woman placing hand on forehead, turning away from her partner during a couples fight
Jade Small
Jade Small
December 19, 2023 ·  4 min read

Why Do So Many People Stay In Toxic Relationships?

It’s not uncommon to find individuals who stay in relationships that are far from healthy. These toxic relationships are characterized by a deep-seated incompatibility that leads to troubling and disturbing issues. Such toxic relationships persist despite the circumstantial discord and bumps in the road. As outsiders, we can never truly know what happens behind closed doors in someone else’s relationship. However, observing from a clear-minded perspective can offer valuable insights into the situation.

The sad truth is that even when emotional abuse or chronic problems plague these relationships, they often don’t dissolve. Instead, they seem to spiral deeper and deeper into a dark abyss. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to move on. It’s challenging to understand why people remain in such miserable and toxic relationships that create immense strain and stress. However, there are various psychological reasons behind this phenomenon.

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Why People Stay in Toxic Relationships

Staying in an unhealthy and toxic relationship is not always rational, but people do it for various reasons. As outsiders, we can never fully understand what someone else is going through, but it’s essential to be supportive and non-judgmental. Ultimately, the decision to leave a relationship is up to the individual, and we should respect their choice, whatever it may be.

Fear can be a major barrier in toxic relationships

Aside from the fear of disrupting their children’s lives, or the stress and adjustment of separating, some people fear that if they leave, the conflict will escalate further, or they may even be harmed. If this is the case, it’s important to address these issues before making a decision.

Read: 7 Reasons Why a Person is Mean, Rude, or Downright Disrespectful

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Cultural and familial pressure can be challenging

For many, cultural or religious beliefs can create enormous pressure to stay married or “keep the family together.” This pressure can be difficult for outsiders to understand, as people’s values are extremely important and should not be dismissed. However, it’s important to balance these values with the need for survival and well-being.

Relationship ambivalence can be harrowing

Relationship ambivalence is a common experience for many people who are unsure whether to stay in a relationship or leave. Although someone may be unhappy or distressed in their relationship, they may feel hesitant about leaving due to concerns about potential drawbacks. For example, they may worry about having to move or support themselves or question whether they have the emotional energy to get through a stressful breakup.

Abusive dynamics can be hard to recognize in toxic relationships

It’s important to remember that abusive dynamics can evolve slowly over time. At the beginning of a relationship, an abusive partner may be charming, thoughtful, and romantic. Over time, however, certain behaviors can become abusive. People in these situations may not recognize the abuse because it has evolved slowly.

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People are complicated

People are multilayered and complicated and often have conflicting beliefs and desires. In an abusive relationship, someone may have parts of themselves that minimize and excuse unhealthy or abusive behaviors in order to maintain the possibility of attachment and staying in the relationship. However, if someone spends most of their time blended with the part of themselves that minimizes their partner’s behaviors, they may lose touch with the reality of just how abusive the relationship has become.

Children can be a major consideration

Many people feel that they need to stay in a relationship for the sake of their children, even if they are unhappy. They may intend to stay until their children have grown and left home. However, it’s important to remember that children often suffer more growing up in an unhappy or conflictual home environment. The decision to stay or leave should carefully consider the extent to which the children are affected.#

People’s experiences shape their perceptions

People’s experiences shape their perceptions of what is normal in a relationship. Someone who has had other abusive relationships in their life may be more likely to view abusive behavior as “normal” or “expected.” This can make it difficult for them to recognize the abuse for what it is.

Self-worth can be a factor in toxic relationships

People in abusive relationships often have lower self-worth and may believe they do not deserve happiness or favorable treatment from others. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that this can create a cycle where an unhealthy relationship leads to lower self-worth, leading to an increased tendency to remain in the relationship. Additionally, shame and embarrassment can be a factor, especially if someone experiences abuse while growing up. This can lead to a misperception of abuse as reasonable or justifiable, making it difficult to leave the relationship.

Breakups can be incredibly stressful

Finally, the end of a relationship can be a difficult and stressful experience for many people. The process of separating from a partner, particularly if it was a long-term relationship, can be emotionally taxing and cause a great deal of distress.

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Keep Reading: 8 Signs You Have A Toxic Relationship With Yourself


  1. Why People Stay in Bad Relationships.Good Therapy. Chareessa Chee. February 15, 2021
  2. The Psychology Behind Remaining in Toxic Relationships.Psych Central
  3. 10 Reasons Why We Stay in Toxic Relationships.” Youniverse. Joanna Pantazi. October 8, 2018