Why Do You Stay in Relationships That Hurt You?

You're well aware of how much it hurts. However, there you are, trying to reverse a situation in which there really does seem to be no turning back. In this article, we talk about the possible reasons why you stay in relationships that are bad for you.
Why Do You Stay in Relationships That Hurt You?
Sharon Laura Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Laura Capeluto.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

They say love hurts, but sometimes it just hurts too much. In these cases, everyone around you tells you to end your relationship because it’s bad for you and you’re suffering. Deep down, you also know that the relationship isn’t good for you and has been rapidly degenerating. Or, it’s just not enough for you anymore.

However, thinking about making the decision to walk away makes you panic. It invades you with fear and catastrophic thoughts such as: “I’ll never find love again”, How am I going to carry on with my life?”, and “What if I regret it?”.

It sounds pretty obvious that if a relationship is no good for you, you should distance yourself. Nevertheless, in practice, the issue is rather more complicated. In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why it’s so difficult to sever these kinds of links and why you tend to stay in relationships that hurt you.

Why do you stay in relationships that hurt you?

Accepting that your partner no longer makes you happy is a huge step to take. Obviously, it makes you sad because it means the possible end of your plans and dreams together. It also often brings back unpleasant memories of the past.

It’s natural to feel frustrated. That’s because things are happening in a different way than you’d like. However, your relationship is hanging by a thread and you know it. Nevertheless, here you are, trying not to break that fine thread. So why do you stay in relationships that hurt you?

Unhappy couple, representing relationships that hurt you.
Emotional dependency is one of the reasons why toxic relationships are maintained.

1. Because you’ve been made to believe that true love has to hurt

Beliefs about romantic love are pretty harmful. You’ve been learning about them since you were little. You sat in the movies and saw the princess suffer for love. In fact, you molded yourself on irrational ideas and it’s based on them that you build relationships in your adulthood.

If you believe that it’s not real love unless it hurts and that genuine love must be highly intense and cause deep emotional wounds, you’ll end up normalizing suffering. Of course, unpleasant emotions do often form a part of a relationship, but when there’s no space for pleasant ones, everything loses its meaning.

2. Because you’re terrified of being alone

The fear of loneliness or of not finding a partner again is one of the most common causes for staying in relationships that hurt you. You’re afraid of not having someone to be with you and protect you, without realizing that even though you have a partner, you’re still feeling alone.

If your relationship has been going on like this for a few years, these feelings usually become more dormant, because you don’t remember what being single felt like. The negative social connotation in relation to this fact has an influence on you. In fact, you believe that not being in a relationship is a bad thing and that you should avoid it at all costs. You mistakenly associate company with well-being, and loneliness with discomfort. However, it’s not always that way.

“Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.”

-Erich Fromm-

3. Because you’ve never had a healthy relationship

If the only relationship model you know is the one that produces a high dose of suffering and is built on dysfunctional dynamics, you’ll end up normalizing this type of bond. You’ll think that it isn’t possible to build a healthy and enjoyable kind of love.

When manipulation and mistreatment have occurred in the majority of your relationships, you start to accept them as part of your new ones. The same happens if you’re accustomed to disrespect or signs of disinterest. You come to suspect that this is just how relationships are.

4. Because you think you don’t deserve any better

Hand in hand with weakened self-esteem is the belief that you don’t deserve a better love than the one you’re experiencing. For this reason, you end up settling for a painful and miserable reality. In addition, your feelings of insecurity can even become dangerous, since they might lead you to tolerate and even justify aggressive attitudes.

Virtually non-existent self-esteem, along with guilt, can prevent you from making the decision to end a relationship. However, even if you might not feel like it at the moment, you deserve better.

5. Because you want to avoid the pain of breaking up at all costs

Have you ever told yourself “That’s the last time I’m ever going to fall in love”, after going through a breakup? Indeed, the pain felt when separating from a person you love or loved a great deal is huge. When it happens to you, you might promise yourself that you’ll never go through the same thing again. Needless to say, when the anguish subsides, this absurd vow disappears.

As a matter of fact, choosing to stay in a relationship for fear of the pain resulting from the grieving process is extremely common. In this case, the idea of going through a loss and having to reinvent yourself scares you.

Woman concerned about sexual identity
Fear of loss and loneliness often block the breakup of the relationship in some cases.

6. Because you’re worried about what others will say

You’re often subjected to social demands, expectations of others, and family directives. These issues influence the choices you make every day: from how you dress to who you choose as a partner, and even whether or not you continue a relationship.

Sometimes, your concern regarding the opinions of the people around you is so strong that it prevents you from making a decision in line with your own well-being. You might think “I haven’t even been with my partner for a year yet, what’ll my parents think if I split up with them?”  or “My friends will think there’s something wrong with me”.

It’s virtually impossible to completely detach yourself from what others will say. In fact, it’s best to just accept that, whatever you do, they’ll always have something to say about it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Barderi, Montse. (2016). “El amor no duele. Todo lo que debes saber sobre el amor verdadero” Barcelona, Ediciones Urano, S.A.U.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.