Why Do We Stay In Relationships We Know We Should Leave?

What makes less sense, beating a dead horse or watering a dead plant? Does it matter what time of year you do this? This is how nonsensical the logic behind our excuses to stay in dysfunctional relationships sounds like. What good does it do for two people in a bad relationship to wait until they have the right amount of money in the bank, or for the kids to grow up, etc. before they consider ending it?

Perhaps it is the stories of recovered loves that fan our flames of hope, but these are few and far between. Statistics show rebound relationships don’t last long. Just like there is no raising a horse or plant from the dead, there is nothing we can do to bring a love that has expired back to life.

Three reasons we hang on 

Fear. It is not surprising that fear would be at the top of the list, but fear has little value in our lives. This is ego-based fear. We fear what the unknown might bring or we question whether we can find a better mate or not. We become afraid others will view us as failures or judge us to be a drama king or queen. Like everything else, nothing is permanent; nothing guarantees that love between two people lasts forever. Fear of losing love does not improve your chances of making the relationship better. In fact, fear hastens love’s demise.

Hollywooditis. Movies and romantic stories have sold us on the idea that we can recover true love if we fight for it hard enough. This is pure bunk! Love is not lovelier the second time around like the song says. It is one thing that you battle against circumstances—having to serve in a war or being separated for political reasons—to reunite with the person you love. But it is another to have to fight for a person to be in love with you again. If you can already see that your partner has lost interest in you, then the relationship is doomed. If this is your case, start thinking about building a life without them.

Laziness. It is uncomfortable to fight against entropy. Very few people welcome change into their lives. The rest of us don’t want to change our habits or our comfort zone. We don’t want to move or change our financial situation. Many are too lazy to embrace their own worth and leave when their partner no longer values them.

Staying in a dead relationship for these reasons is just as dumb as beating a dead horse or watering a dried-up plant; no matter how hard you try, they continue to get deader. Even worse, wasting your effort in a dead relationship delays your ability to find a new and truer love.

Is the end of a relationship a failure?

Many sectors of our culture, namely religions, advocate that divorce are immoral. But no matter what they say, divorces happen. Others view them as failures. So, are we to beat ourselves up with guilt when these people cross our path? No, of course not.

My wife, Christine, and I were 21 years old when we got married. Although we were old enough for society to consider us a man and a woman, we were barely the people we would one day become. It was only natural our true character would emerge. It was also predictable this process of self-discovery would one day take us in different directions and trigger our divorce. The process was very similar in my second marriage, and that led to divorce as well.

As I look back on these forty years of marriage, these are the things I gleamed about relationships, they are experiences we must go through to learn life lessons. The closer the relationship, the more personal the lessons you need to learn. Relationships only last as long as we need them to teach us the lesson they contain. Perhaps the reason for this is that some of us needed to have distinctive partners at different times in our lives.

When we are younger, we put so much stock on beauty and sexuality that it is hard not to confuse these things with love. Moreover, the feelings of attraction burn so hot in the beginning of a relationship that it is difficult to imagine they will ever go away. But this isn’t love, it is what the Universe/God uses to bring us together so we can learn the respective lessons from one another. For some couples, this learning can last a life time, for others, not so. But when it is obvious love no longer exists, it is time to move on. Nevertheless, some couples stay in loveless marriages. They go on to celebrate decades of anniversaries commemorating their marriage, but that is just a fictional story presented to family and friends. To live like that is torture in my book.

Think about it, would you stay in a classroom after the professor has left, students gone, and someone turned out the lights? Of course not, there would be nothing left to learn. The same holds true when your love for your partner or theirs for you has left the building. Don’t waste your time trying to preserve a relationship that is over.

Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will reward you with much joy and contentment.

Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.

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