Why you attract toxic partners and how to stop the cycle

Why you attract toxic partners and how to stop the cycle

Relationship expert and author of 'Embracing Conflict', Paula Quinsee, explores what makes people attracted to  toxic partners and how to get out of those relationships.

Toxic relationship
Toxic relationship /iStock

It's not uncommon for people to find themselves in toxic relationships, but what happens when they end up attracting the same toxic type of person every time they try to date?

Relationship expert Paula Quinsee says some of the root causes are upbringing and background, because they form the basis of how one views relationships. 

"Upbringing and background have a large role to play in this behaviour as well as personal experiences. The foundation of our emotional intelligence is formed in childhood, particularly the first seven years of a child’s life," says Paula. 

"If a person grows up in an abusive environment (physical, emotional, substance abuse etc.), they will potentially form a skewed perspective that this is the norm and how relationships and love is supposed to be." 

READ: Signs that you are battling an alcohol addiction

According to Brainy Dose, other people attract abusers because they are patient, kind, peacekeepers, and easy going, and this attracts  toxic people who take advantage of their mellow nature. The toxic people interpret the person's great personality as a weakness and view them as someone who is easy to control. 

Another factor could be that you are a problem-solver by nature and want to fix everything and everyone. You might also find that you would do anything to help others and are generous. Some people might take advantage of this strength and be too demanding and abuse you. 

Brainy Dose says some people attract abusers because they always see the good in others and overlook red flags or choose to remain positive that the person will change. 

What causes a person to become abusive? 

"It is not uncommon for relationships to start off very well and then over time to turn abusive. In terms of the traditional relationship cycle that every couple goes through, the beginning stages is commonly known as the romantic/honeymoon phase which can last up to 24 months depending on the dynamics of the two people involved. In this phase there is a combination of lust, attraction, infatuation and being on our best behaviour to win our partner over is at play.

"Over time, a couple becomes more settled in their relationship and comfortable with each other and their true behaviour starts to play out as their relationship starts moving into the next phase of the relationship cycle," says Paula. 

The expert says abuse is a learned behaviour. 

"There are various factors that can contribute to a person being abusive. Several social forces also plays a key role in shaping an abuser’s values and attitudes as well as creating an environment where abusive behaviour is rewarded and unpunished. In other words it is a learned behaviour and a choice to abuse," says the expert. 

READ: How to tell if your child is being bullied

How to stop the circle of attracting abusive partners

Paula says in order to stop the circle of abuse, develop a healthy self-esteem and understand your worth. 

"Upbringing and low self-esteem can contribute to people staying in abusive situations, because they do not believe they deserve better or have the power to get out of the relationship. This is where it is important to do self-development to identify what your patterns and traits are that are contributing to you being attracted to potential toxic partners," says Paula. 

She says it is very important to establish boundaries and know how to say no. 

"Look at your relationship patterns, identify the behaviours you do and don’t want in a partner, have clarity on your own values and boundaries and what happens when you allow them to be compromised," says the expert. 

"Work on your self-worth and what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and the confidence to be able to speak up and say no or push back when something does not align or sit well with you," she adds. 

The danger of remaining in toxic relationships is that they can negatively affect your well-being.

"In all instances of abuse, there is, over time a breakdown of the person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing which can cause mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and PTSD," says Paula. 

Seeking help

"If need, seek the help of a professional to help you work through your experiences and gain a healthy sense of self so that you can break the pattern of attracting toxic partners and open yourself up to having a healthy relationship with yourself and your future partner," says the expert. 

"Any form of abuse is not acceptable and should not be tolerated, it goes against basic human rights – personal safety (and that of children) comes first and if you feel you are in an abusive environment, you need to get yourself into a safe/healthier environment to begin the rehabilitation and healing process and this is applicable to both the abused and abuser."

READ: Expert explains how financial abuse can happen in a relationship

Main image courtesy of iStock/ @fizkes

Paula Quinsee
Paula Quinsee/ Supplied

Paula Quinsee is a Relationship Expert in Johannesburg. She teaches individuals and organisations how to cultivate healthy relationships at home and in the workplace to create a human connected world. Paula is also the author of 2 self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No as well as an international speaker and advocate for mental health and against gender-based violence. For more info:  www.paulaquinsee.com

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