Have you ever found yourself feeling shocked and grateful when your significant other does the bare minimum for you? That was me. Well, that is still me, sometimes. If you find yourself resonating with this experience, you most likely have been in a toxic relationship or two.
When my boyfriend and I first started seeing each other, I often found myself holding my breath. I was constantly walking on eggshells, because I was used to having to put myself in a submissive role. I had spent so much time being too scared to speak up.I dismissed feelings that were weighing me down, knowing that I deserved better than what I put up with.
But my sudden explosion of anger and emotions never came. It didn’t have to come. I met someone new, someone who never raised their voice at me. He didn’t demand my constant, undivided attention and focused on building me up, when others had put energy into tearing me down. He was loving and tender… I just couldn’t comprehend it.
You would think that that was the moment the penny dropped for me, but it wasn’t. See, there is another type of reaction when you have spent a decent amount of time in toxic environments… the reaction that is out of habit.
I was not used to this healthy love, this nurturing and respectable environment. I was used to drowning in emotional immaturity and hostility. So, I acted the way I would act in trigger mode, despite the fact that there were no triggering acts that occurred. I caused fights, and I am not proud to say that. I truthfully had many moments where I thought he would leave. But, he understood.
Like when you adopt a dog who has had an abusive history, you witness it act out. You have to wait for it to realize that it is no longer in its old environment; that it is safe. He waited. He was patient and he did not get angry. He tried his best to understand and honestly, it made me love him more.
Too often, leaving toxic relationships and entering healthy ones get romanticized. We need to acknowledge the deep subconscious wounds these damaging relationships can scar us with. It is not always easy getting into a healthy relationship; it wasn’t for me. When you have been in an environment long enough, you get comfortable. Even toxic environments can feel comfy if you overstay your welcome.
Remember that self-care and self-love do not always feel like love and care. It’s hard and uncomfortable because doing what’s best for yourself is never easy.
Written by: Dakota Geduld