Falling in love only to wake up later and realise that you have been completed duped, misled and devalued by a toxic partner is one of the most devastating experiences a person can go through. It betrays the trust that you had in yourself and human nature.
So, what can you do so as not to fall into the same trap again? How can you see the reality for what it is, ahead of time, so as not to be fooled again by a toxic partner?
That is what we need to look at today.
Whether or not you even want another partner, this is still vital information on three counts,
- You really don’t want to have to spend the rest of your life living defensively. That is never a pleasant way to live.
- It offers you useful criteria for assessing people and taking back your own power.
- It is one of those exceedingly annoying laws of the universe that when you keep running away from something, you end up running into a different iteration of it.
You need to be able to get on with your life confidently.
That means understanding and working with your own susceptibility.
What you need to factor into your equation
One thing you have learned from your experience – or, at least, could have learned – is that you’re uncritical to a fault.
You’re so prepared to believe the very best of your partner (and probably the worst of yourself) that you’re blind to the warning signs.
Now, that is a somewhat inconvenient trait to have. It means, in practice, that you are too nice to pick on the signs that another person is so far from nice as to be actively damaging…. At least until you have been actively damaged by that person on any number of occasions.
You can’t afford to keep exposing yourself to wounding people.
What that means is simply that you have to upgrade your relationship skill-set.
The relationship skill-set upgrade
Now, I don’t know whether this sounds to you like a big deal or not. It shouldn’t be.
One of the biggest parts of acquiring any new learning is opening to the fact that you just don’t know what you don’t know… YET. Once you do, you go back to the idea of eating the metaphorical elephant. You just learn what needs to be learned, one bite at a time.
Nobody – but you – expects you to acquire a whole new skill-set overnight.
Most people can’t get behind the wheel of a car for the first time and drive away like a seasoned driver. But one or two can.
Most people can’t sit down at a piano for the first time and play a Mozart sonata; although you might find the odd one or two who can play whatever they hear by hear.
Most people won’t put their trust in someone who they know is emotionally damaged, had a ‘hard life’, and a history of troubled relationships, and achieve their happy ever after. But one or two do.
Some people can run faster than others. Some are better at sport, or art than
others. Some can sing; others can’t. Some are good at maths; others aren’t. It’s not a question of better or worse. It’s a simple fact.
Some women are better at relationships than others – mostly thanks to a healthy and supportive environment in their family of origin. Chances are, that was not your background.
You already know that picking good potential partners is not one of your natural gifts or family blessings. There is absolute no shame or stigma in that.
But on the plus side, it is something you can learn, provided you start working with the 15 step upgrade.
15 step upgrade
- Take new relationships SLOWLY. This serves two purposes: first, it gives you the time to notice things; second, abusive partners tend not to want to spend too long courting their prey and they will either start to lose interest or show their true colours.
- Make a written record of every little ‘incident’ where a new partner behaves in a way that you don’t quite like, or you find upsetting. You may start to a see a pattern. He may sulk if he doesn’t get his own way, or ignore your feelings, or get angry over small things. This will help you counteract your tendency to diminish or excuse “micro-abuse”.
- Listen carefully to what he says about his previous girlfriends. If he tells you that they all behaved badly towards him, then that’s probably exactly what he’ll say about you, one day. If they’ve all disappointed him, you can bet you’ll end up disappointing him too, however hard you try. Because he sees himself as a
victim of the women in his life.
- Pay attention to how he talks about other people. If he expresses hostility or contempt for most of the people in his life, that is his base emotion. The time will come when he will surely visit that hostility or contempt on you.
- Get over that old belief about the transformational power of your love. You can love someone a LOT but that doesn’t mean that you can transform them into what you consider their best possible version.
- Do NOT make find explanations or excuses for things that don’t sit well with you. At the start of a relationship, you can expect a person to be on their best behaviour – you surely are. So, don’t go making excuses and explanations for ANYTHING that your intuition flags up as “off”.
- Don’t settle. Don’t settle for inconsistencies, broken promises, little lies, blowing hot and hot, or any other form of micro-abuse. If you want to be with someone who is consistently loving and sweet-tempered – and why wouldn’t you?? – then only accept someone who is consistent and sweet-tempered.
- Notice how easily he becomes angry and how angry he gets. You won’t be immune from his anger for too long. You can even provoke his anger over some small thing to see exactly how he behaves; if you dare. Of course, if you don’t dare, then you really should not be with him.
- Find out about his relationship with his family. If his relationship with his family has broken down, or even if his mother seems to dominate him, it bodes badly for his relationship with you. You could end up “winning” an additional hostile, overbearing parent to deal with.
- If he has children by a previous relationship, find out how well they get on with him. If they don’t like him there’s probably a good reason – and it may not be just because his ex-wife/girlfriend ‘is a bitch’.
- If he has any addictions, whether to drugs, drink, gambling, sex or anything else; unless you want to play second fiddle to an addiction, that’s your cue to run very fast, in the opposite direction. He may beat his addiction one day, but you certainly can’t do it for him, and the chances are he will drag you down with him.
- If he has a history of violent behaviour in his past, assume that you will end up as his punch bag, if you stick around. Your love won’t change his behaviour.
- Get a copy of “He’s just not that into you” by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo and read it until every word is etched on your heart. It will help you to distinguish
between the way a man treats you when he truly care and the way he‘ll treat you
when they don’t.
- Grow your circle of friends and well-wishers, so you aren’t putting all your emotional eggs in one basket.
- Learn to love yourself first*. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love other people, it’s simply doing the opposite of putting yourself last. You’ve seen where putting yourself last has ever got you.
You have to put in the work
Is there a degree of hard work in making sure that you never get fooled by a toxic partner again? Certainly.
All of the upgrade points will become second nature, in time.
Before they do, you will have to put in the work.
But here’s the thing, you can put in the work before you commit to the relationship – and make a happy, safe, loving relationship. Or else, you can dive straight into an intense relationship, find yourself in another toxic, co-dependent relationship and have to do shedloads of work to escape and rebuild yourself.
What makes more sense to you?
If you feel you need help in healing the old wounds and learning how to build a healthy relationship next time around, get in touch.
* My ebook “The Woman You Want To Be” offers you the most powerful way I know of learning to love yourself first.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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