Why do we stay in toxic, high drama relationships?

I used to believe that relationships that included a lot of drama, with passionate fighting and then making up, were the most meaningful and deep.  I made myself stay in them despite the unhappiness of the emotional outbursts and fighting because I was filled up with love and passion when the fight ended and we would have amazing make up sex and a period of renewed energy that just felt amazing. 

It never lasted, and the cycle would begin again, and each time the upswing became a little less rewarding until one of us or both realised that the relationship needed to end. 

I remember saying to myself things along the lines of:

  • I hate how we fight but I love the makeup sex.
  • When we are good, it’s so good so it’s worth putting up with the bad. 
  • To be in something so deep and connected, it just takes a lot of hardship

I know that for many people, there are different reasons that compel them to remain in toxic relationships. Those reasons can include trauma bonding, anxious/avoidant connection, reliving a toxic attachment from childhood, deep codependency and more. 

But sometimes, it is because our minds are tricking us. The story I told myself about how deeply connected I was to my partner when things were good, was just that – a story. I remained for the highs in a dramatic relationship because they contrasted so extremely with the lows. I did not realise it only felt like a massive high because of what came before. I think of it as the roller coaster phenomenon and it literally threw me for a loop. The brain chemicals that are released in such situations give us a natural high and warp our sense of intimacy and connection. 

In healthy, secure relationships, we maintain the high most of the time and it does not feel as extreme because we become accustomed to it. Someone that has experienced only ‘roller coaster’ relationships might feel numb or bored in a healthy relationship that comes after. Realising this is crucial because it drives me to consciously appreciate all the goodness I have in my drama-free relationships. 

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