7 Reasons People Would Rather Be In An Unhealthy Relationship Than Alone

Photo: Amirhamzaaa / Shutterstock
woman sitting in the dark

We all want to be in a happy, healthy relationship, don't we? So why do so many of us end up settling? I have posed this question throughout many years to participants in support groups for separation and divorce, and the answers are always interesting. Some are even heartbreaking. 

Some have been betrayed and left for another lover. Some have experienced their "last straw" moment and chose to leave. Regardless, most stayed years beyond knowing their relationship was wrong for them.

Their reasons? Overwhelmingly, the majority responded with some version of, "I'd rather be in an unhealthy relationship than be alone."

You may not be able to relate to this and wonder why? Or, you may be nodding in complete understanding. I did the latter.

I had known the 'fear' of being alone while consciously remaining in the wrong relationship at one time in my life. I had been in a full-blown, toxic, controlling, abusive one. And I stayed for years— until my last straw moment.

I have since learned much about the whys for myself and many others.

People in unhealthy relationships have thoughts rooted in fear, feelings of low self-worth, and their actions, behaviors, and choices are self-sabotaging.

The reason that you, I, and others stay: our why changes. Our why is our motivation for anything, right? So what would motivate you to stay in an unhealthy relationship?

RELATED: 15 Signs You're Stuck In A Soul-Sucking, Toxic Relationship

Here are seven reasons people would rather be in an unhealthy relationship than be alone

1. Fear of loneliness.

Not likely. Most unhealthy relationships are pretty lonely. Don't kid yourself. Keep reading.

2. Fear of being alone forever.

Probably not. You've settled before; there are billions of people on the planet, and you can find one to settle for again if you leave this one to take the risk of finding a healthy one. Keep reading.

RELATED: Beware! 6 Toxic Relationship Behaviors Most Couples Think Are Normal

3. Fear of change.

Possibly. Now we are getting somewhere. I mean, the devil you know is better than the one you don't, right? 

4. Fear of loss.

Perhaps you've had a lot of losses in life. You can't handle one more. You can't lose anyone else. And no matter how bad it is, you love them. After all, this is what love is, isn't it? 

5. Fear of independence.

So, you don't think you can make it on your own. Why do you believe that? Because they told you so?

Maybe there is some truth here. But what stops you from taking responsibility and figuring it out? 

RELATED: 15 Glaring Signs You're Attracting Unhealthy Love & How To *Actually* Change Your Patterns

6. Fear of failure.

What led you to believe that you're failing at this relationship? You're intelligent, capable, and educated enough and should be able to manage, influence, and make this what it should be, right? Who would judge you if you failed?

7. Fear of rejection or abandonment.

And this does say something very specific about you. This says you fear being unworthy of love or that you may be unlovable. Could this be the underlying current, the core source behind all the other fears mentioned above?

If so, this is about your attachment style, most likely developed in childhood. Don't start blaming Mom and Dad just yet.

You may have had a great childhood but experienced a betrayal by a friend, infidelity by a spouse or partner, the death of someone significant in your life, or some other emotionally devastating event that created how you now attach to relationships.

RELATED: How To Heal When You Feel Completely And Utterly Broken

What is important now is to understand why you attach and hold onto relationships in adulthood, even unhealthy ones. 

According to the theory by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, there are secure and insecure attachment styles in social relationships based on our relationships with our initial caregivers.

As you can imagine, a secure style leads to healthy bonding in adulthood in all types of relationships, including those with friends, family, and romantic partners.

Insecure styles do the opposite and can appear overly clingy, controlling, avoiding conflict, and to-your-detriment-partner pleasing. These insecurities leave you feeling anxious and emotional and crush your self-esteem.

Other insecure styles fear getting too close, and others fear getting hurt, driving toxic behaviors that unduly stress a relationship.

Regardless of when your insecurity developed, it is important to become aware to stop seeking validation from others and depending on them to make you feel good about yourself and worthy of love.

Seeking that validation puts you in a position to enable unhealthy and unacceptable behaviors of them and yourself. And, you will continue to invest your time, energy, and finances and then use that as a "reason" to stay because there is always hope, right?

Or, you will find yourself having a conflict of values — not wanting to be the one to break up a family because you were from a broken family, so you hold on tight to spare your kids the emotional pain of a broken family rather than show them a whole, healed you?

Just because you said, 'I do,' doesn't mean, 'you must' Is .it because you don't believe you deserve better? If so, why?

RELATED: Why So Many Amazing Women Give Their Hearts To Unkind Men

For those who recognize the source is from childhood, you may recall always trying to win your parent's love and affection and not feeling like you received it. Perhaps your home was filled with chaos and toxicity.

Now, you find yourself in a familiar situation with a partner, always trying to win them over and ultimately reliving that feeling of rejection. In both cases, someone is supposed to love and care for you. So, how do you prove your worthiness to your partner if you never felt worthy as a child? How do you prove you're valuable if you never felt valuable?

All you know to do is to stay, stick it out, and try and try again. Until they leave you or until you find a new motivation to leave. Many in my realm experience a last straw moment once they become a parent, and reality hits hard as they witness their child become an extension of the cycle.

Choice is your superpower

Regardless, know there is a way out if you see yourself in any of these why's. You do not have to wait to be left behind or to have a final straw incident. You can choose to develop a more secure attachment style.

You can choose to heal from your why and move on to create, attract, and sustain the relationships you truly desire and deserve. You are valuable alone and worthy of a mutually loving relationship and partnership. Believe it.

Changing your belief system is difficult, but you can do it with support. And when you do change your mind, you change how you feel, and when you feel deserving, your actions, choices, and behaviors show it.

I encourage you to seek assistance and get curious about yourself and your relationships. 

RELATED: 18 Freeing Things That Only Happen When You Learn To Accept Being Alone

Ann Papayoti, PCC, is an author, speaker, educator, and coach. She helps people untangle from their past and heal their hearts.