Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Unhealthy relationships are everywhere. Chances are you’ve either been in one, or you know someone who has. Or maybe, you’re in one right now?! Toxic relationships start out the way most do- everything seems great, but there are often little red flags that you choose to ignore. Why? Because you’re addicted to the dysfunctional highs and lows of the unhealthy relationship. Next thing you know, you’re ‘stuck’ in a codependent, one-sided relationship wondering how you get there.
Turns out there’s a scientific explanation for your attraction the bad boy (or girl… we are just as guilty) type.
You see, your heart may know he or she is all wrong, but your brain isn’t getting the memo. Your brain reacts when you meet someone you’re attracted to, regardless of whether they’re good for you or not. Your brain sends out a cocktail of love hormones and there’s no way to stop it. Which explains why we tend to lose all rationale when it comes to unhealthy relationships! You’re codependent.
Hooked On A Feelin’
Let me break it down for you. Bad boy comes in hard, all sexy and sweet and leaves you all feelin some kinda way. You exchange numbers, go on a few dates and now you’re into the honeymoon stage. Your brain is in love over-drive during the initial stage of a relationship, sending you a potent mix of hormones to make you feel things like passion, butterflies, fixation and even obsession. You’re hooked! This is the first phase of any toxic, codependent relationship. The high you’re experiencing is similar to that of drugs and alcohol, according to brain scans. Source. You’re wasted!
Your brain follows with a dose of cortisol to help you cope with the extra feelings. As your cortisol levels rise, your serotonin levels drop causing you to become preoccupied with thoughts of your partner. Studies show that people who are in the beginning stages of a relationship were no different from OCD patients, becoming addicted, fixated and even obsessed with their partner. Source. Explains why some get a little crazy… yikes!
Next you head into stage 2 and the sex is toe curling, mind-blowingly orgasmic. When the sex is good, the hormones you release are so powerful, they light up a brain scan like a cocaine junkie.
The pleasure we get from sex is largely due to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is also one of the chemicals responsible for the high people get on certain drugs.
After an orgasm you can be left feeling more attached than ever, thanks to… you guessed it- more hormones. Your hormones don’t care whether your partner is no good. This is why it’s so important to listen to your heart, not just your brain.
Relationship Red Flags
Next thing you know, you wake up and he’s gone… ignoring your calls for two days and you’re left devastated wondering what happened?! But then he comes back with some lame excuse about how he lost his phone and you know it’s a lie but you’re just so full of hormones you take him back. This is stage 3 toxic romance.
The highs and lows of an unstable relationship mixed with great sex are the perfect recipe for a toxic disaster sure to leave you incapable of making logical decisions. Your brain sends out extra surges of dopamine when you experience periods of pain followed by pleasure, making it so much easier to fall back into his arms even after he’s hurt you. You can get out and over it though. For good!
Here comes the tough part- withdrawal. Toxic, codependent relationship addiction is very real, and can produce the same withdrawal symptoms as any other addiction including loss of appetite, irritability, sleeplessness and desperation.
Toxic Love Rehab
You’ll need to create your own toxic love rehab. A place where you can find other, healthier, ways to get your dopamine fix.
Here’s some tips to help you recover. You can find more here. You have to treat it like any other addiction.
- Spend time with people you love and who treat you well. Being around positive people, giving compliments and sharing kind words is a great source of dopamine and oxytocin- aka the feel good hormones. Source
- Smile. When you smile you instantly feel better because you’re releasing those same hormones.
- Only allow yourself to watch happy movies and listen to uplifting music.
- Treat yourself to a little retail therapy, bubble baths, nature walks… whatever brings you joy.
- Distance yourself from your addiction. The first few weeks/months are the hardest, so distance is vital if you want to recover. Don’t fall back into old habits.
- Set boundaries when you are ready to meet someone new. This is where codependents can have difficulties. They often have a hard time standing up for themselves and their beliefs, making it easy for other’s to take advantage of them.
It’ll take time but it will get easier. And, hopefully you learn to listen to your heart and not just your hormones. Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to another codependent toxic relationship. Recognize the signs of a bad relationship, instead of just ignoring them.