There are times when individuals find themselves in a destructive relationship. A part of them realizes it is harmful, while another part desires to stay in it. From the outside looking in, it can be easy to be frustrated at those unable to get out of it. It is not just a person(parent, sibling, significant other), whom they have an unhealthy association with. The source could also be a place (work,), or a thing (substance abuse, gambling, exercise, food). Regardless of the problem, they understand the toxic nature of the relationship.
Unfortunately, these insights can be short-lived, and the individual can quickly retreat to the “safety” of their unhealthy relationship. A person can be so overwhelmed by the prospect of change and what is involved that they may simply believe it is safer to stay right where they are.
Why would someone stay in an unhealthy relationship even though it is costly? The perceived benefits they receive from staying where they outweigh the challenges they face in leaving it. If the connection is with a person, fear of being alone, finances, or the concern with the impact on children, are among the reasons they may choose to stay. With substances, the potential for withdrawal symptoms, change of friends, change of lifestyle, or the idea of facing challenges without a substance to lean on can seem like too much to bear A lack of confidence in your ability to cope with life challenges without the substances or person becomes an obstacle.
It is important to keep in mind that even though a relationship may cause distress and problems in a person’s life, it does serve a function. For many, it feels good to continue the relationship even though feeling good and actually being good are not always the same. This function makes it difficult for them to change. Their reluctance is further fueled by previous unsuccessful attempts to get out of the relationship. The reality of the challenges that lie ahead can be overwhelming. Their confidence is shattered, and they fall back into the safety of what is comfortable for them.
Even though the person or substance has created distress and problems in a person’s life, it does serve a function. It feels good to continue(which is different than being good for them). This function makes it difficult for them to change. The perceived benefits of not changing outweigh the benefits of leaving. Their confidence in ending it could also be discouraging. For example, suppose someone has previously attempted to end the relationship and was unsuccessful. That would make them less confident in trying again. As a result, they fall back into the safety of what is comfortable for them.
The sooner one recognizes and addresses this transitionary period, the greater the likelihood of success in leaving the relationship. Recognizing that the middle part of a journey is just that—an in-between time. It will not be forever, even though it may feel that way at times. Transitions are a means to an end, and staying in the relationship would not be a viable option. Once one knows that moving forward is the correct decision, one can focus on making the transition as comfortable and manageable as possible. On a road trip from the Midwest to the West Coast by car, the road is scenic but mundane for most travelers. Focusing on the destination would make the journey go by much easier. Preparing and planning for the middle part would make the journey more manageable.
In this middle part, attention is given to the challenges that come with a direction change. For some, this could mean developing new friendships or support systems. It is important for friends to be supportive of the goal of leaving that relationship. Fostering new recreational pursuits and focusing on health in the form of a diet change or exercise can also be helpful. Develop an action plan with the end goal in mind. The better prepared an individual is for a transition out of a relationship(middle part of the journey), the less turbulent that transition will be. Additional resources in that part can also include getting involved in counseling. A professional can assist and support you in the middle. Support or religious groups will also be helpful. The important part is what you are experiencing is not forever. It is a means to an end. Try to make the travels as comfortable as possible. Knowing the destination is leaving you in a better position than where you are currently in.