Why Do We Stay in "Toxic" Relationships
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Truth be told I have been in one for the last two years and somewhat still am. Don’t get me wrong, we have beautiful times, that’s what is keeping us together to this day. At first, my motivation was to fix him. Soon after we started dating, he mentioned he has an airplane of baggage, boy was he right. And damn was I silly. But then through my path of self discovery and a guidance of my guru, Sri Prem Baba, I came to realise two things: You can never fix anybody but yourself. In life, you always get exactly what you need to learn lessons and better yourself. To paraphrase my guru, relationships are the university of life. At first, through all the fights, I would always look into his flaws and mistakes, after all I was a yogi and he was a party (bad) boy. Soon after, I started recognising patterns and observing my reactions, words, and feelings in these situations. It was clear that I wasn’t an angel either. He was the first man ever to get through to me and show me that I am the queen of manipulation. I just did it in such a subtle and masterful way that I managed to hide it, even from myself. The masks started falling off on both sides, underneath my ‘I am a spiritual, conscious being, a teacher’ and all that crap, little scared girl begun to appear. The one that was left by her father at the age of seven and ever since has been programmed that men are bad and not to be trusted, that she should use her beauty and intelligence to seduce them, make them fall in love and then leave soon enough, before they leave her. Behind his mask of arrogance, seduction, bad boy attitude, successful entrepreneur, etc; there was a little boy, hungry for love, betrayed by the very people that should have taught him how to love - his parents. A deep hatred towards the feminine appeared, lots of blaming of other people, especially women for all his miseries. One of the biggest issues in our relationship was and still is, at times, the lack of intimacy. When I was younger I didn’t quite understand what it was, or I was fortunate enough to date men that were more or less emotionally open and available. But this guy had such high walls around his heart, that even when we would have sex, it was never love making, when we would snuggle on the sofa watching a movie, he wasn’t there, I couldn’t feel his true presence. It took a lot of patience and unconditional love (at times, I am not a saint, right?!) to even make a tiny crack in that wall, to feel the love that he was hiding so vigorously. My friends and family have asked me numerous times, why am I with this guy. Once you crack their wall of self protection and see the beauty of someone’s pure loving heart, then you know it’s there and you can’t ignore it even in the midst of their selfish, closed off asshole storm. Now the trick is how do you know if those walls are ever gonna fall down or you are forever to stay outside peaking through the hole and hoping for better days when his/her heart is gonna come out, love you back and you get your happily ever after.
From my experience there are two reasons for staying in this kind of relationship: 1. Out of lack of self respect. When your own childhood wound of unworthiness is so strong that you don’t believe you deserve better.
2. You are in it to push through your own flaws, to learn to love unconditionally, to open your heart to unimaginable dimensions. The line between these two is very thin and there are 4 signs to look for, in order to determine if you are staying for the sake of growth:
1. Has the subject of your fights been changing over the months / years? You were fighting about a certain issue for days or months, but then eventually you came to an agreement and moved on. This means things got resolved and you both learned your lessons and got to know yourself and the other person a bit better. No resentment left, nothing to bring up next time your life is not pink. If it has been the same fight over and over, for months or years, you are probably stuck in a vicious circle. Both of you might be stubborn and too focused on yourself, to even consider what your partner is trying to tell you. As Marshall Rosenberg says (Non Violent Communication), all the other person is ever trying to say is: “Please” and “Thank You”. They might be using completely wrong language to express it, out of their own unbearable pain, but it’s up to you to put your compassionate ears on and hear their “please” and “thank you”. That’s what love is about.
2. Are you, as a couple, in a better place now, then when you started dating? Here I wouldn’t take into account the “honeymoon phase” when it’s all flowers and butterflies. Start counting from the time when you began being real with each other, when the masks started falling off. This might be from the time of the first fart :D
3. Can you see yourself spending the rest of your life with this person? One thing was recently brought to my attention, by my therapist. When you love someone, even if you are not married, in a way you took an oath. There is commitment to your love and life together. To paraphrase wedding ceremonies, to hold and support each other in sickness and in health. You don’t run away when things get tough.
4. Do you feel, that you, as an individual, have grown in any way over the course of this relationship? By this I mean, has anything changed for the better inside of you. Are you more open, vulnerable, compassionate? Have you advanced in your career? Have you been kinder to people? Less judgemental? Anything that you consider better than your old self. If the answer to these four questions is even partially YES, keep going! You are in it to win it! Go love that special someone, like no one has ever loved them before. And... don’t forget to love yourself!