toxic relationships

Let’s admit it – we’ve all jammed out to the 2003 Britney Spears hit screaming, “With a taste of the poison paradise, I’m addicted to you: don’t you know that you’re toxic?” And many of us, have unfortunately related to this experience of craving toxic people again and again and inviting these types of people into our lives with the insistence that these people are truly who and what we desire.

But, why? Many of us struggle to admit that the people we’re drawn to are bad for us. Because – well, why would we want someone who doesn’t call us back, put in any effort, or make us feel badly about ourselves? It’s not something we can easily rationalize to others, never mind ourselves. Our brain knows that we deserve someone who gives a crap, but our heart wants something else – something unattainable, that we can chase, and chase, and chase, and never end up with.

There are reasons for this type of craving. Whether we realize it or not, something in our past made us believe that this is love. This is what we deserve. This is what it feels like to be desired, to feel wanted, to feel passion. So, why?? What happened to us? Can we rewire our brains to cut off the toxicity? Let’s dive into some potential reasons you just can’t seem to kick the craving…

Your Parents’ Relationship

Sorry, Mom and Dad, but you may be the reason for some of our troubles here. Growing up, did you have two parents present? Did you witness affection often? Or, in contrast, did you hear fighting and passive aggressive behaviors? There is a wide range of what we may have witnessed as children in terms of how our parents interacted with one another.

And, hey – Mom and Dad – we’re not blaming you! No relationship is perfect and everyone handles situations differently. There were probably amazing things your parents showed you – from acts of service, to affection, to verbal affirmation, there are (hopefully) some things that you witnessed that made you feel warm and fuzzy, and think to yourself, that’s love.

Unfortunately for us, that’s not always what we grow up internalizing as love. We sometimes tend to internalize the bad things we witness more – the screaming, the crying, the slamming of doors. We grow up thinking, this is how a functional relationship works. And, regardless of your parents’ relationship, as good or bad as it may be, this is our very first experience of viewing “love” and that is what we try to replicate.
So – this may resonate or it may not, but if one parent was dismissive, didn’t show the other sufficient attention, perhaps cheated, or other similar behaviors, you may search for this in a partner, as this is how you know a relationship to look like.

Your Relationship With Yourself

Another important relationship – the most important – is the one with yourself. If you’re searching for toxic people to fill a void in your life, it could mean that you need to amp up the self care. Sometimes we beat up on ourselves for maybe not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough and little by little, this chips away at our self-esteem.
We believe what we tell ourselves repeatedly – fact. So, if you don’t feel good enough, you may think, I deserve the guy that isn’t calling me. And, you know why? Because he’s validating your negative thoughts towards yourself.
I know…did your head just explode? We seek validation and confirmation of things we believe to be true. Although it’s a twisted concept, we’re subconsciously seeking out the people that prove us right.

You’re Addicted

I’m sorry to break it to you but…well…you’re an addict. It’s literally science. When we encounter a positive experience like a fun date, a good kiss, or a simple “good morning” text, dopamine is released in our brains. The catch is that dopamine flows more readily in our brain when these positive experiences are sporadic, and not continuous. So, hello all emotionally unavailable men! (or women). Basically, we like things more when we don’t get it all the time – no surprise there.

So, this occasional high that we ride actually makes us fall head over heels more instead of making us run for the hills. There have been studies conducted that show those in these types of relationships have similar brain activity to cocaine addicts. So, it’s safe to say we are, in fact, addicted.

Whatever the reason, it is truly taxing craving people who we know ultimately aren’t good for us. We may know we need the rehab, but haven’t been able to get ourselves there yet. My advice to those struggling with this is to seek any help that you feel would be beneficial, whether this is having a conversation with your parents about their relationship, getting a therapist, or cutting off contact with the people you know to be dragging you down. This is your sign to cut the sh*t and choose peace!

Photo by Travis Grossen on Unsplash