Psychology for living: why we stay in bad situations

Gwen Randall-Young

Gwen Randall-Young
Psychology for Living

Over the years I have worked with clients who are in unhappy, even toxic, relationships. They may have tried everything, including counselling, but history just keeps repeating itself. When asked why they stay if they don’t see it ever changing, sometimes the answer is that they are afraid of being alone.

Sometimes these people, often women, are CEOs, highly educated and professionally recognized, and are viewed as very strong. Yet when it comes to the idea of leaving a bad relationship they crumble.

It is the inner child of that person who is afraid of being alone. For a young child, being all alone can be terrifying. They do not have the ability to care for themselves, and if left alone for long they feel abandoned.

It is the inner child of the strong woman that holds her back from taking charge of her life. Very few women are incapable of being on their own, but the inner child takes over and expresses fear about doing so.

Certainly, there are cases where finances limit the ability to move on but that is different from being emotionally frightened. Fear of being alone is fear of being with ourselves, and being independent.

Unquestionably, a major life shift can be daunting. However, there is support in terms of lawyers, bankers, realtors, psychologists, family, and friends. Living on our own is part of becoming an independent adult.

Being in a toxic relationship eats away at confidence and self-esteem. It can even have adverse effects on physical and mental health. No one deserves to be mistreated or devalued. If you are in a situation like this, and you have tried everything to improve the relationship, you need to rethink things. It may be the partner’s responsibility for the hurt we feel, but it is our responsibility for allowing it to continue.

As a child we have no ability to change the circumstances in which we live. As adults we might feel powerless, but we are not. Millions of women have freed themselves from bad situations, and virtually none would say it is easy.

Some women tell no one of their suffering because they are embarrassed. This leaves them isolated and vulnerable. It is important to share with someone. If there are no friends or relatives with whom you can share, seek out counselling.

Others think that ending the relationship spells doom for the children. This is not true. Children can thrive after divorce unless it is adversarial. Living in a home where there is stress, tension, arguing, and fighting is worse than living with one parent at a time.

And for those who think therapists always tell women to leave their partners, that is untrue as well. Therapists do not tell people what to do, but rather help them to clarify their thinking and consider all options for a healthier life.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.