It doesn’t have to be this way forever.
Despite the severe pain women subjected to emotional abuse and other forms of domestic violence experience on a daily basis, we all know (or have been) at least one of many who choose to remain in toxic relationships for years, if not decades. There are a variety of complicated reasons women feel trapped in the cycle of abuse, overwhelmed by the swirling, often conflicting, emotions their manipulative and controlling abusers use to keep them hooked, damaging their physical and mental health in unspeakable ways.
A few years back, I was one of these women, caught up in a relationship that clearly wasn’t good for me.
The man I loved was bad for me in so many ways, but I just couldn’t leave him. Actually, on the occasions I tried to do so, he reappeared a few days or weeks later to lure me back in — and I let him. Over and over and over.
Looking back, I’ve often wondered why this was so, and why I couldn’t simply let go. I think I have figured out how to explain at least some of complex reasons, and I’m hopeful that by sharing what I have learned first-hand with you, other women in similar situations will find both comfort and strength to free themselves.
Here are 5 reasons women stay in toxic relationships despite emotional abuse and domestic violence — and how to break the vicious cycle for yourself.
1. They’re Afraid to Be Alone.
It is a natural part of the human condition to want to be in a pair and have someone to share one’s life and experiences with, and that is the goal in life for many of us. Unfortunately, this means many of us will settle for “good enough” when it comes to finding the other half of our twosome, as we believe letting go of the bird in our hand means never finding someone to love.
The prospect of putting ourselves out there again so we can find the right person can be overwhelming, so, we hold onto the one we have now, no matter how bad a men they might be for us.
If you’re in a toxic relationship, know that there is always another person out there for you.
You might not find them right away, but you will NEVER find them if you stay in the relationship you are currently in. There is a guy out there for you who will be your perfect half and who will make you feel whole.
2. They Don’t Feel Great About Themselves.
Research has shown that one of the most common results of toxic relationships is that they lower the victim’s self-esteem.
The constant barrage of abuse you experience with a toxic partner leaves you feeling unhappy, isolated and belittled. You may know that you aren’t being treated well, but you begin believing are unworthy of good love, and, that even if you were worthy of it, you would have no idea how to find it.
Letting go of toxic love therefore requires you to focus on something that is important to you outside of yourself.
For me, that meant focusing on my business. I was able to redirect the pain of letting go of the relationship into something that made me feel really good about myself, and feeling good about myself allowed me to cut my ties to my abuser and find someone who sees just how awesome I am.
3. They Have Trouble Breaking Routines.
Patterns and routines play a huge role in our lives. Just think about your daily routines and how “off” you feel when your patterns are broken.
For example, if you always have breakfast before heading out the door and one day, you just can’t, you might not feel like yourself for the rest of the day.
Imagine this same feeling in a relationship. When a relationship is new, you’re establishing patterns and routines with your partner, and those patterns and routines become entrenched in our brains to the extent that breaking them can seem nearly impossible.
You might consider leaving a toxic relationship at times, but find yourself stuck when you try imagining what Christmas would be like without your partner, or when you wonder who would go to the movies with you every Wednesdays.
Interestingly, even the cycle of breaking up and getting back together becomes a routine. You break up and then, like clockwork, eight weeks later he reaches out to you. Before you know it, you’re right back where you started.
If you can get past that first Christmas, next Wednesday night, or that 8-week mark, you can break the pattern. And you will.
4. They Accept Blame Redirected at Them by Their Partners.
One of the most insidious things about toxic love is that, after a while, you start blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong.
I have a client whose husband had a relationship with one of their employees. For three years, she asked her husband to let go of that woman, and for three years, he promised to but didn’t. She was beside herself, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, her husband did a remarkable job of making her feel like their issues were her fault, and that if only she could just let this go, they could be happy as a couple again.
His blame and accusations toward her became so intense she truly questioned her own mental health on some days.
If you also blame yourself for the problems in your relationship and believe that if you were just a little bit nicer or paid more attention to him everything would be just fine, you need to stop. We all play a role in the difficult situations in our lives, but they are not all your fault.
5. They Believe This Connection Is Like No Other.
Many women fool themselves into believing the relationship they share with a man who treats them badly is like none other, and that letting go of the intense passion and connection they share would be a tragic waste.
Let me tell you, everyone feels that way about their current relationship.
While the love you have for this man may truly be strong, it’s not the “ultimate” love in the world, and letting go of it does not mean you’ll never experience an even greater love in your life.
As a matter of fact, if you can let go of your toxic love, you are WAY more likely to find a far deeper connection that is real, wonderful and magical.
Letting go of toxic relationships is difficult. Probably one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do, but letting go of toxic love is critical to a happy life.
If you’re still unsure, ask yourself this telling question: Could you ever be happy if the rest of your life is the same as your life today?
For me, finally getting out of my toxic relationship gave me the time and strength I needed to focus on building my business and my self-esteem, and in doing so, I came to understand that I could break patterns and not only survive, but thrive.
It’s okay to be alone.
And, while your love was special, there is no better love in this world than the love you have for yourself.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: Why So Many Women Stay In Toxic Relationships & How To Break The Cycle.