Is love enough for a blissful relationship? When you first fall in love, it may seem like it. You truly believe you two are just perfect for each other! But after some time, your relationship begins to fall apart. It isn’t as “perfect” as you thought it would be, and you start questioning everything you thought you knew. Was it all an illusion? We saw this happen on Euphoria with Rue and Jules. They bonded over their demons – ready to be saved by each other. But in reality, their relationship was led by emotional dependency, jealousy, and a lack of healthy communication. They both needed their own healing. They were toxic for each other.
And what about your relationship? Do you balance one another like a yin and yang, or do you bring out the worst in each other? Here are some signs your relationship is actually toxic.
Stuck Inside A Drama Triangle
Dr. Stephen Karpman came up with a model of human interaction which he called The Drama Triangle. In this triangle, there are 3 roles people take during conflict: the Victim, the Rescuer, and the Persecutor. Over time, both of you may shift from one role to the other. And unfortunately, they’re not really the healthiest conversation styles. Could you be stuck in a drama triangle? Let’s explore these roles and see.
When a problem arises, the Victim is quick to conclude that everything is out of their control – everyone and everything is against them and their problems cannot be solved, even if they “try so hard”. They often say things like “I wish someone would care about me” or “why does this happen to me”. This role is also called a victim mentality. Marriage and family therapist Daniel Danshaw wrote that people with this mindset use passive-aggressive statements, don’t take responsibility for their actions, and often feel lonely and unsupported by their partner – which leads us to the Rescuer.
Thinking you can love your abusive partner through the pain… Thinking you can find the cure for their depression… Believing being a better partner will solve all their problems… Those are all examples of how a Rescuer tries to save their Victim. They are drawn to needy, emotionally damaged people, and partners who would become dependent on them. Psychologists also coined the term “rescuer syndrome”, or “The White Knight Syndrome”, as clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Lamia calls it in her book, “The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself from Your Need to Rescue Others”. That’s when the Rescuer is convinced they can fix their broken partner and heal them. But this belief ultimately harms them – clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo said on Medium that constantly feeling the need to help their partner could make them over-invest and push their own needs aside.
And finally, there’s The Persecutor with their famous line: “It’s all your fault!” The Persecutor is controlling, angry, and overly critical. They might blame you for even the most insignificant things – “you didn’t wash the dishes correctly! It’s your fault we’re two minutes late!” Licensed Marriage and family therapist Tyler Rich says that the Persecutor “often denies their own weakness, and focuses on the weaknesses and problems of others”. By doing that, they want to have the entire situation under control, at all times. And most importantly, they want to avoid becoming the Victims, which actually happens quite often.
Are you interested to learn how a Persecutor becomes a Victim? Or how A Victim shifts to being a Rescuer? Leave a comment to let us know!
Give You All Of Me
As you move through the triangle and shift roles from Victim to Rescuer to Persecutor, you may find that your relationship has become codependent. This means that each person involved is reliant on the other in some way – mentally, emotionally, or physically. As with the drama triangle, both partners take different roles – the taker, and the giver. According to relationship expert Margaret Paul, these roles can also switch, depending on the situation. For example, you may be the taker when you depend on your partner emotionally. But at the same time, your partner may depend on you financially – and then you become a giver.
In an interview for ChoosingTherapy.com, licensed therapist Kate O’Brian mentioned some signs that your relationship might be codependent. Do you feel totally lost when they’re not around, like you’re not your own person without them? Or maybe you cancel plans with others just to spend at least a few more moments with them? You may also have a hard time saying no to them, or feel like you need to save them from themselves.
Some may say that this is nothing but pure love, sacrificing yourself for your partner. But codependent relationships are toxic because they draw you further and further away from the person you should care for the most – yourself.
Licensed psychologist and author Dr. Renee Exelbert said for VeryWellMind that “this dynamic is referred to as a relationship addiction”. Even if, on the outside, it looks like the greatest love in the universe, both sides may suffer on the inside. You might lose your sense of self, not knowing where you end and your partner begins. And if at some point you feel like you want to leave, your codependent dynamic might make it too difficult to actually take that step.
Hot N Cold
Victim mentality, controlling behavior, rescuer syndrome, codependency… All of these might stem from your childhood and your attachment style. Are you and your partner anxious and avoidant? Check out this video to find out.
Adult attachment theory was hypothesized by psychologist John Bowlby. He believes that anxious adults may often feel unworthy and seek approval from their partners, worrying that one day they would be abandoned. On the other end, avoidant adults are deeply afraid of emotional commitment. They feel the need to be independent and free – they’d rather go out than spend a cuddling night with their partner in front of TV, for example.
Licensed psychotherapist Sheri Gaba describes the dynamic between these two for Psychology Today. She says that, because an anxious partner is so afraid of rejection, they push away the securely attached, and attract the avoidant style. And even if the avoidant partner doesn’t crave intimacy, they do crave attention. The anxious partner provides that attention, but it also pushes them away, and sometimes this dynamic can even get abusive. And then, before you know it, you’re stuck in a trap: one of you keeps chasing, the other runs away… and together you endlessly run through the cycle of the drama triangle, codependency, and anxious-avoidant love.
Naturally, if you find yourself in this situation, you’re faced with a question: what next? Can you fix this? Maybe, through therapy, you could work on your issues and overcome the difficulties. But, sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Should you move on from this toxic relationship? Here are 6 Signs Your Relationship Is Over. Let us know in the comments if you can relate to any of these situations! Until next time, take care and remember: you matter.
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