By Guest Contributor Rachel Dack, MS, LCPC, NCC
Unfortunately, it is all too common to stay in an unhealthy or toxic relationship. In fact, most people can relate to over-staying in a relationship with a partner who was not right for them, who displayed major red flags, or treated them poorly. Many admit to staying in a relationship even though their gut repeatedly told them to get out.
So, why do we stay in relationships that bring us pain and unhappiness or continue to engage with partners who are not good for us?
There are many reasons, although fear and insecurity are the biggest two. When contemplating whether to leave a relationship or not, fear often kicks in. Questions surface: Will I ever find love again? What if I end up alone forever? These questions ignite fear. Common fears include being alone, being single and not being able to find a partner who treats you well. These ideas create a spiral of negative and catastrophic thinking which makes it even more difficult to leave an unhealthy relationship.
You might have had early childhood experiences or family, peer and romantic relationships throughout your life that resulted in you feeling inadequate or undeserving. Insecurities, regardless of where or when they originated, can certainly keep you in the wrong relationship, especially if you do not ultimately believe that you deserve better.
As distressing as your toxic relationship is, you also know what to expect from it. This creates a sense of false security in something that is really detrimental to your health and makes you believe that it is scarier to leave. For example, being able to predict that your partner will yell at you and degrade you each night might feel less anxiety provoking than making a huge change to end the relationship and deal with the unknown. You might even grow to believe that things will get better and change so you continue to ignore your gut.
There are other key components that keep us with toxic partners. Many report that they stay in unsatisfying relationships due to finances, kids, not wanting to break up their family, or move.
Here are a few points to consider if you know you should leave, but find yourself staying:
1. Understand the signs of a toxic relationships and trust how you feel. Are you constantly being put down, feel fearful of being your true self or feel drained after most interactions with your partner? Does your partner try to exert power over you, control you, manipulate you or change you? Answering yes to these questions are true signals that your relationship is detrimental to your well-being. Healthy relationships are filled with respect, compassion, love, and support.
2. Assess what is keeping you in the relationship. Is it fear, finances, pity or not wanting to break up your family? Are you afraid to be alone or question if you will find the loving partner you deserve? What are the factors that keep you stuck?
3. By recognizing that your relationship is toxic and no longer denying it, it is common to feel empowered to take action. As difficult as it may seem, it is important to cut off communication (at least temporarily, unless you have kids together) when leaving so that you have the opportunity for healthy closure and healing.
4. Reach out to your support system, ask for help and make an effort to surround yourself with positive people. Engage in activities that make you happy and understand that there is a natural grieving process to endure. Seeking professional help, such as seeing a psychotherapist, is another valuable resource and way to take care of yourself.
5. Be confident in what you deserve and hopeful that you can create it. Unhealthy relationships require great strength to leave, but leaving is truly an investment in yourself and your future. While giving yourself time to heal and grieve, remember that you are taking a courageous leap to a better present and future.
Ending a relationship, no matter how unhealthy it might be, is heartbreaking and can be overwhelming. It is a loss of something you have spent significant time building and it is only natural that it takes time to heal. Surround yourself with love and never forget what you deserve.
Have you ever left someone you knew wasn’t good for you?
About the Author:
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!