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Why Do We Stay In An Unhealthy Relationship?

stock-photo-young-couple-having-an-argue-very-stressed-and-fighting-48261061Is love really enough? I often hear people say  “I love him/her” even if their relationship is harmful, abusive or unhealthy. They stay in this relationship for the wrong reasons and sometimes they find it extremely difficult to leave the relationship. Leaving can be more complicated than it seems. There are many reason why men and women stay in an unhealthy relationship. The following will explain some of the reasons why people decide to stay in a harmful relationship.

A person who stays in an unhealthy relationship may do so because of:

Reliance or Codependency: Someone can become financially dependent on their partner and believe that without money they will not have a lavish lifestyle or simply believe that they won’t be able to stand on their own feet. Some people may stay in an abusive or unhealthy relationship because their partner provides with lavish and grandiose things. Shopping at high end stores or buying brand name things is glamorous. But when you love that more than your partner is unhealthy. Also, someone may think that they have nowhere to go if they leave. They may start to feel helpless which is strong when they decide to stay in the relationship.

Believing that abuse is normal: Perhaps someone grew up in an environment where abuse was common and do not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.

Low Self -Esteem: A person with low self- esteem may believe that the abuse or maltreatment is their fault because their partner constantly blames them or puts them down.

Pregnancy or Parenting: A person may feel pressured to stay in an unhealthy relationship because of pregnancy or may feel pressured to raise their child by both parents. Also, the abusive partner may threaten to take away their child if they leave.

Change: A person may stay in an unhealthy relationship because their partner promises that they will change and they hope that they eventually will.

Settle: Some people may settle being an an unhealthy relationship rather then being alone. The thought of being alone may scare someone and would rather be with anyone. According to Dr. Wendy Walsh, who wrote Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Why Good People Stay in Bad Relationships “a partner is afraid to be single, he or she imagines that being in a bad relationship feels okay. And he or she also distorts the future by really thinking that single life will be far worse than it actually turns out to be.”

Good-enough: Someone may believe that the abusive partner is “good-enough for me” and may feel that they do not deserve better. Or the abusive partner may have already convinced them that no one else will love them more than they do, that they will only love them and their “weaknesses” and that they are not good enough for others.

Cognitive Dissonance: Cognitive dissonance is a way to justify our actions so that we may never have to feel that we did something wrong. People have a hard time breaking free from bad relationships because it means coming to terms that you stayed in a bad relationship for a long time, and facing the fact that it was a mistake. If you can’t accept and come to terms that it is a mistake you will continue to justify your present commitment to the relationship.

Personal Needs: It is important to not compromise your self-worth. Know what your needs are and how to find happiness. Stick to your needs and find the confidence to walk away.

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Why Do We Stay In An Unhealthy Relationship?

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Why Do We Stay In An Unhealthy Relationship?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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