Why Do People Stay in Toxic Relationships?

Vanessa Gonzalez
April 3, 2023

Most of us have that one friend, family, member, or coworker who stays in a relationship that we know is toxic and unhealthy. We hear story after story where our loved one is being mistreated, disrespected, and treated horribly by their partner. Then we are left wondering, why do they continue to stay with them?


Sometimes, we're the ones in that relationship too. It's not that person likes to be treated poorly. We may miss those red flags that are so clearly obvious to others. Whereas we are looking at our partners as someone who can be better, we see those small instances where they aren't that horrible. So, we show them that compassion and hope they can change because they've shown you it's possible.


Some reasons people stay may be:


·  Codependency

·  Have nowhere to go if they leave

·  Feeling helpless

·  Believe abuse is normal

·  Low self-esteem

·  Kids are involved

·  Believe the person will change

·  Difficulty accepting the person you chose to be with was a mistake – cognitive dissonance

·  Afraid to be single

·  Do not believe they deserve better

·  It's the type of relationship they are used to – it's comfortable


Relationships are complicated


Whether the toxicity is emotional abuse, physical, or psychological, these relationships don't just end because we tell our loved ones that it's too toxic. Usually, as time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult for one person to leave the relationship, which can become very complicated.

In many cases, this relationship plays a defining role in their lives, and this person is very influential. However, toxic relationships aren't always so black and white. Those happy moments are when that person finds the change they have been looking for. Which then reinforces the belief and the hope that person is looking for. However, that potential can be good and bad. That hope can only go so far, and the "toxic partner" needs to be willing to change for that to happen. They have to invest in the change themselves.

Leaving can be very difficult.

·  Firstly, look at your relationship through facts and return to your values. Next, identify your values and needs and see if your partner supports your wants and needs. Is that person helping you be the person you want to be, and do you share similar values?

·  Secondly, see if your partner is ready to change. Are they committed to growth? When they apologize, do they consistently take steps committed to a solution? Or are they apologizing and continuing to do the same behavior?

·  Lastly, remember to talk to yourself with kindness. Talk to yourself like how you would like a friend. For example, would you advise your friend in the same situation to leave the relationship? Would you think your friend is being mistreated?

Support your loved one

Hearing your loved one complain about their toxic relationship can be draining. However, it's important to provide them with continuous support. Watching your loved one in pain can be very draining and frustrating. You may think that all they have to do is leave and their issues are acceptable. However, as mentioned, we often don't know how complicated their relationship or the abuse is.

You may want to tell them, "I'm tired of hearing about your relationship. You never leave, and it's frustrating. So I don't want to hear anything about it." Now imagine they are finally ready to leave the relationship, but those they trusted outside of their relationship are "tired of hearing them say they are done when they aren't going to really leave."

Your loved one doesn't have any other support to help them leave. They are much more likely to stay in the relationship because their toxic partner is the only person they have, which is a goal of

the toxic partner. Manipulation, isolation, humiliation, and intimidation are ways one person can exert power and control over another. If we aren't there for them, who will be?

Remember, you can still have boundaries. It's just important to recognize the boundaries you are setting and, depending on what they are, the impact they could have. Remember, blaming someone in a relationship is never ok, and the best thing we can do is remind them they don't have to be in that relationship. Just one positive relationship can be a beacon of hope.