February 21, 2016

Painful Relationships: Why do we Stay Stuck?

hung on strings

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~ Stephen Chbosky

I’ve been in unhappy relationships before.

When I look back now, I can clearly see that all of the effort that I poured into them wasn’t of benefit. Somehow, the relationship remained painful and destructive regardless of how hard my partner and I tried to fix it.

In some cases, I would instantly recognize the destructive pattern that the relationship had taken and quickly leave. In a few other cases, I would stay and try to hold on until I became completely depleted of energy.

Sadly, there were many situations where I failed to decipher the reason that had led me to linger far too long in a painful tie.

On the conscious level, there are plenty of reasons why I kept myself hooked in these unhappy patterns.

You see, sometimes, we stay because we hold out hope that the relationship will become auspicious or that our partner will change. Other times, we can’t leave because we are too attached to the person or the memories. And more often, fear of the unknown and fear of losing what we have at the present moment can keep us stuck forever in an unfathomable relationship.

The reason that made me cling to destructive and painful relationships wasn’t what I wanted to hear or realize, but it was certainly what I needed to know.

I think that we stay in unhappy relationships because we want to stay with the people who activate our pain.

And the reason is because pain is as intense and as tempting as happiness.

Pain is a desirable feeling that generates gratification, and so, we pursue the things that lead to it because they strengthen the sense of self that we hold. We basically want to be with people who give an absolute identity to whatever misery we are currently experiencing. In other words, they are the food to our pain.

Just like plants that need water to grow, pain needs people, situations and events to grow.

And when it grows, it becomes utterly destructive, both to ourselves and those around us. We become dramatic, negative and cynical.

I became addicted to pain because it made me an unhappy, miserable, person who is unworthy of love. And only through my destructive relationship was I able to grasp at that identity.

I thought to myself many times, why would I need to be an unhappy, miserable, person who is unworthy of love?

The shocking answer is because this is who I thought I deserved to be.

You see, our past painful experiences may have led us to this disastrous conclusion about ourselves but it is a truth that is difficult to consciously perceive.

We accept the situations, relationships and the people that we think we deserve.

If we have a closer look at our lives, we can easily recognize that who and where we are today relates to the people we surround ourselves with. It is our state of mind that choses the people we are currently with, whether they’re friends or family.

That being said, haven’t you ever wondered why you may have left a destructive relationship earlier than a peaceful one?

I know I have done this many times.

The truth is, we know deep down that we don’t deserve it.

We know that we don’t deserve a partner who cheats on us, who treats us badly or who emotionally abuses us. And so, we leave.

But as long as we stay, we are staying in what reflects our inner state.

I have stayed with a cheating partner for more than a year because frankly, I thought I deserved to be cheated on. I only left when I realized that I don’t deserve that particular unhappy relationship.

“You don’t attract what you want. You attract what you are.” ~ Wayne Dyer

I think this is why happy people are in happy relationships and know how to stay away from pain even when things go off track. It is not because the relationship is happy—it’s because the people in it are.

They know what they want; they know what they deserve.

However, when we are in a painful state of mind, we will attract painful people and we will remain stuck with them because they provide the nutrition for our pain.

In order to cut ties with pain, we must first work on loving ourselves and appreciating our own self-worth. We should know what we accept and what we don’t, what we deserve and what we don’t.

Only when I nurtured self-knowledge and learned to love myself did  I realize what kind of relationship I deserved to be in.

While we blame others for our own unhappiness, the truth is we are only using them to feed our suffering. The moment we decide that we don’t deserve to live in suffering, we will no longer use others to justify continuing this cycle.

We might stay in destructive relationships for years. Sometimes, we fail to behold this reality and it is completely okay.

We will see the truth only when we know that pain can’t grow forever. It might take decades but eventually, we will come to notice that we have died in the process.

Know that once we start working on our inner being, the pieces of our outer being will fall into place.

Know what you deserve and live accordingly.

If you are in a cycle of pain, it is best to leave. Pain will never serve you; at least it never served me.


Author: Elyane Youssef

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: Tareck Raffoul

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