by Judy M McCutcheon
Women have made significant strides; we are holding top positions in organisations, we are independently wealthy and listed on the Forbes list of richest people. We can competently manage a home, kids, going back to school after starting a family and still find the time to have some fun. We are strong and independent, so, why then do we stay in bad relationships?
Why do we stay in relationships that no longer serve us? And I am not talking here about abusive relationships, I’m talking about low-quality relationships that fail to meet the standards that we truly want. Is it just a matter of economics or is it something deeper and psychological or is it a mixture of both? Why do we keep attracting the same type of men over and over? Is it a matter of how we see ourselves or do we give off an aura that calls these men to us? Is there a social consequence to us leaving these relationships? These are all introspective questions that we should think deeply about. Look closely at your relationship, and see if it is serving you the way you want to be served in a romantic relationship.
I was talking to a friend, and she was telling me about her previous marriage. She told me that she came home from university one year and found another woman’s clothes in her closet, bed bugs in her bed and baby clothes under the mattress. Then there was also the time she was called to do an emergency delivery, only to be delivering her husband’s child. Yet still, she stayed. She told me that she was comfortable and when she thought about starting over, staying where she was just seemed like a better deal. In her mind, she perceived that the available alternatives were of a lower quality than her relationship. Then there is the woman who etched wordings into the car of another woman telling her to leave her man alone. This is the one I have a difficulty with. While the responsibility rests with both parties, the man who is married or in a serious relationship must always remember his status. Your issue is not with the other woman but with your partner; he is the one that has violated your trust. We must lay the blame where it belongs and not lose ourselves blaming everyone else except the one who betrayed us.
We are strong and resilient and know what we want most of the time, so staying in a bad relationship sometimes is a matter of conscious choice. We rationalise our situation and decide on what we think is best at that moment. Other people may not agree with our decision, but we do what we think is best for us at the time. Often, it’s a matter of economics, and we stay until we think that we are in a better position to make that leap or like my friend, we are comfortable with the status quo, and anything different makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes it takes a traumatic event to get us moving. Psychologists have given several reasons why women stay in bad relationships. They have said that we can always find something satisfying about an unsatisfying relationship. We shift our priorities and tend to value the positive traits that our partners show even if those traits are not important to us. Another obstacle to leaving is the investment of our time, effort, and resources. Once we share a home, kids, and other types of investment, it becomes decidedly harder to leave. And then there’s Love, or more precisely what we perceive as love. It’s almost like loving the ‘bad boy.’ We are aware that our partner’s behaviour is negative, but our feelings for them are still positive. How do you reconcile between his negative behaviour and your feelings of love, even though you are fully aware that the relationship no longer serves you? Wish I knew the answer to that, but from my analysis, it is not love, because love doesn’t ask us to sacrifice who we are.
There are several rational and non-rational reasons why we stay in sub-standard relationships. There is no right or wrong; we do what we think is best for us and our situation. It could be that we underestimate our strength, or maybe our loyalty is misguided. We are warriors by nature, and we think that we can fix everything that’s broken, including our partners; trust me, you can’t. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t bring yourself down, see yourself in the positive, remind yourself that you are awesome and that you can come out on top in any situation. And when the time comes for you to break free from that relationship that no longer serves you, just do it, knowing that you will be just fine.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net