Why Do So Many People Stay In Toxic Relationships?

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By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

Toxic relationships are quite confusing to outsiders. The abuse seems evident to you might wonder why the person is still in the relationship.

We have taken this opportunity to inform you of the fundamental reasons why someone would stay in a toxic relationship. This article is aimed to raise awareness in you and if you are not in a toxic relationship then to be more compassionate in your judgments.


1: Low Self-Esteem

The relationship between self-esteem and abuse is bidirectional. People with low self-esteem get into toxic relationships which in turn deteriorates their self-worth and esteem. These people have low expectations and low comparison levels. They do not expect the benefits of a relationship but inert its problems. Their low expectations are fulfilled and they choose to remain in the toxic relationship. 

Any form of neglect or abuse during their childhood increases the chances of getting involved in toxic relationships in adulthood as that is the kind of love he/she has known.

2: Intermittent Reinforcement

Another reason why these people want to stay in toxic relationships is that they are highly addicted. This is addictive because of intermittent reinforcement.


Intermittent reinforcement is a conditioning schedule where a reward or punishment is not administered every time the desired response is performed. It is irregular and inconsistent. 

Intermittent relationships cause biochemical changes in our brain and are similar to gambling and other forms of addiction. If the reward follows the conditioned cue, always, then this cue can rapidly become less dopamine-inducing. Instead, the dopamine response is much more prominent and intense when the reward is inconsistent. 

The more inconsistent the positive reward, the more addicted the individual becomes. Intermittent reinforcement is the foundation of the trauma bond that maintains toxic relationships.

3: Investment

The more time that someone invests in a relationship, the more difficult it becomes to let go. If you have invested loads of time, energy, and effort into a relationship, you would prefer to stay in the relationship even though it becomes toxic and abusive.

4: Focus On The Positives While Disconnecting From The Negatives

One of the factors of maintaining a relationship is perceiving our partner in a positive way. The more positive view you have, the more satisfied you will be with them. Research has shown that one tends to attenuate the positive traits of one’s partner in order to sustain and strengthen the bond with them.

In case of a toxic relationship, despite the negative aspects of the partner, you would disregard them, sometimes even forget that it exists. 

The victim detaches from the negatives and focuses on the positive ones, which then becomes even more favorable in the perception of toxic relationships.

5: Illusions Of Control

Most people in toxic relationships believe that they have control of the situation and have found ways to handle the abuse. It becomes necessary to develop a coping mechanism if you are determined to remain in a relationship that is laden with abuses.

But you need to ask yourself, are you really in control or is everything just an illusion.

6: The Need To Fix The Partner

Some people choose to remain in a toxic relationship out of an inherent need to fix their partner. These people have been in a caregiver role since childhood and it is quite hard for them to break those old patterns. The caregiver deeply hopes that their partner would, indeed, change. If such a thing happens, then this would translate into raising their own self-worth.

You need to remember that the only person you can actually change is you. It is neither your responsibility nor obligation to help anyone else change even if they treat you wrongly and devalue you constantly.

7: Fear Of Loneliness

A toxic relationship is better than nothing for many people that stay in such relationships. 

This belief comes from low self-esteem and impaired judgment since the individual is afraid to stay alone. The person also deprives themself of the opportunity to meet someone who is actually good for them.

8: Guilt

Another vicious manifestation of abuse is victim-blaming. The abuser convinces the victim that they themselves are responsible for the bad behavior and accuse them of bringing it upon themselves.

This might seem illogical to the third person, but guilt and manipulation have a strong effect on people remaining in toxic relationships.

9: Family And Children

Maintaining a toxic relationship for the sake of the family or children is another factor. 


The belief that children would be affected more negatively by the separation of their parents, than by witnessing abuse taking place between their parents, is somewhat twisted. If you chose to stay in a toxic relationship because of the kids, then you as a parent should give them vivid examples of what love is supposed to look like.

10: Manipulation And Entrapment

The hallmark of emotional abuse and toxic relationships is manipulation. Most people in toxic relationships are manipulated constantly and believe that it is not an option to leave the relationship. 

They feel isolated and afraid to leave as their partner threatens them about worse outcomes, should they ever attempt to leave.

Entrapment seems prominent and the victim feels that there are no viable alternatives available to them.

If you are unhappy with your toxic relationship and suspect your partner of toxicity then remind yourself of the 5 As, which are Attention, Affection, Appreciation, Acceptance, and Allowing. 

You need to realize your own role and contribution to the dynamic of the relationship and work on your boundaries. It is also healthy to seek support if you feel isolated or lonely at times.

Image credit: 123RF

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