Why It's So Hard to Leave a Bad Relationship

As a happily married dating coach for women, it’s my job to see into others’ blind spots. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some myself.

This article in the New York Times shines the light directly into one of them.

Back in 2014, I hosted a live event in San Diego called the “Revolutionary Relationships Retreat.” It was the foundation for what would later become Love U. Over three days, I took 16 women through a crash course education that would help them make healthier relationship choices forever. Little did I know that out of 16 women, four of them were in “relationships” with married men. And one woman, who wanted to attend, told me she couldn’t because she was staying in a hotel near her married boyfriend’s summer home and couldn’t bear to break away.

Why do good women stay with men who are objectively wrong for them, whether they’re married or abusive?

This was behavior that I admittedly couldn’t understand. Why do good women stay with men who are objectively wrong for them, whether they’re married or abusive?

In the above article, Daniel Shapiro cites Freud and calls this repetition compulsion.

“This is our drive to cling to an identity with which we are familiar, even if it is dysfunctional and personally damaging. In ways big and small, we all experience this cycle in our own lives, repeating time and again the same damaging patterns of interaction with friends, loved ones and colleagues…The repetition compulsion is strikingly resistant to change. To try to escape it, we may read self-help books or enlist in a communications course, but these actions often have little long-term impact, for the compulsion lures us back to our place of comfort, to the dysfunctional relations we know so well.”

Emotions are not logical. You can know that a man is bad for you and still not be able to move on.

My heart bleeds for anyone who feels stuck in a bad relationship – especially if they’re not physically stuck, but emotionally stuck. I would say that there’s a big difference between a woman with no job and three kids trying to exit her marriage and a girlfriend of five years who won’t get a ring but won’t let go – except I’m not so sure there is. Emotions are not logical. You can know that a man is bad for you and still not be able to move on. That’s why I wrote Believe in Love – to help with that healing process and give women confidence that this man is NOT the last man on earth.

Not that it’s ever easy to move on. Says Shapiro:

“To expect that leaving a relationship or signing a peace agreement will result in a new beginning is to underestimate the power of identity. Real change entails not just intellectual understanding of our patterns but also deep emotional acknowledgment of their allure. Only then can we begin to willfully resist their draw — and open the door to a new and healthier reality.”

Have you ever overstayed your welcome in a bad relationship? Why? What was it that eventually helped you move on? Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.