I cannot tell you how many people, women in particular, stay in ridiculously unhealthy relationships. This pattern is due, in part, to the unhealthy socialization messages we give females. The messages to women and young girls are all about being attractive enough to find a man who somehow is going to make their life perfect. Women are taught to be accommodating, forgiving, nurturing, perfect and loving. We teach our boys and men, unfortunately, to be emotionally shut down, aggressive and harsh—hardly the makings of a “perfect” life. You can see where this is going, right? We have men who are taught to be “manly” and women taught to be accepting — the perfect storm. (And of course there are many exceptions to this pattern, such as women who are controlling, harsh and mean—and men who stay in such a relationship).
The fallout of these teachings is a lot of hellish relationships. Some women are in physically-abusive relationships wrought with physical violence, intimidation and extreme control. Other women are staying in verbally-abusive relationships with partners who call them bitches, whores and worse. Some women stay with partners who cheat on them for years with little to no remorse, ogle countless women in front of them and complain about their wives’ looks. Far too many women are living with men who bury their heads in work, snap at them and the kids and need to be treated with kid gloves or they will blow up and then blame the wives for their blow ups. These are not healthy relationships. These relationships are toxic on every level and staying in them is toxic to the women and any children involved.
So why do so many women stay in such unhealthy relationships? Below are the five most unhealthy reasons women stay:
1. Fear of being alone. Innumerable women stay because they’re afraid of being alone. They believe that having someone is better than having no-one. They rationalize this decision by saying that “he’s not bad all the time.” Truth: Very few people are bad “all” the time. If you choose to be with someone, you should choose someone who is great most of the time with an occasional not great day—and never an abusive or caustic day.
2. A desperate need to be loved. Many women have father issues and are looking for a man to prove to them they are loveable. When they marry an unhealthy man and have these issues, they blame themselves for the man’s behaviors. Truth: How someone treats you is NOT about you; it is 100% about them. All people deserve to be treated respectfully at all times—even during upset—by all people. Any poor treatment is due to the person who is treating others poorly.
3. The need to “fix” or “save” the other person. Women are trained to be pleasers and nurturers. Many therefore have a need to fix, save and make others happy—above themselves. This need to fix keeps bright, loving women in incredibly bad relationships. They stay thinking that if they can “just get it right” then everything will be okay. Truth: There’s a difference between working your side and taking responsibility for the other person’s side. Only they can change their actions—you do not have the power to “fix” another human being.
4. It’s what they know and lived. As children, “we know what we lived, we live what we know.” Many women stay in bad relationships because they watched their mom or dad stay or grew up with the very dynamics they are living now as adults—but instead of watching their parents do it, the women are doing it in their own relationship. Truth: We are destined to repeat our parents’ mistakes if we’re not conscious enough to know what they were. Get conscious.
5. Fear he’ll change and the next wife will get the best of him. Too many women are more concerned about who their partner might become than in who he actually is. Who your partner “might” become with someone else is irrelevant if he’s not that with you. And, by and large, people are who they are unless they decide to do a lot of work on themselves. Truth: The incidence of divorce increases with each subsequent marriage and is as high as 74% for third marriages. The likelihood he’s going to be “great” for the next woman is very slim and certainly not worth staying in a bad relationship.
When it comes to healthy relationships the bottom line is that you need to be healthy in them. Part of being healthy is knowing when to exit and not accept crumbs. Love yourself enough to not settle.
Challenge: If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, recognize it as such and stop fooling yourself otherwise. Next, stop making excuses for his poor behavior and do NOT blame yourself for his actions. Clean up your side and be willing to walk away if he refuses to clean up his. Do this guilt-free.