Destructive Relationships

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

This whole subject is such a minefield. Nobody likes to be told that their bad relationship or their general unhappiness is their responsibility, but ultimately, the only way to fix things is to take the bull by the horns (as it were) & start making some changes.

Yesterday I talked to a friend about my In Bed With Your Parents article, about how your childhood experiences impact on your life today. She got very defensive & angry, which is sad because I wanted to help her. My intention in writing this is not to upset or offend anyone, but to (hopefully) help you. Also, I would like to add that I am not exempt from the whole situation. I have been in plenty of bad relationships in my time. So please take it in the manner in which it was intended! Okay, disclaimer aside…

Are you in an unhealthy relationship? You’ll probably know, deep down, if you are — but denial is a powerful thing. If you’re not sure, have a read through this list. The following are all signs that your relationship could be better:

You think that there is one special person who will make you happy. (Hint: no one can make you happy except yourself.)

Your friends — who normally have good judgment — dislike your partner a lot, & when they criticise him/her, you end up springing to their defense with weak excuses like, “Oh, but he’s normally not like that…”

You put up with your lover treating you badly, & feel like if you wait long enough/try hard enough/become a better person, this bad treatment will stop.

You’ve tried to leave before, but you can’t, or you feel unhappy with them but think you would be worse off alone.

The way you treat each other is atrocious but the sex is really good.

You never know what is going to happen next — & not in an exhilirating, romantic way, more in a stomach-churning, nauseated by fear kind of way.

You think that if you left them, they wouldn’t care.

You barely ever see your friends, family or anyone else. It’s natural to be in love & want to see your loved one all the time, but it’s not healthy to cut yourself off from the world. Your friends have complained about it, but you don’t care.

Everything else in your life is suffering — along with your social life, your health & career are also going down the tubes. Find it hard to concentrate at work because of your constant personal drama? Are you eating a lot more, or less, than usual? Do you get drunk to memory-loss as often as possible? Do you do anything other than spend time with person x?

Your partner scares you, intimidates you or is abusive physically, emotionally or sexually.

There is really no way to improve a relationship that is bad for you. People rarely change, regardless of how much we want them to. The only way they will change is if THEY want to, & even then, it is a long, hard road. There are probably ways to make it more tolerable in the short-term, if that’s what you want — is that really what you want? If so, start reading relationship books, though ultimately they will echo what I’ve written here.

If you want to break your bad patterns, have a think about how you would actually like your relationships to be. Do you want a girlfriend who can’t live without you — or is her clinginess & dependency on you going to feel suffocating? I personally think the make-up of a good relationship is something like: open, honest communication; respect; intimacy & fun. Communication is probably the most important part. If you are too scared to voice your opinion to your partner, or you’re afraid of how they’ll react, you have a problem. If you can’t communicate, believe me when I say it won’t last.

Imagine a healthy relationship in your mind. Think about how both parties would behave. Then make a list of those traits — for example, someone in a good relationship would expect to be treated well, & not accept any less, or have a partner who encouraged them to have their own social life. Write it down. Make it three pages long if you need to.

Now, I know that this sounds overly simplistic, but all you need to do now is pretend to be the person you’ve just written about. Seriously, that’s it. Walk how they would (probably tall & proud), dress the way they would, speak the way they would, & only interact with people who you think they would. If your friends think you’re acting weird, tell them what you’re doing. If they’re supportive of you, keep them around — if not, bin ’em. Negativity is bullshit!

You will find by doing this for long enough that you will become this person. Sometimes the way you used to be will slip through, but don’t worry about it, just keep doing it. Fake it until you make it.

Other things you can do to avoid slipping back into bad relationship habits:
When you meet someone, don’t have sex too soon. You risk emotionally bonding yourself to someone who you may be completely incompatible with — which will put you right back where you started.
Try to see people AS THEY ARE, not as you want them to be.
Communicate. If someone says they’ll call & they don’t, challenge them on it. You deserve someone who does what they say they will.
Don’t give people second chances. You may need to be tougher than most people for a while, just to make sure you break the habit of being a doormat.
Listen to your gut. If you think someone might be cheating on you, or that things don’t feel right, get out. Don’t second-guess yourself.
Make sure your partner makes you feel good about yourself. Most people get into destructive relationships because of low self-esteem. The person you share a bed with should make you feel like the most amazing person in the world.
Instead of freaking out about the relationship, focus on yourself. “Remember you? What do YOU want?” For a lot of people (women, especially), their relationship becomes their hobby — they work at it & think about it obsessively. Think about yourself for a change.

Not sure how to get out of it? Don’t delay. It will become more difficult the longer you put it off. If you’re living together & know it’ll be you moving out, make arrangements with a friend to stay at their place. Then comes the hard part. Once you’ve made your decision, sit down your soon-to-be-ex & tell them you’re leaving. Explain why. You do not need their permission to leave, you do not need to justify your reasoning. Try not to get into all that ugly “I don’t love you anymore” stuff. Then make your escape.

If you want more information, I definitely recommend Hot Relationships by Tracey Cox. It is really a very good book. Another great book which I love is The Guide To Getting It On by Paul Joannides. (It’s huge but it’s so good that I want to buy every new edition that comes out. It covers pretty much every aspect of sex & relationships that you could possibly think of.)

Reading this article is not going to change your situation. It might make you more aware of what’s going on, but I know by now that people will do what they want to, regardless of what you tell them. If you really want to change your relationship patterns & get happier, you need to take action. Take responsibility for your life! If you’re miserable, you need to do something about it! You are in charge, even if you think you’re not. Take care of yourself.

Extra for Experts:
Negative People — how to get them out of your life.
I’m So Jealous! — tips for improving your self-esteem.