How many of us have been in relationships we just know are going nowhere but we hang on untill the bitter end? I guess if I could do a survey now, there would be many people who would answer in the affirmative. In fact, if you have had a few relationships and it has not happened, you might consider yourself lucky not to have had that experience. There are a number of reasons why this might happen and I would like to explore some of these in this post.
Staying in a relationship longer than you should makes the eventual break-up much harder and will prolong the agony and complicate recovery. It will certainly have an effect on the psyche, the belief in a good relationship further down the line and increase the chances of a rebound relationship. Here are some reasons why this might happen:
Codependency: Codependents will hang on to a relationship until it is plainly obvious that it is over. Break-ups for them are extremely painful and traumatic and they will try to avoid them. They do this with a combination of fixing, sacrificing and controlling. Often paired with the wrong kind of people, they are often painfully discarded or even sometimes ghosted leaving an emotional void that was created by the relationship dynamic. Codependents will often jump into another relationship quickly, reliving the last. Life for them in relationships is very insecure and characterised by drama and control. They will mostly do anything to avoid a break-up.
Fear: Many of us live in fear of being alone and not being with someone. The idea of not being in a relationship is traumatic but also the uncertainty that they will face if they end a relationship is too much to bear. Many people find the unknown and change hard to deal with.
Self-esteem: Many people believe that who they are with now is as good as it gets and they will not be able to attract anyone better. Lack of self-esteem got them in the relationship and lack of self-esteem keeps them in it.
Fantasy: Many people find it difficult to take their head out of the sand and see reality, choosing instead to believe a fantasy in their mind of how the relationship is. These are the ones who believe that their partner will change eventually, back to the person they first met. Neddless to say, this is highly unlikely but is also a cover for the avoidance of reality. I often ask clients to document the reality of their situation compared to the fantasy they have developed. It is usually a stark contrast.
Children: The age-old question. Should a relationship stay together for the sake of the kids? Many will say yes but a definite few would see the disadvantage. However, it sometimes keeps a dysfunctional relationship together. Studies have looked at the effect on children due to their parents separating. Most seem to say that the younger the child, the better it is. Older childen need open, honest communication.
Shame: Sometimes a relationship will stay together because of the shame of ending it. It is not easy to announce to friends and family that things have gone wrong and a mistake might have been made. This can be more of an issue in different cultures.
Convenience: After being together for a good period of time, having joint bank accounts, intertwinned finances and children, it might just be easier to put thoughts of leaving to one side, even if most of the passion has gone and never likely to return.
Trauma bonding and control: The most dysfunctional of reasons to stay together. One an abuser and controller, the other addicted to being comforted by their abuser and the few good moments that happen. In the mind of the addicted, all of the above are probably relevant as well.
It takes courage to make that break and try to start a new life with a more compatiable person. Our fears tell us that we will never find him or her and we are destined for a life of loneliness and fear. Yet, I have known many who have taken that jump and found someone new, more understanding and easier to connect with. It is always a dilemma but anything that is clearly bad for you should be avoided, even if it means short-term pain.