PHOTO: 2Photo Pots
Text: Alejandra Misiolek
In this article I am going to talk about different types of toxic relationships, I will explain their dynamic and will give you some tips about how to stop them.
In the previous post I explained what a toxic relationship is. In this article I am going to talk about different types of toxic relationships, I will explain their dynamic and will give you some tips about how to stop them.
There are many different types of toxic relationships and different versions of those types but for the purpose of simplifying, let´s divide them into 6 main types:
- Tom and Jerry
I am pretty sure you remember the cartoon called Tom and Jerry where Jerry always runs away, and Tom always runs after him. This dynamic is very frequent in couples relationships, especially when a person with an insecure attachment style is in a relationship with a person with an avoiding attachment style. In other words, one person depends on the other, and the other is afraid of engaging and comes across as independent. The unavailability of the avoidant person triggers even more dependence and insecurity in the insecure person and causes the dynamic to become a snowball or a vicious cycle. The more I want to depend on you, the more scared you get of this proximity and the more scared you get, the more you withdraw. The more you withdraw, the more insecure I become and the more dependent I am on you.
Ho to get out of this dynamic? Both partners need to realize it is a dynamic that is caused by both parts and the needs and fears of both of them need to be understood and validated. Then we can become more conscious of it and try to change it.
- Roller coaster
Why do people like rollercoasters? Mainly because when we go through something unpleasant and we survive, then we appreciate what we have even more. How does that apply to relationship? If one partner hurts the other, e.g. by drinking and insulting them, but then they feal extremely guilty when they realize what they did and they show repentance and try to make up for it by being the best partner ever, it feels so good it can even become addictive. If it becomes a repetitive dynamic, it can be very harmful and wearing.
How to get out of this dynamic? Ideally, the partner who falls into this trap shouldn´t forget about how it hurt just before. Unfortunately, we very frequently do.
- The Star and the Servant
In this dynamic one partner is the narcissist and needs the other to look up to them and help them shine and the other depends on their limelight to feel good about themselves, because they don´t believe in their own capacity to shine. The trap is that the more I shine because of my partner, the more dependent I becom
e, because the less I believe in my own capacity to shine. And the narcissist never sees through because he or she is always surrounded by the reflected shine of their own. However, deep inside nobody is truly happy.
How to get out of this dynamic? The Servant, to stop the dynamic, must realize they can shine too. They are normally the first to get tired of the dynamic.
- The victim and the perpetrator
How is it possible that one feels guilty without actually doing anything bad? Because the other person becomes the victim in a passive aggressive way which is a very subtle and potent mechanism of manipulation that happens very frequently unconsciously in couples. Passive aggressiveness is unseen and we are left with the feelings. If the other one suffers, then I must have done something wrong? That would be the logic but not always is it like this.
How to get out of this dynamic? It would be a good question to ask oneself: Why do I feel like a victim and if this feeling is necessarily adequate to the present relationship or it comes from before? The other partner should think about being in similar traps before because we very frequently let others do this to us because it is a path we already know from long before.
- Mr. Trigger
Mr. Trigger is a person that becomes aggressive or abusive but they justify their actions because they are easily triggered and the other person shouldn´t trigger them. So, the person that triggers feels guilty and the abuser becomes the victim. It is a very “the other way round” dynamic.
How to get out of this dynamic? It would be best for the person that triggers to become conscious of how insignificant things trigger the other and help them see that their feeling might be valid, but their actions cannot be justified.
- Mrs. Owner
This dynamic takes place when one person feels like they own their partner and they are jealous of everything they do without them. They try to control their partner in search of false security because deep inside they feel very insecure and fear their partner might leave them. The problem is that they very frequently cause a self-fulfilling prophecy because their partner might leave them in the end because this extreme control becomes unbearable.
How to get out of this dynamic? Try to realize that what you are doing is going to bring you exactly what you fear so you should change the strategy. Start by understanding where this fear come from.
Beebe, B., & McCrorie, E. (2010). The optimum midrange: Infant research, literature, and romantic attachment. Attachment, 4(1), 39-58.
Clulow, C. (2015). The Origins of Attachment. Infant Research and Adult Treatment, Beatrice Beebe & Frank M. Lachmann, Routledge, 2013. Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 5(1), 103-104.
Willi, J. (1993). La pareja humana: relación y conflicto. Ediciones Morata.