Why do people stay in unhappy relationships?

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    Why do people stay too long in unhappy relationships

    Many people stay in dead-end relationships out of fear (Photo: Shutterstock)

    It’s amazing how some relationships last forever, lovingly, and others simply drag on, way past their expiration date.

    Why do people stay in unhappy relationships when they want to leave?

    Why don’t people make up their minds and relinquish their fears, and move on when they know it’s over? Why settle? Why not be honest and leave?

    The answer is: Because it’s just not that easy to walk away, even when you know you should.

    What is a healthy relationship?


    A healthy relationship should be based on love and trust, be nurturing, caring and committed. The couple should have similar goals and enjoy their companionship. They choose to be together because they feel rewarded by the union, emotionally and physically. This doesn’t mean they’re in a conflict-free relationship, but that they seek to resolve their issues amicably. They work out problems together, as a team. They communicate openly, and both hope for and expect the best from the other person. There is mutual respect.

    When does a relationship come to a dead end?

    There are no two couples alike, and both halves of the couple might not agree that a relationship has passed its expiration date. But for one or both partners, some of the signs of spoiled milk are as follows:

    • Lack of trust: For whatever reason, one or both of you no longer trusts the other.
    • Negativity: You can only focus on everything that’s wrong with your partner, instead of his or her positive traits.
    • Different goals: You want to get married and have kids, he wants to sail solo around the globe.
    • Different interests: You both constantly seek activities and company outside of the relationship in order to stay away from each other.
    • Bickering without resolution: You spend most of your time quarrelling, but nothing ever gets resolved.
    • No sex: Your sex life (with each other) has dwindled to nothing or feels like a chore or an obligation.
    • Insults: You insult each another with hurtful words that are hard to take back once uttered.

    So why stay?


    People choose to stay in unhappy relationships for many reasons. Why some may seem like better reasons than others, at the end of the day, you are trading your happiness to stay in a relationship that is really over.

    • You stay together for the children: Couples often stay together for their kids’ sake, but their kids suffer anyway. If a separation is healthy, amicable and the children’s interests come first, as they should, kids won’t suffer the blow of the separation quite so hard. It is up to the parents to make the transition smooth. Staying for the sake of the kids may be worse in the end. Kids are smart enough to pick up on the tension and the absence of love, and they absorb the negativity, and may feel betrayed, too. Parents are role models and children learn firsthand about relationships from them. Plus, children grow up, and an empty nest feels all the emptier when you’re stuck with a spouse you no longer love.
    •  You can’t afford to break up: Financial reasons can make it hard to walk away. You may have to give up a comfortable lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to, or you may have to give up real necessities, like a car, a house or medical insurance. However, living a sad, but comfortable life comes with its own costs. As hard as it is to start from scratch, to move, to sleep alone, to dare to date again, to have less purchasing power, you can make it if you focus on what you gain: a second chance at love, a second chance at life.
    • Being in a bad relationship is lonely

      Being in a dead-end relationship may feel lonelier than being single (Photo: Shutterstock)

      You’re afraid to be alone. The idea of being single again, especially after a long relationship, is frightening. What if you never fall in love again? But the freedom of choosing what to do, where to go and how to live your life is well worth the risk.  Time spent alone will help you figure out what you actually want from life, and what you need. It will also help you see yourself as an individual, not half of a partnership that you no longer felt a part of anyway. Some people choose what they think is the easy path, by staying in an unhappy relationship because they fear being alone. But unhappy relationships can be pretty lonely.

    • You’re in a codependent relationship: Some relationships feed on love-hate patterns, much like the way addicts experience incredible highs and lows with drugs. You bicker, you belittle and insult the other person, and you say “that’s it!” and leave. But then you come back, and the “honeymoon” (as well as the make-up sex) is fantastic. And then it starts all over again. Once a relationship falls prey to the codependent dance, the chances of recovery are almost nil.

    Ultimately, most of us stay in unhappy relationships because we fear change. Fear of change can keep us stuck in dead-end jobs, keep us from starting a fitness regime or at worst, keep us in unhappy relationships. Change is scary and a bit like jumping into the unknown. Ultimately, we fear doing the wrong thing, making a mistake. But there are no mistakes in reality, just results. And if you see life as an adventure with its ups and downs, the perspective of change is not so daunting.

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