The Misconception of Toxic Relationships

By Dr. Heidi Westra Brocke

The subject of toxic relationships has become more prevalent in the minds of many, as the focus on education and prevention of unhealthy relationships continues to grow.

I see consistent misconceptions when it comes to toxic relationships and how they relate to my clients’ personal situations. My clients are each inclined to believe they are responsible for choosing the wrong person or having bad judgement when it comes to picking the people they surround themselves with.

The truth is….you do not choose a toxic person. They choose you.

If you have been in one, or repetitive, unhealthy relationships, it is not because you have been choosing wrong, it is because you have been chosen. You are a target. The toxic personality demands control, attention, and admiration. They will not invest their time in someone they cannot control or someone who needs more attention than themselves. They are drawn to the empathetic and compassionate. They are more easily able to control someone who is always striving to make others happy. Be glad that you are a good person. You were just too good for too long to the wrong person.

When you first meet a toxic person, they will appear almost too good to be true. They like the things you like, act the way you act, and mirror many of your interests. You are showered with overwhelming attention and compliments, making you believe that this is the relationship, friendship, or work environment you have been waiting for. This is the period of time they use to gain your trust and allow you vulnerability to build. They trick you into believing they are sincere and trustworthy. However, they are essentially using this time to discover what your insecurities are, what your strengths are, and what intimidates you. They seem to love everything about you, and make you believe you can do no wrong. You begin to trust them. When the trust is established, things will slowly begin to change, and things that they once admired become things they now use against you.

I knew very quickly that something did not feel right. Things did not add up, and I admit to feeling anxious early on in the relationship. But, as most of my clients will tell you, we gave the toxic person the benefit of the doubt. We allowed the excuses and believed the half-truths because we wanted the admiration to continue as it was in the beginning. As time passed, pleasing them became more difficult because it came with more demands and more conditions.

Although I had seen red flags and questionable actions, shortness of temper and inconsistent, unpredictable behavior, I always accepted these behaviors so as to not cause conflict or disappoint them.

I think the most difficult thing for me to deal with was the isolation, an approach a toxic person will use to not only keep your attention focused on them, but also to get and keep you dependent on them for approval and support. They will find ways to keep you from the people that support you the most: your family, your friends, your children. Without your support system, and with no time to invest in yourself, the real you begins to fade. You transition from living a full and happy life into survival mode, living to avoid criticisms, put downs, blow ups, and scare tactics.

Self-doubt rises as self-worth and self-confidence plummets. The more lost and overwhelmed you become, the higher your fear becomes to change your situation.

I used to question what I had done to deserve that life. What I now realize is this…IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME IN THE FIRST PLACE. It was never because I was not good enough. It was all about the toxic people wanting control and attention to feel better about themselves. Toxic people feel better when others are suffering, so all the tactics they employ are used with that goal in mind.

I now teach Toxic Relationship Awareness & Healing, and the most important thing that I, myself, did to overcome this trauma was to learn the character traits of the toxic person, how to spot the red flags, and to choose myself. Understanding what they do, and why, allowed me to emotionally free myself from their actions. You will see that things you were blamed for were never your fault and the criticisms you endured weren’t true. You are a target and must absolutely be able to identify those who may be unhealthy for you throughout your life.

Trusting yourself is the number one most important factor moving forward. When you feel it is not right, or see something that doesn’t add up, do not convince yourself that it does. Always be true to you. There are good people out there, everywhere. Trust yourself to allow only people who are good for you close to you.