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5 Steps to Breaking the Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy Relationships

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. About the unhealthy patterns we sometimes weave into them. So many of us seem to repeat the same relationship cycles over and over again throughout our lives. They look different at first, but before we know it we’re right back where we were however many years ago, dealing with issues we’ve prayed to put behind us.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this. Maybe you keep dating the same type of guy. Maybe you keep finding friendships that make you feel uncomfortable, taken advantage of, not listened to, or that generally bring out the worst in you, instead of the best.

Repetition. Recycling. But the garbage here is of the emotional kind. Garbage you can’t seem to get out of your life. Out of you. And so it shows up, again and again, stinking up your world.

Didn’t you just date a guy who brought out these same exact issues a few months ago? Wasn’t he basically the same guy you dated three years ago? Didn’t you just dump that friend who always uses harsh nasty words to describe other people, only to find a new one a year later?

And so, it keeps happening, over and over again…

You don’t have to stay trapped in this vicious cycle. You’ve prayed about it, now take the necessary steps to change it.

Here are 5 ways to challenge those bad patterns so you can focus on attracting Godly relationships.

1. Forgive Yourself. 

We obviously play a huge role in the creation of these bad relationships. And while they often go disguised for a while, when the pattern finally rears its ugly design, we’re left wondering what’s wrong with us. How did we allow this to happen, again? We must not be destined for anything better. We must deserve this.

That kind of self-talk certainly doesn’t help end the bad pattern you’re hoping to break. If anything it reinforces it by robbing you of all power and hope.

Understand that it’s not your fault.  We can’t control the actions of others, but we can control how we react to them.

So forgive yourself. Forgive all the times you’ve entered into a relationship that wasn’t healthy, that caused you to feel hurt, unworthy, or unnoticed. Or that caused you to hurt others.

Start with forgiveness. Only after you forgive yourself can you take steps forward to weave a new pattern. Forgiveness will help you put the past where it belongs – in the past – so it stops tainting your future.

So close your eyes. Tell yourself you forgive. Feel it wash over you. Then take the next step forward.

2. Understand Where the Pattern Came From. 

After you’ve forgiven yourself you can start to do some work to correct this yucky pattern you keep sewing into your life.

If it’s a pattern you’ve repeated multiple times you should be able to pinpoint some of the traits, characteristics, and symptoms. Think about them, write them down, analyze them. What exactly do all these relationships have in common? What were some telltale warning signs that you missed early on but can now easily identify? What behaviors have these relationships brought out in you, time and time again? What was it about those relationships that triggered such behaviors in you?

Now think about what led you to enter those relationships. What was it you were longing for? What feelings were you enjoying? What results were you hoping for? What emotions were these relationships triggering for you?

A lot of times we enter into relationships because they feel familiar to us, like a story we know well, so we fall right into them seamlessly, without even giving it much thought or prayer.

Understanding where the pattern comes from and how it was created is key to finding ways to break it.

3. Recognize the Warning Signs

Now it’s time to take a look at some of the warning signs you may have overlooked in the past so you can quickly identify them when they come up again.

I used to long for love, badly. I wanted to feel adored. I looked for other people’s love to give me security. And that often led me into relationships with ungodly, possessive, and controlling men. These relationships felt amazing at first because they were so intense but before I knew it I was back into an old pattern. Why didn’t I see it coming? Now that I look back I can see how I missed a lot of clues.

So what are some of the warning signs for your pattern? You may have to look hard for these, as they can be disguised as really attractive things that lure you in like bait.

Identify the warning signs and you won’t get trapped so easily next time.

4. Clarify How You Really Want to Feel. 

What kind of relationship are you really hoping for? Describe it. Pray for it.

Most importantly, what does it feel like? Focus less on what the person looks like or what they do for a living. Focus instead on the feeling.

One of the reasons I was fortunate enough to end up with my husband was because I had had enough bad relationships to really force myself to understand the underlying feelings I was really longing for. Not the on the surface feelings that were based on insecurities I had, like wanting to feel adored. But the real deep down feelings I hadn’t even realized I was longing for.

For me, what I truly longed for, what my soul wanted to live forever with, was a relationship centered around God.

A Godly man. That’s all I wanted.

So dig deep, what is it you are truly longing for? What are the feelings that would help you happily stay in a relationship/friendship forever.

When you identify the feelings you long for you won’t get as easily lured in by the triggers you’ve identified in #3 above.

5. Move Forward.  

Don’t be fearful of getting into new relationships. We learn something new with every one. The key is to learn and lean on God. Let the Holy spirit guide you and use discernment to choose the right relationships.

So take the lessons you’ve learned and trust that you’ll take the right steps forward. And if you find yourself back in a bad relationship, take the time to reflect on the above steps again and take action.

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