A great, big lot of us find ourselves in toxic relationships that take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
“They were so toxic” are words we’ve either heard or used to describe an ex. Of course, there are situations where that’s true. Sometimes people are deeply troubled and the only solution is to just get the hell outta there and never look back.
Here’s a hard truth though: sometimes people aren’t what’s toxic, pairings are. In fact, a branch of psychology coined ‘attachment theory’ explains how common, and even natural, it is to choose someone completely wrong for you.
But what usually ensues after a failed relationship is a whole bunch of finger-pointing. This tactic probably won’t help you understand what went so wrong. A failure to delve into the inner workings of the situation may actually leave you vulnerable to remain in a cycle of toxic relationships.
So if you, or a mate, has been in a particularly sh*tty relo it’s best to learn-up about this principle. It’s been researched and proven for decades. But also, keep in mind that your relationship status doesn’t define you, not one bit.
To avoid dating drama, here are three things worth knowing:
1. We All Have An Attachment Style
Neuroscientist, Amir Levine, states that just over 50% of the population have a secure attachment style, 25% are avoidantly attached and 21% have an anxious attachment style.
There’s also a small percentage of people both avoidantly and anxiously attached, this style is known as fearful-avoidant and it’s usually associated with unstable or unsafe upbringing. A person’s attachment mode is developed in childhood and is usually determined by one or both relationships with a caregiver.
Securely attached individuals often have had a reliable upbringing where their emotional and physical needs are met consistently. Avoidants often haven’t had their needs adequately met. They may have had an emotionally distant parent, for example. Anxiously attached people have had their needs met at times and not met at others. Perhaps their caregiver suffered from hardship and fluctuated between being emotionally present and distant from their kid.
You can determine your attachment style here.
2. Your Attachment Style Determines How You Behave In Relationships
Securely attached individuals are often more ‘flexible’ and less critical than people who are anxiously or avoidantly attached. Generally, they’re much better at communicating their emotions and picking up on their partner’s feelings. Basically, they learnt how to because they had a healthy, well-connected relationship with their caregiver.
Avoidantly attached individuals are often the type to ‘play down’ the importance of relationships. They may be that super “independent” friend or the “heartbreaker” mate who never gets too involved. They’re often not good at discussing their feelings because they weren’t exactly taught how. Often, they’ve learnt to be so autonomous they tend to find their partners “clingy” or too “demanding” of their time, attention of affection.
Anxiously attached individuals are quite the opposite, they find themselves craving deep intimacy in their relationships. They may often worry about their partner’s level of commitment to them. Which is all due to the fact that at some stage during their upbringing, they felt they could not rely on their caregiver to be there for them. They may come across as “clingy” but this behaviour often stems from a wound.
3. Anxious And Avoidant Styles Gravitate Towards Each Another And Often Create A Toxic Pair
There’s the catch, dear friends. Have you ever been in a relationship so passionate but so horribly unstable? The chances are that one of you was anxiously attached while the other was avoidant. This dynamic creates a push-pull and oftentimes, an on and off again scenario.
Neither parties may be particularly good at discussing their needs and feelings in a healthy way. Which isn’t to be judged. Both partners may have never seen such behaviour modelled in childhood and therefore never learnt how to do it themselves.
In this pairing, the anxiously attached person often feels unsatisfied and less loved because their partner isn’t very good at all the mushy stuff, AKA showing their feelings. In turn, the avoidant may often find their partner overbearing, too needy or demanding of their time. These styles are often very attracted to each other. Each desires in the other what they unconsciously feel they’re lacking. The anxious see strength and independence and the avoidant sees an emotional side and vulnerability.
Of all people, Britney Spears really summed it up with the lyrics: “I’m addicted to you don’t you know that you’re toxic.” The good thing is, like any addiction, you can break the cycle of toxic relationships. Perhaps you’ve just taken the first step.