A man and woman standing dressed in trench coats stepping on wooden crates

This post was originally published on Darling on February 6, 2020.

Let’s be real: intimacy can be challenging. All of us are filled with fantasy romances of how relationships should be. I have the image of loving talks of admiration, a perfectly timed embrace and the flexibility to argue with an open heart and speak truth in a state of bliss.

If I were to inquire about what most people’s concept of being in a relationship is, then they would likely offer an idyllic image of how it should be. Who wants to mention the sloppy, angry, unpredictable and even despicable moments that come up between lovers?

People in relationships inevitably bring their baggage to the table, whether they want to or not. There is no voluntary clause in relationships that says, “This toxic handbag of personal issues in me will never impact this relationship.” Nope. That is not how it works. In a relationship, people bring their whole selves to the table, including their baggage. 

In a relationship, people bring their whole selves to the table, including their baggage. 

On the tabula rasa of life, couples color it with memories of the past and the thoughts, feelings and belief systems that surround relationships. They bring their deepest hopes, dreams and desires. Let us not forget communication style, love languages, socio-cultural concepts, as well as functional and dysfunctional day-to-day behaviors.

The list of items goes on. All of a sudden, this relationship can get mired in toxicity with all the stuff crawling out from one’s personal baggage.

In my relationship, am I bringing toxicity? What can I do about it?

If you are sincerely asking these questions, then I applaud you with all my heart. The answer is simple, yes, you have and will bring toxicity into a relationship because we all do. There is no way of not bringing your baggage to a relationship when you are bringing your full self.

Take heart. Bringing your authentic self to a relationship is a good thing, but the reality is, it is best to bring your truest and most healthy self.

Do I  have control over the triggers that unearth my toxic behaviors?

If someone has the ability to deal with the triggers that spark their toxicity, then it is fair to say that they have acquired critical coping strategies and a support network to face the challenging aspects of intimacy. If a person has little to no ability to respond to their triggers, then this presents the potential for ongoing relationship issues. They must learn to do some inner work to unpack and process those triggers.

Toxicity is the left-over residue of dysfunctional issues that have spanned your life. While triggers are the experience of having toxicity aroused and activated inside of you. The closer you get to understanding the root of your triggers in a mindful and compassionate manner, the better you will be to face the reality of yourself and your relationship with others.

How do I take action and not ruin the possibility of having love in my life?

If you are declaring that the time is now to change, then you are right. There is no better way to achieve a more positive dynamic with your partner and others than by being real with yourself. If your triggers have gotten the best of you or you need to figure this out, then make 2020 your year to harness inner change and growth. Failure to not address the root of your triggers will only increase the likelihood of heartbreak and/or broken relationships.

Book a session with a psychotherapist, buy a book on relational issues that speaks to you or make a commitment as a couple to make small, daily changes. Be conscious that you, and only you, can decrease the toxicity you bring to any relationship. Growing in self-awareness will allow you to unpack your triggers and bring a healthier, more whole version of yourself to your relationship.

Have you ever realized that you were the toxic one in your relationship? What tips do you have for becoming a healthier person in romantic relationships?

Image via Sami Drasin, Darling Issue No. 21

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