We’ve all been in the kind of relationship where friends and family members keep asking us why we stay with “that guy” or “that woman.” That partner we keep making excuses for: “She’s just friends with all her ex-boyfriends.”
“He only drinks like that because his friends make him.” “When she’s jealous, it’s because she loves me so much.” “He’s not controlling, he’s concerned about me.”
Choosing to stay only because you feel like you need someone
When you have to make those kinds of excuses for your partner, you’re not getting what you need. But it’s embarrassing to admit that really, you stay because you feel like you need someone—anyone—in your life, even if they’re far less than who you deserve.
So you end up on relationship autopilot, making excuses for unacceptable behaviors, ignoring the warning signs that you are in an unhealthy relationship. When your partner disappoints you yet again, you get angry, then you make another excuse, then you stay.
Here are some of the reasons why people settle for relationships that just don’t give them what they need.
When we deny what we really need, who our partner really is, whether or not we are actually happy, we are lying to ourselves.
Women, especially, are really good at this. We see only what we want to see, and explain away the rest.
The lies we tell ourselves and others begin to sound believable, as we desperately try to convince everyone that we are happily in love. It becomes easier to deceive ourselves than to face the truth.
We believe we can somehow change our partner, and make them the person we want and need them to be.
We assume that no matter what their history, somehow they will behave differently from us. We cling to romantic notions of what love “should” feel and look like, and ignore our intuition when our reality doesn’t align with our fantasy.
At the core of shame are deep feelings of inadequacy. We feel unworthy, unlovable, and disconnected from others.
When we grow up being invalidated and misunderstood, we’re already on the path to feeling we don’t deserve much of anything.
4. Low self-esteem
Low self-esteem is often a result of shame.
If we grow up in a family where our needs were not met, validated, or even acknowledged, often we end up feeling that what we need isn’t important, or that we’re not worthy to get what we need. We end up sabotaging our relationships with controlling, rescuing, and/or people-pleasing behaviors.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t depend on anyone; in fact, what we deserve is a healthy connection with a dependable partner.
But extreme dependence—“I can’t exist without a partner”—is unhealthy.
In essence, we cannot recognize our own wholeness and completeness. We get into relationships feeling like half a person.
When we grow up in a family where our need for nurturing, attachment, and empathy is not met, emptiness is the result. The children of families like this feel abandoned, and that feeling can persist into adulthood.
The emptiness can manifest itself as depression, anxiety, chronic loneliness, and isolation.
7. Fear of abandonment and rejection
Missing out on early bonding with a primary caregiver can cause extreme fear of abandonment.
Children who are afraid they will be rejected end up taking on responsibilities way beyond what they are developmentally capable of. When these children become adults, the threat of rejection is still their biggest fear, so they are willing to do anything to keep their partner.
When we don’t recognize and deal with these issues, we end up settling for less every time. So take a moment, slow it down, and check in as to what motivates you to push at making a relationship work even when you know deep down that you deserve better. The truth is that you deserve to find a relationship where you don’t have to settle.
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More by Sherry Gaba