One of the biggest fears people in unhealthy relationships have, is that if they call it as they see it and opt out, that maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon or possibly in 2025, this person may become a better person in a better relationship, with somebody else. This scares the beejaysus out of them because they’re afraid that what they experienced was particular to them hence if this person ‘changes’, it’s perceived as rejection and/or being ‘wrong’ and a ‘failure’.
“I wasn’t good enough to make him/her change. Why this person and not me? I gave my all. I put up with all sorts of crazy sh*t and they had X years of my life – if anybody deserves this change it’s me!”
This is why some people ‘protect their investment’ and reject that it’s not working by remaining in the situation even if it makes them utterly miserable.
Often when readers share their stories with me about why they’re remaining in a relationship or why they’re continuing to engage with an ex even though this person may have moved on to someone else, what becomes apparent is that sometimes we prioritise our need to be right over our need and desire to be happy.
Sometimes we prioritise our need to be right over our need and desire to be happy.
If you’re in this situation where you’re continuing to engage, the fact that it is continuing and they’re participating no matter what the capacity, communicates to you that they haven’t changed and so you can breathe easier in your uncomfortable comfort zone.
It’s like, “Well if I’m going to continue being unhappy, I can at least rest assured that they’re not out there having a better life as a changed person because they’re still texting / sexting / emailing / trying to sleep with me / sleeping with me / borrowing money / making the same BS promises etc.” If you’re No Contact and they stop making attempts, you panic and reach out just to make sure that they haven’t changed.
In the relationship it’s, “We could break up but if we don’t then nothing really has to change and I can stick to dodgy solutions in my people pleasing repertoire and focus on them. If we broke up, I’d have to change but more importantly they might change.”
You’d rather be right about how effed up it is but not so right that you’d act upon the information. Even a little bit of doubt is enough to keep you hooked in.
You know that things don’t look or feel right but you’re blinded because you’re making it about your worth or what you think you might have done to ‘provoke’ their behaviour.
It may feel personal to you, like a special performance of their character for the undeserving, especially if you’ve accepted the unacceptable as a means to ‘get’ their love and validation and so are feeling more than a little ‘owed’.
You want it to be 100% awful / 100% wrong because even 99% in your mind means ‘reasonable doubt’.
And so the cycle continues and you keep engaging and it’s as if you’d rather suffer now and not make a firm decision for fear that some time in the future, this person will change and that even if that time is in ten years time and you’ve actually moved on, you can’t bear the thought of being ‘wrong’. You might even hate the idea that somebody else will come along and recoup the return on your investment. It’s this reason alone why so many people fall for the Returning Childhood Not-Such-a-Sweetheart fantasy.
Continuing to engage with somebody because you’re comforted by the fact that at least you know that they haven’t changed isn’t a healthy reason to remain.
You’re being territorial even though you can’t actually accept this person as they are and forge a healthy, mutual relationship with them. It’s like “Yeah you’re not over your ex / can’t be trusted / an assclown but you’re my rebounder / liar / assclown.” You have to be careful of feeling entitled due to some ‘debt’ that you think you’re owed – it would be better to have standards and boundaries by not accepting shady behaviour or just flat out recognising when you’re no longer compatible.
Hanging around because you want to be doubly sure that they really are effed up and haven’t changed is really effed up not least because you are becoming the barrier to your own happiness and growth. The funny thing is that you may well be confirming that they haven’t changed but they’re also confirming that you haven’t either. They know that you’ve changed when you stop engaging or match your words and actions.
If you’re truly intent on doing right by you, it doesn’t matter about not being around to reap the ‘reward’ of their change because you will benefit from your own. Sure you can make your life about being right, but it’s better to learn from the feedback whether you’re ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and apply it so that you can be happy.