What patterns do you have that invite betrayal into your life? And what are you getting out of it? In this final post of the 3-part trust series, it’s time to explore owning your faults and getting to the ultimate act of faith—trusting yourself.
If you are a survivor of betrayal trauma, your past is not your fault. However, chances are very good that you have some unhealthy patterns that attract abuse and deception into your life. It doesn’t mean you are good and your romantic partners are bad or vice versa. It means you tend to enter the classic codependent dance in which you play a particular role.
Recognizing this dance is a critical step in shifting from fear and paranoia to confidence and optimism in your relationships with others. Through years of therapy, reading, and support groups, here are the patterns I’ve come to recognize in myself and other women who keep landing themselves in hurtful situations.
5 Habits that are Getting You Nowhere
1. You are an empath who hasn’t mastered boundaries. You’re really nice, sensitive, and caring. You have an innate talent for understanding and sharing other people’s feelings, but you have a tendency to take them on as if they were your own.
2. You mold yourself to accommodate other people’s needs. You’re so good at taking care of others and meeting their needs that you’ll often deny your own needs. This may have started in childhood as a result of family drama or due to an alcoholic, abusive, or mentally ill parent.
3. You stay too long and try to fix what’s not yours to fix. You see the best in people and you’re willing to hold out for it. Instead of protecting yourself from others’ destructive behaviors and complicated life problems, you dive in and play savior by trying to fix them.
4. You try to trust untrustworthy people. You believe that love conquers all. When a healthy person sees deception and dangerous behaviors in front of them, they back away. When you observe those behaviors in the one you love, you think acceptance, patience, and more trust are the answers.
5. You are numb from past trauma. Damaging relationships from childhood or traumatic experiences as an adult caused you to shut down in the areas that hurt too much. When an intense or dangerous person comes along, all of a sudden you can feel something. And then, of course, you’re hooked.
7 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Once you’re hooked, the dance begins. Here’s what it looks like:
1. It starts strong and fast. The initial pace of this type of relationship is intense. You’ll probably hear words like love and marriage thrown around in the first couple months of meeting each other, and you both mean it at the time. But as time goes by, you’ll notice things begin to change.
2. It turns hot and cold. In a healthy relationship, more time and more experiences together lead to greater intimacy. In an unhealthy relationship deeper intimacy never forms and instead you experience a periodic pulling back by your partner as the initial honeymoon phase wears off and reality sets in.
3. Your needs do not get met. There are varying degrees of this dynamic, but the overall flow of energy is from you to your partner, rather than the mutual give and take of a healthy relationship. If you’re healthy enough to recognize and speak your unmet needs in the relationship, they are addressed for only a brief period or they are outright ignored.
4. Your partner seeks attention from others. Usually the person who plays the opposite role from you in the unhealthy relationship has an excessive need for admiration. Your attention will never be enough, and eventually your partner will turn to other sources through flirtatious or other inappropriate behaviors. You may or may not be aware of this.
5. You notice dishonesty. Because of the excessive need for admiration, your partner is more likely to bend the truth or outright lie in order to avoid facing a reality that might be uncomfortable or make them look bad. As humans, we all do this to some degree, but you’ll probably notice an unusual amount of it in your partner.
6. You start to feel crazy. As you notice more and more of the above characteristics in your unhealthy relationship and voice your concerns, the conversation backtracks. You’ll hear things like that’s not what I said, you misunderstood, I was only joking, and that never happened. Some people call this gaslighting.
7. You feel exhausted and confused. Who wouldn’t? At this point you’re worn out from not getting your needs met, trying to fix yourself in order to make the relationship work, and not knowing what’s real and what’s not.
Determining if What You Have is Healthy
It’s very hard to see an unhealthy situation when you’re in it. We want to trust and assume the best about the people who are closest to us. If you’re not clear about what’s going on, try these steps to get to a place where you can hear your intuition loud enough and have the confidence to trust yourself.
1. Get curious. If you notice that something feels off, acknowledge that feeling and then sit back and observe.
2. Stay open to friends and family. Other people are likely to see the unhealthy situation before you’re able to. If your loved ones are brave enough to express their concerns to you, pay attention to their observations.
3. Keep working on yourself. The more you can see and change your unhealthy patterns, the more obvious it will become if you’re in an unhealthy situation. In fact, sometimes it takes an unhealthy situation to illuminate the work you need to do.
4. Follow your intuition. You’ve been in unhealthy situations before and rode them all the way to the bitter end. Ultimately you know. Sometimes you just don’t want to see.
5. Give it time and ask for signs. If you’re having trouble deciphering what your intuition is telling you, allow more time to pass. Ask the universe to show you if there’s something you need to see, and then stay open to signs.
If it’s time to get out, it will feel good when you finally make the leap. Make no mistake, it will be hard. There will be grieving. But ultimately there will be peace, confidence, and joy by honoring your intuition and the work that lies ahead for you.
Changing harmful relationship patterns in yourself is emotionally intense and anything but concrete. The very first step is to become aware. You can’t change it if you don’t see it.