The Root of Toxic Relationships

The role models we grow up with are often the first source

Carolyn Riker
3 min readJul 13, 2021


Photo by Brian Gordillo on Unsplash

We tend to repeat toxic relationships with partners, friends, coworkers, and the like because of the role models we received as a child. The more aware we become of those patterns, the less likely we will continue seeking and repeating them unconsciously. First, though, we need to bring our awareness to such negative relationships and what attracts us to them.

Over the decades, I have had several deeply committed, long-term relationships. However, after a lot of self-analysis, therapy, education, and support from friends and therapists, I learned how these partners had components of significant control and toxicity. I also began to understand that I gravitated towards such relationships because they were familiar to me.

Sometimes I shake my head and wonder, when will I get the message? But, I do know, learning takes time and not to be too hard on myself.

What I learned over the years

Two of my biggest mistakes have been overly trusting and not listening to my intuition. You know, those red flags waving repeatedly and shouting:

STOP!!! This relationship is another dead end and only a quarter of the love you deserve!!!

I’m sure you’ve probably had at least one of those types of relationships. Where you blindly follow and believe in the other person’s love. You set aside your dreams hoping someday they will acknowledge, love, and respect you at the same level you give them.

But, this didn’t happen for me, and my guess is, it didn’t happen for you either. Their stealthy lies continued, and their subtle manipulation grew. The twisting of not only my words but my emotions increased. This dual-edged tango deadened my ability to see clearly. The relationship was heavily and toxically one-sided. And frequently, it was not emotionally safe.

Fortunately, I love to learn and read. And quotes seem to find me when I need them the most. Recently, a former relationship triggered me. But instead of me being angry, I couldn’t believe how much I still wanted them to feel respected and appreciated while I ignored my feelings!



Carolyn Riker

Carolyn's latest book, The Colors I Hear, is now available!