Although the word toxic is becoming a usual label everywhere and for everyone, we should be careful not only to use it. But also correctly identify what is toxic by running away from it or avoiding altogether in the first place.
Head games or yo-yo relationships are a typical example of toxicity in the dating/intimate universe.
Head games: Are emotional tactics to make the other person hooked on the relationship. Emotional confusion but also to build up affection and dependency towards the individual who is playing those games. It can be breadcrumbing, gaslighting, etc. While stringing you along without the intention of fully commit with you.
Yo-Yo Relationships: It seems that you are in a committed relationship, but the other person is holding back at the same time the fundamental requirements of what creates a meaningful connection, giving occasional rewards to keep you hooked and then reject. Whenever rejections come up, you will remember the good times immediately and try to pursue those moments again as a form to rescue the relationship. (Intermittent reinforcement)
Intermittent reinforcement is addictive and dangerous, defined as an addiction to seeking rewards in unhealthy situations that can occur at work or in love relationships. And this is the reason why gambling, for example, can be so problematic. Sometimes you win, and other times you lose, intermittent reinforcement, leading to another try in hopes that winning will be there. Victims of intermittent reinforcement are always hoping that they will be seen and receive the love they deserve from their partners because, in the past, they were. At least it is what they think.
Now, as you can comprehend, head games, yo-yo relationships, intermittent reinforcement interconnects with each other being part of the same dynamic/environment. Knowing that young people’s brains are developing up until the age of 25, parents should be more attentive and look after the example of intimate relationships they are giving. But also possess enough emotional literacy to guide and warn their children that early dating is a fertile ground for head games, which can leave deep emotional tolls and profound scars, creating the perfect ambiance for future chaotic adult bonds.
Women and men who grew up with intermittent reinforcement from parents are more vulnerable to get involved with men or women who are inconsistent. Or with men and women who have schizoid personalities. Because the alternation between intense involvement and cold distance strikes the familiar subconscious programming where the rule is: if I give just a little more of my love, attention, and presence, they will wake up and love me as I deserve.
What can you do to avoid the scenarios above:
- It doesn’t matter why he or she is avoiding or acting ambivalent towards you. Ambivalence and avoidance in intimate relationships is a form of control not only to you but also to how the dynamic should be.
- He or she is what he or she does, not the words they might say. Don’t try to read between the lines, remembering that the yo-yo effect between caring and rejecting is crazy-making. Do you need that?
- Get out of your head and into your body. Our bodies always have the answer we need even when our minds are playing or trying to find all the crazy unsustainable pieces of evidence. To remain in what is more than over. Bodies carry emotions that may not have registered in our minds. Dismiss the old saying: “It’s all in your head!”. Wrong! Everything or almost everything you need to know is in your body.
- You can take charge, and by doing it remember your worth. Everything was fantastic at the beginning of your relationship. I know, at least it was the impression, but at the same time, something was quite off. Shift your attention from “I want this relationship to work” to “I want a real relationship where I can be myself and will work over the test of time because we are both into it, committed”.
- Educate yourself emotionally. Believe it or not, emotional literacy can be a great tool to avoid unnecessary situations and healthily deal with them, understanding how your brain works when triggered and how to self-soothe.
- Remember who you are and what legacy you want to leave behind after your departure. Do you want to LIVE or JUST SURVIVE?
Games are games. It doesn’t matter if they are thrilling or not, if they are acceptable or not by society and part of the dating/intimate relationships atmosphere. One of the issues related to the modern culture is the lack of substantial and effective rules that offer guidance and assistance/support by normalizing what is normal and healthy, excluding at the same time what is unacceptable and has contours of emotional predatism.
The power to change resides within our hands and the power of our actions. Through consistent educative examples, we are changing today what will be the environment of our future generations. Living requires actions, not words full of laziness.