Are you struggling over and over with bad and toxic relationships? Are you unhappy because you are wasting time on all these losers and wonder if you will ever find the right relationship? Don’t give up! There are a lot of life lessons about real love to be learned from unhealthy relationships.
These lessons will set you up for success when you find the right person. But, what kind of lessons do you learn? Some of them may not be the first thing you think about when you’re looking for true love but they’re important.
Here are 7 love lessons you can learn from toxic relationships.
1. Learn what relationship red flags look like
Red flags are signals that there is something bad ahead. Sometimes, they are clear but sometimes, they are not. Oftentimes, we ignore them. And when we do, disasters happen. What might a relationship red flag look like?
Some are subtle. Perhaps he talks about his ex a lot or he has a bad relationship with his mother. Perhaps he hasn’t been able to hold down a job. Or perhaps he refuses to talk about anything difficult. Some are more obvious. Perhaps he states that he doesn’t want a serious relationship or that kids are out of the question. Perhaps he tells you that that male friend of yours has to go.
The thing about relationship red flags is that often we see them and we ignore them or justify them away. Hopefully, unhealthy relationships will help you to recognize that those red flags can be accurate and that, if you had only paid attention to them in the beginning, you could have spared yourself a whole lot of pain.
2. Know what not to do
One lesson that can be learned from being in a toxic relationship is what not to do next time. Many of us have behaviors that we repeat in every relationship and many of us are in serial toxic relationships because of it.
For many people, we tend to personalize things that happen in a relationship. If our guy comes home late, it’s because they don’t love us. If they don’t put away their dirty laundry, they don’t respect us. And if they forget our birthday, we just aren’t important to them. And while in some cases these things might be true, more often than not things that people do have nothing to do with the other person — they have to do with misjudgment and neglect.
So, don’t take things personally — it’s not all about you. Another thing that people tend to do in unhealthy relationships is to be passive-aggressive and to antagonize. Instead of confronting an issue head-on, many of us make snide comments on the side, hoping our person will hear our dissatisfaction and act on it. Furthermore, we continue to harp on an issue, cutting a thousand little cuts, to the point that our partner no longer cares about what our concerns are.
These are just two behaviors that derail many relationships. There are others. Take a good hard look at what your role is in this relationship — unhealthy relationships rarely happen because of one person’s behavior. Figure out what yours are and take note.
3. Be aware that enabling is not supporting
Have you ever been in a relationship that was struggling and you tried to save it by being supportive? Many of us, women, in particular, believe that if we can just support our person that the relationship will hold.
If we are patient while our partners work late hours or hold their hands when they feel insecure again about something that happened at the gym or look the other way when they have that third vodka after dinner we believe that they will notice us and stay in love with us.
And that, maybe, their troubling behaviors will change. Unfortunately, this ‘supporting’ is really more ‘enabling,’ and enabling is not good in any relationship. If you continue to look the other way when your partner gets drunk or ignores you because of work or yells at you because of their own insecurities, you are telling your partner that their behaviors are ok. And if your partner thinks their behaviors are ok, they will never change. If your partner has behaviors that make you unhappy, stop supporting them. Either speak up about them or walk.
4. Figure out what traits you want in a partner
One of the clearest lessons to learn from bad relationships is what it really is that you want in a partner. Even as we hold on to toxic people, we do start to very clearly see their shortcomings and we can, therefore, get a sense of what we ideally would want if we were in charge of the world.
I had a guy who I loved but who was desperately insecure, who wanted to please everyone, who had a quick temper, who lived with a ton of fear, and who was in and out of jobs. I loved him but I was suffering. When I finally broke free of that relationship I set out looking for a guy who knew who he was, who was patient and kind and steady.
I was very clear about that and did ultimately find what I was seeking. So, what do you want in a partner? Make a list, write it down, and refer to it often.
5. Letting go is not giving up
I can’t tell you how many of my clients who are struggling with letting go of love in toxic relationships tell me that they aren’t walking away because they don’t want to give up! That they aren’t quitters.
And I always tell them the same thing — that there are two people in a relationship and that as long as you are the only one making the effort, or that the efforts you both are making aren’t working, then it’s not a matter of giving up. You can only control your own efforts — only you can finish that marathon — but you can’t control someone else. It’s not giving up if your partner isn’t giving their all as well. So, if you are struggling with “giving up”, don’t! Know that you can let go of a love that isn’t serving you and move on with your head held high, knowing that you did your best.
6. Be aware of how strong you are
For those of us who survive unhealthy relationships (which, pretty much, we all do in the end) we know how strong we are. By having the fortitude to let go of a love that wasn’t serving you, you are reclaiming your own power, a power that you might have lost in the struggle that was your bad relationship.
Talk to someone who has escaped from a bad situation and you will see someone who might be sad, perhaps really sad, but someone who feels powerful having been able to do it. Letting go of unhealthy relationships is incredibly difficult — do it and you will feel stronger than you ever have before.
7. Being alone is better than being unhappy
One thing that can become very clear when you are in a toxic relationship is how much better it might be to be alone than to be with someone who makes you miserable. There is nothing worse than the day in and day out suffering from being in a toxic relationship. You wake up to it, it lives with you throughout the day and is there when you go to bed at night.
Sure, when you are alone you might spend time on your couch binge-watching Game of Thrones, but your time is your own. You can do what you want. And, while you might feel miserable that you are alone, I can promise you that it’s not as miserable as you might feel if you spend your days struggling with bad relationships.
Learning love lessons from unhealthy relationships is a key part of finding love and happiness.
The goal is to not repeat history — not at work, not with parenting, not with behaviors, and not with relationships. The goal is to learn from our mistakes and move forward to find success in the future.
So, take a good look at all the bad relationships you have had in your life and take inventory of what lessons you have learned so that you can do things differently in the future!
You can do it! True love is out there waiting for you!