Dear Therapist: 'I always fall for toxic relationships'

Published: Wed 23 Jun 2021, 7:49 PM

Last updated: Thu 1 Jul 2021, 3:45 PM

I always fall for toxic relationships and find myself attached to people who are no good for me. But somehow, I feel like I owe them my love and I’ll be guilty if I decide to walk out of a relationship. How can I avoid this cycle when it comes to picking the right partner? — Name Withheld

By Prateeksha Shetty

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Dear Writer, I am glad that you have recognised this and you are on the way to making better decisions. There is no single factor that can help explain why you are attracted to people who don’t treat you well. It may be a combination of past experiences (parents’ marital relationships and dynamics), attachment styles, traumatic events, fear of being alone, low self-esteem or sometimes empathy at the cost of yourself. If you have played the role of a parent or a caregiver as a young child, that may also contribute to the belief that you owe people love. We only owe love to ourselves!

I suggest that you understand your attachment needs or how you respond in relationships, which would give you better insight into what you attract versus what you need. For instance, someone with an anxious attachment style would be drawn to avoidant people, who fail to fulfil needs of their partner by being cold, distant or even demeaning. Perhaps, you invest in people faster than your partner or you idealise them or you feel more intensely about loved ones and do not identify warning signs… When you work on increasing self-awareness, it will stop you from repeating your patterns. I highly recommend that you read Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, which can shed some light on this and help answer some questions for you.

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