Our guest post today is from therapist Julia Flood, who writes about an issue which most of us have either witnessed or participated in ourselves. If you have ever asked, “Why does she/he keep choosing the same type of bad relationship?!” This blog is for you.
It seems so simple – two people are attracted to each other, and they either get along and the relationship grows or not, and so they break up and move on. But how often do relationships actually work this way?
On one hand, there are couples who have been unhappily married for 30-plus years, and on the other hand, everyone knows friends who break up with partners every two months, only to date the next, eerily similar candidate. So, why do people pick lovers that break their hearts?
The devil you know. People tend to be drawn to the familiar. Whether it’s a former boyfriend, your mom, dad, or brother – regardless of how crazy they may have been – basically, you’ve become an expert in managing life alongside them. It was tough, but you learned how to handle (or elegantly avoid) them.
Craziness no longer scares you. Maybe you’ve played a key role in maintaining sanity in your family, and if so, you may take pride in that. You’ve survived and mastered that challenge, and now it is familiar, even comfortable to you. So when you meet that type of person, you’re naturally drawn towards him/her.
The dysfunctional duo. Sometimes the reason you’re with somebody is not for all the rational reasons you think, but instead because that person meets a subconscious need in you. The problem is that it can create a bad dynamic. If you’re struggling with depression or boredom, a “drama queen” (or king) makes you feel alive, but also turns your life into a roller coaster. If you’re a wallflower, a charming narcissist might help your social status, but he’s hell to live with.
These are some of the reasons people get into these bad relationships, but the next question is: Why do we stay in bad relationships? Let’s look at some reasons.
Co-dependency. Once you get together with the devil you know, you might find yourself hooked on his or her drama. The dynamics of co-dependency are complex, but while the tremendous costs of your relationship are obvious to everyone, you may also be getting a significant hidden psychological “kick” out of the relationship. This can affect your brain just like an addictive substance does!
Low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is another huge factor in staying together with a bad match. Many people prefer staying with someone who is not good for them to being alone. Dealing with a messy relationship might be easier than dealing with the anxiety and depression that comes from loneliness.
Abuse. Abusive partners have a way of getting into your head. They have their own version of reality, and they blame you for everything. As a consequence, you might find yourself going back and forth between believing that it’s all your fault, and realizing it isn’t. Continuous put-downs can suck the energy out of you, leaving you too exhausted to do anything about it.
So, where do you go from here? First, don’t assume that things will get better on their own. Second, stop trying to deal with it alone! Surround yourself with people who are supportive. Third, if there aren’t a lot of people you can confide in, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional to hash out these problems. Whatever the reason for your bad relationship, it’s okay to get help, both to end it, and to have better ones in the future.
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