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Ronica Arnold Branson, Ph.D. | Why Do People Stay In Unhappy Relationships?
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Why Do People Stay In Unhappy Relationships?

Oct 10 2019

Why Do People Stay In Unhappy Relationships?

““Fear of being alone, fear of being rejected, and the fear of failure—these all apply to our relationships and why we continue to stay in them even though we aren’t happy.” - Ronica Arnold Branson, Ph.D.

There are several reasons people stay in unhappy and unhealthy relationships, one is the fear of being alone. There is usually a cause for most of our actions and many of our actions that determine whether we stay or go, are rooted in fear. Fear of being alone, fear of being rejected, and the fear of failure. These fears apply to our relationships and why we continue to stay in them even though we aren’t happy. Along with these fears, people often think that one day things will get better. They usually don’t, unless you work on the work to make things better. 

A person doesn’t usually change until they get ready to change. People often don’t change until they have a motivation to change. People also don’t often change until they have a reason to change. Sometimes this reason is because they might lose something or someone that is valuable to them, but many people don’t realize the gift or the value of another person until they are gone. It’s important for you to realize that no matter how bad you want it for another person or how bad you want the relationship to work, the person more than likely won’t change until they want to for themselves and see a reason to change.

Another reason that people stay in unhealthy relationships is because they grow comfortable with being with the person and they’ve grown comfortable with being where they are. Think about it, we usually don’t make moves until something stops working or we are forced into change. This is not different in reference to our relationships. We often don’t realize that things are bad for us until we get out of the situation. We often wonder why it’s so easy for family members and friends to see when someone might not be the right person for you. It’s because when you’re in the situation, you’re IN the situation and you see things from a very different perspective.

Many people think, well… they are like this for a reason, they had a traumatic childhood or they were in a few bad relationships. It’s important that you don’t let anyone else’s excuse become your excuse. We must recognize and acknowledge unhealthy patterns when we see them. The cycle will continue if we allow it to continue. Sometimes people don’t see that they need help, but we do. It’s important to remember that there is only one you, so you have to love yourself enough to let go, especially if something is not good for you.

The first step is admitting there is a problem. If you continue to allow it and act like everything’s ok when it’s not, the problem can never be remedied. It’s also important to be able to admit that you sometimes can’t handle the problem on your own. Many times people continue unhealthy cycles because that’s what they’ve been taught and it may work for them in the past. But, you must realize what does and doesn’t work for you. You can achieve a healthy, happy and successful relationship, but both partners must be willing to do the work.

It’s also important to remember that abuse of any kind, whether physical, verbal, or emotional is not healthy and will constantly make you unhappy. 

How do you get out of a relationship you don’t want to be in?

Some things are easier said that done, but you must realize when enough is enough. You must realize that you are important. We are living today and in this moment and we don’t know what tomorrow might bring. Ask yourself the question, if today is my last day, can I say that I’m in the relationship that I want to be in? Am I in the relationship that I deserve to be in? Does this relationship bring my happiness or unhappiness?

You must acknowledge that you are important, what you want does matter. Happiness does exist. In addition, you have to be willing to leave. Nothing will change if you continue to stay in it. The fears that I mentioned earlier are very real. Sometimes people are also fearful when they are in abusive relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship and need help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

How do you tell your partner you are not satisfied?

So, how do you tell your partner you are not satisfied? Tell them you are not satisfied. As stated earlier, communication is key to having a happy and healthy relationship. It is important for partners to be able to have an open dialogue. The issue of unhappiness is not a topic that you really want to talk about, but it’s something that you need to talk about, especially if you want things to improve. Both partners must be willing to work on the relationship if they want it to work. Openly discuss what things are working and what things aren’t. Let your partner know how you feel about certain things. Remember, most of us aren’t mind readers. Sometimes it can be verbalized in an “I feel.. when you…” statement. At least you will know that your partner has heard how you feel about certain situations and behaviors. It can also be helpful to seek counseling. Having a person to serve as a non-biased party or mediator can help you see the other person’s perspective. Counseling has been proven to be beneficial for many couples. 

Finally, it’s also important to be honest and open with your partner even if you feel that it might not work. Even though you might not find your happy place in a space with your current partner, it can be helpful to maintain a cordial status. Ending a relationship is not the end, it can be seen as a new beginning in more ways than one.

If you are interested in improving your relationship with your partner or yourself, contact Dr. Ronica at or at (601) 622-1393 for individual, couples or marriage counseling or coaching.

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