Familiar things feel like home, and people tend to turn towards them for comfort. In a relationship, healthy or toxic, partners find familiarity in one other. Opening yourself up to something better can be challenging once you’ve familiarized yourself with specific relationship patterns. Having difficulty ending toxic relationships is expected because this familiarity is your “normal.” This explains why you’re less open to change.

This familiarity encourages you to stay because you hold on to whom they are when things are great and dismiss the bad characteristics. If you ever asked yourself, “Why do I keep ending up in toxic relationships?” the familiarity principle may explain it.

Not all toxic relationships change without both parties willing to seek help individually and as a couple. If this is a change only you are willing to make, then it is likely that the hope you’re holding on to crumbles. Keep reading to learn more about why ending toxic relationships can be challenging.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

In a toxic relationship, there is an exchange of unhealthy behaviors between one or both partners. While relationships can start with both partners being toxic, there are relationships in which one partner changes their behavior to retaliate against the toxic partner.

The persistent behaviors in toxic relationships can manifest in different ways. For instance, you may notice a lack of accountability, poor communication, unhealthy competition, unprovoked arguments, manipulative tactics, and self-centered behaviors in toxic relationships.

Ending a Toxic Relationship is Difficult Because…

This individual may have broken you in many ways, but you still love them regardless. Ending a toxic relationship with someone you love feels like giving up on yourself. Sadly, as much as you feel letting go of the relationship may equate to giving up, staying without change is self-destructive.

It is not easy to leave any relationship. The rollercoaster of emotions a toxic relationship takes you through makes it even harder to end. Whether you’re codependent, afraid of the change this might bring, or have other reasons, ending a toxic relationship comes with challenges. Let’s further explore some reasons people stay longer than they need to.

You Have Not Healed Your Unhealthy Attachment Style

ending a toxic relationship

There are four different attachment styles, which are formed during the first year of living. It is often a result of the interactions between a child and their caregiver. These attachment styles play a crucial role in the emotional bonds you form in your relationships. It is also possible for your attachment style to change as you grow based on your experiences.

An anxious-preoccupied attachment style may be keeping you in your toxic relationship. These individuals have insecure forms of attachment and fear of abandonment because they’ve been exposed to inconsistency in childhood or through life experiences.

In this instance, someone may develop anxiety about their partner leaving them. Additionally, they may think highly of their partner while looking down on themselves because of these insecurities.

The constant need for validation and worries of abandonment may lead someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment to maintain unhealthy relationships. These individuals may give themselves entirely to their relationship to keep from ending up alone.

They often rely on their partners heavily for their needs and emotional comfort. If you identify with this attachment style, leaving your toxic relationship can be more difficult because you doubt your worth and feel you need your partner. In addition, you can have trouble ending things because you are entirely dedicated to your relationship and always willing to fix things due to your attachment style.

You Are in Complete Denial of The Situation

When faced with troubling situations, many people adopt defense mechanisms. One of these mechanisms is denial, which can be widely observed in toxic relationships. Reality can be painful and difficult to face; therefore, refusing to accept it is a defense many utilize to shield themselves from the accompanying emotional trauma.

Denial can take many forms. You could be denying yourself the truths of your toxic relationship by completely refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem. Denial can also arise when you minimize the extent of your toxic relationship’s negative impact on you. For example, a partner could be berating you, but you minimize this by telling yourself he/she is just joking.

You develop denial as a form of emotional protection, sometimes even physical. Denial can become dangerous in situations with toxic relationships because of the unlikelihood of recognizing the problem. Avoiding your situation and the accompanying emotions may make it harder to end your toxic relationship because you have not come to terms with your partner’s wrongdoings.

You’re Waiting for The Best Version of Them to Resurface

Ending a toxic relationship with someone you love

Ending toxic relationships can be hard when you’re waiting for improvement. Clinging to the idea that your partner will change can prolong a toxic relationship longer than needed. Hope can be detrimental because you are willing to hold on to false beliefs about your toxic relationship.

It may be difficult for you to see the harm in this hope because you have endearment and compassion for your partner regardless of your situation, but family members and friends may have pointed out the holes in your hope.

You may have mapped out your entire life with this specific individual. This can also be what is giving you hope to stay. It may not always be bad days in toxic relationships so you may hold onto those few good times.

Your Happiness Rests in The Idealization of The Relationship

You may be in a fantasy world when it comes to your partner. Idealization is the process of creating positive illusions about a particular person while disregarding their flaws. Idealizing becomes easier in a toxic relationship because it creates a false reality you crave from your partner.

This defense mechanism pushes the individual in the toxic relationship to maintain a positive image of their partner. You can’t imagine the thoughts of the person you love being entirely wrong for you. You rationalize their actions to protect the overwhelming negative feelings you experience in the relationship.

It feels much easier to feel warm and loved than to deal with thoughts that the person you are craving those emotions from exhibits limitations. Therefore, ending toxic relationships would mean letting go of something, although false, that brings you happiness.

You Are Addicted to The Relationship

Ending toxic relationships

Ending toxic relationships can be challenging when constantly exposed to intermittent reinforcement. First, let’s explore why this form of reinforcement could keep you in your toxic relationship.

This reinforcement is a ‘win-all’ or ‘lose-all’ concept that can lead to addiction. Intermittent reinforcement is a reinforcement schedule developed by B.F. Skinner, in his experiment with rats.

At the start of his experiment, continuous reinforcement was used. The rats were rewarded with food when they pressed the lever in their boxes. To observe behavior modification, Skinner then switched to an intermittent reinforcement schedule. With this schedule, the rats would sometimes receive food when they pressed the lever and other times not.

The experiment went further; there was no food when the rats pressed the lever. Instead of the rats developing exasperation, the rats continued pressing that lever, although there were no rewards. This concept is used to analyze toxic relationships because the individual is addicted to the thoughts of a reward coming at any moment.

You stay because you crave what comes after the storm. Sometimes, your partner may give you what you’ve been looking for, making you extremely happy in the relationship. Because the reward you receive is sporadic, it is easy to hesitate when you need to leave. In this case, ending toxic relationships is challenging because of the manipulative nature of intermittent reinforcement.

Your Self-Esteem Took a Hit

Low self-esteem can keep you from leaving a toxic relationship. You may have entered this relationship due to your self-esteem issues or may have developed these problems once in your toxic relationship. Either way, both situations can cause doubts when questioning your toxic relationship.

Low self-esteem can lead to fear, anxiety, doubts, and insecurities. You will begin to overaccommodate your partner regardless of what they do. This perpetuates the cycle of toxicity in your relationship because your partner can take advantage of you in these situations. 

It is easy for someone to overstep your boundaries when you have low self-esteem because you fear voicing your concern. This can become overbearing and lead to emotional exhaustion. Undervaluing yourself can become dangerous when staying in toxic relationships.

You Want Payback

Getting out of a toxic relationship

Sometimes, you don’t stay because you want to “fix things.”

This person has put you through so much that you want them to feel like you do. Therefore, you perpetuate the cycle by acting the same way as the toxic person in your life.

This is not always intentional. In most circumstances, it is because the relationship has changed you. Without stepping back and examining your behaviors, you’re unlikely to see that you’re slowly becoming someone you can’t recognize. You’ve become so embroiled in the toxic nature of the relationship that you also take on that role.

Final Thoughts

“Why am I staying?” is essential when ending toxic relationships. Knowing your answer to this question helps you see how the relationship has impacted your life or those around you.

Ending things can be tricky, and the above factors can contribute to your challenges when trying to leave a toxic relationship. It is important to take steps and evaluate your options.

Surround yourself with positive, encouraging individuals, perform some self-reflection, and challenge the negativity. Seeking therapy can also help when trying to create healthier thought processes and habits.