Why Do We Stay in an Unhealthy Relationship?

Sometimes I get a call and they tell me this situation, they are not married, have no kids and have been with their partner for many years but they fight all the time. They can’t be together for an entire day without fighting. Then I am told that they want to work on the relationship to make it better, to find a way to communicate that will work. I ask them, “Why do you want to stay in the relationship?” and they tell me it is because they love their partner or when it is good, it is wonderful. Why would you choose a partner that you fight with constantly? Why stay in an unhealthy relationship? 

Here are some reasons. 

1. You don’t know what a healthy relationship is. You have a low comparison level and low expectations. If you have grown up in a home that is just as unhealthy then this environment is what is expected. Sometimes I will give an example of a healthy conversation to a client and they are surprised that I am suggesting it as a possibility because it seems impossible to them. They can’t even imagine a relationship that works like that, with respect and consideration from both partners.

2. You don’t think you deserve any better and you believe the alternative would be worse. This usually occurs if the person has low self esteem. They don’t think they deserve any better than this. So they settle and continue to try to fix what they have. 

3. Your fear is holding you there. Fear of being alone, fear of being judged or laughed at, fear of not knowing where to go and fear of disappointing someone. These fears immobilize you. 

4. You are used to the drama and toxicity and you are comfortable with it. The drama is exciting, there is adrenaline that pumps in you when you fight. It is stimulating. Also some people have grown up in this sort of an environment and it is known and comfortable. There are so many people who care more about having security and comfort than they care about having peace of mind. 

When two people fight and don’t see eye to eye, sometimes it is no ones fault, it is just not a good fit. You are very different people, from different backgrounds, different values, different expectations, different desires and neither of you is wrong you are just not a match. Don’t try to force a relationship that doesn’t fit and is a continual struggle. I understand that there will be struggles in a relationship but that is not what we are talking about here. And we are not talking about staying together for the children or because you hit a rough patch after years of marriage. Those are different scenarios. 

Dating is a time to find a life partner that will be a good match for you. Don’t just settle for the wrong person because of the reasons I mentioned above. Be strong enough to walk away and try again. This is a choice that you will be dealing with for years to come so make a wise choice.


Is your relationship experiencing the holiday stress?

Is the holiday stress starting to crowd in on you and your spouse? I know that this time of the year brings some unique challenges. So what is so different about this month of December? Here are a few possibilities of what might be causing stress in your home.

  • You are not in agreement over how much should be spent on the holiday.
  • There are still the usual demands at work but now your schedule is extra busy with holiday festivities at school, church or with friends and family. Shopping takes time too. How do you fit it all in?
  • Pressure from family and friends. How can we make everyone happy including the in-laws, extended family, grandparents, kids and friends. Who do we celebrate with?
  • Different expectations, each of you were raised with unique holiday traditions. What do you do now?

These are just a few challenges that come up at this time. When you see your partner starting to stress out, what can you do? Well being quick to give advice is not the answer. According to Dr. Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,

“The cardinal rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution,”

Usually the responsibility of juggling gift giving and parties falls on the wife. I know this is a stereotype but let’s just go with it for discussion sake. If the husband starts with the advice then it can put the wife on the defense. She needs to know that he understands and agrees with her view before he can tell her what to do. This means being supportive. Give statements that show you get it.

Wives are not the only ones under stress, each of you need to be open to the other when they want to share what is stressing them out. If you see signs of your partners stress then come along side them, show support instead of judgement and let them know that you are a team together. The feeling of being alone in the stress is often what makes it worse.

Also you may need to discuss holiday expectations. Each of you should think about what is important to you. You can write down a few things that are at the top of your list for the holiday season. I don’t mean gifts but what makes the holiday special to you? Do you like to go as a family and pick out a live tree? Do you remember baking cookies or having a special meal? Do you have a family movie night or give gifts to children in need? Once you both share your ideas then work together to decide which you can make happen.

I want you to have the best holiday possible so make your relationship the priority and care for each other. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support or have questions for us!  We are always here to help. Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Concierge Parent

The Concierge Parent

Whether your kid is one of 5.9 million with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or not, it’s probably safe to say that you as the parent are the one paying most attention on your child’s behalf. Parents have gotten out of control on this front.  You have become your kid’s eyes, ears and brain.  You stand up straight and snap to attention when your kid’s teacher or coach starts talking at orientation while your kid sits their bored, playing on their smartphone, completely disinterested.  And then you ask me why your kids are not more independent, self-reliant and responsible for themselves.  Are you kidding me?

Here’s the problem.  You are a concierge parent (that label coined by Julie Lythcott-Haims).  Just as a hotel concierge does all he can do to make your vacation a perfect and hassle-free experience you try to do the same for your kids life.  You look ahead at what possible pitfalls, obstacles and challenges your kids may face and race ahead to smooth out the path so there are no hills for them to climb (or, God forbid, a valley).  You pay for every possible opportunity so that your child can have every experience… like enrolling them in sports at three years old, hiring a tutor for your first-grader so they can have a fifth grade reading level so they can be better prepared for college by second grade.  There are some parents who take their 8 year old kids on first class vacations around the world so they can “experience life.”  Again… Are you kidding me?  Have them go outside and ride bikes with the neighbors… that’s life.

Fast forward to young adult-hood.  Colonel Leon Robert, professor at West Point said this: “Graduates exit West Point with the rank of second lieutenants in the Unites States Army.  the great majority are great men and women doing the right thing.  But there are a creeping number who have parents that over-manage them, such as by driving them to their first assignment.  That’s totally inappropriate.  You don’t need your mother to show up at the front gate of Fort Bragg with you, or help you find an apartment.  You’re twenty-one or twenty-two years old.  You need to deal with the landlord yourself.  That’s part of learning to act as an adult.  Our graduates are mature leaders of character well prepared to lead America’s sons and daughters and with all the right tools to be successful at the tasks the army will require of them.  However, there are a small percentage of parents that will not, or cannot, ‘let go” and continue to hover over their adult children.” I haven’t worked with families associated with West Point but I’ve worked with thousands of others who have similar stories.

Here’s the take away for you… empower your kids.  Get out of their way.  Stop being their concierge, planning their every activity, wrapping them in bubble wrap to prevent pain, paving the way for a perfect life experience.  You’re intention is to help them, I know.  But you can be certain you are hurting them, instead.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith