Have you ever had the feeling that you are trapped in some kind of relationship déjà vu? Even though you start out with good intentions and you think "this time it will be different", alas, each boyfriend (or husband) turns out to be exactly like the man before. This is fine if the repeated quirk is leaving socks lying around the house, but what if the ongoing cycle is one of abuse, alcoholism or possessiveness?
We tend to be attracted to the familiar. This means that even although we promised we would never end up with an alcoholic man like our father, we still date a series of alcoholics. We don't choose to do this and we certainly don't see the flashing lights when we first meet who we think is the man of our dreams.
In the beginning we just see a perfect man, a one so different from the rest. We don't realise that we are being attracted to all the familiar traits, yet again. These can be positive - charm, affection, how he loves playing with his dog, anything. It's all on a subconscious level, so it's really difficult to pinpoint. Unfortunately, if we don't pick up on the subtle cues, by the time this man starts showing his true colours we are already head over heels in love, and hurt...again.
So how do we break these toxic cycles?
1. Change what's familiar.
Start dating men you wouldn't normally be attracted to. I am not saying you need to go out with ugly men - please no! I do mean that you should start chatting to the "nice" guy at gym that you normally wouldn't feel your heart pound for, or maybe you should start answering the calls from that man from the party the other night. He wasn't that good looking, but you remember that he was very funny. Just for a while, start avoiding the kind of men you are normally attracted to (no matter how gorgeous he is) and give some other guys a chance. It will confuse your subconscious and change your habitual patterns, leaving you more open to see a toad in prince's clothing next time around.
2. Write a list of warning signs from your past relationships.
Not just the blatant signs you discovered later on in your relationships when it was too late...think of the subtle cues that you normally miss. For the types that financially abuse you, signs could be letting you pay for everything on the first date or borrowing money from you early on in the relationship. Physically abusive types may be extremely charming in the beginning, showering you with lavish gifts. Write all these warning signs down and remember them when you date.
3. Ask for your girlfriends' advice.
You know what we're like when we think we have found "Mr Right" - we are starry-eyed and blinded to reality. This is the time to bring in the girls. Instead of going on and on about how wonderful he is and "Isn't he just the most gorgeous man ever?" rants, rather ask for their honest, objective opinions, no matter what they are. Let's face it, very few of us would break our friend's heart if she is going off on a tangent about this wonderful man, but if she asked for our honest opinion - we will certainly give it to her. How many times have you broken up with someone only to have your friends say, "Oh yes, we saw that coming" or "I knew from the beginning that he was trouble"? Well now they have the opportunity to tell you from the start. And when they give you their opinion, especially when in unison, trust them.
It isn't easy to let go of toxic cycles. Very often, our own pain attracts these types of men in the first place. But, by learning to see the signs, trying something different and getting support from our friends, we will slowly but surely start to create new cycles and find our own healing in the process.
Do you know of anyone who has been in a toxic relationship? Tell us how they dealt with it in the box below...