Understanding difficult relationships and why we stay in them

We all know people who struggle in their relationships.  They seem to go from one crisis (or drama) to the next and nothing ever seems calm around them. They complain that their relationships always struggle in conflict, or with money or that things ‘never work out’ for them.

With this regularity of drama around them, you wonder why they seem to attract ‘difficult relationships’ and why they are always in them.

What is a difficult relationship?  It is one that doesn’t flow easily most of the time.  It is often characterised by conflict and ongoing ‘under the surface’ tension or aggravation and creates stress for one or both partners.  In short, it is hard work and often partners are unsure, on any one day, what the outcome of being together may be.  The relationship is unpredictable and problematic.

Abuse and violence

1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in one form or another in their relationships and it is reported that one woman dies each week from domestic violence in Australia.  How many more remain alive, but walk around soul-dead or emotionally abused by their partners, eating into their self-esteem, confidence and overall sense of empowerment?

Not only are violent relationships difficult, but they are life-threatening if women choose to stay in them with their children.

Challenges of relationships

Every relationship has its challenges that pop up over time.  Interestingly, research says that the first 6 to 12 months of your relationship sets the pattern for what the relationship will look like long-term – however, most women don’t know this.

Take Jess, for example.  She found John attractive and funny when they first met, and they spent endless time talking about their dreams, what careers they were interested in and travel aspirations they both shared.  It seemed like the perfect relationship with little hassle.

The relationship pattern is set within 12 months

Two years into the relationship, it had become fraught with arguments, possessiveness and ongoing strife.  70% of their time was spent fighting and blaming each other.  The love and fun had flown out the window as arguments and resentment walked in the front door. Jess told me John had changed and was never as possessive in the beginning as he is now, and she told me of an incident 3 months into the relationship when she was going out to dinner with her girlfriends.  John didn’t like the shirt she was wearing and made her change into something more ‘respectable.’  At the time she thought it was quaint, cute even…. that he would care for her in this way.

But it was an indication of what was to come, as his sense of jealousy and possessiveness increased, and the relationships fell apart.

Other relationship difficulties:

  • Communication is often an issue as couples struggle to resolve issues and put challenges behind them
  • The inability or lack of willingness to listen, show empathy and really try to understand how the other person feels about something is often a challenge
  • Different dreams and aspirations for their lives may develop over time and often, 20 or 30 years later, couples realise they have little in common
  • Couples don’t fight fair and bring in ‘dirty linen’ as arsenal to hurt and manipulate each other
  • If one partner goes outside the relationship for sexual and emotional comfort, it often indicates the end of the relationship

A Happy Marriage Can Add Six to Seven Years to your Life.

How happy is yours?

Difficult relationships:  Why Women Stay

There are many reasons why women stay in relationships, even though to those outside of it the choice to leave seems obvious.  Relationships are multi-layered and complex and what works for one person in their relationship may not work for another person.

Why do we stay?

  • We took the vow to stay together all those years ago, and we uphold that vow no matter what (religious reasons)
  • ‘Better the devil you know than the one you don’t’ – many women feel secure in their unhappy relationship as it is predictable and what ‘I know.’ This doesn’t mean it’s good, but more that its ‘familiar.’
  • Financially she can’t leave because there is not enough money to do so, which means she stays in an increasingly unhappy situation. Sometimes it’s violent
  • The children. Women often don’t want to leave because of the children and they want their kids to live with both parents.  Mostly this is an idealised dream as more harm is often bestowed on the children if their parents are unhappy together than if they are apart
  • I will stay to make my miserable partner’s life more miserable.  This misguided thinking can be dangerous, particularly if the arguing (and violence) escalates
  • We mistakenly think nobody else will find us attractive. Often women feel like this over years of being told they are ‘not good enough, smart or good-looking enough’ and their partners often tell them ‘nobody else will take you.’ And they believe it.

Strategies to Address Issues

When relationships don’t work, generally there are various issues playing out.  It takes two people to make a relationship work and both often contribute to its difficulties.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of relationships do I want to be in?
  • How can I make my relationship more satisfying?
  • Am I getting what I want out of my relationship or am I struggling?
  • Why are my relationships struggling and what can I be doing better?

Often women don’t address issues in their relationships, hoping they will go away or resolve themselves, but they never do.

  • Seek professional help. A well-trained professional is like gold in helping partners resolve issues
  • Pinpoint where the main issues lie and where you contribute to them. Learn how to do better through coaching and mentoring
  • Talk issues through if possible with your partner
  • Undertake a ‘Having a great relationship’ Program together, learning how to fight fairly and reconnect in an intimate way.

Relationships for women can be hard work but if you can resolve issues well and peacefully, it certainly is worth it.

Would you like a little help?

Not all women are in great relationships. Some are toxic, others problematic.  Many women struggle to understand what a good and happy relationship looks like.  Others are in abusive relationships but don’t know it – constantly excusing their partners behaviour for one reason or the other.

Stage 3 of our Be Unstoppable online empowerment Program for women addresses the role that trust, love and safety play in relationships and how to create a happy and lasting relationship as a woman.

See www.empoweringwomentothrive.com. or go to www.carynwalsh.com.au

Or you can chat with us about any concerns or ideas you have about how to improve your relationship. Book a free discussion at https://my.timetrade.com/book/QGY21

Photo by Maxim Medvedev on Unsplash

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