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5 Ways Your Toxic Parent Has Prepared You For A Toxic Partner

Children learn what they live, right? So when you grow up with a toxic, abusive, or emotionally unavailable parent their behavior is what you consider the norm. You develop a set of core beliefs that set you up as the perfect target for another abuser: a toxic partner. Virtually every partner-abuse survivor I know can point to a string of really awful relationships and nasty boyfriends/girlfriends. Clearly, we develop a pattern of looking for what we have been taught to expect. And not only do we not demand better, we don’t even know that better exists.

Growing up with a toxic parent lays the foundation for what you will accept and expect in a romantic relationship because of the lies the abuse teaches you about yourself. Your toxic parent planted these 5 things inside of you that would basically ensure you would end up with a toxic partner.

#1 You believe that you are inherently “wrong” in every way

A toxic parent will criticize you for things that are not even within your control. Like how your nose is crooked, or your eyes are close together. Maybe you’re too short or too tall, or you have a birthmark on your leg. It’s frequently cloaked as some kind of “constructive” criticism allegedly designed to make you “better.”  And the things you can exercise some control over? Well, all bets are off. Why couldn’t you make an A in that class if you could make a B? Why can’t you lose 20 pounds instead of just 10? One favorite line in my house was, “She’s not as fat as she used to be.” I look at pictures of me as a little girl and think how absolutely adorable I was. And I was definitely not what I would call “fat”. Best part? That comment was frequently made after they had just taken me to McDonald’s for a Filet-o-fish and fries.

#2 You believe you have to earn love, loyalty, and fairness. Over and over.

Everything is transactional in the world of toxic people. There is no such thing as just loving someone because they are alive and part of your world. The perpetual ticketing system of earning “love” or good treatment from a toxic parent carries over into your adult relationships. A healthy relationship dynamic is based on two people who are wholly invested in the happiness of the other person. What a toxic parent teaches you is that you must constantly work to earn the next good thing, whatever it is. If you fall short in those earnings? God help you.

#3 You believe that there is always something bad around the corner

One thing about growing up with a toxic parent is you learn to believe that for each really good thing that happens, it will be tempered by another “shoe” dropping. Because of belief number 2, you are on constant alert to be prepared for the times when you don’t hold up your end of the transaction and the backlash from that. Makes it incredibly hard to enjoy the good things in life, doesn’t it? You may really enjoy your birthday, but know that you’re going to hear about the cost of that gift or how hard it was to find it. Or you get an award for being the smartest in your class, and your parent asks who was voted the prettiest. You certainly learn to temper the joy in life.

#4 You believe that this is the best there is

A toxic parent teaches you that love is a fairy tale; being valued and respected by another is impossible, and expecting anything more than basic subsistence in life is a pipedream. In fact, in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you really never get past the base of the pyramid. Life becomes an endless cycle of filling basic needs and assuming anything beyond that is only found in a Disney movie. It’s not that you live in a world of gloom and doom, you just learn that there is nothing worth aspiring to beyond the invisible fence of your toxic limitations.

#5 You believe that true love is something that happens to other people

On the heels of belief number 4, is the letting go of any expectation or hope that there is such a thing as the true and dedicated kind of love you see in the movies or read about in books. Even though you know couples who are very much in love and dedicated to each other, it’s still something that is not a possibility for you. Yeah, it’s so great that Dave and Maria have that kind of marriage, but that stuff doesn’t happen to people like you. That’s a fluke that maybe happens to one in a million—like winning the lottery. So what happens? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not until you can get out of the abuse dynamic and heal will you realize that you, too, are worthy of this kind of love you admire in other relationships.

Don’t Lose Hope

The point is that you didn’t really stand a chance of having a healthy love relationship if you had a toxic parenting relationship; those who manage to find a healthy love relationship, despite this, are rare. The rest of us do lots of healing work and then find the right life partner. Many times shaking our fists in the air and cursing the fact that we had to wait “x” years before we knew what we were looking for.

As someone who did not find true, passionate, deep, and soul-filling love until my late 40s, I can tell you one thing for certain: I may have lost a lot of time—I may have missed out on beautiful opportunities to grow and live—but the miracle of finding the exact, perfect relationship actually makes the journey worthwhile.

So check your “beliefs” at the door. They were all based on lies designed to keep you under the control of potential abusers.

You are worthy of all great things that life has to offer!

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Aubrey Cole

Aubrey Cole

I survived a quarter century of psychological, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. When I got out, I vowed to help others do the same and founded the Emotional Abuse Survivors Network project in 2012. Now, I offer hope and healing to others on their journey as they rediscover themselves. My forthcoming books, Bodies in the Basement and Define Winning, chronicle my experiences, escape, and recovery. There is nothing so special about me that others can't emerge and thrive.
Aubrey Cole

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