Have you thought to yourself, “why do I keep going back to a toxic relationship?”, it’s because even though the relationship is toxic you still like the person and hope for the person to change. People in toxic relationships have some good moments also. There are times in the relationship that you have seen the other caring and nurturing part of you partner which keeps you in the relationship or keeps you going back to it.
You might have gotten a lot of advice from friends and family asking you to leave your partner and you have tried to as well, but you are not able to. Leaving any relationship is not easy, leave alone a toxic one, it might seem easy to an outsider.
Why do I keep going back to a toxic relationships?
Let’s talk about factors that make you keep going back to a toxic relationship.
Wanting things to go back to the way they used to be– A toxic relationship is not bad all the time. You might have experienced moments of connection with your partner. That’s what makes it so confusing and makes you keep going back to the toxic relationship.
We tend to hold onto those moments and hope that one day our partner will be all loving and nurturing and the toxic part will not show up. In doing this we look at our partner as two separate people.
We don’t like the toxic part but love the nurturing part and keep waiting for the nurturing part to show up. We forget that they are the same person and we cannot have one without the other. So every time you leave, they show up with the nurturing part and you are lured back into the relationship.
You really want it to work– You feel like you cannot give up on a relationship that you have inverted so much time and energy into. You remember the good parts of the relationship and can imagine your future with the good qualities of your person. But unfortunately you cannot have a relationship with only one part of the person.
When we really want something to work we are more willing to overlook the red flags or rationalize them away.
We might say things like, “it’s not that bad, all relationships have conflicts.” or “no one understand me like he does, it’s ok if he cannot control his anger.” By saying things like this to yourself you end up gaslighting yourself and either make yourself stay in the relationship or walk back into it.
Scared of being alone– Another reason that keeps you going back to a toxic relationship is the fear of being alone. The fear of loneliness overpowers everything else. For a lot of people there is a very deep core belief that they will always be alone and no one will like them or accept them. This belief stems from the childhood experiences you have had.
If you grew up with parents who directly or indirectly gave you the message that you are an inconvenience or you are unlovable and the only way you felt love is when you prioritized their needs then that’s what you will carry with you in your other relationships as an adult.
For example, if every time you challenged your partner they withdrew and blamed you for not showing you affection then because of a similar experience in your childhood you will accept the blame and feel guilty for expressing your feelings and needs and the fear of abandonment will take you back to your pattern of prioritizing your partner.
Lots of empathy and compassion for your partner and none for yourself– Your partner might have had a difficult childhood and you blame their experiences for the way they treat you. You might feel like you don’t want to be another bad experience for them in their life. You want to be there for them and show them that even if they treat you badly you will not abandon them.
In prioritizing their pain you overlook yours and let them back into your life.
You have hope that if they seek the right help and work though their childhood trauma the toxic part will go away. So either you keep waiting for that to happen or even if you leave you keep coming back hoping for it to be different this time.
Low self esteem– Having a low self esteem is another reason why people allow toxic people into their lives. It ties back to the fear that no one will ever want you and you will be alone for the rest of your life.
You don’t want to let go of the person who accepted you because you feel like no one will accept you the way you are. Low self esteem prevents you from setting boundaries.
Even though intellectually you know you should not be treated in this way and you deserve to be respected. The fear of putting yourself out there and being rejected keeps you in the relationship.
The manipulation in the relationship is real– There is a lot of psychological and emotional manipulation that happens in toxic relationships. Your partner might be leaving out information, bending the truth, lying to you.
They might be gaslighting you.
For example, you ask your partner a simple question like “do you want to pick what to make for dinner today?” and they get mad at you, start yelling and screaming and you are all confused thinking what just happened. Then you apologize and take the blame for upsetting them even though you have no idea what you did.
For example, You share with your partner that you don’t like them liking pictures of other women on social media, they respond to you in an apologetic way and tell you that they did not have any bad intentions, then they go and do the exact thing you asked them not to do. Then they tell you that you are just overreacting.
In the middle of all this manipulation it is very difficult to hold on to your sense of self.
You might find yourself doubting your intuition a lot. When we cannot trust ourselves it is difficult to follow what feels right. So even if you feel like you should leave you will keep going back to the toxic relationship.
On top of that if you have grown up in a toxic household then you go back to your original patterns and figure out how to survive the toxicity. You don’t think of leaving. Even if you decide “I need to leave” cutting off completely might not be so easy.
We keep going back to a toxic relationship because of the strong hold it has over us due to the reasons mentioned above. We all have a need to connect, you don’t have to settle for a toxic person. Check out my article on why do we need relationships if you are curious about why we need to connect.
My article on how to stop being codependent in a relationship talks about signs of a healthy relationship, feel free to check that out. Also, the article on how to set emotional boundaries has a few useful tips on boundary setting.
Some of the things you can do to not keep going back to a toxic relationship are-
Connecting with your feelings and needs
Working on building your self esteem
Working on being kind and compassionate towards yourself
Seeking out help to work though the patterns created in your childhood due to difficult experiences growing up. Check out my article on individual therapy for relationship issues, it talks about the process of healing.