Why We Seek Unhealthy Relationships, Again

unhealthy relationships

Gray Divorce Thought Leader: Jenn Krusinski

Are we seeking unhealthy relationships or are they seeking us?

Grab a pen and paper.

Take notes. 

The questions posed in this article aren’t rhetorical. They aren’t to be skimmed. We do this when we read you know? That’s why most self-help books only help a little. We THINK we are learning through osmosis, yet are never quite doing the work. 

Consider this your coaching session. So, let’s begin!

Your NEXT Relationships Are About AWARENESS:

We must bring light to the subject. Oftentimes, just becoming AWARE is what starts to unravel our behaviors. We never really learned to do this. We get divorced, start dating, and say, “There are no good men/women out there. They are all the same as my ex.” We accept the status quo of partners as fate because we don’t take the time to dig in and learn from the last one.


“It’s easier on our brain and our hearts to blame the other.

Why is this?

Because It’s Hard, It’s UNCOMFORTABLE:

It’s easier on our brain and our hearts to blame the other. And, maybe much of the blame is true. Yet…what caused you to be attracted or to attract in the first place? Was there anything you did or did not do that you want to leave behind and not carry through to the next? 

You will never really understand this unless you’re ready to dig in and excavate. 

So, if you really want to know why you’re still finding unhealthy relationships, please say out loud, “I am all in on me. EVEN when it’s uncomfortable.“ Because as soon as we feel discomfort, our brain starts firing away with thoughts of “No! Stop! Go eat! Let’s reorganize your desk! What’s on Hulu? Umm, how about a smoke?”

In The Discomfort:

Often, comfortable makes you feel good, even when it’s bad for you.”

I dunno what YOUR brain tells you to do, but I do know it will be anything that feels better than doing “the work”. 

The answers, my dear, are IN the discomfort. So let’s dive in.

Is it me or is it them? 

It’s a bit of both. And, most often it’s not even conscious. You are BOTH simultaneously attracting/attracted to each other — for toxic reasons — unconsciously. 

Because it’s what you know. It’s what you’ve learned. It’s what feels comfortable. Often, comfortable makes you feel good, even when it’s bad for you.

How Can Something Bad For Me Feel Good?

Quick history of the Brain — Your brain’s main goal is to keep you alive. If you survive something, anything — and by survive I only mean DID NOT DIE — that action or circumstance gets stamped with approval and filed away by your brain to “do this again” for next time. 

“Our brains like familiarity — even when it’s not good, it’s still, in a dark way, COMFORTABLE.”

Which is why we can “see red flags”, but we don’t comprehend them as red flags. They are familiar. Our brains like familiarity — even when it’s not good, it’s still, in a dark way, COMFORTABLE. It makes it difficult to see unhealthy relationships.

So this is also why not all traits surface at once. We get comfortable and then the “negative” traits surface. They most likely were there all along we just couldn’t see them because they felt familiar. Either way, by the time they do surface you are invested. By now you have too much to lose. So you find yourself in another unhealthy relationship.

Love Is Learned:

We learn to love, and be loved, from a very young age. Let’s not blame our parents. All parents are doing what they can with the tools they have. You did the same with your kids. So, let’s keep the focus on the only person we CAN change and that is YOU. It’s the only way to stay out of unhealthy relationships.

So…I, for instance, MARRIED MY MOTHER.

She is a lovely woman and…she was very critical. Oftentimes, she was sad. She also cried a lot. And, she was always overwhelmed. 

As children, seeing our parents despondent is excruciating pain. The way we kids “believe” we can “help” is by blaming ourselves, making it OUR fault, because by saying “it’s my fault” it allows us to feel in control. We can then say, “If it’s my fault I can fix it. So here, let me take on your pain. There isn’t that better?”

Any people pleasers and fixers out there?

“as a young child, I would do whatever I could to fix her. To make her happier. And, I blamed myself when she was unhappy.”

A Better Person After A Divorce:

So, as a young child, I would do whatever I could to fix her. To make her happier. And, I blamed myself when she was unhappy.

When she was critical of me, it was only to make me a better person. So I worked harder and harder to be a perfect daughter, student, community member, athlete, etc. And, in doing so, I earned her accolades and praise from others as well.

What I learned to believe:

  1. If I can change/be/do better I can make her/him/them feel better.
  2. Love is earned.

So I did more. And more.

And eventually, I “married” my mother.

In almost all of my relationships, I was the fixer. I saw what was lacking in them, or what they NEEDED, and realized how I could BE that for them. 

Relationships – That’s Not How It Works:

We need to FILL ourselves first. Changing and becoming for somebody else is NEVER the answer.

Imagine this — what if YOUR PARTNER’S motive is “I can’t change because if I do, she won’t need to fix me, and she’ll leave. So I will continue to be this way, she’ll keep fixing me. It’s a win-win.”

The above scenario isn’t a conscious thought. Maybe they learned as children that only being broken, hurt, angry, raging — was the way to get attention. 

So I ask you — What does this do for you? What does being in a familiar, yet toxic, relationship do for you? What does responding to every rage or need and fixing it do for you? 

“Even when people/relationships are sucky, it feels good to make them feel better.”

Even when people/relationships are sucky, it feels good to make them feel better. There’s the dopamine hit, right? And that will last until next time.

So, Let’s Dig Further into YOU With These Questions:

  1. What is it about ME, that seeks this type of person or relationship?
  2. Messages learned about love or belonging or acceptance or approval from when I was young – what are they? 
  3. What was modeled to me by my parents or adults in my life? What about by society?
  4. How did I receive love? Was it ever held back? Did I feel I had to earn it? Did I receive more by doing more? By being less?
  5. What was told/verbalized to me about me? About love, marriage, and sex?
  6. How DIDN’T I receive love? What made me feel rejected? And then, how did I get it back?
  7. What did I make this mean? About me? About love/relationships and the world?

Examples Of Relationships “What Love Is”:

  • Earned
  • Debt/owed
  • Dangerous
  • Can be taken away
  • Has to be proved
  • Loving too much makes people go away
  • Leaves me
  • Love/sex/relationships are scary, wrong, I will be judged — this can easily stem from a religious upbringing
  • Jealousy
  • When it is rejected and challenged it grows stronger (trauma addiction)
  • Equal to sex
  • When I am a better X, he/she will appreciate me

“Where am I on the WORTHINESS scale? What are the messages I tell myself?”

Looking Back At Prior Relationships, What Are The Patterns That I Can Notice, Now?

  1. How did my partner validate me?
  2. What did I have to do to receive love/be validated? See love?  
  3. What didn’t I do/what did I need to STOP doing to receive love?
  4. How did I validate myself? Was it only through the eyes of my partner? Of other people?
  5. Where am I on the WORTHINESS scale?
  6. What are the messages I tell myself? (also learned)

Examples:

  • I don’t deserve better
  • This is all I deserve
  • I don’t know what healthy looks like
  • Nobody else will love me
  • Just a little bit of love is enough. It’s all I can handle. If it’s too good it can’t be real.

What’s Lacking In Me? What Are The Cracks I Want To Be Filled By Someone Else?

This is opposites attract. 

  1. Where am I inadequate? 
  2. How can this person make up for where I lack?

Or

  1. Am I bored? Lonely? Needing validation? Needing attention?
  2. Why can’t I give this to myself?

OK, sit with these answers. I mean it, sit with them. Feel them in your body.

Ask yourself:

Is this true?

Is this always true?

Was this ever really true?

Decide what beliefs and actions you want to carry forward and what gets to be left behind you. Write them down. Feel into them. Notice how your body feels. THIS, lets you know what you want to feel around your next partner. This helps us stay away from future unhealthy relationships.

Finally, make a list of What YOU WANT

Ok — so we started deep and now we’re going simpler — although, knowing what we want can sometimes be the hardest thing of all. 

Make A List Of What You’re Looking For After These Unhealthy Relationships:

Get detailed, Go LONG…..(My original list was too short, lol. They were all checked on our wedding day.) Let’s shoot for 35 things. You. Can. Do. This.

“What I know for sure is that IF you are INTENTIONAL about your next relationship, you have a far better chance of finding a healthy one.”

Will you get everything on your list? Maybe not. Or maybe you will. What I know for sure is that IF you are INTENTIONAL about your next relationship, you have a far better chance of finding a healthy one.

(Note: if anything on your list begins with the words “Someone who makes me feel XYZ”, ask yourself how YOU can begin making yourself feel that way, first. Remember, you are going into the next relationship WHOLE. Nobody is going to complete you or become your “better” half. You are WHOLE as you are.)

Next: Write down Things I am No Longer Available For…

It’s necessary to acknowledge what you don’t want in order to do know what you do want – to stay away from unhealthy relationships.

And Remember:

  • This work is a process. 
  • Nobody ever has to do anything after divorce.
  • Everyone mostly survives divorce. 
  • Lots of people have relationships after. 
  • Often, what’s not addressed is carried forward.
  • YOU decide how much effort you want to put in. YOU decide how worth you are.

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Jenn Krusinski

About the Author:

Jenn Krusinski is a Holistic Life Coach, mom to three feminist and highly opinionated daughters and a woman who found herself at the crossroads of Midlife + Divorce at 47.  After feeling her way through the grief and doing “all the things” to come out the other side still standing, Jenn decided it was time to switch gears and work with women like her who want to reimagine life after divorce — Becoming WHOLE, IGNITED and BRAVE!  You can follow Jenn’s “real talk” on Instagram instagram.com/jennkrusinski   and find out more about her coaching programs  — Be Crazy Brave and Let Shit Go at jennkrusinski.com