I’ve never known just how to tackle this subject. Because it isn’t an easy one–not because it’s hard to discuss the past or the abusive relationship itself, but because I’ve wanted to pretend like the relationship only changed me for the better. It only made me stronger. It only made me more aware of red flags. It only made me a better person. And while this is all true, I’ve failed to also acknowledge the hardships it brought me. In doing this, I’ve lived in denial about destructive parts of me, but the more I look for relationships with other people, the more those parts scream out and eat me alive.
I never wanted to be THAT person that brought old tendencies into new relationships. I never wanted to be THAT person that seemed to use his or her past as an “excuse” for the shitty qualities they bring to newfound relationships. But honestly, the more I dive into the realm of intimacy, the more I realize how much those qualities are out of my control. They’re ingrained into my texts, my voice, my defenses, my thoughts, and in my good intentions.
I guess I’m hoping to gain a sense of acknowledgement in writing this–speaking it into existence–to maybe become better aware of the toxic traits that I bring to any table, and maybe find ways to correct those traits before they consume any relationship prior to even having the chance to bloom.
Here we go:
My anxiety contributes to this a lot, of course, but in my past toxic relationship, I was constantly having to reword my thoughts and phrase my words in ways that I knew would not make my ex mad. I would avoid saying how I really feel in hopes of avoiding fights or anger. Now, I overthink every single word that comes out of my mouth (or through my fingers into a text). Did I come on too strong? Do I complain about this too much? Am I talking about myself too much? Should I even talk about the things happening with my family? Nah. He doesn’t care. Am I being too transparent? Is this considered bragging? Should I be more modest? No? I love myself and the person I am. Why am I even questioning any of this shit? I’m dope, dude, and if he doesn’t see that, then he sucks. Duh.
But like for real…should I tone it down or….?
- Overcompensating for how I never said how I really felt.
I love when I feel a sense of empowerment within myself, and I tell myself “Hey! You know what! You need to tell this guy EXACTLY how he made you feel when he did or said this somewhat/kinda/probably not too bad of a thing. And you need to ignore the fact that you’re extremely sensitive, and you need to ignore that voice in the back of your head telling you that the guy did not mean it the way that you are taking it!” And I promise you–I write a fucking novel, describing my every thought that ran through my head at the exact time that it did, and every feeling he made me feel from my toes to my soul. “OOOOH he’s gonna hear it from me! He’ll think twice before he ever says or does something like that to me ever again!” And then when he defends his actions or words (with a viable excuse), I claim, “Uh, I was just communicating, duh. It’s the key to any successful relationship OBVIOUSLY.”
It’s adorable, really.
- Constant fear of the new person thinking I’m “Too Much” of something.
Oh goodness. Don’t even get me started on my empowerment remorse after sending those novels. After my emotions are calm again and I’ve released some tension through my nightly dance rituals, I realize that I may have been a LITTTTLLEEE over-sensitive. And I realize that I may have been a little too much. Too much. I can be too much. And I know, I know, I know how the saying goes–“You will never be ‘too much’ of anything for the right person”, and I truly do believe that. I do. I know that the right person is going to come along and be okay with my rants and he’ll take it all on and he’ll be okay, but honestly, I’m self-aware enough to realize that he shouldn’t have to. Not as much as I do it. I get very defensive and I stand up on my soap box far too much when I don’t have to.
- Attachment/Detachment struggle??
If you’ve known me since I first started dating (at 16), you’d know that I’ve always fallen for guys really hard, really fast. I’ve come to the conclusion that I was constantly trying to find what my parents had at such a young age, yet, I never realized until I was older just how rare and special my parents’ relationship is, and that it just could never be replicated. So anyway, with -said- ex, I was extremely attached (hence one of the reasons I stuck around so long in such a shitty situation). I now have this terrible habit of flipping back and forth between becoming extremely attached and…well…extremely detached. If a guy I meet fits my–now inconceivable–high standards (can you blame me honestly?), I do fall hard really fast still. I immediately want to put my whole heart and soul into making the dude happy (…this really shouldn’t come as a surprise, guys. Ya’ll know me, c’,mon). However, now, the attachment doesn’t feel the same. There’s this constant void that eats at me, and that little voice in the back of my head reminds me to expect them to leave. (YIKES). Because of this, I start detaching myself quickly, and sometimes it feels like I’m trying to self-sabotage anything close to a good relationship in order to avoid getting hurt. Does that even make sense to you? It does to me, and I really think it’s a thing. And ew, gross.
- Searching for arguments.
So that whole self-sabotage thing? Here it is. I think I convinced myself for so long in my past that arguments/fights equaled passion. If someone wanted to be with you, they would fight with you and argue with you because…I dunno… they cared about you so much that they were willing to risk it all?
EWWW ALEX STOP THAT’S SO GROSS AND TOXIC.
I’ve never actually thought about why I thought fighting was passionate until now. I have to remind myself that there’s a difference between fighting for you/communicating and fighting with you/saying really mean shit just to hurt you. Yet I still find myself searching for arguments in relationships. Like…”Okay, this guy really apologized THAT fast for hurting my feelings?! He must not really care. He must just be saying what I want to hear. I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind.” That… and I think I convinced myself that fighting=passion for so long that I actually taught myself that if I was to get mad at someone and started an argument with them…and they stuck around…. that must mean they really like me. Which then makes me the extremely toxic/manipulative person in a relationship.
And holy shit–no one deserves that.
- Making excuses for the shitty things guys do to me because the shitty things weren’t AS shitty.
This is something that the people closest to me have made me aware of. I always thought that I was just learning to me more patient with guys and I was putting myself in their shoes and being an understanding person. I just never thought of their actions as unfair or unkind or fuckboy-ish because their actions–or rather inactions–were never half as bad as what I was put through for 4 years. I’ve been stood up more times than I can count on my hand (with lame ass excuses each time), but I “excused” them because I knew they were busy people. I’ve been taken advantage of, but I “excused” it all because those guys just didn’t know what they wanted yet. I’ve been told a lot of pretty words, but I haven’t seen a lot of action, yet I “excused” it because, well damn…you trying telling someone who’s love language is ‘words of affirmation’ that actions speak louder than words.
- Jumping to tell them my experience in hopes they’d never do it.
This may be the one I hate most… except for that argument one because..yeah that’s pretty bad. But anyway, you all obviously know that I’m an open book. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I truly believe that you have to “confess your mess” in order to help others. But I have this terrible habit of not waiting long enough to tell potential boyfriends about my story and my struggle with my past. It’s like I tell myself that they need to know where I came from and they need to know why I am the way that I am. And while yes, that’s a really HUGE truth, I know there’s some part of my heart that hopes the guy will be gentle with me if they knew about my past. That’s so unfair.
I KNOW that I should wait until I can really trust the dude enough to know that he WOULDN’T do those things in the first place before I tell him about my past, but there is a constant battle in my mind, and my hopeful heart wins that battle every time.
There are probably a few more traits that I can think of, but they’re far more personal.
Nevertheless, I know that almost 50% of American men AND women have faced emotional and psychological abuse, and I cannot be alone in this constant battle.
I am blessed to be in a place in my life where I can not only recognize the effects that the abuse had on me, but also tease myself about them (mainly out of discomfort, but still…). Not everyone is there yet. I can only imagine how many people are unaware of the toxic traits they may be contributing to new relationships because of past emotional aggression.
If you’re constantly feeling like every one of your relationships fail now, maybe it’s time to start having an honest conversation with yourself, and maybe start reflecting on some of the things that you believe could be hurting yourself and others within your new relationships.
Start now. Save yourself some pain further down the road, and start working on bettering the traits and qualities that you don’t like to see.
Lord knows I will.