12 Reasons People Stay in Bad Relationships: What’s Keeping You in Yours?

If someone asked you “What’s keeping you in your relationship?,” how would you respond?  You’re one of the lucky ones if you can honestly say “mutual love and respect.”  The truth is, a lot of people stay in bad relationships even when it’s obvious to outsiders, and even to themselves, that the relationship is unhappy and unhealthy.

If you find yourself in a relationship that has you questioning, “should I stay or should I go?,” it’s helpful to assess your motivations for staying as long as you have.  Shedding light on your motivation for staying in a bad relationship allows you to respond to your question with complete awareness and in the way that is most beneficial for you in the long run.


Here are some of the most common reasons people stay in relationships that are miserable or even abusive.  Which, if any, resonate with you?

  1. Habit & Familiarity
    • Relationships can become a “habit” rather than a mindful exchange between two people and the “routine” that’s developed within the relationship lends a sense of comfort and security, if not happiness and satisfaction.
    • Habits can breed inertia, making it difficult to summon the energy and will to break out of the relationship even when it’s in the person’s best interest.
    • Good or bad, the person knows what to expect.
    • The fear of change and what it would mean is overwhelming.bad relationships
  2. Financial & Practical
    • Fear of financial instability.
    • Concern over the practicalities:  health insurance, home maintenance, bills, childcare responsibilities, etc.
    • A reliance or co-dependency on the other person is so strong that envisioning a life without them taking care of things is too scary.
  3. Fear of Being Alone
    • Fear of loneliness
    • Fear of inadequacy to be on their own
  4. Low Self Esteem
    • Belief that they don’t deserve to be happy.
    • Belief that no one else would want them.
    • Belief that they are incapability of living life as a single person without someone to take care of things for them – decisions, finances, telling them how to think & how to feel, etc.
    • Belief that abuse within relationships is normal.
  5. The Children
    • Belief that an “intact” family is always best for the children.
    • Belief that having divorced parents will stigmatize the children socially.
    • Belief that children deserve to grow up in a two parent household, regardless of how the parents feel about or relate to each other.
    • Guilt over how a break-up would affect the children.
  6. Time Investment
    • Feel that they have invested too much time in the relationship to walk away.
    • Feel that they are too old to move on or make a relationship change.
  7. It’s Good when It’s Good
    • They get just enough attention from their partner that it keeps them hanging on.
    • Some of the time together is really great.
  8. Hope
    • Hope that things will get better with time.
    • Think that their partner will eventually change.
  9. “Stuff”
    • Financial investments, home &/or properties, major ticket items
    • A lavish lifestyle
  10. Shame
    • Not wanting to admit that the relationship or staying in the relationship this long was a mistake.
    • Ashamed to admit that the relationship didn’t work.
    • Feeling the shame of failure if the relationship ends.
  11. Belief that there is no such thing as a successful relationship.
    • Experience has taught them to be cynical about relationships lasting or being mutually satisfying.
  12. Belief that once you’ve made your “bed,” you must lie in it – no matter how uncomfortable or bad it gets.
    • Once a decision or choice is made, regardless of the outcome, you must stand by that decision.reasons for staying in a bad relationship

If you are in a bad or unhappy relationship, understand your motives for staying.  You might realize that you’ve been staying for all the wrong reasons.  Do a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits of both staying in the relationship and of leaving it.  Project what your life (and your children’s lives if there are any) will be like in 5 years given either choice. Your self-defeating reasons for staying will lose their power as you begin to question faulty beliefs and envision what your life could be like.

Challenge the beliefs that are holding your back.  Face the fears that have you paralyzed.  Break out of the inertia that has you “stuck.”  In the end, you are responsible for your own happiness, not the other person, not “stuff,” not your relationship status.  Whether your ultimate decision is to “stay” or to “go,” you’ll have made that decision out of self-awareness and what’s most beneficial to you; not out of fear, guilt, shame, or low self-esteem.


Stephanie Eissinger is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Professional Coach, Certified Embody Love Movement Facilitator, Community Coach Consultant, and Self Help Book Author.  Her self help books include: Journey to Self Empowerment: Increase Self Esteem & Self Confidence; How to Get an “Emotional Divorce” & Speed Up Your Relationship Recovery; Divorce Recovery: How to Clean Out Your “Inner Closet;” The Stress Management 2.0 Series; among others.


Related Pages/Posts

Forward Focus Speeds Relationship & Divorce Recovery

Divorce: The End of the World or a New Beginning?

Is Staying Together Toxic For Your Kids?

Broken Relationships Are Like Glass

Taking an Emotional Baggage Inventory Helps You Get an “Emotional Divorce”

Self Empowering Questions to Transform Your Life Regardless of Relationship Status


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