Why am I toxic and how can I change?

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    I’ve been in a relationship for the past 3 and a half years, but we break up frequently (every 3-6 months). Some of this is due to his own toxicity, but when I really reflect I know it’s a lot to do with my own toxic behaviors. Jealousy, aggression (use to be physical until I went to anger management), I take everything personally, obsess over negative thoughts, make myself out to be the victim, excessive reactions (emotionally too), and need constant validation.

    I love him a lot, and I really want to change to salvage our relationship. At this point I think it’s so far gone that we need a long period of time apart for me to focus on changing myself. Can you help me figure out why I am the way I am and what I should do to change? I could go on and on about the things he has done wrong but he has really turned around the last 6 months. A week ago we broke up (explosive) over him not paying me for the bills (we lived together until this point). I have been isolated since I moved with him to a different city where I don’t know anyone. Since the breakup I have made life altering decisions and made steps to participate in things I’m interested in within the community to build friendships. I feel great, I’m doing well, not nearly as toxic as when I am in the relationship. I want for us to get back together, and with the amount of times we’ve broken up and got back together I know it’s a likely scenario. But this time I know I need to fix myself first.


    Dear Natalie:

    I believe it will be easier for you to “fix (yourself) first” (your aim, last words of your post) when not in a relationship with him. When interacting with him you get triggered a lot and react automatically, isn’t it so? Not necessarily because he did something wrong but because old issues within you get triggered, activated. This triggering is in the way of you making the changes you need and want to make for the better.

    You wrote: “Can you help me figure out why I am the way I am and what I should do to change?”

    I believe that the ways you behave that are disagreeable to you are the result of past unfavorable experiences that you had, most of those experiences occurred in your childhood. During those “formative years” of childhood, many connections, or neuropathways are made in our brains. And many of them, as a result of unfortunate life experiences, are such that lead us to dysfunction, to behaviors that don’t serve us.

    For example, you making yourself  “out to be the victim… and need constant validation” probably indicates your childhood real life experience of not having been validated. You making yourself out to be a victim may be your way of trying to get attention and validation and your anger may very well be about not having gotten that validation as a child.

    Those neuropathways in our brain stay with us throughout adulthood because we don’t … shed our brain, the nerve cells and the connections in it do not get replaced. We shed our skin cells but not our brain cells.

    It is possible to interrupt those neuropathways, and so, to change ourselves with work and time.




    Hey Natalie,

    I’m not sure I have any solutions for you, but I can completely relate. I too dealt with being an abusive woman (and still do). I can be demanding, I’ve slapped or struck out at my partner, and while he seems to be “better,” I still get angry and frustrated. I also get very insecure, call him when I think he’s been gone a long time, even though I know he’s not doing anything. I can be pretty horrible, and have thought of taking space as well.

    However, we’ve broken up a couple times (I thought at the time it was mostly him – maybe it was both!) We both used to drink a lot together. We now don’t drink as much, and when we do we congratulate ourselves on not fighting. I often wonder if we should separate momentarily so I can mend myself. I am set off by his actions. But what else can we do, if we love them? Stepping away, for me, feels heartbreaking even though there are so many reasons for me to do so.

    I’m trying to find that balance between being okay with whatever happens, and making the most out of what is happening. For example, we have a recurrent fight about his mom living with us. There isn’t really a problem with it – she isn’t hitting me in the face every day. It’s just annoying. But I don’t have any control over the situation and he reminds me of that. Point is, it’s good practice, and a good lesson for a lot of things. What if I made this all go away – would that mean my life would be easy for the rest of time? I’d never deal with annoying situations again? No. My anger, irritation, frustration, negative patterns, thoughts, etc. would still be around no matter who is around me. I admit I get really pissed, but I’ve started to practice slowing that down, observing it, questioning it. Why do I continue getting upset about the same situations? What am I being triggered by?

    I think starting off with a few deep breaths and realizing there’s something much bigger and deeper going on everytime something you don’t like happens (whether with your partner or not) you want to work through those things and figure them out eventually. Maybe your mind doesn’t say that, but your higher mind and true essence, your truth, will usually push you in the same directions every time. It’s up to you if you want to stay with your partner and stop blaming him for what’s coming up for you, or leave him so he’s not in the picture to blame at all. In my opinion, a lot of it is how willing you are to take responsibility and admit you’re not always right. If you love each other and can communicate this to each other in a healthy way, it’s not bad to stay together. Either way, I think, is fine.


    Dearest Natalie,

    It is great that you are thinking for yourself. Very few people manage to bring themselves into the picture when speaking about a lover. As you have mentioned, theoretically, you should discover and love yourself fully first before focusing on another person.

    The thing is, life is never that idealistic. Follow your heart. You know what is best for yourself and I’m sure that will be the correct decision to make. Nothing will ever end up perfect, but the worst thing to do is to regret not doing anything at all.

    You have a powerful personality. You are definitely not toxic, and give yourself some time to weigh the decisions out.

    I am no different, I am a fool who is in love with a dense idiot and it is jeopardizing my internal equilibrium as well. It is all part and parcel of life.

    With love,



    Natalie, you are so brave for sharing your story.

    I felt extremely connected to you throughout the entire post. I couldn’t even make it through the first paragraph without crying. I felt like I had a breakthrough because I never really thought about having ‘triggers’ about the past. But it’s so true! It’s such a thing. I saw so much of myself in you and am dealing with the same exact issues.

    My current relationship is the same way. There are so many things that set me off and cause me to become aggressive. I have no idea how to really deal with it. I constantly feel like I’m dissatisfied and making him feel bad.


    Relationships are the crucible in which we discovered ourselves. Meaning we will create, usually unconsciously, confrontations so that me might heal them. When the relationship is a safe place for our “ghosts” to play, we grow, if we remain unaware of our “ghosts” at play the relationship will become an unsafe place to work though our healing.

    Sometimes it takes the pain of a relationship to get us to a point where we become conscious our issues

    I Recommend the books by David Richo as a guide

    When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships by David Richo

    Psychotherapist David Richo explores how we replay the past in our present-day relationships—and how we can free ourselves from this destructive pattern. We all have a tendency to transfer potent feelings, needs, expectations, and beliefs from childhood or from former relationships onto the people in our daily lives, whether they are our intimate partners, friends, or acquaintances. When the Past Is Present  helps us to become more aware of the ways we slip into the past so that we can identify our emotional baggage and take steps to unpack it and put it where it belongs

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