Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?

It happens to all of us, during our lives, that we leave certain people and relationships, situations, and circumstances in which we find ourselves. It often happens that, only when we dare to do that, we realize that it would have been healthier and more constructive for us if we had left earlier. Or when we see someone struggling in a relationship that we know is not good for her or him, it is not clear to us why that person is not coming out of such a relationship or situation.

There may be several factors involved, as is usually the case with human behavior. For personal reasons, I have been actively dealing with this topic for months, just before, in the middle, and after leaving the situations and relationships that I assessed as harmful to myself. That is why I write, so to speak, “from the head”, but also “from the stomach”, guided by my knowledge of psychology, but without referring to references that could offer us a scientific basis for this topic. This may be the subject of another text.

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?

Below, I will give you the reasons why crazy people stay in relationships that harm them?


Most of us are in a relationship because it brings us some gain or benefit. You have probably heard that one of the most common reasons why women who are victims of domestic violence remain in a relationship with the perpetrator is that they do not have their own sources of income, so they cannot become independent or leave it. Profit is, in this case, material security. Benefit or gain can take many forms. If we are dissatisfied with our job, and we choose to stay on it, then we can do the same out of benefit (such as the fact that we have a job, a salary, the team we work for, etc.).

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?

Profit can be psychological, not just material or tangible. Psychological gain is everything that makes us in that relationship, and that can be love, connection, a sense of belonging, and the like. Furthermore, we can stay in a relationship because, for example, it corresponds to our image or the image we want to create or preserve about ourselves. Even the relationship between the perpetrator/aggressor and the victim can have psychological benefits, but if we do not get entangled in the complex motives of human behavior, the fact is that we usually stay in a relationship because it brings us something. The only question is, is what brings us greater and more important than the damage it does to us?

For me, in situations related to cooperation with certain companies, the profit was material (a client who pays regularly), but also psychological (a client who has a “name”, so it is in my interest to connect in this way).


Many human relationships function by inertia. More precisely, many human activities function by inertia. We tend to take existing relationships for granted, and only when there is a threat to the relationship or when, suddenly and often encouraged by a stressful event, we realize that our time on this planet is limited, we become aware of the importance of these relationships.

This does not mean that we are bad or lazy, but simply that we are human. Because, as you may have noticed, our brains and our bodies are not set up to bring us joy and satisfaction. They are machines with one mission, and that is survival. They operate on the principle of minimum energy consumption. So, if you don’t have to, the brain will prefer not to do anything that is not related to our mere survival. It is consciousness that “forces” us to struggle with how we are naturally programmed. That’s why we are all – according to “those settings” – lazy, inert, procrastinators, more inclined to be on Instagram all afternoon than to do push-ups because it’s good for us in the long run. All this also applies to interpersonal relationships.

The longer we are in a relationship, the harder it can be for us to cut. The most difficult thing for me was to look back on everything that I went through with a given person, all the good and beautiful things that exist, and which should be given up now. This is an example of a combination of the two previously mentioned factors: gain and inertia.

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?


Fear is a very powerful motivator of human behavior. Also, the absence of behavior, where it should be. In the context of remaining in a harmful relationship, fear is an important factor: we may fear losing our relationship and intimacy, the reaction of another person (or persons) to our attempt to get out of the relationship, how we will cope after the cut, what life will look like in the future… These are all normal, common questions and associated fears.

Here is a particularly interesting fear associated with getting out of the comfort zone: we will often stay where we feel bad and do nothing to get out, just because we are afraid of what comes after we cross the line of our own comfort. This happens even when we know that staying in a relationship is bad for us, because even though it is bad, at least it is something we know! On the other hand, we may have something better, but unknown. That “maybe” and “unknown” can easily tie our hands and feet and convince us that it is justified to follow the “shut up, it’s good” slogan. The danger with this slogan is that it will inevitably come and hit us on the head, collect its own, and only when everything is over, we realize that we are slaves to fear.

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?


Just like all the reasons listed above, this one is completely natural, normal, and human. Hope is just like that, and when we care about someone or something, then we hope that the relationship, or even that person, will change. We are able to carefully nurture our hope, even long after we suspect that it is simple deception.

Hope can seduce us, but the key question about it is what we are doing to change the situation. Because, there is a big difference in whether we just sit and hope, or do something in the direction of changing circumstances, improving what can be improved, and the like. Hope does not mean that we are naive or weak, but it can be a perfect alibi for us to stay in a relationship that is harmful to us. It is, in essence, destructive only when we expect that the solution will only appear to us, that is, fall from the sky, and it is up to us to think beautiful thoughts and hope, without doing anything.

Learned helplessness

“Whatever I do is not worth it, so I will not do anything,” is the very essence of learned helplessness. It is a construct that often explains inertia where the action is sought, stubbornness where there should be will, the absence of any action just when it is most needed.

Believing that we can’t change anything by our actions, we wallow in a feeling of helplessness, which also gives us the perfect excuse to stay in a relationship and situation, just because it’s easier. Learned helplessness is mostly reserved for situations when we need a reason not to try anything (which again, most often, out of inertia or fear), but we still have to somehow explain to ourselves “He is just like that, what can be done”). It is less common as a consequence of repeated attempts to improve the situation or relationship.

No matter how much I liked to believe for myself that I am not prone to learned helplessness, it is still not entirely true. I stayed in some relationships even though I didn’t believe they could be fixed. Profit, fear, or inertia led me to this. The trap here is that we believe that our patients will be enough for a person on the other side to see his mistakes just like that, on his own. Patience that is not preceded or followed by action is a one-way street to learned helplessness…

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?

For all these reasons, some more can certainly be extracted, created from them, or a combination of them. The basis for staying in a relationship that is not good for us can be all five factors, as well as just some of them. There are simply no rules. Some of us are more inclined to be led by fear, some by hope or gain, but all this can be attributed to individual differences (personality traits, previous experiences, etc.). Likewise, the same person, in different situations and with different people, may have different factors in the basis of their behavior. Even in the same situations with the same people, different factors can have an effect!

The next logical question is: what to do? How to help yourself or someone who is “stuck” in such a relationship and does not see a way out?

If he does not want to see him, then there is essentially no help. We need to want to do something first, and in order for that to happen, we need to be aware of the situation we are in. This will require an analysis of profits and damage, which will take place on a cognitive or rational level. Emotional factors, such as these, can interfere with this process.

If we are not sure what we should do and whether it is a smart move to give up a known but bad relationship, for the sake of uncertainty and the unknown, then we must first look inside ourselves: at what is important to us and what represents our values. We can all spend a significant amount of time in relationships that are not good for us, and an additional “aggravating” circumstance is that relationships can deteriorate over time, so we do not notice in time what is happening. That is why it is important to agree with ourselves what we agree to and what we can compromise with others, and what situations when that is not possible. These are things that we do not agree with and that just encourages us to get out of the relationship, when we estimate that nothing more can be done (which is also a very complex and potentially very long process).

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?

In addition to the values we are guided by in life and the integrity we can have to a greater or lesser extent, it is important to look at responsibility. And she will remind us that we are the tailors of our own destiny and that we choose the relationships we nurture, no matter how much we sometimes feel trapped or given some things. In most cases, we agree to the traps ourselves, and we see the data as such even when they are not. And we can easily convince ourselves that the situation is out of our control. Most often it is not, and the stakes are quite high. Sometimes it is a matter of life and death.

It is not easy to cut and leave a relationship that is harmful to us. On the contrary!

Especially when we are bound by emotional ties and beautiful memories. People around us may be inclined to push their views of the situation into our heads, even though they do not have all the important information, nor are they invited to make such decisions. But also, people close to us can sometimes be a mirror and an incentive for us to do what we have to do. And that is difficult, which is another potential reason to postpone or annul the decision. And that is why it is important to deal with this topic so that we do not allow our lives to pass in bad relationships, and we stand and hope that tomorrow, miraculously, everything will change, just because we really want it.

Why do we stay in relationships that are not good for us?


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