5 Reasons Why People Stay in Toxic Relationships

Every single relationship has a level of toxicity, according to psychotherapist Ginnie Love Thompson. While it’s normal to have highs and lows in a relationship, it’s also wise to know when it’s time to let go. But oftentimes, leaving is easier said than done.

With that in mind, we at Bright Side decided to do a deep dive into the psychology behind some of the reasons why people stay in toxic and unhealthy relationships that were over a long time ago. Also, be sure to not miss the stories from internet users about their experience dealing with destructive relationships in the bonus section.

1. Being scared of loneliness

According to a study, the fear of being alone can make people stay in destructive relationships, for the simple reason that it’s “better” to have an imperfect partner than be single. Society can sometimes make people think being single or “alone” is a negative thing — but in reality, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

2. Having low self-esteem

Studies also suggest that people who have low self-esteem have a tendency to stay in unhealthy relationships. After experiencing abuse and toxic behavior for so long, it can be easy for people to fall into the trap of believing that they’re at fault for their partner’s toxic behaviors. Low self-esteem may also make people question their own worth and what they bring to the relationship.

3. Feeling personally responsible for their partner and their actions

After an unpleasant situation or confrontation, an abuser will sometimes turn it around and make their partner feel guilty or like they are somehow at fault, even though they aren’t. This is commonly known as gaslighting.

This behavior often develops gradually, thus making it difficult for a person to realize it’s happening. Feeling anxiety, confusion, and the inability to trust yourself and your actions are all signs of gaslighting.

4. Believing that things might change

Many people who are in toxic relationships sometimes stick around because they love their partner and believe that things will improve someday or that the relationship can be salvaged. They may also assume that their partner’s unhealthy behavior is the result of difficult circumstances, or that they can somehow change the relationship by being a better partner themselves. But in reality, the behavior often only gets worse over time and people just get more and more damaged.

5. Being afraid of rejection

Another reason is rejection — they stay in an unhealthy relationship because they are scared of being rejected in the future, so they latch onto their current partner. People who are afraid of rejection can have a hard time expressing themselves, expressing their thoughts, and standing up for themselves.

Bonus: Personal experiences from internet users about their past toxic relationships

  • “I was in a toxic relationship for a long time. When I’d finally had enough, I knew that if I didn’t remove myself from the situation as far as I could, then I would just end up going back. So I moved across the country. But every time I felt bad, I thought: Yes, I’m miserable, but I’m also not being treated like garbage by someone claiming to love me. I left to get away from that.
    It’s been years since then and I’m doing a lot better. I got some therapy, processed a bunch of stuff, and now I’m a lot happier. And I’m glad that I left when I did.” rainbowdeathcake / Reddit
  • “It was not worth staying in the toxic relationship. Looking backward, I should have ended it years earlier. The breakup was awful and hurt for a long time but today my life is far happier.” LassLeader / Reddit
  • “I was in a 3-year-long relationship with a person who did basically all of these things. Reading through that and now being on the other side of it is a crazy feeling. It’s an awful way to live. Life is so much better on the other side.” hustlerose89 / Reddit
  • “He made me anxious, and I always had a constant knot in my stomach. Would he want me today? Want to break up with me tomorrow? Beg me to stay Wednesday? I never knew. I realized that the relationship was unhealthy for me. It was mentally intoxicating. I finally realized what all my friends/family had realized weeks prior: I deserve better. When I realized that being single made me happier than being with him, that was my wake-up call.
    While leaving a toxic relationship is hard, your future self will thank you for it.” daytime_dreamer_ / Reddit
  • “One night I cried myself to sleep because he looked at me and had such cruelty in his eyes, like he was satisfied that I was unhappy. It hurt so much and I realized my partner should be my haven, not a source of stress or resentment. The next day I broke up with him. Now I’m in love with a wonderful man and the way he treats me amazes me, the difference is night and day.” chelksea / Reddit

Have you or anyone you know experienced any of these feelings? How did you cope with it?

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