It takes one to know one.
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
If you?re someone who?s watched a lot of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, you?ll know what I mean when I say I used to be a lot like Rebecca Bunch. As someone who?s been previously diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I can tell you that the show?s depiction of the mental illness was pretty much on point, despite the absurdity added for comic relief.
I was a walking disaster, especially when it came to my romantic relationships. I didn?t know how out-of-line I was or why I kept having such awful outcomes with the menIloved. I didn?t know why I was continuously drawn to men who wound up using me or breaking my heart.
It took several years and an epic amount of heartbreak, but I finally did go into remission and that?s given me the valuable ability to look back over my past behavior and identify the unhealthy patterns I frequently missedbackthen.
Often, toxic people don?t know they?re toxic. I sure didn?t. And while we commonly talk about the traits of toxic men, it?s hard to find a real-life discussion of toxic women that doesn?t fall into a number of ridiculous tropes. For example, we traditionally give bad behavior from men a pass by labeling any women he?s burned as ?crazy.?
But the common tropes surrounding ?crazy girlfriends? are deeply flawed. Worst of all, they don?t help anyone heal.
People are complicated, especially the toxic ones. Yet toxic girlfriends frequently share some similar traits.
She lives much of her love life in her head.
A lot of toxic girlfriends out there fall in love with you long before you begin dating. Or even before you become friends. I?m not happy to admit this, but I have definitely pulled a number of Rebecca Bunch moves over the years.
Just a few months before I met my daughter?s dad, I was making plans to move to another state because I was convinced that a longterm guy friend (who I met back when I was barely 18), was ?the one for me.? I genuinely believed that if we simply spent more time together in real life, he?d see it too.
Why did I think that was a good idea? Toxic women often live in their heads. To us, love is a fantasyormelodrama.
The whole scheme ended in perhaps the most humiliating way possible: I confided my plans to a new online friend who happened to have a thing for him,unbeknownsttome. They were local and wound up dating, but not before she told him everything I said. He was kindaboutit, but he did confront me on my comments and I was absolutely mortified.
In response to my embarrassment, I made some terrible choices just trying to run away from it all. Like abruptly moving away to another state with a married man.
She thinks ?love? is the most important thing.
It?s entirely possible for a toxic girlfriend to insist that she knows romantic love isn?t everything. That doesn?t mean she actually believes it.
For a long time, I thought I knew that love was not the most important thing in the world. I tried to put on a brave face when I was single and not get caught up in the emotional highs of falling in love.
But my actual actions and choices reflected the truth. Deep down, I honestly believed that I couldn?t be happy unless I was settled down into a romantic relationship. Finding my person was truly my biggest goal, and I put most of my life on hold as I waited for my love life to ?happen.?
The little things that go wrong feel like the end of the world.
Toxic girlfriends often expect perfectionfromtheirpartnersand relationships. They may not even be perfectionists themselves, yet they?ll frequently ?lose it? when things don?t go according to their plans.
Maybe dinner goes poorly, or maybe it rains on a picnic. Perhaps a concert gets canceled. Toxic women typically struggle to adapt to disappointments and assign great value to those feelings. They?re Negative Nancies.
I?m sad to say that in the past, I have made mountains out of molehills. I have mistakenly believed that some hiccups reflected poorly upon a boyfriend or partnership.
The irony is that I often missed the red flags that truly matteredsimply becauseI wasfocusedonthewrong things.
She looks to her partner for her happiness and self-esteem.
It may seem counterintuitive, but love isn?t designed to make you happy. It?s not there to sustain you. You must do the work to build your happy life. You have got to learn how to sustain yourself and not leave it up to your lover.
Love is beautiful, but love is also hard. The work that goes into a healthy relationship can be boring. Sometimes, it will be frustrating.
Toxic girlfriends rarely understand that ?love? is not equivalent to happiness.
In my past, I would have completely denied this, but I definitely fell into the trap of believing that love would save me. That finding the right person and building a life with them would make so many of my problems go away. I thought that the right partner would make me happy, and only then would I quit feeling so empty, incomplete, or like a failure.
Now that I am out of that mentality, it feels as if the world has completely opened up to me. I see myself and my romantic relationships much more clearly. I see my toxic past. And I am finally able to pursue happiness on my own terms.
I only wish I?d wised up so much sooner.
Her boundaries are haphazard.
Lots of toxic women want to have good boundaries. Maybe they?ve read the books. They might even think they have good boundaries when they clearly don?t.
In most cases, a toxic girlfriend has boundaries that are all over the place. That doesn?t just make her hard to readforthepeoplewholoveher. That makes it hard for her to read herself.
Boundaries matter. Knowing when to say yes or no, knowing how much to let people in???these are invaluable traits for anyone who wants to enjoy a healthy relationship.
It?s not uncommon for a toxic girlfriend to let the wrong people get close while pushing away healthier folks. It?s not intentional but it is detrimental if she can?t see what she?s doing and figure out how to build better, more consistent boundaries in herlife.
She will lose herself in virtually any romantic relationship.
Once again, I?m pretty sure that she?ll insist she never does this. But she does. I know, for toxic women and those in the thick of BPD, we absolutely struggle with losing ourselves in our romantic relationships. The most basic explanation is that we don?t know who we are.
Without a strong sense of self, toxic girlfriends drown in their desires to please their partners. As with most of these traits, she won?t even see how it?s a problem.
What?s the big deal if she wants to spend every waking moment with her significant other? Is it even clingy if the partner doesn?t mind? These are the sort of questions a toxic woman hasn?t sorted out for herself. And these are the questions she truly needs to ask and answer.
I know how easy it is to lose yourself in love, or even just the idea of love. I?ve done it far too many timesmyself. Even when people warned me, I let my dreams take a backseat just to shrink further into my partnerand theirwishes.
This is a choice plenty of toxic people make, but it never worksoutwell.
Her understanding of love is very limited.
What is love? Baby, don?t hurt me. Toxic girlfriends tend to learn every lesson about love from poor sources. Fairytales, rom coms, love songs and good old loneliness are her main informants.
Yes, this was me to a T. I lived in a fantasy world, like plenty of other toxic girls. I couldn?t even recognize good love if it was right in front of my eyes because all I really knew was the mythology.
Girlfriends who don?t understand real love are doomed to keep repeating unhealthy patterns in their future. There?s really no way around it.
She can?t have a healthy relationship until she adopts a more realistic view of love.
She?s drawn to men who trigger her issues.
I?ve heard it said that we?re frequently drawn to those who?ve been hurt in the same ways we have. Or those who will hurt us in the ways we?re used to. That?s why so many of us unwittingly fall for people who turn out to be strikingly similar to our abusive parents, orlousy exes,etc.
I never thought I had this problem until I began treatment for BPD. It was disheartening to realize I felt more comfortable in abusive habits than healthy ones.
So, I went through a ton of unnecessary heartache just because I was so drawn to men with whom things were never going to work out. Emotionally distant men, abusive men???when we talk about toxic partners, we often forget that we can be talking about toxicity and abuse on both sides.
She makes the same mistakes over and over.
My biggest romantic heartbreaks revolve around me making the same poor choices? again and again and again. It?s not that an ex?s bad behavior is ever our fault. We all need to take responsibility for our own choicesandbehavior.
But my mistakes were usually about falling for the same type of wounded man, moving too quickly, and ignoring significant red flags. I also had a real propensity to get stuck in unhealthy and codependent patterns despiteswearingthingswouldbe better?this time around.?
Again, toxic girlfriends are often oblivious to many, if not all, of their issues. And a lack of self-awareness goes a very long way to hide even our biggest problems from ourselves.
We might think that life keeps happening to us like it?s breaking us apart while we?re just innocent bystanders. But the reality is that toxic women create many of their own problems by failing to see where they?ve gone wrong.
And then failing to learn their lessonsin oneortworounds.
Her need for attention is fierce.
Daily talks, daily texts, daily attention of every kind. Toxic girlfriends are often an unending pool of need. And we?re rarely honest with ourselves (or our partners) about it.
For many toxic ladies, nothing you give them will ever be enough. They don?t understandthat, however. They keep pushing for you to give more and more, and then they don?t know why their happiness seems so damn fleeting.
One of the best revelations of my life was when I accepted that as a woman with BPD, I?ve got an emptiness inside me, and I can?t fill it with romance no matter how hard I try. I had to be very honest with myself and acknowledge that there will never be enough sweet words, loving gestures, or mere attention to fill that dark void.
Toxic people might think that?s depressing, but it?s actually quite liberating. This has been a huge part of my healing???knowing that I can?t fill that emptiness means I no longer try. And do you know what? I no longer battle that emptiness like I used to.
Toxic girlfriends need your constant attention. They don?t know how to give themselves what they need, partly because they?re so fixated on getting what they think they need from you.
She thinks she can fix the things that are beyond her control.
This is an often contradictory trait of a toxic girlfriend. She likely lives her life with an external locus of control, meaningthatshethinkslifejust ?happens?toher. As if good choices are completely beyond her control.
But on the flipside, she tends to think there are some things she can make happen, particularly when it comes to her romantic relationships.
That?s why a toxic girlfriend will routinely beat a dead horse all for the sake of ?fixing things.?
I was awful about this. I believed that any friction was a mere misunderstanding and could be easily worked out by talking. Or writing. Yes, I was the crazy ex-girlfriend who wrote unnecessarily long letters trying to explain herself. I talked and talked and talked even when my words fell onto deaf ears.
Toxic girlfriends push and pushin the nameof?fixingthings,? but they don?t know how to take responsibility for themselves. Or when to quit pushing altogether.
Perhaps the hardest truth about toxic people is that they are wounded ones. I think that?s what bothers me most about all of the crazy ex-girlfriend tropes. They?re negligent because they laugh, shame, and misdirect, all while behaving as if wounded people can?t be healed.
We can heal. We do heal. We can move past our toxic pasts.
Plenty of us are living proof that growth is possible.