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January 10, 2022

If You’ve Ever Been “Stuck” In An Unhappy Relationship, Read This

Feeling stuck or trapped in an unhealthy relationship is a tale as old as time. Cognitively you understand that the relationship is dysfunctional, perhaps even toxic, yet something keeps pulling you back in. You know that this is a situation you need to get out of yesterday, yet somehow you keep finding yourself locked into the vicious cycle of high highs, low lows, breaking up then making up. 


There are a few important reasons why this happens, and a few important solutions. 


Note: for purposes of simplicity, I’m going to leave out of this article scenarios in which a person is stuck in a relationship because they are being held against their will, financially manipulated, or abused, God forbid. If you come across anything of that nature, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233 immediately). 


One of the reasons we get stuck in dysfunctional relationships is that, either by our parents or by previous romantic partners, stable relationships were improperly modeled for us (or not modeled at all). Therefore, while we are experts in how unsuccessful, unhappy relationships look, sound, and feel, we don’t know what healthy love looks like and how to engage with it. 


Another reason is that, above all, human beings seek and default to familiarity; the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t. So even if we are miserable in our relationship, we will always adapt to and select what we are familiar with over new and different possibilities. 


Another reason is the Pursuer-Distancer cycle, one of the most common indicators of relationship discord. Basically, we humans do this very bizarre thing where, when one partner (the distancer) withdraws their love and attention from us and acts cold and distant, the other partner (the pursuer) tends to chase after the distancer even more. And so the cycle is born, and so we get sucked in. 


The list goes on. There are almost as many explanations for why people get stuck in unhappy relationships as there are unhappy relationships. 

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If you want to break out of an unhappy relationship, AKA get yourself unstuck, there are three things that will need to happen regardless of why or how you ended up there: 


First, your suffering has to be sufficiently intolerable that being done with the relationship seems better than staying in it.

Basically, you have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. Until you hit this point, you will most likely stay.


Second, you will have to see yourself from a different perspective, and perhaps even adopt a new identity.

That is, see yourself not as someone who is trapped and can’t get out, but as someone who is an agent of change and has the power to walk away. If you see yourself as a victim, you will remain one. 


Last, and this is the hardest one, you will have to take action and change your behavior, no matter how hard it is.

That could mean ending the relationship, blocking phone numbers, moving out, and so forth. This requires bold-faced courage, faith, and discipline -- and there is simply no way around it. 


If you want to know how ready you are to leave, ask yourself how well you’re doing on each of the three points above. Rate yourself on each using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “I’m not ready at all” and 5 is “I’m ready to do this today.” From there, you’ll know where you stand and you can take the most rational and productive next step. 


And remember, though you may feel stuck, you are not stuck. Deep down, you always have the power and the courage within you to walk away and start anew.

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