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EP 0085 – Why We Choose Toxic Relationships


In the most recent episode of “It’s Not You, It’s Your Trauma,” Joe Ryan delves into toxic relationships. These relationships, characterized by emotional unavailability, abuse, and neglect, often reflect the dynamics we experienced in our early years.

Joe begins by examining why individuals enter and remain in toxic relationships. He explains that our childhood experiences with emotionally unavailable or narcissistic parents often lay the groundwork for our adult relationships. As children, we learn to neglect ourselves and prioritize the emotional needs of our caretakers in hopes of earning their love and approval. This pattern continues into adulthood, where we find ourselves trying to “fix” our partners in an unconscious attempt to heal our childhood wounds.

One of Joe’s most compelling points is finding comfort in familiar pain. Even though toxic relationships are damaging, they feel normal to us because they replicate the dynamics we grew up with. Being with someone genuinely caring for and nurturing us may be intimidating because it challenges our deeply ingrained beliefs about our worth and value. Joe emphasizes that the key to breaking free from these patterns lies in building our self-esteem and learning to value ourselves independently of others.

Joe also discusses the significance of emotional independence. He urges his audience to imagine what it would feel like to leave a toxic relationship and to acknowledge the fear and panic that arise. These emotions, he explains, are rooted in our childhood survival instincts. As children, our survival relied on maintaining an emotional connection with our caregivers, regardless of the harm it caused. In adulthood, leaving a toxic partner can feel like a life-or-death situation because it triggers these same survival instincts.

To genuinely heal and move forward, Joe encourages us to make better choices in the present. This entails recognizing our worth, establishing boundaries, and seeking healthy, supportive relationships. He reminds us that although the healing journey is challenging, it is ultimately rewarding. By trying to understand and heal our past, we can create a future filled with healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

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