I wish it were as simple as a blog post to get off the toxic merry-go-round, but hopefully this entry will help shed some light on this all too common problem that so many people face: jumping from one bad relationship to the next.
Here’s the deal:
As humans, we’re all creatures of habit. We like to be comfortable and we like the familiar.
Think of your brain as a hill. When it rains, the rain will hit a groove in the hill and will deepen it. Next time it rains, the rain will fall down that same pathway. It’s just easier.
Our neural wiring is similar. So if the the rain of relationships only falls down the groove in your brain that accommodates people who are no good for you, even if they make you miserable, you’re going to keep winding up with them unless you take conscious efforts to dig a new groove.
There are many different kinds of “wrong” partners that people are attracted to. Whether it’s the guy who is always unavailable, the damsel in distress, or the abusive jerk, if you are on the toxic merry-go-round, you probably know your type.
If you don’t know the type but know your relationships tend to suck, take some time to list out your exes and look for common traits. Any patterns?
Why are you on this carousel?
Hint: think about the hill and the grove that the rain continues to fall down. At some point in your life, the groove for “relationships” was created in your brain, and that’s your template of what a primary relationship is supposed to look like for you.
For most people, this toxic relationship template starts early on. The person who was supposed to take care of you the most didn’t meet some of your needs as a kid.
Say, for example, this person was unavailable to you. Maybe you find yourself attracted to people who are unavailable, for instance, married men. Another example: a parent was abusive, and now you find yourself connecting most with partners who are abusive to you.
Whatever your issue is with your toxic partner, it came from somewhere. If you find yourself in patterns of similar toxic relationships, it may be from how you learned to be in relationships with others from an early age.
Even if these partners are so wrong for you, they can feel so right.
You know it’s bad for you, but you keep finding yourself in these relationships. You only feel excited about and chemistry with the wrong kinds of people. You just aren’t turned on by the good guys.
So what do you do to get off the merry-go-round?
First, recognize you are in it. Identify the “type” that you find yourself attracted to. Recognize that as “right” as this type might feel, when you meet them, it’s totally wrong.
Second, rate your chemistry with each potential mate you meet. From 1-10 with 10 being the most and 1 being the least, rate the chemistry you feel. If you have been on the merry-go-round of toxic relationships and find yourself head over heels for someone, at a definite “10,” run the other way. There’s your first red flag.
If you think about the “rain falling down the hill” analogy, feeling so attracted to someone is like the rain finding that same old groove. In other words, your old toxic patterns are lighting up that old familiar neural wiring in your brain.
If you aren’t convinced that a “10” on the chemistry scale means this is probably a bad partner for you, or you’re in denial about it because it feels so good, keep your eye out for other red flags. I’m sure you’ll find them.
And veer clear of these bad-for-you mates!
So does this mean you have to stay single forever?
Of course not. But before settling into a secure, good-for-you relationship, you may have to go through some discomfort.
When you meet someone and give them the chemistry test of 1-10, I’m asking you to veer clear of the “10,” be extremely wary of the “9” and be cautious about the “8.” These high scores are probably indicative of the same old pattern of bad partners winning their way into your heart.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to force yourself into a relationship with a “1” or “2.” These folks may be perfectly fine people, but if there’s zero attraction or chemistry, they’re not for you.
You’ll want to find someone in the 6-7 range.
You’re not ga-ga for them, which increases the chances that they’re not a horse on the toxic merry-go-round, but there’s still enough attraction to qualify them as a potential mate.
Give them a chance
Here’s where it may get uncomfortable. It may feel wrong, weird, unfamiliar, and not fun. That is good.
Because it means you’re breaking out of your comfort zone and creating a new groove in the hill for the rain to fall down. You’re essentially forging new neural pathways in your brain to get off that merry-go-round.
This is new territory.
And it can be scary. One person described it to me like she was hanging on the edge of a cliff, climbing and holding onto dear life. It’s terribly hard work, but it was better than getting insulted every day and often punched in the face.
The rewards are worth it.
The new groove will replace the old, you’ll find someone really good for you, and you will wonder how you were so stuck before.
Let me remind you: it’s not easy.
And it’s often 2 steps forward, 1 step back.
Your old junk will throw you back on the merry-go-round for a spin from time to time. It happens to everyone.
Don’t get discouraged.
Stay the course and press on until you get what you really need.
Find a therapist if you’re open to getting a ton of support and getting off the toxic merry-go-round that much faster.
You can do it!
Cheers to no more toxic horses, and to you creating your best relationship,