Why We Hold On So Tight To Relationships That Hurt Us Most

We know they're bad for us, but still, we stay.

Last updated on Apr 28, 2024

Couple holding on to toxic relationship Valeria Ushakova | Canva

A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone who recently read my post about the 9.5-year breakup that left me stranded in China. They were glad to see how my life had moved on, and how I am better off now, but were curious to know, “Why didn’t you leave your ex-boyfriend earlier instead of sticking around?” I thought about it for a while, and this was my answer.

When you’re in a relationship, especially one that’s close to 10 years old, you tend to be more forgiving of each other’s mistakes and more tolerant, because it’s a relationship that you’ve already invested so much time and effort into that you’d much rather see past the negatives and focus on the positives. Even when there’s an argument, you try to work things out without ever resorting to a breakup because it’s not worth it when you weigh all the good moments you’ve had against the fewer bad ones.


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I remember there was a time when my ex had come back home after a one-week business meeting in Hong Kong. He looked dejected, teary-eyed. The moment I saw him, I knew something happened. I knew something was wrong. Me: “What is it? What’s wrong hun?” Him: “…I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.” Me: “Just tell me what it is. You’re scaring me.”

He told me what I couldn’t have ever believed — how one night, while drunk, he cheated on me. How he wasn’t thinking at the time and had mistakenly mistook a girl from a massage parlor for me. He was so drunk at the time that he didn’t realize what he had done until the next day. At first, I was horrified. Then I was angry, angry that he had betrayed my trust, angry that he had waited days before deciding to tell me. I wanted to lash out at him, yell at him, scream at him but in the end, I couldn’t. He had looked so sad, so desperate for my forgiveness that instead of being angry, I sympathized with him. I felt bad for the way he was feeling more so than the breaking of my trust because deep down, I wanted to believe that this was an accident, something situational and not intended.


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Sometimes, when you’ve been with a person forever, you can’t help but let your emotions get the best of you. You forget about the issue, you forget about the facts. Rationale and logic are tossed out the window and you forget to think for yourself and for your own well-being. For the sake of the one you love, you’d rather sacrifice your own emotions and hide them deep within your soul instead of seeing the person you care about, hurt. Sometimes, it’s really hard to realize the situation that you’re in. You read about it happening to other people, but never for a moment do you realize that it’s happening to you.

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Eventually, as my ex repeated the same mistakes and used the same excuses over and over again, it became harder to believe him, but still I tolerated it. Perhaps I was blinded by my emotions and couldn’t bring myself to believe that this person whom I’d loved and cared for and had been with for the greater part of the decade could change so much. I couldn’t bring myself to look at him differently.

@karlaeliaa We can ONLY control what WE DO not what the other person does. Being accountable in an argument is crucial. Stay wise ladies #women #woman #advice #relationshipadvice #relationship #relationships #fyp #foru #foryoupage ♬ original sound - Karla Elia

But looking back, I don’t regret anything that’s happened. It has been the worst moment in my life, but it also has been the reason why I’m able to live the life I have right now — where I’m able to freely travel and live the life I want. It’s the reason why I’m now more grateful to my friends and family than I ever had in all the years of my relationship. It’s the reason why I’m writing this story that you’re reading because it has helped me discover my passion for writing when I needed a way to vent out my feelings after the breakup. In many ways, I’m thankful for what has happened because, in the end, I finally get to live life on my terms.

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Tiffany Sun is an author and life coach. She's a top writer for Medium, as well as other publications like Fast Company, Matador Network, and more. Her work covers self-improvement, personal growth, technology, and relationships.