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Have you ever had a toxic relationship where you were with a person that wasn’t good for you, brought out the worst in you and mistreated you? Have you ever had a relationship that was all consuming? Me too.
A young woman wrote in, we’ll call her Vanessa, about her on & off relationship with her boyfriend. We’ll call him Max. When Vanessa met Max she described it as “magnetic.” They had never been so attracted to anyone else before.
Things were great for a few months when Vanessa started to feel like Max only wanted to be with her when something sexual was going on. He started not being reliable and when she would try to talk to him about it, he would get angry with her.
They hadn’t spoken an unkind word to each other until this. He began choosing his friends over time with her. Then his family over time with her; then everything over time with her. She understood they both should have time with their friends and family, but it seemed like he just wanted to use her.
In the beginning of their relationship, they talked about lots of stuff. He was a good listener and they were there for each other. As time went on, she couldn’t tell him anything without him either taking offense or tuning her out. He would play games on his iPad or watch a football game while she was trying to tell him about something.
Their friendship was slipping fast. As time went on, he began turning things around to be her fault, twisting things she did or said and then tried to make her defend “why” she did what she did or said what she said instead of just asking her about it. It was always some twisted version of his negative and demeaning thoughts about her.
He became incredibly selfish only looking out for what was most comfortable for him. He stopped taking Vanessa’s feelings into consideration. When she would try to tell him how she felt he would scoff at her, roll his eyes, call her a “real piece of work,” and “too sensitive.”
Vanessa admits she isn’t perfect. She admits she got very angry and didn’t handle Max’s verbal assaults on her very well. I can relate. I totally get it. When you’re in a relationship with someone who has a warped way of interacting with you, it can be very hard to keep your cool and not say something you shouldn’t.
After almost a year of misery, she ended the relationship with Max, but they still text each other. They’ve ended up back together only to break up days later when the toxic cycle starts again. They get nasty with each other with both of them saying things they would never say to someone else. She said it is a cycle that can’t seem to be broken.
Vanessa is wondering how she can have a normal relationship with Max. She cares about him, loves him even, but doesn’t know how she can change how she interacts with him to make this a healthy relationship.
There is a great book called Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A guide to knowing if your relationship can or should be saved by Lundy Bancroft. I think this is one of the better books I’ve read in addition to “Why Does He Do That?: inside the minds of angry and controlling men,” also by Lundy Bancroft. I’ll put my affiliate links below in case you’re curious.
They are helpful for us to see when we’re being taken advantage of, seeing how the other person thinks, and what to do about it.
Some relationships are very complex. And because we love the other person, we’d like to know what we can do to make it better. That is totally healthy.
What is not healthy is holding out for someone to change when they show no signs of sustained change. Max doesn’t want to change. He wants Vanessa to be okay with him being a jerk. That will never work. And what is always interesting to me is the “Max” of the relationship usually blames everything on the other person, then talks trash about them, only to move onto the next relationship to repeat the pattern.
The “Max” often doesn’t see what his part is. He often thinks if everyone else would just fall in line then this would all be a piece of cake. Not going to happen. People don’t like being treated like dirt. Even if that’s all they know, they still wish it were different.
Even in healthy relationships, there is going to be conflict. It’s “how” we handle that conflict that will determine whether or not this relationship will thrive. If there isn’t the utmost respect and care for the other person going back and forth then it’s not going to be healthy.
So back to Vanessa’s question: How can she stop this toxic cycle? The only way she can do that is to not have contact with Max. This cycle has been going on long enough to have it firmly engraved in how they treat each other. She has tried and tried to talk to Max about it and it hasn’t worked.
This no contact thing will feel like you’re weaning off of an addiction and to some degree you are. Both people get some sort of payoff by having these hyped-up interactions with each other. Now all that’s left to do, is to starve it. If getting healthy is REALLY the goal and ending the cycle is truly what is wanted that is the only way.
Ask anyone coming out of something like this and they will tell you the same thing. I’ve seen this cycle over and over again. The key after you’ve accomplished this is to now get some help so you don’t continue with this cycle later in your life.
You may not have started it, but it’s been ingrained to the point of habit now. You don’t want this again, right?! No one does, so taking a hard look at ourselves is the only way to make sure we get healthy. We have to, or we’ll attract another Max.
When we have high expectations for ourselves and others we will attract that. That’s really good news!
Here are some affiliate links to some great books by Brene Brown that you might find helpful 🙂
Take care & let me know how it goes if you’re in a similar situation 🙂