Any toxic relationship that I’ve been involved in, has always kept going due to me essentially cherry-picking what I wanted to remember about the person and the relationship whether romantic or otherwise. While I did spend most of my life feeling wounded by my father’s absence and the sporadic periods or even moments spent with him, what I mostly remembered was how I felt around him and the happy times, which of course there were some but I’d admittedly romanticised the hell out of them. I’d selectively remember spending visitations with him and how thrilled I always was to see him, but I’d conveniently forget how we used to sit on the side of a cricket pitch or in some pub and how I’d have to pretend that I didn’t want to spend real quality time with him. I wanted to be involved instead of being an observer or accessory.
I was a sucker for a returning Mr Unavailable. Suddenly my resentment, hurt, frustration and all of the things that I’d identified as being unhealthy or unsuited to me were forgotten and instead I’d press the Reset Button and be back to the time before they first started showing signs of who they were and what was to come. Each time one particular ex that I dated on and off for four years and saw a handful of times a year phoned (this started around 96/97 so it was all landlines and radio silence in between), I only remembered possibilities, how I wanted to feel, and what I perceived as his good points – tall, made me laugh, good looking, clever, smelled of Polo Sport, good kisser. It clearly didn’t take much! What I didn’t remember – he vanished after each date despite making out that we were imminently seeing each other again, he was ridiculously ambiguous, sometimes pretentious, talked a lot and mostly about himself, and he did a couple of really disingenuous things that communicated that he wasn’t to be confided in.
I also returned to a highly toxic relationship that left me anxious, unable to sleep, and questioning everything about me right down to my race and I’ve given out more chances to other exes because basically I’d forget the downside of being with and around them.
Even if we focus on a person’s good points, we will always deal with the consequences of them coming as a full package.
And this is ultimately where anyone who has ever tried to remain with or get back together with somebody for the ‘good points’ ends up feeling the pain: They remain or go back because they’re blinded to the whole package due to wanting to reap the benefits of those points. They represent potential and seeing the person as a whole represents disappointment. They wish they could extract these points and multiply them into being full-time, but this all ends up happening at an increasing real-time, full package cost that isn’t worth it.
Ever had a friend who gives your social life a boost or who appears to be supportive when you share your problems with them, only to find that they put you down or do other sh*tty things to you? That right there is the problem with only seeing people in parts or points. You might remind yourself about how they’re fun company or about the people they introduce you to, or how you can talk to them about your family or whatever, but what price are you willing to pay? If you confide in someone who appears empathetic and supportive at the time but then they use what you share or their perception of you to their advantage or as a means to clobber you, that’s not friendship! You’re inadvertently giving this drainer the blueprints to eff you over!
Equally, it’s all very well remembering that you have someone around, that you’re not single, that when it’s on it’s so on, and that they take you places, talk about plans, appear very remorseful and swear up and down that they’re never going to be or do whatever code red malarkey that they did the last time and the time before that, but that is a problem if when it’s off, it’s so very off that it’s dangerous to your well-being and you’re essentially destroying your sense of self.
One woman shared appalling stories of her ‘Chopper’ boyfriend’s behaviour towards her but the fact that he could be very charming, sweet, and apologetic and that it felt like the time of her life when he wasn’t gaslighting, namecalling, cheating, and giving her a few slaps, kept her hopes alive that one day he’d be motivated to cease what he was doing. Here’s the thing though: When you’re in a healthy relationship, your partner being sweet, kind, caring, taking you places, apologising when they’ve erred and basically being in your life is a good thing, but when a person takes advantage of or even abuses you, that ‘sweetness’, remorse and time spent with you comes from a different place and has a very high price. Of course her now ex is great at apologies, faux remorse, and wooing her back in with good times – how else is he going to sell the relationship to her?
Somebody who’s going to jack you around is not going to let you in on the dark side of being with them so they will use Future Faking, Fast Forwarding, and general flattery and showboating in the initial stages to sell themselves. Really, it’s like getting a low introductory offer with killer interest rates.
People come as a full package and when we focus on the attractive and yes, even imagined parts, we’re forgetting that everything else comes part and parcel with that person. They can’t dispose of their past, their fears, motivations, beliefs, habits and whatever else just to give us the selected highlights. No matter how much a person tries to disguise who they are, who they truly are is self-evident as they unfold. All we have to be doing is be awake and in our own space where we can differentiate between us and them instead of owning their feelings and behaviour.
If we take what we perceive as the ‘good’ and downgrade or even attempt to delete the relevance of the less palatable parts, we’re still getting the rest of it. All we’re doing is the equivalent of trying to refuse delivery of a parcel each time it shows up in our doorway. After a while, these parcels from the person and the relationship unfolding just pile up around your home until they’re too big to ignore. No matter how much we attempt to ignore this stuff it becomes the key issue and decider of the relationship.
No person is perfect but each person is whole.
Once we learn to accept people for who they are instead of trying to segment them into the picture we’ve painted in our mind, we consciously choose whether we are prepared to live with the consequences of what certain characteristics and behaviour bring into a relationship. We get very real about what is wonderful and not so wonderful. We get real about what matters and we also get real about who we are when we’re around that person. Sometimes we are prepared to hang around because we tell ourselves that some crumbs is better than no crumbs or that we can live with the pain to get the highs but it’s important to remember that pain isn’t love; it’s pain. If we can’t love a person for who they are, all we’re really doing is loving them for who they’re not, which means we’re not really loving them at all.
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