I spent the majority of my youth searching for a partner and dreaming of the perfect relationship. I couldn't really understand why it was so hard for me to find a loving relationship. I always thought that, since I wanted a relationship so much, it meant that I was more than ready to give and receive love.
It's been a real shock when, just 3 years ago, I discovered that, actually, my core, deep, and rooted belief was that I was UNLOVABLE. I used to believe that nobody could find me attractive enough, that I had too many flaws to be likable, that I was too much to handle, that all my crushes were not that into me - I wanted love so much but subconsciously I was feeling unworthy to receive it, so it was impossible for me to get it. I could do nothing but look for evidence for those beliefs on every date I went. I craved love because I wasn't able to give it to myself, so I was addicted to the idea of it. I expected someone else to come and fix me, a relationship to make me feel good and confident.
I was sure I had so much love to give, while the reality was that I was deeply scared of being vulnerable because I kept listening to my beliefs and fears - like all guys are as*holes with me, everyone gets tired of me at some point, my relationships never last. I was completely unavailable and immature on an emotional level, but I expected others to be open and vulnerable with me. The reality was that I could only find people that were emotionally unavailable and immature as well. Security stays in love with security, and insecurity stays in love with insecurity, even if those insecurities show up differently - it might be through neediness, or it might be through avoidance.
You might be wondering how did I find out about my unlovable wound and how did I get out of this pattern - how did I realize what I needed to change in my beliefs. If you struggle with toxic relationships but can't find a way to get out of this spiraling cycle, it means that you still need to be hit right in the face by a set of events, a painful experience that will make you realize that something needs to change, recognize what is holding you back and show you what you need to work on and heal. That's exactly what happened to me - I couldn't stop reinforcing and perpetuating my fears until I became ready to face my unlovable wound. So, be patient - you might need to work on and heal other stuff in your life before you can face your relationship patterns, so it might be a good idea to focus on yourself first instead of finding a partner at any cost. Limiting beliefs about relationships, like any other limiting beliefs, are subconscious and they will come to the surface only when you are ready to face them. Probably, so far you haven't been able to confront them, so you kept avoiding to deal with your fears and unpleasant emotions around love and relationships. At some point, you will become aware of how much this is all affecting your romantic life and what you need to work on to overcome your fears - and you will finally feel ready to bring them up and face them.
Your healing journey doesn't have to be exactly like mine - only once you get the awareness of your own mind patterns and you feel ready to face your deepest fears, you can make the decision that enough is enough, and that's time for you to make a change. I made that decision more than 3 years ago and began a long healing process, that led me to emotional maturity and freedom from toxic romantic patterns.
My Story: I Was Needy Of Love And Scared Of Being Abandoned, Rejected, Not Desired
Each time I got into a relationship, I had the thought: I finally feel lovable! but the core beliefs about myself and relationships were still there. I was still feeling constantly insecure, worrying my partner didn’t really love me or want to stay with me. My self-worth was high at that moment only because of the other person. And that made me dependant on the relationship, and super scared of losing it: if I lose it, it means there is something wrong with me.
I was so needy of love because I was seeking external validation to feel good about myself, and my beliefs pushed me to behave in ways that could confirm my insecurities. I often found myself becoming obsessed and preoccupied with making the relationship work. I was always scared of being rejected and abandoned, and anxiously expecting rejection and abandonment on a regular basis.
I used sex as a driver to create approval and pleased the other person's wants and needs at the expense of my own. I used to get jealous and possessive and interpreted things as a signal that the other person was going to leave me. That idea caused me to be needy and manipulative so that I could get the reassurance I wanted. All of my actions were coming from a place of fear, lack, and neediness - never from a place of love.
This led me to attract people that were mostly emotionally unavailable, distant, or avoidant. This happened because human attraction is based on beliefs, and my beliefs were that I was unworthy to receive true love. I had a negative opinion of myself, so I ended up choosing partners that were offering me negative evaluations so that I could confirm my self-image.
Most of us are unconscious of our beliefs and think the stories we tell ourselves about love are just our reality. Nobody likes me back. There are no good girls/guys. I always suffer because of love. People don't value me the way I value them. Relationships never last. I never find someone that can be trusted. They all feel so real to us, and they cause us to fall in love with a certain kind of people and stay with people we can’t trust. Those people, those relationships, they are not just "happening to you", you are literally creating and attracting them into your life because of the stories you tell yourself - the same stories through which you create an imaginary movie of your partner cheating or leaving you behind.
Where Do Our Stories About Love Come From?
Our stories and beliefs about ourselves and the world come to life during our youth and become a filter through which we see our adult life. Most of the time, core beliefs about love come from our childhood - a time of our life when we are like a sponge and feel very susceptible to anything around us. That's when we first experienced love through the relationship we had with our parents, and when we received (or didn't receive) the love we deserved.
If we never experienced an affectionate connection with one (or both) of our parents, we probably ended up believing we're not worthy of love. Or maybe our parents weren't really focused on being parents, but on their own lives or career, so that we didn't get the love we needed. Not only, but our parents are also the first relationship model we get to learn from: if the relationship between them was unhealthy, we probably end up developing an unhealthy idea of what a loving relationship should be. Personally, I have experienced all three scenarios during my childhood - I grew up in a house full of fights, anger, anxiety, and lack of healthy communication, never really created an affectionate relationship with my dad, and felt emotionally abandoned during most of my teenage.
But other times, it might even be something that happened in our childhood that looks almost insignificant to us now, but that was traumatic at that time - something a teacher, parent, or another kid said or did, that ingrained in ourselves a belief that we don't deserve what we desire. Our subconscious mind, in an attempt to keep us safe, created a belief of unworthiness and overtime, we kept interpreting other scenarios with other people with the same belief, or put ourselves in situations that could confirm that belief. For example, when I was 4 years old, my first ever crush didn't like me back and liked my best friend instead. At that age, I made it mean something about myself, that I was not pretty or fun to play with enough. I still remember this even if I was just 4, just because this might be a traumatic experience for a little girl. Then, later on in my life, I kept attracting similar experiences that were along that same narrative.
Our mind creates all these constructs based on what we go through, and it's up to us to undo these constructs and build new ones.
My Healing Process
1) I Made The Decision That Enough Was Enough, My Relationship Patterns Had To Change - And Kept That Decision
Deciding you don't want to suffer in your relationships anymore may sound simple, and probably it's something that you found yourself doing many times. No more suffering, I deserve better, and then you're still stuck in the same pattern.
Here's why it sounds simple but it's actually the most important thing to start with. I feel this is where most of us get stuck - and where I got stuck many times in the past. It's in making and keeping that decision that changes everything.
Things happen in our life depending on the choices we make. We need to make our final decision, choose to stop entertaining the fears and beliefs that are not aligned with the new kind of relationships we want to create. We can let those thoughts and fears speak, and scream, and fight to try to stop us, but never feed them. It does require some healthy stubbornness, we almost need to be done with ourselves, tired of perpetuating old stories and habits, and choose to stop, to be unavailable for old beliefs - like there is no going back. We need to commit to a new story, be in the conviction that what we want is what we are going to create, and nothing less. And when we make this kind of no-second-guessing, no-going-back decisions, our next actions will be automatically aligned with our truest reality. the next steps of this journey will follow along. Setting this kind of intention will force us to act differently and start showing up in a different way in our relationships. That's why this is the most important step to focus on, and the one that will need to keep working on for our entire life.
It's not easy to stay in this kind of decision because we tend to hold on to our old stories and beliefs like a security blanket. Leaving all the old stories and beliefs behind means facing and working on our emotional blocks and fears - and that's scary. Creating the same relationship patterns over and over is like postponing working on ourselves because we are scared to face the fears, the blocks, and then the change and all the beautiful things that can happen to us. It's a way for our mind to protect ourselves from facing our blocks and most of the time we don't even see this protection system running on autopilot in our brain, like an automated software would do. So we end up sabotaging ourselves and go back to the start because it's less scary, even if it means detesting our romantic lives.
If you are serious about creating a different reality for yourself and your future relationships, you need to keep choosing that reality every single day. You need to decide not to look back, not to waffle back and forth, that your old way of living and your old belief system is no longer what you accept for yourself.
You will need to keep working on yourself despite the doubts so that things will keep lining up for you. Don't let your insecurities or the lack of evidence - like not having found the right person - stop you. Don't give up. Keep telling yourself, every day, that this is your new reality from now on, you won't be in an unhealthy relationship anymore. And keep making that decision, the decision not to accept anything less than you know you deserve - remind yourself to keep believing that a healthy relationship is possible for you to have, to keep going even if everything looks like it's going wrong or not working.
2) I Started Treating Myself As Worthy Of Being Loved
The things I was looking for in a partner were probably the things I wasn't giving myself. I wanted more love and affection, so I decided to give that to myself. It was impossible to feel worthy and deserving of love all of a sudden, but I made the decision to start working towards it step by step.
I started believing in my ability to change
I went on dates with myself and did all the things I imagined to do with a partner, alone
I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried new things, traveled alone, moved abroad to expose myself to new experiences, learned how to deal with the unknown - and felt extremely empowered when I realized what I was capable of
I created little rituals for myself and carved some me-time only, such as taking baths, meditations sessions, long walks, daily sessions at the Spa
I started saying "I love you" to myself while placing a hand on my hearth, or caressing and hugging my body with a gentle touch
I started complimenting myself, telling myself nice and kind things
I started filling my body with healthy food
I started surrounding myself with people who really loved and encouraged me
I stopped comparing myself to others
I started celebrating my wins and be proud of what I have achieved.
I embraced the things that make me different and special instead of hiding them
I realized that my beauty can't be defined by society, and decided to stop forcing my body into some standards
I decided to follow my passions and do all the things that got me excited but scared me at the same time - things that I really wanted to do but had convinced myself that wouldn't work
I learned to be kind and support myself through hard times, and to accept that it’s inevitable to have down days
I started treating others with more love and respect
I found something to be grateful for every day
I started learning to forgive myself and let go of things I've done in the past that made me feel bad, embarrassed, and ashamed, and look at them as learning experiences
I gave up the need for approval from others
I started encouraging my creativity and expressing myself in whatever way I liked
I started letting go of past trauma and wounds. (This has been a really tough one, and the work is not over.)
Once I started giving love and affection to myself, I automatically cultivated a higher level of expectations for the people and relationships in my life. I started believing that I deserved to be loved and respected, that I was worth investing time and energy into, that my feelings were important and that what I wanted matters. I started making myself happy first so that I could meet people from a place of non-neediness and non-insecurity.
Remember: You Were Born To Be Worthy Of Love
Think about yourself as a child: do you see that child as being worthy of love? Do you see your little niece or nephew, or even your pet as being worthy of love? Of course, you do, and they didn't do anything specific to "deserve" that love - just by being who they are, they receive unconditional love and joy from everyone and everywhere they go. Babies and puppies are a magnet for love - just think about the amount of people smiling at them, waving at them, or wanting to cuddle them. The reason is that we see them as pure love. Start seeing yourself as that little child. Start seeing yourself as a creature that was made of pure love.
3) I Stopped Needing Love From Other People
The work I had done allowed me not to feel needy of external love anymore because I was already able to give it to myself. In this way, I could see myself starting to give and receive love just for the pleasure of giving and receiving it, and not because I was craving for it.
Since I had stopped needing something from people, I was able to give them the freedom to show up in the way they wanted. I started to be able to receive more love because I didn't crave it anymore, and I wasn't attached to it - I was really and finally good either way because I was already getting everything I needed from myself.
4) I Stopped Blaming The Other Person
I used to make myself wrong for the way people treated me in relationships. Whenever I felt offended by someone's behavior, I was immediately pointing the blame at the other person.
I wasn't realizing that person was in my life for a specific reason. We only meet the people we need to meet in order for us to learn specific lessons - those people are there for us to show us something we are unaware of. In fact, in my life, I kept meeting the same kind of partner over and over until I had my lesson learned.
It's when I finally stopped complaining about my situation or blaming it on the other person and I started asking myself some simple but essential questions that something shifted. For example: what are the thoughts going on inside of me, what are my fears and beliefs I'm having in this situation? Why do people keep showing up for me in this way? What is this trying to teach me about myself? How can I get to know myself better through this?
At some point, I moved from a victim mentality to a place of gratitude and saw all my unpleasant experiences and partners who triggered me as teachers - ways for me to understand how to love myself more.
I finally found myself accepting that relationship pain is an unavoidable part of being human, and start to see that for what it is – a mismatch of people, a redirection, a learning – not a warning to protect myself from the possibility of being hurt again.
5) I Deconstructed My Whole Idea Of Romantic Love
I never really felt the common construct of romantic love could fit me 100%, and it's when I learned about polyamory that things really started to shift in my mind.
Reading and learning about polyamory taught me that love means freedom, kindness, complete honesty, and total acceptance. Love should uplifts and inspire, without the expectation to receive back. True love is unconditional. It's not I love you because I expect you to be only mine, it's I love you because it gives me joy, and I allow you to be free to do whatever you want.
Discovering polyamory helped me reject the idea of love based on possession, control, and jealousy. I started asking myself, why does my ability to love need to be limited to only one individual? And why should I expect all the love I desire to come from just one person? I stopped believing that love is a limited source. Love is infinite, and you can feel love for a multitude of people, and it will always feel different - just like a mom loves all of her children, each one in a different way.
I'm not saying that you should stop having monogamous relationships - I'm currently in a monogamous relationship myself. But I am because I'm choosing it, not because I think that's the only type of relationship possible. Learning about new possibilities and different kinds of relationships can really shift your mindset. It will open your mind, make you question social constructs and your beliefs around these constructs, and expand you towards different directions. Being curious is always a good choice.
The concept of romantic love, the idea of finding the one is ingrained in our head since we are kids. We grow up with this utopian and unrealistic concept of relationships, perpetuated by culture, religion, media, books, movies, music, and society in general. Did you ever ask yourself why? Have you ever wondered if that's the only way possible? We’ve been taught things like you can be sure that you really love somebody when you want that person only, and you see nobody else.
But is that even real? Is that even humanly possible? Speaking for myself, limiting and repressing my ability to love to the idea of finding ”the one and only” is what, in the end, always made me unable to love truly. I felt jealousy, I felt fear, I felt possessive, I felt insecure - and now I know none of these are indicators of true love.
Once I stopped believing exclusive relationships are the only ones possible, once I understood there is no such thing as the one, my life shifted. I realized that I can't expect one person to meet all my criteria, fulfill all the items on an ”ideal partner checklist”, and ”provide” with all the things I want. I have learned that this kind of expectations will set any relationships for failure.
Learning and reading about polyamory also taught me the importance of honesty and kind communication in relationships. No polyamorous relationship is possible without clear boundaries and healthy communication. A lot of buttons, insecurities, and triggers are pushed when more than two people are involved. You really need to face your fears, be willing to be vulnerable, and express your needs clearly and courageously, but without blaming the other person - otherwise, the relationship is never going to work. There is no space for control, jealousy, or blaming. You really need to put yourself out there and be ready to share your deepest fears and emotions with the other person, and also be ready to listen and hold a safe space for the other person to show up and share their fears and emotions as well.
6) I Let Go Of Control And Learned How To Communicate My Feelings
It's at this point of the process that I fell in love with the guy who's now my current partner. It was around one year and a half ago, and I was right in the middle of my healing process. I wasn't really searching for a new relationship - I was too focused on working on myself, so it's been a completely unexpected surprise.
Since I had already started practicing a new way of being, I was feeling more worthy to receive love than before and I wasn't expecting him to make me feel happy - this made it possible for me to accept what my new partner started offering with more ease.
But my work wasn't over, and I still had a lot of core beliefs to work on. I could feel that there was something different about this relationship: I was ready to break my patterns and go through all the lessons I needed to learn, and all the growth I had avoided until that moment.
He purely, genuinely loved me since day 1 and accepted me 100% for who I was - basically, what I always dreamed of. You might think that starting from this moment, my life just started to be great, but it's been the exact opposite. Receiving so much love, affection, and trust has been the scariest for me. I didn't even know how to make space for all that unconditional love, because I had never experienced it before in my life. I realized that I had so many lessons to learn about loving and letting someone else enter my life. I saw myself facing insecurities and blocks I didn’t even know I had. I had to overcome my lack of trust and fear of abandonment. I had to crack open my heart to let that love in. I had to learn how to show up for who I really am. It’s been painful and challenging.
I learned to deal with my insecurity with more calm and rationality and how to express them in a more mature way. I made an effort to focus on all that self-worth I had been cultivating until that moment and trusted that my partner wanted to be with me because of all my positive qualities. I slowly stopped making everything the other person did or didn't do mean something negative about me - like a late text reply, or an ‘I miss you’ not returned, a request for help declined. I stopped blaming my partner and starting letting go of control, embracing uncertainty.
I slowly started to open my heart and trust whatever comes. Learned to be willing to accept what was beyond my control and trust that I had the capacity to deal with the unknown.
7) I Learned About Consent, Sexism and Women's Empowerment
Reading and learning about women's empowerment completely changed my perspective on what is possible for me to experience as a woman. It helped me figure out what rights I have in relationships and accept only relationships in which I could feel valued and respected.
Learning about these topics has been mind-opening but also painful - I understood how little I used to respect my body and how I let other people abuse it. I realized how much of who I've been allowed to be in my life has been dictated by external factors such as social norms and culture. I felt the urge to dismantle everything and work on myself to stop conforming to a particular standard. Stop acting in a certain way just because it's what is expected from a woman.
As girls, while we grow up, we are taught to always put the partner's needs first. We learn that our adult identity will revolve around having a romantic partner and children. We also learn that, as women, we are "unstable", "hysterical", "irrational" so it's better not to bother others with our feelings nor to trust ourselves too much.
It took me almost 30 years of my life to realize how many of my basic personal rights I was giving up in my relationships because of all these sexist beliefs, and how many of my female friends were doing the same.
I realized I have the right to express my needs and have them considered. I have the right to voice my feelings, and be heard with compassion - the accuse of being hysterical or unreasonable is just a common way for partners to justify not listening.
I have the right to be shown respect, both in private and public. My partner can't mock me or belittle me in a way that I find hurtful. They can't act like they are ashamed of me or put me down in public. They should treat me like an adult and equal, not like a child. They can't yell at me nor insult me. If I ask them to stop, they should listen. I found myself to be in a relationship where the other person was often raising their voice and treating me as inferior, and I won't ever allow it again.
I have the right to have my own interests and activities, to grow, change, and make my own experiences - and a partner who supports all of this. My own independence has always been sacred to me, but I still found myself with partners that wanted to control my life outside the relationship. Reading about women's empowerment convinced me even more that, a partner who complains when I dedicate time to myself or doesn't support my dreams and interests, is very insecure and not ready for a healthy relationship.
I have the right to end the relationship if it isn’t making me happy. I don’t need a big reason or excuse: “I’m not happy” is enough. I always have the right to decide not to be romantically or sexually involved with someone anymore, and I don't have to feel guilty for it, even if the other person tries to blame me and act like a victim.
I have the right to ask for sexual pleasure - I don't focus only on my partner’s pleasure and ignore my own anymore. I have the right to set sexual boundaries and have them respected - from “I don’t want to have sex in that way today” to “I don’t want to have sex at all.” It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been with that person, it doesn’t matter how much they’ve done for me. I get to decide how and when my body can be touched, and if my partner frowns, argues, or pressures me after I set a boundary, that is not okay. This is definitely something that many men have a hard time understanding - they simply miss the education on the topic, and they don't know how to respect the body of a woman. They often act as they are entitled to receive sex, and it's our job as women to make them understand our boundaries and ask them to respect them. I found myself having long conversations with my current partner about this topic, and it took us a while to find balance around each other's sexual needs and desires. Still, it was my first time ever being able to have this kind of conversation with a partner, so it's been a huge win, and a great opportunity for growth and for me to understand what feels right in my body and what doesn't.
I learned that standing up for all these rights does not make me unreasonable, demanding, or too picky – and anyone who tells me differently is just perpetuate a sexist message. All these things are a bare minimum in a relationship. I did let some of these rights get overridden in my past relationships, but I make an effort not to blame myself for it - standing up for ourselves in this society might be really hard, and takes practice. Reading lots of books and articles has been a good way for me to develop this skill.
8) I Understood That Unhealthy Relationships Are Just Another Kind Of Addiction
Why is it so hard to let go of toxic relationships? Because they are addictive. And like any other addictions, they leave you on top of the world one day and really low the next. And when you fight or you try to leave, you can experience similar symptoms to someone withdrawing from a drug.
One of the main reasons why I kept finding myself stuck in healthy relationships was because love to me meant enduring pain. Love meant doing what the other person asked me, even if it was hurting me - and usually, this kind of belief comes from our childhood.
We hang onto toxic relationships because we mistake them for love, and this toxic love becomes an addiction. It's addicting when you get close to someone, but not enough; it's addicting to almost getting it right and not giving up; it's addicting to love and hate at the same time. It's all thrilling and intense, but also extremely painful.
Once you recognize this mechanism, you will start to understand how toxic relationships aren’t just relationships with someone who is bad for you - they are the horrible relationship you have with yourself in which you think you deserve that,