January 25, 2012

Are you in a toxic relationship?

Why we sometimes choose the wrong relationship and how to break the cycle

By Sherry Gaba

Image courtesy: Chris Schmidt
Signs that you're in a toxic relationship.Everyone at some point has experienced a relationship that is negative, harmful or even toxic. If you realize you are in a relationship that is causing you personal harm, you have three choices.
The first choice, and one that is the easiest, is to continue the relationship and hope that the other person changes. The second is to attempt to minimize the damage that the relationship is causing by limiting contact and trust the other person will get the message. The third, and definitely the most challenging for most individuals, is to confront the issue and end the relationship in all forms.
There are several different issues that can mold the way in which we see relationships, our role in relationships and even how we view real or perceived conflicts in relationships.
Once we know why we make the choices we do, we can begin to constructively change our way of thinking about relationships and choose the healthiest option, rather than the most comfortable one. 
The Codependency Factor
One reason why some people stay in toxic relationships, either intimate or not, is because they simply do not think that they are deserving of a better one. Commonly labeled as codependent, the issue involves one partner who is completely giving to the relationship and the other partner who is completely taking from the relationship. 
Codependency is not the same as enabling. In a true codependent relationship, the taker is self-destructing and not allowing the other to get what they want. People who have codependency issues tend to have a great deal of denial about how they are being used in the relationship.
They tend to minimize their feelings, have low self-worth and are willing to compromise personal values to match the values of the partner. They make the perfect targets for narcissists and dominant personalities who need a codependent person to take care of their every physical, emotional and sexual need.
Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization central in providing mental health support across the country, indicates that codependency can be a learned behavior within families. That was the case with Lynn M. who stayed in an abusive relationship because it so closely resembled the family of origin she grew up in.
“I wasn’t even aware that my last marriage was abusive until my then counselor told me so,” she says. She learned from a very early age not to trust her own feelings. Her family looked “perfect” from the outside, but on the inside, she says the dysfunction “played out through addictions, emotional and sexual abuse.”
Her romantic relationships replicated the environment she grew up in.
Moving On, Moving Out and Moving Forward
One of the most important ways to shed negative relationships is for people to start thinking differently about themselves and how they can positively change their world. This is easier said than done when it comes to abusive and codependent relationships. 
Codependent No More Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, believes people stay in negative relationships because of love for the other person, fear of being alone and the real fear of not being able to make it financially, especially with children involved. “The harder we try to get out, the more we find ourselves stuck where we are,” Beattie says. She speaks to the resistance we are feeling and have learned and believe this is the only type of love that exists.
The Law of Attraction is a concept that has been instrumental in helping people stuck in dead-end and toxic relationships to see their way to a better option. In The Secret, author Rhonda Byrne succinctly sums it up: “Any action we take must be preceded by a thought. Thoughts create the words we speak, the feelings we feel and our actions. Actions are particularly powerful because they are thoughts that have caused us to act.”
For more from Sherry Gaba, check out her Renew space, Positive Energy.
In The Law of Sobriety, I discuss the importance of the Law of Attraction and how it impacts the people who we accept into our lives. If we think we don’t merit a safe, loving and equal partner, we will never bring that person into our lives. If we think we can’t be happy, can’t ask for our needs to be met or don’t need to have them met, then we are doomed. The good news is that by changing our thoughts, we open ourselves up to positive influences and actions in our lives that allow us to thrive in the relationships that we always wanted. 


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