We tend to repeat toxic relationships with partners, friends, coworkers, and the like because of the role models we received as a child. The more aware we become of those patterns, the less likely we will continue seeking and repeating them unconsciously. First, though, we need to bring our awareness to such negative relationships and what attracts us to them.
Over the decades, I have had several deeply committed, long-term relationships. However, after a lot of self-analysis, therapy, education, and support from friends and therapists, I learned how these partners had components of significant control and toxicity. I also began to understand that I gravitated towards such relationships because they were familiar to me.
Sometimes I shake my head and wonder, when will I get the message? But, I do know, learning takes time and not to be too hard on myself.
What I learned over the years
Two of my biggest mistakes have been overly trusting and not listening to my intuition. You know, those red flags waving repeatedly and shouting:
STOP!!! This relationship is another dead end and only a quarter of the love you deserve!!!
I’m sure you’ve probably had at least one of those types of relationships. Where you blindly follow and believe in the other person’s love. You set aside your dreams hoping someday they will acknowledge, love, and respect you at the same level you give them.
But this didn’t happen for me, and my guess is, it didn’t happen for you either. Their stealthy lies continued, and their subtle manipulation grew. The twisting of not only my words but my emotions increased. This dual-edged tango deadened my ability to see clearly. The relationship was heavily and toxically one-sided. And frequently, it was not emotionally safe.
Fortunately, I love to learn and read. And quotes seem to find me when I need them the most. Recently, a former relationship triggered me. But instead of me being angry, I couldn’t believe how much I still wanted them to feel respected and appreciated while I ignored my feelings!
However, after I did regroup, and think about what had just happened, a brilliant synchronistic quote popped up. It was about the heart of toxic relationships by Jeff Brown. He is a prolific writer, Depth-psychology therapist, and former attorney. He writes:
“If you are someone who keeps going back for more, you have to stop. You are holding yourself hostage. It’s no longer them — it’s now you. It’s the unconscious hope to finally feel seen and loved that is wounding you.”
In particular, Brown's last sentence:
"It’s the unconscious hope to finally feel seen and loved that is wounding you."
There’s so much going on with Brown’s quote. First, he brilliantly alludes to Jungian’s Parental Complex. Secondly, he’s demonstrating the dynamics of repeating a pattern found in abusive relationships. Please note, not all abusive relationships mean physical abuse. Some of the most toxic ones are a combination of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse.
Nevertheless, after reading Brown’s quote, I realized when I doubt myself, feel my stomach twist, and start to make excuses for the other person’s manipulative behavior — I’ve been triggered.
I then asked myself and later journaled out the following questions:
Phew! I was surprised at all that came out, and I pulled myself away from getting hurt any further by detaching.
When I regrouped, I felt my energy return. I felt whole again and more confident by not engaging with them.
Going back to Brown’s quote seems to be the best summary:
"If you are someone who keeps going back for more, you have to stop. You are holding yourself hostage. It’s no longer them — it’s now you. It’s the unconscious hope to finally feel seen and loved that is wounding you."
It’s now time to see, reparent and love yourself by seeking friends and romantic interests who put you first with genuine love and respect.
Article originally published on Medium.
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."