Why Do We Stay When It's Just O.K.?


Why Do We Stay When It's Just O.K.?
Exploring why we stay in a "so-so" or other unsatisfactory relationships

While attachments help create stability, there is a downside.  Attachments are less concerned that you are happy with your partner and more concerned that you stay together.  In fact, many people form an attachment to someone who they do not like as a person.  It is possible to form a deep bond to someone who is less than an ideal romantic partner – hence, we stay when it is just “O.K.”  Romantic attachments are designed to keep people together because over the course of human evolution, people who stayed together had an easier time raising offspring than people who only came together for the purposes of sex.  From attachment theory, we also know that there is a significant amount of interplay between the attachment system and the sexual system.  This should be a warning sign to be careful with whom you have repeated intimate contact, as you are likely to form an attachment to that person.  It can be very difficult to break things off after having sex with someone once an attachment is formed.

It is highly advised that in order to prevent this sort of situation from happening repeatedly (or after finally extricating yourself from a bad or mediocre relationship), it is advised to explore your insecurity and attachment tendencies in therapy.  People who have the most “secure” attachment style report more relationship satisfaction overall, stay in unsatisfactory relationships the least amount of time and are less likely to divorce. Those who have an “anxious” attachment style tend to breakup, then get back together with the same person multiple times or stay in a chronically unhappy situation.  Those with an “avoidant” attachment style are most likely to run at the first sign of relationship distress and are least likely to seek out loving relationships to begin with.

If you are already married, couples therapy can address such concerns as feelings of dissatisfaction, frequent negative patterns of interaction, and a lost emotional connection.  If you are in a good relationship and simply wish to create a more loving connection, a good understanding of attachment theory and what your attachment style is can help you achieve this.  Emotionally Focused Therapy, developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, is particularly helpful as it is well researched and based on attachment theory.  It focuses on creating a strong bond between the couple so that they can be that “secure home base” for each other. If you are still dating and searching for your perfect match, understanding your attachment needs will help you with the number one rule of relationships: Choose wisely!

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Marni Feuerman


Marni Feuerman, Licensed Psychotherapist

Location: BOCA RATON, FL
Credentials: LCSW, LMFT
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