Unhealthy Relationships: Why We Stay and How to Go


Don't let your fear keep you from finding happiness.

Ending an unhealthy relationship is a difficulty that many people face. Often, it's harder to get out of an unhealthy relationship than it is to get out of any other type. This is particularly true when the relationship involves abuse or extreme codependency.

Even so, ending an unhealthy relationship is very possible and, usually, very necessary. Some unions are irreversibly broken and you have two choices — remain miserable or walk away.

Unhealthy Relationships: The Statistics

The divorce rate in the United States, hovering around the fifty-fifty mark, is enough for us to assume that unhealthy relationships are about as common as the healthy ones. Yet, not all unhealthiness is created equal.

Abusive relationships, those that involve emotional or physical abuse, are often more common than we realize. In fact, most statistics state that sixty percent of women have experienced abuse at some point in their present or past relationships. Men, as most of us know, can also be the victims, though typically not quite as often.

Of course, abuse isn't the only reason for ending an unhealthy relationship, it just happens to be the biggest reason. Unhealthy relationships may still need to be ended even when neither party demonstrates overt malice. One partner being controlling of the other, one partner constantly giving while their counterpart takes and partners who never communicate with each other (and aren't willing to learn how to) also constitute relationships that are anything but solid. Thus, they are deserving of reconsideration.

Why People Stay

There are many reasons people choose to stay rather than ending an unhealthy relationship. Some people simply become apathetic, others genuinely love the person they are with, even if their partnership is tainted with harmful aspects. Yet, one of the biggest reasons people choose to stay rather than go has to do with being alone.

A 2013 study that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that many people stay in unhealthy relationships because of the fear of loneliness. They reason that having a partner, even a less than ideal partner or one that makes them miserable, is better than having no partner at all.

The 153 participants in the study said they refrained from ending an unhealthy relationship because of fear of not having a long-term companion, fear of spinsterhood, fear of losing their current partner, fear of growing old alone and fear of not having children or a family.

Another aspect that keeps people from ending an unhealthy relationship has to do with perception of self: the study where people said, if they were alone, they'd feel worthless and be subject to judgments from others.

How to Leave

Though people may fear being alone, ending an unhealthy relationship is always the smart thing to do. Yes, you do risk loneliness, but you also open yourself up to the possibility of finding true happiness.

Thus, if you are in a relationship that is sinking with no signs of a life raft, take the following three steps:

1. Ask for help: Ending an unhealthy relationship isn't always easy to do, particularly when abuse is involved. But, asking for help can give you the encouragement and the support to say “enough is enough.”

2. Severe all ties: Perhaps the most important step in ending an unhealthy relationship has to do with cutting all the ties. This essentially means that you need to quit your cold turkey partner: don't keep in touch, don't text, don't drunk dial them after Friday night clubbing.

3. Get back out there: If loneliness is the biggest reason people don't end a relationship even when they should, then combatting that loneliness is the antidote. So, get yourself back out there — get back in the saddle and ride. Be open to meeting new people, go out and try new things, even take your coworker up on the offer to introduce you to her cousin. The faster you realize that you really aren't destined for a life of loneliness and a myriad of cats, the less likely you will be to regret your decision and return to the union that made you oh so miserable.

To learn more about ending an unhealthy relationship, click here.


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