Why any woman can end up in a toxic relationship
"Why any woman can end up in a toxic relationship"
Originally published on Medium, here.
We’ve all heard the stereotypes, that only a certain kind of woman ends up in a toxic relationship. She must just have “daddy issues”, “trash taste in men”, “low self-esteem”, “no standards”, be a “masochist”, “love the drama/attention”, “be insecure”, “stupid”, “weak” and the list goes on.
People go to great lengths to find faults in women that they believe cause men to mistreat them. The victim blaming is insidious, as reflected in the kind of things people say to and about women who have been in toxic relationships with men;
“What an idiot!”, “how couldn’t she have seen this coming?”, “she knew this would happen”, “why does she always go for such men?”, “why does she stay with him?”, “she attracts such men”, “she’ll never learn”, “why does she allow men to treat her this way?”
The truth is, women aren’t to blame (not even partially), if men decide to treat them badly. Your “daddy issues”, “lack of boundaries”, “naivety”, or whatever other excuses people use to shift blame, aren’t to blame. Please believe me when I say there isn’t something inherently wrong with you that “provokes” or “attracts” such men into your life.
Do you know how I know this? Because women with healthy relationships with their dad, who are wise, strong, confident, intelligent and so on, can all end up in toxic relationships. Which should tell you, men will treat you badly regardless of how “good” you are.
The narrative that only a particular kind of woman ends up in a toxic relationship and that it’s all her fault, is a damaging lie. It falsely teaches women that they can avoid being mistreated by men, if only they’re “good enough” and that only lesser women, women with “issues”, are mistreated because they “allow it”.
Women don’t expect to find themselves in a toxic relationship because they believe they don’t fit the stereotype, so when they are, they feel ashamed because they’ve been taught they’re “better” than that; only stupid and weak women get mistreated by men.
When women experience toxic relationships with men, it becomes a part of their identity. She’s labelled a doormat, stupid and weak, it becomes a mark against her, not the actual man that treats her poorly. Women are judged harder for being mistreated, than the actual men who mistreat them.
Victim-blaming taught me I wasn’t worthy of a healthy type of love or relationship, those were rewards for women without “issues”, women who had something that I didn’t have, that made men treat them with care and respect. I believed there was something was inherently wrong with me that was causing men to mistreat me.
Blaming women for how men have chosen to mistreat them is so normalised, that I wasted years carrying a lot of shame and self-hatred. Shame did nothing to empower me, heal me or prevent me from entering more toxic relationships. Victim-blaming doesn’t work because victims aren’t the cause of the problem.
If there’s something I wish women could know, is that when men mistreat you, it has nothing to do with you. They’re either a dickhead or they’re not, you can’t make them treat you better. It’s always their decision. The blame, shame and guilt you feel, is a lie, that you’ve been taught to believe. Instead of asking women why they “allow” themselves to be mistreated by men, we need to question why men think it’s acceptable to do so in the first place.