All your friends and family are giving you a consistent message that you would be better off without your current partner, why do you steadfastly resist their advice?
In my Cape Town psychology practice I often get clients who find themselves stuck in this position – they often feel desperate – they love their partner but he/she drives them crazy. They have often been in a destructive relationship for a long time and are feeling at the end of their tether.
Why won’t they admit that their relationship is doing them psychological harm, end it and move on with their lives?
The reasons people stay in toxic relationships are often complex and driven by largely unconscious factors such as:
1. The comfort of the familiar
In many cases there is the feeling that the bad relationship is comfortable in a sense, because it is known and predictable.
2. Needing to be needed
Clients often reveal a fear that their current relationship may be their last – that they will not find anyone else if they break off their current relationship. There is a fear of being alone forever.
3. Trying to avoid “bad” feelings
Ending a relationship usually precipitates a sense of loss and mourning, with associated feelings of sadness (and even misery), anxiety, panic, and sometimes may trigger depression. Avoidance is a natural and normal tendency in the circumstances. However, we all need to face such feelings if we want to transform our lives for the better.
3. Poor self-esteem
Some individuals believe that they are not deserving of a caring, supportive relationship and of a happy, fulfilled life. There are, of course, always a number of unique, complex reasons for such an outlook. Often the underpinnings are to be found in the person’s early life experiences.
4. Not being able to say “no” or get their needs met
Clients caught up in toxic relationships often report that they feel unable to insist that their own needs get acknowledged – they often nag their partner to change but to no avail. They are in many cases locked into a co-dependent, enabling dynamic with their parnter where they feel helpless to change things for the better.
5. Believing one’s partner must/will change
Often I will hear “If only my partner were to realise the error of his/her ways and change for the better, our relationship would be good”.
This is a normal, but unfortunately, misguided belief!
It is crucial to accept that we can only change ourselves, if we become more strategic and positive in our interactions with our partners, our relationships have a chance to transform. However, if the other person in the relationship is not motivated to similarly change for the better, you may be doing yourself a big favour if you decide that enough is enough and to move on with your life!