Why do you stay in a relationship against your better judgment?

If a relationship is not pleasant for a long time, you usually have three options. You stay together, you split up, or you seek help from a coach, mediator, or therapist. Unfortunately, the latter two are not an option for everyone. These people, therefore, decide to stay together anyway, hoping - against their better judgment - that things will work out.

Usually, this causes more pain and grief than definitely breaking up. Especially when there are children involved. Why is it sometimes so difficult to break up a relationship?

What are the 5 main reasons why you decide to stay together?

There are 5 main reasons why people in an unhealthy relationship stay together. Usually, it is a combination of these 5.

  • Manipulation, aggression or fear of retaliation
  • Religion or pressure from the community
  • No place to go and no income to survive
  • The Stockholm syndrome
  • Too little self-esteem and depression

1. Staying together due to manipulation, aggression or fear of retaliation

One of the worst reasons to stay together is because of manipulation, aggression, or fear of retaliation. You can give in to it today, but in the end, you have to face the fact that this is unacceptable and destructive behavior.

You know that it gets worse every day, and you no longer have a life. Especially when children are involved, this behavior is unacceptable.

Manipulation and narcissistic characteristics

The partner may have narcissistic characteristics and may, therefore, be very manipulative. In many cases like this, it seems as if the blame for the unhealthy relationship lies entirely with the other person. That means with you!

Physical or mental aggression

If there is aggression involved, all the lights should jump to red. It can be physical violence, but also mental violence, such as threatening to suddenly no longer be allowed in the house or telling you how bad you are every day.

... ...


Fear of retaliation

Fear of retaliation, usually associated with manipulative (narcissistic) behavior and physical or mental aggression or a lot of anger control issues. As soon as this fear is realistic, every healthy thinking person should leave immediately. If you give in to threats, they will only get worse in the future.

It is a form of blackmail, and you should never give in to it because the other person will abuse this way more and more often and to a severe extent.

2. Staying together by religion or coercion from the community

Emotional pressure from religion or social pressure from the community is common reasons to stay together against one another's better judgment. Still, it can not be the case that religion or your environment consciously wants you to maintain an unhealthy relationship.

Religion and separation

Most religions are not in favor of separating. There are even religions that completely forbid it or only forbid women to get divorced. Each religion preaches that we should be good and loving to each other. If that doesn't exist, or the opposite is true, which god would force a man or woman to stay together anyway?

No god can have wished that someone in a relationship would be deeply unhappy.

Pressure from the community

When you're together for a while, you build up friends together. Chances are you will lose (part of) this social network when you split up. For some people, this is a reason to stay together anyway.

But also family or a religious community can be very compelling to stay together. They usually don't know how hard the relationship is and come up with the best advice based on faith or convictions. In some cases, saying goodbye to a relationship can also mean saying goodbye to people who no longer want to have anything to do with you.

In many cases, if someone does decide to separate, the community will eventually understand. Relationships will then quickly recover. Ask yourself, are these relationships worth it right now if they make you suffer like this?

3. Staying together due to no place to go and no income to survive

An uncertain future is not good for anyone. Mothers who have one or more children often feel the urge to choose security. Even if this makes them more than unhappy within a relationship and the relationship is unhealthy for the children.

No place to go

If you don't have parents, family, or close friends where you can stay for a longer period of time, it can be very anxious to break up a relationship. It is difficult to sleep on the street with your children or on your own.

However, there are usually people who are willing to take care of you. The peace and rest that that gives you also ensure that you have a better chance of finding a job and generating your own income.

No income to survive

If you leave your partner without a new place to live, you need income. If you haven't worked for a long time or don't earn enough to build your own existence, this can be very frightening.

Usually, the relationship has also taken so much energy from you that you barely know where to start looking for a job. Still, it's better to be free of a toxic relationship than to have to make ends meet temporarily with very little income. The chance for a job and income is more significant when you have calmed down.

4. Staying together due to Stockholm syndrome

The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which someone gets sympathy for a hostage-taker. The situation within a relationship can feel like a hostage situation if you can't leave.

To deal with the situation, you can develop Stockholm syndrome in which you only try to see the positive points of your partner, while the negative side is much stronger.

5. Staying together due to too little self-esteem and depression

Any unhealthy relationship costs energy. That energy is at the expense of your self-esteem. Certainly, in the case of manipulation, violence, and fear of retaliation, but also in the case of less violent relationships.

Little self-esteem makes you believe that you deserve the awful situation, that you have failed and that you are literally not worthy of being with someone. It can even lead to depression. Usually, the person is not aware that a starting or advanced depression has occurred. The person only feels a massive lack of energy and reduced zest for life but attributes this to the tense situation.

What can you do if you feel trapped in your relationship?

Most people who feel trapped in a relationship and literally or figuratively can't leave, wait - against their better judgment - for the situation to improve. They wait for an opportunity to come along that will allow them to leave. Usually, this is waiting for nothing when the situation was already untenable and is getting worse every day.

But what can you do if you feel trapped in a relationship?

1. Find someone to talk to

You can find someone to talk to who you know well, but it's more effective to talk to a professional. It can be a coach, therapist, or psychologist. As long as it is someone who has knowledge of relationships and the human mind.

The difference between a professional and a good friend is that the professional can distinguish between what is really going on and what you have made up in your mind. Also, a coach, therapist, or psychologist is better able than a friend to let you come to new insights.

Most professionals will not do this for free. But if you ask for help and explain your situation, most will be willing to help. Despite the risk that you may never be able to pay them.

2. Take a moment of reflection

The famous writer Mark Twain once said: "I have experienced so many bad things in my life. Some of them have really happened."

What he means to say is, of course, that not everything we think we're going through is true. We thought somebody was calling us names, but the person was just out of control. We thought someone was angry, but he was just sad.

By literally distancing yourself - if possible - you can better relativize what was really so bad within the relationship. You're also better able to relativize whether there really are no options to break the relationship.

A few days with a friend can sometimes be enough to come to that insight so that you can make the right decision. Besides, your self-confidence and self-esteem will increase by having a little rest.

3. Don't talk good about anything bad

Everybody knows what good and bad behavior are. Stop telling yourself or others why you understand that it wasn't right what happened, but that you also understand how it came about. No one has the right not to treat another with respect and love.

Wrong is always wrong, regardless of the cause. Some people have been through much worse things and yet have remained loving and respectful. They did it because every human being deserves it. So do you.

Ben Steenstra Ben Steenstra
8 mins read
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