Why We Stay in Bad Relationships


My aunt and uncle are married for over sixty years.

Quite an accomplishment, huh? You’d certainly think so. But truthfully, their marriage is one of the worst marriages I have ever seen. They never got along at all yet they stay together.

I always wondered why they never divorced. It may have been their generation’s ideas of seeing divorce as a failure, it may have been the fact that they had children; it may have even been their religious beliefs. In all likelihood, though, it was not any of those things. Bad marriage though it is, they stay together because it is familiar territory and they don’t want to venture away from the known world.

In their case, as in so many others, the relationship becomes habit forming and the familiar pattern brings a kind of comfort, inducing an almost irrevocable inertia. The comfort of dysfunction vs. the discomfort of the unknown. They probably would have had better lives if they were apart but they’ll never know that.

Most people want to hear that a good, workable relationship comprises a combination of good sex, common interests, getting along with each other’s respective families, etc. Those are all valid points, and they do contribute to the happiness of a relationship, but the first and foremost requirement for a relationship to work well is that it be a healthy one. I am continually surprised at the number of people who stay in ‘bad’ or unhealthy relationships. What’s the deal? Why stay if it isn’t working? The reasons are varied and different for every couple.

Parental bad influence

If  the dynamics between your parents was dysfunctional you may subconsciously believe that what you saw was ” just the way that it is” for all relationships. Wrong. Don’t repeat their mistakes just to prove to yourself that you can make it work better than they did. You won’t, you’ll just repeat their problems in your own life.

Money, money, money

For some couples the everyday practicalities of day-to-day living get in the way of making a beneficial life-changing decision. How the hell can I rent or buy a place on just my own income? If you’re in a marriage or domestic partnership where your partner has a job that includes health benefits, you may also wonder, “If I leave, what will I do about medical issues that might arise?” You can’t afford to live on your own and living with ‘the Devil you know’ seems the viable alternative to leaving and being perpetually financially out of luck. You need to become financially solvent and make a move to leave.

This is the best I can do

Low self-esteem is a huge hurdle to overcome when it comes to getting out of a bad relationship. Unfortunately, it might actually be the fact that you’re in the bad  relationship that’s causing you to feel badly about yourself in the first place. Or you may have been programmed to think “So he/she is not right for me, but who else would want to be with me?’ Please get yourself into therapy immediately! Life is not about accepting second or third best because you think that’s all you deserve.

Time and emotional energy invested in a relationship

It’s hard to admit you’ve spent months or possibly years in a relationship that needs to come to an end. No one wants to admit they’ve given  their all for something and have nothing to show for it. You want to think that your relationship is not broken, it’s just facing “challenges.” You stay because of everything you’ve invested whether it’s a healthy choice or not! Give it up. Chalk the experience up to ‘life happens’ and move on.

People in love don’t leave, right?

Once you have made a commitment, you should stick to with it no matter what. Wrong! You shouldn’t stay with someone who is not good for your mental health simply because at one time you fell crazy in love with him or her. Not all love lasts no matter what the poets may say. Staying in a bad relationship will not rekindle what once was.

I don’t want to be alone. Some of us have a completely irrational fear of being on our own. This by itself can keep us in a relationship well beyond its “sell-by date”. In reality being alone for a while can benefit you as a person. You may seriously need some in-depth self time to know what you really want in your life.

We pretty much know when something is not working well for us. Staying in a bad relationship for any reason is unfair to you; it robs you of the potential for happy and healthy living. Take a serious stock of your relationship and make the decision that benefits you as a person.