Have you ever felt yourself magnetically pulled into a toxic relationship, despite all rational?
First off, put the phone down and stop texting them. Second off, listen up and listen good.
Sonya Maya, a doctorate student and bartender, recently took to TikTok to share the psychology behind why people (predominantly women) are keen to cling to toxic relationships — whether in friendships or with significant others.
“Why is it that so many women can’t stop thinking about that person that won’t show them reciprocal effort?” Maya began in her video, which has since been viewed over 526,000 times.
Maya went on to explain how “nothing creates an addiction like an inconsistent reward,” a phenomenon referred to as intermittent reinforcement. Psychology Today describes it as “hungering for the crumbs that we sometimes get and sometimes don’t, hoping that this time we will get it.”
“Think about gambling, slot machines,” Maya explained. “A relationship with inconsistent reward [or] inconsistent attention, it does the same kind of thing to the brain. When you get a text from this inconsistent person, it activates dopamine in the brain. Just like if you’ve been sitting at that slot table for a while and you finally get a reward.”
As you’ve probably figured out by now, this is certainly not a healthy phenomenon — but it is one that Maya says can numb you to the true quality of a toxic relationship.
“The anticipation of actually seeing them and getting that attention is often more exciting than actually hanging out with that person,” she explained. “It’s like [the act of] proving to yourself that they want you is actually more fun than actually enjoying their presence.”
Unsurprisingly, TikTokers felt the volume was a little bit too loud on this one.
“The algorithm specificity is getting far too accurate,” one user wrote.
“How do I set my phone to automatically play this video every hour, on the hour, daily,” said another.
“I feel attacked but makes sense,” commented a third.
According to Psychology Today, people who have grown up experiencing intermittent reinforcement from their parents or caregivers are more vulnerable to accepting similar treatment from their partners later in life.
So, how’s a gal supposed to, well, stop being addicted to inconsistent people?
“The first step is going to be understanding why you’re drawn to them,” Maya says. “So remember what I tell you in this video and share it with someone that needs to hear it.”
“Stop sacrificing energy for that person that isn’t reciprocal, do some self-reflection and time will heal,” she added.
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If you enjoyed this article, learn about another dating phenomenon called the “ick.”
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