Unhealthy Relationships: Are You A Victim Or a Volunteer
By Amy M. Voltero
Being unaware of unhealthy relationship is very common amongst us. The dynamic can exist between family members, significant others, bosses, co-workers, schoolmates and friends. My experience on the subject has surrounded mostly relationships with significant others.
As an addict in recovery, I have become educated on the reasons why I thrived off of such relationships. I am not only recovering from addiction to substances but from codependency, low self- esteem and people pleasing.
When I was not in recovery from these issues, I found myself attracted to the bad boy. Oh yes, the bad boy is mysterious, sexy, somewhat controlling, great in bed, fearless, ego driven and my least favorite, emotionally detached. Instant gratification! Presto!!!!
Let’s admit ladies, the regular guy can seem boring, right? I have now learned that the “regular” guy is the safest route to go, if you are a woman like me.
Seeking a man with this type of façade, has been my biggest downfall. I always say, my first addiction is a man, then substances. In my experience, I have learned that we mostly want what we can’t have. I believe that dynamic exists with both sexes. If you are stubborn like I am, then, you probably won’t give up until you get what you want, OR you will give up when you have had enough pain.
What we don’t realize, or even care about when we are consumed with this relationship, is the consequences that follow the game of cat and mouse.
My therapist has educated me on this type of dynamic. It’s called, “The Pursuer and The Distancer.” You think he’ll solve your self-esteem, body image, family, and work problems – not to mention your financial woes and spiritual blockages. You believe the “right relationship” or the “perfect man” will make everything better. As we pursue, in order to compensate for some inconsistency in our lives, the distancer will pull away.
The need to feel loved or wanted is a natural. When you have any type of insecurities, or have been exposed to an unhealthy environment, you are more likely to seek relationships which have been modeled in your past.
You find yourself lowering your standards, going to what we call all-time lows. Hitting the lowest point depends on how much pain we can handle before our actual breaking point. It starts off small, like cancelling appointments or other obligations to compensate spending time with the other person. You will make sweet gestures like bringing them a coffee, when you grab one for yourself. Show up at important events, just to show your support. Harmless, right?
Our all-time lows rear their ugly heads when we choose to ignore the warning signs. He or she becomes expectant of past gestures, demand the unthinkable, and manipulate using guilt trips in order to get what they want. They will use the adoration we have for them in order to feed their ego and to maintain control of us. By this point, our insecurities and low self-esteem are allowing this type of abuse to exist. We think, we cannot do any better, and that the more we do for someone, the more they will like us.
In the end, we end up getting hurt. We have rearranged our lives, emptied our bank accounts, and ran in circles chasing our tails, hoping for returned love and affection. How could this have happened? I did everything that person asked? The only way to break this pattern is by getting help. Taking a look at yourself and becoming educated about unhealthy relationships is the first step. Becoming aware on the signs of abuse is the key. Abuse comes in many forms, physical, verbal, mental and emotional. Once you can identify these warning signs, you will be giving yourself the gift of self-awareness.
Feeling less than, unwanted, unattractive and unloved are just a few of the reasons that prompted me to add some spice to my life, by chasing the bad boy. My bad boy is all of the above characteristics, and also an addict. Loving an addict, can be the most painful. Reality says, as long as someone is in full blown, active addiction, I will never be number one. There is no way to differentiate between the good guy, and the bad guy, because I made excuses for the unacceptable behavior. I made excuses because I remembered that underneath the addiction, I was a good person. I didn’t know how to put the shoe on the other foot, without jumping in with both feet. My life became their lives. I can’t say I lost myself, because at that point in time, I never had myself.
Today, I am educated on my personal issues, addiction, self-esteem, and healthy relationships. Just because I have these tools, doesn’t always mean I use them 100% of the time. Recently, more often than not, I have found my toolbox in the basement rather than easily accessible, on my tool belt. Luckily, something greater than me intervened, and saw I had endured enough pain. I didn’t jump in with both feet, but was beginning to try the other shoe on. I am grateful for the pain I went through because it has allowed me to bring myself back to reality. I am writing this for all of you to see, because I am freeing myself from the pain I allowed. Having been educated on the above, I’m aware I took a step backwards and have named myself a volunteer, not victim for the most recent hurt.
I am not ashamed to admit, my all-time lows. If anything, admitting my faults and insecurities on paper, for all to read, makes me a stronger woman. I hope some of you who read this will identify and take the time to reevaluate your current relationships and your lives. If I have helped just one person, then my work here is done. “ Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail”- Ralph Waldo Emerson