It seems so simple – two people are attracted to each other, and they either get along and the relationship grows, or not, and so they break up and move on. But how often do relationships actually work this way? On one hand there are couples who have been unhappily married for 30+ years, and on the other hand everyone knows friends who break up with partners every 2 months, only to date the next – eerily similar – candidate. So why do people pick lovers that break their hearts?
The Devil You Know
People tend to be drawn to the familiar. Whether it's a former boyfriend, your mom, dad, or brother – regardless of how crazy they may have been – basically you’ve become an expert in managing life alongside them. It was tough, but you learned how to handle (or elegantly avoid) them. Craziness no longer scares you. Maybe you’ve played a key role in maintaining sanity in your family, and if so, you may be taking pride in that! You’ve survived and mastered that challenge, and now it is familiar, even comfortable to you. So when you end up meeting that type of person, you'll find yourself drawn towards them.
The Dysfunctional Duo
Sometimes the reason we’re together with somebody is not for all the rational reasons we think, but instead because they meet a subconscious need in us. The problem is that it can create a bad dynamic. If you’re struggling with depression or boredom, a "drama queen" (or king) makes you feel alive, but also turns your life into a roller coaster. If you’re a wallflower, a charming narcissist might help your social status, but he's hell to live with.
These are some of the reasons people get into these bad relationships, but the next question is: Why do we stay in bad relationships? Let's look at some reasons:
Once you get together with The Devil You Know, you might find yourself "addicted" to his or her drama, or to helping them. The dynamics of co-dependency are complex, but while the tremendous costs of your relationship are obvious to everyone, you may also be getting a significant hidden psychological "kick" out of the relationship. This can affect your brain in very similar ways as an addictive substance does!
Low self-esteem, and/or lack of belief that you can effectively change your life, is another huge factor in staying together with a bad match. Many prefer staying with someone who is not good for them to being alone. Dealing with a messy relationship might be easier than dealing with the anxiety and depression that comes when you’re alone. This is all the more true when there is...
Abusive partners have a way of getting into your head. They have their own version of reality, and blame you for everything. As a consequence, you might find yourself going back and forth between believing that it's all your fault, and realizing that this can hardly be true. Continuous put-downs can simply suck the energy out of you, leaving you too exhausted to do anything about it.
So where do you go from here?
First, don’t assume that things will get better on their own. Second, stop trying to deal with it alone! Surround yourself with people who are supportive. Third, if there aren’t a lot of people you can confide in, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional to hash out these problems. Whatever the reason for your bad relationship, it’s okay to get help, both to end it, and to have better ones in the future.