usually it is pretty far from reality," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. "You are setting your relationship up for disappointment, and you partner for letting you down when they have done nothing wrong."
2. You Don't Know How To Communicate
Healthy communication is where it's at if you want a healthy relationship. So look back over the years and see if you notice a theme. As Martinez tells me, healthy communication consists of "strong active talking and listening skills" as well as respect and a willingness to share. If you (and your past partners) have struggled with such things, it may explain a lot.
3. You're Doing Exactly What Your Parents Did
If you grew up in a home with lots of arguing and unhealthy behaviors, then that may be why you've seen more of the same in your own relationships. "If you ... [had] abuse or trauma that taught you an unhealthy 'normal,' you’re going to end up seeking that normal in your relationships because it is what feels safe," holistic wellness coach Leah Lesesne, MA, CSP tells Bustle. In order to move forward, it may be necessary to seek a "new normal" either by talking to a friend or therapist.
4. You Take Your Partners For Granted
Once you've been with someone for a minute, it becomes easier to take them for granted and forget all the things that brought you together. That's why, as Martinez tells me, it's important to appreciate each other, and say out loud what you love about your partner. Remember this going forward, and you might have better luck.
5. You Don't Know What Your Deal Breakers Are
If you keep finding yourself with one toxic partner after a next, it may be you don't know what your deal breakers are. So take some time to figure that out. As NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson tells me, it's helpful to start with a list. Maybe you don't want any drug users, or people who are unwilling to compromise. Set those as your criteria, and promise yourself you won't put up with it any more.
6. You Need To Work On Your Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem seems to be a sort of homing beacon for toxic partners. If you can't seem to get away from unhealthy relationships, it may be time to see what kind of vibes your throwing out. "Low self-esteem, body image issues, an inability to set boundaries, and mental health issues such as depression are all common reasons women get involved in unhealthy relationships," Hershenson says. If any of this describe you, it may be wise to speak with a therapist to find ways to cope — and thus attract healthier partners.
7. You Jump To Conclusions
Whether you know your partner well, or just think you do, it's never a good idea to assume you know what they're thinking. "This is incredibly common in relationships," Martinez says. "People take history, or what they think they 'know' about how their partner will ... react to a situation, and they become upset with them before even asking [a] question." It's just not a healthy, or sustainable, way to be.
8. You Always Focus On Your Partner's "Potential"
While it's lovely you can see someone's potential, this tendency can keep land you in one toxic relationship after the next. "Look hard at the reality of the situation," Derichs says. "Your needs are valid and getting them met in a relationship is reasonable. Let go of potential and look at what is."
9. You Really Don't Want To Be Alone
So many people remain in unhealthy relationships because they hate the thought of being alone. And that's totally understandable. "We all want to feel like there is a place where we belong in the world," Derichs says. And yet, putting up with toxic partners just to "have somebody" is a habit that'll get you stuck in an unhealthy cycle. And that's so not worth it.
10. You Have Unresolved Issues With Your Dad
Your relationship with your parents can set you down an unhealthy path. But if you have a toxic dad, it's even more likely you'll play that dynamic out again and again with their partners. "Women don't take into consideration that they might be unconsciously trying to repair their relationships with their fathers," Derichs says. "The problem is that in this scenario the woman is trying to repair with the wrong person." It can take a lot of work (and possibly even therapy) to see the difference. But it's well worth it.
11. You Haven't Learned How To Argue
If you don't know how to argue properly, it may be what's to blame for your string of bad relationships. So make a point of working on this issue going forward. "Attack the issue and not each other," Martinez says. "If there is a problem, stay focused on it and do not resort to personal attacks and character assassination."
Once you learn how to compromise, your relationships will be way healthier. And hopefully, you'll be able to break this streak of toxicity.
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