5 mins

Why am I attracted to toxic relationships?

It happened again. Things started off so well.. “This is it”, you thought to yourself… “It’s finally happening… This is my person”. But before long, the same old red flags start creeping in again…

Why do you always end up choosing the wrong partners? Why can’t you just find a healthy relationship like everyone else?

If you can relate to this, it’s possible the answer lies in your childhood. This might seem far-fetched but there is a reason for this. Simply put, our brains are drawn to the familiar. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. What’s familiar to us is less likely to harm us (in an unexpected way, anyway). Our brains know that the experiences from our past have led to our survival so far.

And so, the brain looks at romance the same. It tends to seek out – or be most drawn to – dynamics that remind us of our earliest attachments. Of course, this may be a positive thing if those connections were stable, loving and secure. Less so if our emotional needs went unmet…

That’s why if you have a pattern of falling into toxic relationships, it could be a sign you’re re-enacting old childhood trauma. What feels like chemistry early on in a connection can actually be a feeling of familiarity. Likewise, underlying fear and anxiety can end up being mistaken for butterflies and excitement.

Unfortunately, things don’t just end there. Not only are you more likely to be drawn to these kinds of dynamics, but it’s possible you find it harder to leave them too. This is because there’s a safety in the chaos itself – again, in its familiarity.

Let’s not forget that all relationships will be triggering in some shape or form. Our vulnerabilities will always find a way to come to the surface in our most intimate relationships. So it’s not about expecting our relationships to be “perfect” or free of conflict. But it is about feeling safe enough to work through those triggers with our partner by our side. And by their very definition, toxic relationships tend to lack this emotional safety.

The good news is that things don’t have to stay this way. With time and practice, you can learn to override these old patterns and make choices that lead you to the kind of relationship you both want and deserve.

Before we take a look at how you can break free from these kinds of relationship patterns, let’s explore the kinds of thoughts and behaviours that leave you vulnerable to falling into them in the first place.

Behaviours that attract toxic partners 

A lack of boundaries – boundaries are essential for a healthy relationship because they protect our mental and emotional wellbeing and ensure that both partners are able to get their needs met. Weak boundaries can leave you vulnerable to attracting the wrong types of partners. You may find that you attract the types of people who try to “test” you and see how far they can push your limits.

The tendency to “lose” yourself in relationships – when you have a fragile sense of self, it’s easy for people to take advantage of you. If you fall into relationships that leave you feeling less and less like yourself, this should serve as a big red flag. 

You allow the other areas of your life to slip away – for a healthy relationship, it’s important that both partners are able to fill their cup outside of the relationship too. By making your whole world about the other person, it leaves you vulnerable to attracting unhealthy – or toxic – partners who seek to take advantage of this. 

You give partners multiple chances even when they’ve shown no willingness to change – whether it’s raging outbursts or (seemingly) more subtle emotionally abusive behaviour (swearing, manipulation, name-calling etc.), certain behaviour is never OK. If you’re the type of person who tends to allow harmful – or hurtful – behaviour in favour of keeping the peace, this is going to leave you vulnerable to attracting the wrong types of partners. 

(Please note: it’s important to say that if there has been physical violence, it is imperative that you safely exit the relationship as soon as possible. This type of behaviour is dangerous and also tends to escalate with time. Contact Refuge here).

How to stop attracting toxic relationships 

As these types of patterns usually have their roots in childhood, working with a professional can play an important role in recovery. A therapist will help you unravel where this vulnerability stems from and safely guide you in finding the best way of moving forward. 

Research has shown that relationship satisfaction is the biggest predictor of our happiness in life. The ability to form – and maintain – healthy relationships is vital for our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as our quality of life. You deserve a healthy, fulfilling relationship and a partner who is able to meet your needs. Start your journey towards that today.

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

4 May 2023

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

You may like these...

1 min

Why is it important to seek treatment for body dysmorphic disorder?

2 mins

What happens in CBT?

1 min

How long will it take me to feel better following psychotherapy?

1 min

How does covering a range of specialisms allow you to be more effective?

Start your journey


Athena Lazaridou

Athena is a Pilates instructor with 8 years’ experience in the field. After completing a Power Pilates Mat Certification in Athens, she went on to complete the Full Comprehensive Classical Pilates Certification with Equinox in Kensington.  She has been teaching Pilates at Equinox for the past 6 years in addition to her own private clients who she trains both face to face and virtually.

Athena has a passion for helping people get stronger and fitter as well as helping those recovering from injury regain their strength and mobility.  Over the years, she has worked with athletes to incorporate Pilates into their training and improve performance. Athena has also worked with prenatal and postnatal women who may be experiencing depression or other mental health difficulties and used Pilates to facilitate a positive impact on their mental health.

Athena is very passionate about improving physical and mental well-being and has recently incorporated Sound Healing into her work, as she believes it to be one of the best ways of ‘letting go’ and releasing stale energy whilst increasing greater self-awareness.