Toxic Relationships

Why do we stay even when we’re no longer happy?

by Gloria Battini

It’s happened to a lot of us, whether it’s an intimate relationship, a friendship, a member of our family or maybe even at work: you know it’s wrong for you, you know you’re not happy anymore, and yet, you stay. 

What is it exactly that keeps you from freeing yourself from the trap?

In my previous blog (read here) I touched on a few things that can define unhealthy relationships and ultimately gave my own definition: unhealthy is any relationship that doesn’t empower you to fully be yourself. What this tells you is that, actually, it’s not that complicated to determine whether someone is right or wrong for you. Can you fully be yourself with them without feeling judged, guilt tripped, inadequate, wrong, not enough, shamed or bullied? If the answer is no then there you go, you know that relationship isn’t good and it’s time for you to leave.


But it’s not that simple. 


Even though deep down, at the unconscious level, you do know when someone is bad for you (because your soul always knows), your rational mind takes a little longer to catch up.


At this point I feel it’s important to touch on the basic function of our brain: survival. 


Surprise surprise: The brain isn’t there to make you happy…

You’d think that happiness would be amongst the primary brain functions… it would be lovely, but no, that’s not the case I’m afraid. Your brain is there to protect you. 


In simple words: this super advanced computer that lives in our skull and of which we can only use a small percentage has been assigned the function of “survival at all costs”, so, to fulfil its duty, it’s been gathering information since the day you came into this world. It observes your emotional reactions, what makes you feel good and bad, what is extreme cause of stress… every little detail it can gather, and from that data it creates your beliefs (about yourself and the world around you) and your behavioural patterns. 


The way the brain learns stuff is by repetition. The more you do/experience/think something, the more it becomes familiar (you get used to it). “Familiar” in brain language means safe.


So let’s go back to those relationships now. 


Safety in the unhealthy patterns

So if the brain thinks that familiar equals safe, can you see how a long term unhealthy relationship can feel normal? 


The more you stay in a certain situation the more your brain learns to tolerate it, and when that happens the changes start to affect you at a deeper level, in many cases even affecting how you perceive yourself (your identity). 


Imagine you start dating someone and you don’t 100% agree with every single one of their behaviours (which is totally normal btw) but the longer you date, the more you discover other things about them and you start falling in love. You haven’t forgotten about the “annoying little things” but your relationship has developed in such a way that you learn to let those other “little things” go, they’re less important. You get used to them and they become less of a problem. 


In healthy relationships where you can fully be yourself and create a partnership where you learn to collaborate with one another and in a respectful and loving way, these little things remain just that: little things. 


It’s very different when it comes to unhealthy relationships. 


In an unhealthy relationship things like shame, guilt, feeling inadequate, wrong, not enough or being bullied day in and day out are the familiar things and when this happens an identity level change takes place. When you experience these feelings daily, a “disconnection” happens at such a deep level that it can lead you to forget what you like, what you believe in and sometimes even who you are. 


Loss of identity 

When you experience such loss your drive is no longer coming from within and from your sense of self but is now transferred to the external world. These are some ways (not the only ways) in which this might show up in your life:

🔸 You put the needs of others before your own; 

🔸 You are confused about your purpose; 

🔸 You don’t know what you like anymore;

🔸 You find it difficult making decisions and often rely on other people’s advice to make up your mind; 

🔸 You feel that you wouldn’t make it on your own;

🔸 You rely on other people’s opinion of you to define your value/sense of self worth;

🔸 You become codependent; 

🔸 You feel responsible for making other people happy;

🔸 You experience high levels of stress and anxiety;

🔸 Low self-esteem;

Just to name a few.


When for a long time this is how you feel on a daily basis in your relationships, whether it’s at work, with a partner, in your family or with your close friends, your brain thinks that this is normal, simply because it doesn’t know the difference, because it’s been the repeated reality for a long time.


Stress has become normal. Low self esteem has become normal. Basically: survival has become the normal way to operate and therefore, because for the brain feeling safe is better than feeling uncomfortable, you stay in those relationships because the thought of leaving is just too much. 


Finding yourself and learning a new way

The good thing is that you know. You always know. Deep down you always have the answer and you do know that something is not good for you and you’re not happy. 

Leaving an unhealthy relationship has never been a case of not being aware. You know. You are aware, at least to a certain extent. 


The reason why you’re staying is because deep down you don’t think you can do it on your own. It’s because your belief in yourself has moved so far out of you that you are searching for your happiness outside rather than within.


Two things must happen here to bring you back home to yourself:

🔸 Shift your focus from outside to within. 

🔸 Face your fear. 


Once the focus has shifted it’s likely that you will come face to face with some things that will for sure be uncomfortable and perhaps sometimes painful too and it’s at this very moment that your brain will send you all the signals to hold back and revert to the old way, but that’s ok, because that’s what it was programmed to do. It doesn’t know better. 


The one who does know better, is you. You have the power to teach your brain a new way. It’s up to you to push your own limits and make the uncomfortable become comfortable so that your brain can reach new levels. So that you can create your own life the way you want it. It’s like holding the remote control, you choose what channel to watch, you give the command. 


If you are in a relationship that is not making you happy the only one who can change anything is you, nobody else. 


What are we here for if not giving ourselves the best chance? 



Gloria xx

Gloria is a certified Life and Personal Performance Coach (ICF), Narcissistic Abuse Survivor and has also fully recovered from OCD. She helps women come home to themselves by healing from the aftermath of toxic relationships, overcoming anxiety, setting healthy boundaries and re-establishing a deep connection to their soul. Her unique method combines Coaching, Astrology and Moonology

While Coaching is the main tool she uses, each session is infused with intuitive wisdom, a close look at your personal astrology, the use of oracle cards and different visualisation and meditation techniques, it’s very unique to each person. In her sessions, she also often includes “mini trainings” on how the brain works. Gloria believes that knowledge is power and very often the mere understanding of why your brain is doing what it’s doing helps you be in control of your mind and thoughts.

Working with Gloria you will learn how to reprogram your brain and get rid of the limitations that have led your life up until this moment as well as how to use those powerful and invisible energies that are abundantly available to us. This allows you to create an effortless life because you’re leading in a way that is most natural to your soul. 

If you feel called to explore this further or you have questions, get in touch through the contact form below or book a free 30 mins consultation.