Are you in an unhappy relationship and just don’t know why you stay? Do you find that even though you constantly feel unhappy and keep vowing that “this will be the last time/this is their last chance/you will end it one day” you still find yourself making excuses and don’t end the relationship? Are you in an unhappy relationship and moan about it to your friends, only to do nothing about it and stay exactly where you are?
Or is one of your friends constantly telling you how bad their partner is? Do you keep telling them to end the relationship and that they would be better off without them – only to find the following week they are 1) still with them and 2) still moaning about the same problems?
Have you noticed that in some instances, they actually become defensive when you criticise their partner that they have just been criticising or that they start producing the yes…but…. or the “it’s difficult/complicated” lines when you start asking them why they stay or you start telling them that they need to end it and move on. Do you recognise these behaviours in yourself?
There is only one reason why people stay in unhappy relationships……..
Because the benefits of staying in the relationship outweigh the costs
(Yes you do get benefits, before you argue that you don’t as yes, I can hear you already protesting!)
What do I mean by benefits?
There are two types of benefits:
1) What positive feelings you gain from staying in the relationship (positive benefits)
2) What negative feelings you avoid by staying in the relationship (negative benefits)
Many people are unaware that avoiding negative emotions is a benefit and can drive behaviour. In fact, avoiding negative emotions is often more powerful in driving our behaviour than seeking positive emotions
Let me give you a few examples of these benefits, so that you can start to think about whether any of these are the reason why you or any of your friends stay in an unhappy relationship
Positive feelings you gain (positive benefits)
- The ego boost associated with feeling wanted (even temporarily)
- Feeling attractive (even temporarily)
- Financially secure
- The buzz of sexual chemistry
- Feeling like a good mother/father because you are keeping the family unit together
- The security of knowing that your partner is around
- Stability/security associated with maintaining the status quo in your life
- Still having hope that it will work out as they may change “one day”
- Get attention from other people who constantly ask about your situation
Negative feelings/situations that you avoid (negative benefits)
- Avoid feeling bored
- Avoid loneliness
- Avoid seeing your partner with someone else, which you fear may happen if you ended the relationship. So you also avoid feelings of jealousy. This is a classic case of you don’t want them but you don’t want anyone else to have them
- Avoid the discomfort of not knowing what will happen in the future
- Avoid giving up your dream of the ideal relationship/family unit
- Avoid financial upheaval
- Avoid upsetting your children
- Avoid the stress of making decisions on your own that you have to be responsible for
- Avoid making changes to your life
- Avoid the disappointment of having to accept that your partner is not “the one”
- Avoid having to make the effort to find someone else, who you don’t know and may disappoint you
- Avoid making a mistake and regretting the spilt if they change into the person that you always wanted them to be, which is even worse if they change for another person
- Avoid the feelings of not being able to cope on your own
As you can see here, there are quite a few benefits to staying in an unhappy relationship (and let me assure you, there are far more positive and negative benefits that I could add to the list). Do you recognise any of them?
So what are the costs of staying in an unhappy relationship?
- Daily unhappiness
- Low self-esteem
- Boredom & loneliness (yes even in relationships)
- Emotional and/or physical abuse in some cases
Remember that I said that people continue to stay in unhappy relationships when the benefits outweigh the costs. Some of you may be thinking that you can identify bags of costs but only one or two benefits. In this instance it means that the one or two benefits are so important to you that those one or two benefits outweighs all of the costs put together
You can see here that there are some nasty costs but people tend to reduce the effects of these costs as recognising them causes them too much of a dilemma as there are so many benefits, by doing some the following things (please note that there are many other things people do as these are just a few examples):
1) Moan to their friends – to relieve themselves of the frustration of the unhappy relationship, so that they become comfortable enough to go back to the relationship. Moaning is cathartic
2) Use phrases to reduce the psychological discomfort associated with the costs, such as:
- “No marriage is perfect”
- “One day they will change”
- “One day I will leave”
- “I’m going to give them one last chance” (probably after many chances already!)
- “It’s better than no relationship”
- “It’s better the devil you know”
- “They aren’t that bad, they are nice to me every now and then”
- “He/she doesn’t mean it when they do/say……..They just have issues”
3) Have affairs, either physical or emotional, so that they can escape temporarily from the stress of their relationship, with someone else. BTW – Not everyone who is in an unhappy relationship does this
I think you get the gist by now
Hopefully this blog will make things a bit clearer for you, which will either help you to decide to leave and move on or will enable to see why you stay which may make it easier for you to accept your situation as some of you may not feel ready to move on
Are you in an unhappy relationship right now but don’t know why you stay? Do you want to get out of an unhappy relationship but you don’t know where to start? Do you need some support in understanding your relationship and then finding ways to move on from it?
Maybe a “brain pick” session with me will help you?
If you are interested in a session, either see my services page or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. For those who download my FREE report “the key mistakes women make after a breakup” (see sign up box on right hand side of my website pages), I offer a discount on my services
I hope this blog has helped
Until next time – Take care
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