Why is it so hard to end an unhealthy relationship?


My last article pointed out 50 reasons why people stay in unhealthy relationships. Research shows that it is hard to end an unhealthy relationship. Furthermore, it shows that being in an unhealthy relationship is detrimental to your mental health. There is a push and pull that goes along with being in an unhealthy relationship that leaves you feeling that you are on a roller coaster. Many times you may realize that you are in an unhealthy relationship, but you stay anyhow. Here are some reasons why:

1)Believing your partner will change. Sometimes you see the potential rather than what is right in front of you.  You tell yourself, “I can save them”, “They can change”, and “I cannot leave them when they are down.” All of these reasons will keep you staying around. No matter what you do you cannot make someone change. Change comes from inside and your partner will have to make the conscious effort to implement change. You may find yourself in an endless loop of relationships where you feel like you can “save them”.  Having these feelings lead to an unhealthy relationship balance. You will find yohrself being the “rescuer” and your partner the “victim.” Hope is a major factor in wanting to stick it out. However, unrealistic expectations can leave you feeling burnt out, overwhelmed and angry. Take time to seriously rationalize if they have made active steps to change or has it just been empty words with no actions or follow through?

2) Time invested. You may feel that you have been with the person since high school or that, “they knew the old me”. It is commonplace for you to feel that you have given so much time and effort and have been through so much together that separating would be hard. Being in an unhealthy relationship takes a lot of time and effort to stay afloat. Therefore, it may appear harder to let something go that has taken so much work and effort to maintain. Do not let time invested be a deterrent to staying in an unhealthy relationship. Think quality over quantity. How has the quality of your relationship been over its duration?

3)Fear of being alone and other social pressures. Our society places high regard on being in a relationship or married. You may feel like it is better to be with someone and unhappy than by yourself. Finding that you are okay by yourself means that you are able to handle a relationship. You cannot fill a whole that you feel with another person. Our social media crazed generation may leave you feeling empty and that if you don’t have a significant other that there is something wrong with you.  Furthermore, you may feel “stuck” in the relationship due to outside factors: children, shared finances, and social circles. You may have taken a risk-reward approach and have deemed exiting the relationship as more stressful/risky than leaving and having the added benefits such as financial gain.

4) Low self-esteem. You may be in an unhealthy relationship and not know how to get out of it or feel like it is “all I deserve” whenever you do not think highly of yourself you will allow more things to happen due to fear of not being able to find another mate. Also, you may have been emotionally abused so much that you feel “this is the best I can get.”

5)Modeling in the family of origin. We seek out relationships that were modeled to us as we were growing up. If you have seen your parents in an unhealthy relationship you will have a greater tendency to repeat the same pattern and except unhealthy interactions. This tends to happen because what you have seen has become your social “norm”. Furthermore, if you have grown up in a family where you have been invalidated you will find yourself with a mate that repeats the same pattern in your relationship. Unfortunately, you will end up with the same result grasping for the validation you need, but feeling disappointed because that need is not met.

If you find yourself facing one, some, or all of the roadblocks in your realtionship feel free to reach out to a professional to help you establish ways to break out of unhealthy relationships and patterns. You may feel like you want to leave, but you just do not know how. A mental health professional can help you break generational patterns, increase your self-esteem, and normalize being single. Do not allow the five roadblocks to keep you stuck in the same pattern. Remember that normal does not always mean healthy. It is okay to get out!

About Whitney Doyeto LMFT

I am Whitney Doyeto, M.A., LMFT, the licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Serenity Marriage and Family Counseling, LLC. I earned both a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Oral Roberts University. ​I feel called to give hope and renewal to individuals, couples, and families. I strive to create more support, structure, and stability, into the lives of those I serve. I have been married for six years and recently welcomed my first child, a baby girl, in April of 2016. I am passionate about exercise, traveling, and volunteering at Church.