We hear about dysfunctional, unhealthy and abusive relationships all the time. It's hard to believe that anyone would want to stay in those situations, or put themselves through that.
The truth is, many of the relationships I've witnessed on this campus are extremely unhealthy so, why do we stay?
Typically, if you are in of one of these relationships, you're in denial.
It's easy to think that you are the exception to any stereotype out there about college relationships, and even easier to distract yourself from your own relationship by calling out other couples' unhealthy behaviors.
Other than being in love, the real answer to why we stay may be codependency or a relationship addiction. These are strong attachments to a relationship or a partner that aren't necessarily bad, but can put a huge damper on things in the long run.
Codependency: Hooked on Rescuing
"Codependency is a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and identity."
- First National Conference on Codependency
This is where you care for someone so much that you ignore yourself and your own needs, and become overly concerned about the needs of your partner. This enables the other person to keep acting the way that they do, as well as keep you in the destructive relationship.
This intense caring can actually result from an underlying need for power or control. It's the same drive that goes along with any addiction, and in this case, it's a need to control the behavior of the other person, through things like rescuing, worrying, or obsessing.
You need constant validation from others because you don't believe in your own worth; this can cause a huge psychological dependency on your partner that can strain the relationship. If anything goes wrong you feel very guilty and blame yourself.
You're so afraid of your partner leaving that you ignore important issues in your own life, give in, and/or develop submissive tendencies.
Relationship Addiction: Hooked On Saving the Relationship
If you've ever noticed that you stay in a relationship no matter how much personal pain it causes, you are a relationship addict.
You have the best intentions, but are willing to put up with anger and other negative behaviors from those you care about, even if it's at your own expense. You become needy and begin to define yourself in terms of your status within the relationship.
Relationship addicts need adrenalin to feel alive, and the conflictual nature of a relationship provides that. Due to an obsession with your partner's approval and attention, you may manufacture crises to keep them fixated on you. You live in a romantic illusion that perpetuates irrational thought and you give up your personal values, interests, and identity in the process of obsessing over your relationship.
Essentially, you give up yourself to love the other person. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and estrangement because you lose your sense of personal identity.
In both of these situations (and others not listed) the main thing to remember is that these are learned behaviors.
No matter what got you to this point, you can learn new, healthier habits. Establish boundaries for yourself. Suffocating your partner will make them resent you in the long run, so do your relationship a favor and remember your own worth!
Source: Dr. Lynne Namka- http://www.angriesout.com/family1.htm
*Created for The Odyssey