Archive for January 2011

Maladaptive Relationships   3 comments

Why do people remain in emotionally and/or physically debilitating relationships?

It should be simple right? You’re in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusive, manipulates you and others you care for to satisfy their own selfish and destructive means, perhaps this person goes even further and harms you physically. Well, you should just end the relationship right?

Yes, you should. It is that simple.

If a relationship be it; casual, romantic, even familial is one which derives greater detriment to your well-being than to your benefit despite efforts to shift the balance of the relationship to one that offers mutual fulfillment, then yes you should end the relationship or it will continue to cause you suffering.

Then why is it that so many people remain in such relationships and continue to suffer? Well, let us examine some of the reasons.


Many people remain in maladaptive relationships out of fear. Sometimes the fear is rational, as in the case of a physical abusive spouse who may realistically threaten and severely harm the person and/or their loved ones should the person decide to end the relationship.

Sometimes the fear is irrational, as can be found in the fear of loneliness. Some people will rationalize a relationship with someone who they may even have full awareness of being manipulative or completely non-supportive, yet convince themselves that it is better to maintain a relationship with someone of this caliber than to not have the relationship at all and risk being lonely and unable to find and grow a new relationship.

The first person who is afraid must find the will and courage to seek out help from Law enforcement and social services to help protect the person and their family from the physically dangerous person. Those close to such a person should intervene if they truly value the person.

The second person has a lack of self worth, a way of being that may have attracted the parasitical like person to take advantage of their weakness and manipulate this perception and fear to maintain control in the relationship for whatever benefits they seem to get from the relationship.

Irrational Thinking (Sense of Obligation)

Some people will remain in a detrimental committed relationship out of a sense of obligation to the ideal of a committed relationship at the expense of their own and sometimes loved ones well-being. Even after efforts have been taken to mend such a relationship a person will remain in it, usually operating out of a socially/culturally induced belief system. Fear can also be a factor for a person living in a particular social/cultural system as fear of judgment or ostracization from family and peers within a particular social/cultural system. (This is not always an irrational fear)

Take marriage for example. Far too often we see those in a conflict ridden marriage remain with their spouse out of a sense of obligation to the ideal of marriage itself or out of a sense of duty for the benefit of their children.

However, it is actually to the detriment of the children, and by extension other loved ones, for a couple to remain together in a stressful, conflicted, and tense relationship. The maladaptive environment such a relationship creates will immerse their loved ones in it. It is very emotionally painful and destructive for children to experience the great anger that conflicted parents direct towards each other in such relationships along with the negative states of mind that each parent remains in as the couple continues to live with each other. Children are very permeable psychologically and experiences, especially early life experiences, are very influential in setting the foundation to which the child will become an adult and perceive and operate in the world with. Children with parents in volatile relationships are far more likely to be emotionally unstable later in life.

It is much healthier psychologically for a child to be with a single parent who is less stressed and angry having separated from their significant other than to have the child live in a household of two highly conflicted parents. For those that hold onto a sense of obligation, should not the greatest obligation for parents be to their children? If so, such negative parent relationships must be healed or ended for the benefit of the child.

I do not want to suggest that we all abandon our relationships when they are not going well. All human relationships will have moments of conflict and strife. People are hurt in relationships all the time. Many relationships can be healed and even made stronger but it is important for us to be able to recognize when a relationship can be saved and when it cannot. Then, find the courage to express our will and make the wise choice in mitigating the negative effects of such relationships. Some people can do this alone and others require support.