4 Deep Psychological Reasons Smart Women Get Stuck In Unhealthy Relationships

It's deeper than we realize.

man and woman wearing sunglasses look unhappy in a car LightField studios / shutterstock.com

It doesn’t seem logical that so many women fall in love with unhealthy, even dangerous, men or end up in unhealthy relationships.

I mean we are smart, we are wise, we are self-confident. We should know better. Right?

However, for a variety of reasons, all of those strengths can melt away and we are left at the mercy of relationships that can suck us dry emotionally and mentally. Many of these reasons are more than just cultural expectations or the influence of TV, movies and music.


For many of us, it's psychological, with deep emotional roots that can't simply be ignored — even when we know better and want to have a healthy relationship with a healthy person.

Knowing why we tend to fall in love with the "bad boy" is the first step toward breaking that self-destructive cycle, though help from a professional, like a therapist or coach, is often very helpful if simple acknowledgment isn't enough to help a woman get away from unhealthy men or relationships.

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Here are 4 psychological reasons why we fall for unhealthy men & stay in bad relationships.

1. We have unresolved issues with our fathers.

Did you know that women who have a healthy relationship with their fathers tend to grow into healthier, happier and stronger women?  Unfortunately, for many of us, those healthy relationships don’t exist.


If you are one of the lucky ones, good for you! If you are one of the rest, like me, then you know what I mean.

My father was absent. He was one of those dads who worked a lot and left the child care to my mother. He was around but not present. And when he was present, he was very sarcastic. Whenever I told him about a goal or accomplishment, he just put me down, saying I wouldn’t be able to do it.

My parents divorced when I was 13 and he found a new wife who hated me and they moved to Australia. Since then, he has repeatedly chosen his wife over me which, in combination with the sarcasm, left me feeling abandoned and unloved. It was the same for my sister.

Since then, my sister and I both have been in a series of relationships with unhealthy men. We are drawn to men like our father, ones who we can "fix" and hopefully make up for the pain that our dad caused.


I have a habit of choosing men who lie. As a result, I can never trust them and that leads to a downward spiral in the relationship that always leaves me heartbroken.

I did this over and over until I finally started understanding that my relationship with my dad was what the cause and that I didn’t have to bring that baggage into my relationships.

So, how is your relationship with your father? If it isn’t a good one, it might explain why you fall in love with unhealthy men.

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2. We are uncomfortable with security, comfort or peace.

I don’t know what it is about human beings, but some of us feel as if we always need to be challenged — especially in relationships!


Be honest. How many times have you been in a relationship with a guy and said that he was "too nice," or that he "was boring" or that he didn’t "challenge you?" And how many of those relationships are you still in?

The thing about bad guys is that they are a challenge.  We see them as damaged puppies who just need the love of a good woman to make them whole. And we women love to take on challenges like that. Especiaally if we grew up in a chaotic home. 

I can’t tell you how many of my clients reach out to me because they are in a toxic relationship that they can’t get out of. Without exception, as they tell me their story, they indicate that their person came to them with some issues, some red flags, that they ignored because they wanted to believe that this person was their person.

As a result of ignoring those issues, my clients are stuck in relationships with unhealthy men who sometimes get dangerous.


People who have unprocessed issues can be prone to anger and violence and, unfortunately, the person who is often on the receiving end of that anger and violence is the partner.

So, take a look at your inclination to pursue unhealthy guys. Is it because of the challenge that he might present to you, the drama that might make things interesting?

I know that you just want a healthy relationship and that you don’t want to play games. And I get that and totally agree. But a healthy relationship is found in the balance between bad boys and boring.

A healthy relationship is one where you feel challenged but you also feel good about yourself.

That person is out there for you, that perfectly balanced guy who can love you in a healthy way.


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3. We don’t feel good about ourselves.

Unfortunately, many women who find themselves attracted to unhealthy men are women who don’t feel very good about themselves.

I have a client who has spent her entire life struggling. She was raped when she was in high school, got addicted to drugs, and was homeless.

She let herself be abused by everybody in her life in the hopes of being loved.

She did eventually pull her life together and started a successful business. But, in spite of her success, she still didn’t feel good about herself. She didn’t believe that she deserved anyone other than an unhealthy man.


Why would a healthy man want to be with her, after all?

As a result, she found herself in toxic relationship after toxic relationship. She would continue to degrade herself, trying to get her partner to love her and treat her well.

Unfortunately, so many of the men who she attracted because of her insecurities were also deeply damaged and incapable of making any woman feel good about themselves.

So, my poor client was repeatedly going down this rabbit hole of choosing unhealthy, even dangerous, men because she just didn’t believe that she deserved any better.

It is only once she started taking a good look at herself and who she was in the world that she started to see her self-worth and make wiser choices when it came to men.


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4. We are afraid of being alone.

So many of my clients live in mortal fear that they will never find their person. That they will be left alone and childless and that they will be miserable.

As a result, my clients aren’t picky about who they chose to love and thus they fall in love with unhealthy guys. They figure that some guy is better than no guy and that, at least, they won’t be alone.


Unfortunately, what my clients discover is that being in a relationship with an unhealthy man is very often worse than being alone. They do have a partner at their side at social events and they might have children but the reality of their lives is much different.

Perhaps their person is abusive. Or perhaps their person suffers from a mental health condition that makes him unable to care for a family. Or perhaps they have trust issues from a past relationship.

No matter what the issue, big or small, an issue can have a disastrous effect on a relationship.

So, consider this next time you are leaning towards falling in love with an unhealthy man. Are you doing so because of the man in front of you or are you doing it because you are scared of being alone?


So many women fall for unhealthy men.

Whether it’s because of their past issues with their fathers, the influence of media, their need to be challenged, or their fear of being alone, women who choose, and stay with, dangerous men are destined for a relationship that will not be an easy one.

So, take a good look at the perspectives that you have about relationships. Do you need a challenge? Do you want to fix someone? Do you need to find your Danny Zuko to be happy?

Understanding what you think you want vs. what you actually want is a good way to find the healthy relationship that you seek so that you can be happy, once and for all!

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Mitzi Bockmann is a certified life and love coach. She helps clients find and keep  love in this crazy world.