3 Reasons Why We Stay In Toxic Relationships
The hard truth why you stay when you know you should go.
In recent research exploring people’s decisions about whether to stay in or to leave their relationships, the single most important determinant of decisions to remain in their relationships was relationship satisfaction.
How can we be satisfied with unsatisfactory relationships? Your comparison level can be thought of as your “standards,” or what you expect to receive from a relationship. If you have a low comparison level, you may maintain a bad relationship because your low expectations are being met. Individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to become involved in relationships that are of shorter duration.
- A Shift in Priorities
Common mechanisms that help to maintain our relationships are “partner-enhancement” and “positive illusions.” Both terms refer to the fact that we tend to see our romantic partners positively, sometimes unrealistically so. Those who view their partners more positively also report more relationship satisfaction. How can we see our partners positively when we are in undesirable relationships? Research shows that we value the positive characteristics which our partners display more so than other characteristics. For example, if your partner is generous but not thoughtful, you might come to value generosity more than thoughtfulness over the course of your relationship. When our partners reveal negative characteristics, we may downgrade the importance of those characteristics and upgrade the importance of the positive traits our mates do possess. Talk about an illusion struggle!
If your partner is aware that you want to leave the relationship, he or she may use different methods of manipulation to force you to stay. Emotional manipulation, such as belittling, demeaning, or even threats of violence against future alternative partners, may be used to maintain the current relationship. The distress associated with emotional abuse or the physical implications of intimate partner violence is a strong deterrent to those seeking to leave a relationship.
Other major obstacles to leaving a bad relationship include our shared investments with our partners. Investing a lot of time in a relationship or sharing investments, such as a home or children, makes couples more likely to stay together. When we have already invested a lot of time, effort, or resources in a relationship, many of us continue that investment even when it may not be best for us; we are biased toward continuing unhappy relationships once we have invested in them. When making relationship decisions, we often rely on emotions rather than rational deliberation. This leads us to the final reason we often stay in bad relationships.
Here’s what you can do
If you are in a bad relationship, it can help to rely on your friends and family members for social support. If you are a friend or family member of someone involved in a bad relationship, your opinions can help to convince him or her to end his or her suffering.
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