Sometimes it’s hard to know why you’re still with someone who isn’t good for you. Intellectually, you may be saying to yourself, “I need to end this relationship,” but for some reason, you can’t. I’ve heard friends say, “Why can’t I let this guy go?” I’ve said it myself. Beyond the typical practical reasons of, “I can’t afford to live on my own” or “The kids love him” or “We just bought a house together,” there are usually other, much deeper, much more subconscious and insidious reasons — ones you may not even be fully aware of. Here are nine reasons you’re still with that jerk:
1. You’re a “passive” commitment phobe. Commitment phobes are fairly easy to spot. They are the ones running around trading in their significant others every few months or years, absconding whenever things get too serious or too emotional. Passive commitment phobes, however, are people who are scared of commitment — but won’t admit it. Instead, they inevitably find someone who is scared of it, and then perpetually try to nail down that person in a relationship. It’s a “safe” and more explainable way of being commitment phobic — you can just blame it on the other person and never take responsibility for your own actions.
2. You are grappling with childhood issues. You may be with someone who reminds you of a parent — someone who is emotionally unavailable, someone who treats you badly, or who even abuses you. It may be as simple as someone who is always busy (just like dad was) or who seems to very subtly be rejecting you (just like mom). The dynamics may be “familiar,” but because they’re not exactly the same, you don’t associate them with the way you grew up. But you are determined to “win” this time around. If only you can make this relationship work, then it’s tantamount to making your parents into the ones you wanted. You are fighting a very old battle.
3. You fixate on their good qualities. Let’s face it, few people are bad to the bone. Even the worst people have their tender, loving, caring moments. You latch onto those, fixate on them, and become convinced that those moments are the “real” person. If only X, Y, or Z changed, the person would be loving and caring all of the time, you think — or at least most of the time.
4. You’re focused on the beginning of the relationship. Relationships with “jerks” — i.e. narcissists, sociopaths, emotionally unavailable people, or commitmentphobes — tend to start off wonderfully. People like that can be very charming at first. The change can be so subtle and gradual that you never saw it coming — or it can happen whiplash fast, so fast that you are totally confused and think you must have done something to bring on this change. You become totally fixated on how it was at the beginning, and obsessed with bringing that back. (P.S. It’s not coming back).
5. You won’t face reality. Passive commitment phobes and people who constantly latch onto bad partners often live in fantasyland, not reality. It’s a constant state of, “If only this happened, he would be like this.” “If only I could lose 20 pounds, he’ll stop cheating.” “If only he got a job he liked, he’d be less angry.” If you’re still with a jerk, ask yourself if you are with him, or some “future version” of him and why you think your future version is a basis for a real, right now relationship.
6. The s*xual chemistry is there, and it’s turned into real chemistry. You may have gotten involved with someone that, from the get-go, you knew was bad news or at least not your type. But for various reasons — maybe you were bored, lonely, or horny — you decide to engage in a s*xual relationship thinking that because this person isn’t what you would want long-term, you can keep it light. Unfortunately, bonding chemicals are your enemy. And s*x releases bonding chemicals. Now you’ve developed a very real and deep attachment to someone you probably never liked very much to begin with.
7. He promises to change. If you’ve actually gotten to the point where you want to end the relationship, there’s a chance the other person has suddenly decided he/she will totally change. He may even cry and beg and plead. So you stick around waiting for this promised change to happen — and perhaps it does. For awhile. But changing personality traits and habits is one of the most difficult things in the world to do. People don’t realize how difficult it is. Your lover probably does want to change, and probably thinks he can. Chances are, he can’t. Not unless he wants to for himself (not for you) and he begins taking action to make this happen. A lot of action. Saying it will not make it happen.
8. You’re avoiding something. You have problems that you don’t want to deal with. How much easier is it to spend your time worried about someone else’s problems than your own? And that’s what a problematic relationship gives you — plenty of time to obsess over what someone else is doing wrong than what you are doing wrong.
9. You can’t admit your mistakes. It takes a lot to admit that you chose wrong. Who wants to admit they made a mistake? Whether it’s refusing to fold your card hand or sell your money-pit house or tanking stock, people do not like to admit they misjudged someone or something and would often rather stay in it and try to “fix” it than fold ‘em and leave.
Have you ever stayed with a jerk too long?