Kyla, 35, sat on the couch of my office telling me about her unhealthy relationship with Keith, 38, and how after ten years, she was still living with him and putting up with verbal abuse and disrespect.
Kyla put it like this, “I’m not sure why I’m still with him. The put downs have gotten worse and my self-esteem is at an all time low. The other day I was driving the car and took a wrong turn (because it was raining hard) and he said “You’re such an idiot, you can’t even drive right. Do I have to drive you around like a child?”
When I asked Kyla what she thinks makes up a healthy relationship, she said respect and feeling like your partner is your best friend and doesn’t put you down. I agreed with her and asked her to write down these and other ingredients so we could further discuss them in sessions.
What are the Ingredients to a Healthy Relationship?
One of the things I mentioned to Kyla is that a key to finding and sustaining a healthy relationship to consider is: how do you treat yourself? No one will treat you with respect if you devalue yourself. You must rid yourself of self-defeating thoughts such as “I’m stupid” or “No one will ever love me” if you want to build relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy.
That said, if your romantic relationship or marriage brings out your insecurities and causes you to mistrust your own judgment this relationship may not be the best one for you. Many people become involved or even obsessed with the wrong partner – someone who is emotionally unavailable, romantically involved with other partners, addicted to substances – or who cannot love them back.
5 Ways to Let Go of Toxic Relationships:
- Assess your partner’s willingness to meet your emotional and personal needs. Counseling, blogging, and/or coaching can help you with this.
- Seek a partner you can be authentic and vulnerable with. In other words, you don’t have to walk on eggshells with him or her. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
- Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left. But if he or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest, your partner will be a boost to your self-esteem.
- Don’t compromise your values. Figure out your core beliefs and stand by them. Ask for what you need and speak up when something bothers you in an assertive but not aggressive way.
- Avoid being a people pleaser. In other words, don’t give up too much of your time, energy, or wishes to please your partner or others. Compromise is important in intimate relationships but both partners need to feel supported, cared for, and appreciated.
Chemistry versus Compatibility
Indeed, people who are attracted to partners who hurt them often confuse chemistry and compatibility. In fact, they are both essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship. Whereas chemistry (how interesting and stimulating you find the person) is essential to keeping couples interested, compatibility (sharing common values, goals, and having fun together) will help a couple get through tough times.
In Kyla’s case, she was attracted to Keith because they had good sexual chemistry but they didn’t share the same interests or goals. While she wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree in education to excel as a teacher and to stay in her New England town, Keith’s goals where to open a business in Florida. They argued a lot about these differences and she didn’t feel he could relate to her passion for teaching and supporting children.
In sum, many people stay in destructive relationships because they consistently put their partner’s needs before their own. Often women are raised to focus on others and defer their own needs. Men and women who have low self-esteem may hang on too long to a toxic relationship for fear of being alone. Too often individuals are left with a depleted sense of self and they look for their partner to validate them.
However, you can learn to set healthy expectations of partners and this will cause your sense of self to soar as you build self-respect. By learning to be more assertive, you will no longer feel like a victim. Making yourself a priority isn’t the same as being selfish. You are worth the effort and deserve a happier life and healthier relationships.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True in 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry