Toxic Relationships & Why We Keep Going Back For More

black woman on the floor sitting next to bed crying with hand on her face
Why does anyone keep going back for more when they know, deep down, that they're in a toxic relationship? It's time we talked about it. 

Most of the time, we don’t realize we’ve allowed a toxic person into our lives until it’s too late (I’m being dramatic, it’s never too late to let a toxic person go). But the longer you’re around toxic people, the hard it becomes to take that step.

I’ll use myself as an example. I was in a serious relationship with possibly the most toxic person I’ve ever met (romantically, at least). 

I was head-over-heels in love with him and yet, as time passed, I would feel less and less myself. But I couldn’t let him go; I didn’t want to. 

Not only was he something familiar and comfortable, but his toxicity also influenced me to the point where I didn’t think anyone would want me.  That, without him, no one would love me. 

It’s messed up, I know. While my self-esteem was low when I met him, it slipped into his full control during our relationship. He would squeeze my self-esteem if I strayed too far out of line, and release it just when I was on the brink of letting him go.

I would gather the courage to move on, and then find my way go straight back into his arms. This lasted for four years.

I spent those four years dedicating my existence to him. I lost out of valuable friendships and experiences in hopes of gaining love and security. 

But why did I keep going back for more? Why does anyone keep going back for more when they know, deep down, that they’re in a toxic relationship? 

couple holding hands in front of a black and white wall

The Inevitable End

Here’s the thing with toxic relationships, they can’t last. I mean, they can, but at some point, you realize you’re living in unhappiness. And that’s when you realize you have a choice. You can leave or stay.

Yet, so many of us try to stay, hoping they’ll change. They’ll never change as long as you’re with them. 

As long as your partner is getting what they want from you, why would they change? More importantly, why do you think you can make them change?

This person is making (and keeping) you small for a reason. To change would mean to give up that power and have you as an equal in the relationship. 

You cannot change your toxic partner; only they can come to that realization and take that step forward for themselves. In the meantime, all you can do is give them the space to go through that process – which means letting them go. 

But, deep down, I know you’re aware of this. Yet, you’re still in the relationship. Why?

Why We Keep Going Back For More

The reasons why we keep going back for more isn’t as complex as you may think. And honestly, I think you already know the reasons why. But sometimes you just need a reminder. 

So, why do we keep returning back to toxic relationships?

It’s what we know

Even a toxic relationship can give us some sort of comfort. It’s what we know; it’s comfortable.

Your partner may make you feel horrible, but it’s not much different from how you feel on other days. There’s a consistency.

It’s easier than starting all over

I once had this thought in my head when it came to my ex. We had a horrible fight and for a moment, I imagined the break-up and having to find love again. It’s work. 

Not everyone wants to put in the work, so they decide it’s easier to stay in an unhealthy and unsatisfying relationship instead. It’s crazy, I know. But going through the ups and downs of a break-up is scary to a lot of people. 

Staying in a relationship may seem easier, but it’s not. Instead, you put your body and mind through more emotional and mental trauma.

We have unresolved trauma

It’s funny how trauma can appear later in our lives. Whether it’s a past experience of being cheated on or watching your parents divorce, the trauma seeps into our lives in different ways.

If we don’t accept and resolve the trauma, we run the risk of having it enter our intimate relationships.

We’re insecure

When you lack self-worth and self-esteem, you open the door for other people to determine how you feel, think, and act. 

We put ourselves into the hands of others instead. And for toxic people, this is like stealing candy from a baby. It gives them the green light to abuse and take advantage of you.

If you keep going back for more, your self-esteem plays a huge role in this.

We seek validation

I get it, you want to feel loved and that you’re worthy of love. But that validation doesn’t come from another person; it comes from within. 

When you seek validation from others, it puts the power in their hands. They get to control how you feel about yourself. 

Becoming aware of your desire to return to your toxic partner is the first step in rebuilding your self-esteem and doing what’s best for you.

Are you going to have moments where you’ll want to contact your ex? Of course, you’re only human. But there are some things you can do to prevent that from happening. 

Change your perspective on ending things

Breaking up with someone is hard. It feels horrible and takes a lot of time to heal. And many people return to their toxic relationship because the loss is too much for them. They would rather stay than experience grieving. 

But, this is a great opportunity to change how you see loss. This isn’t so much a loss as it is a learning experience. You learned a valuable lesson and now, you need to take the lessons and use them to find a healthy relationship.

Cut all contact

I know this is a hard one, but you need to do this. If you want to genuinely heal yourself, you need to cut all contact with this person. 

Social media, texting, pigeon mail – whatever it is, delete all their information. Block and delete their number, I’m serious. 

If you really want to change, then you need to make sure they won’t derail your progress. Cleanse them from your life, and give yourself the space to heal and grow.

Let go of the fantasy

You had this vision of who your partner could have been and how your life would be. But that’s not reality. 

It wouldn’t have mattered what you did. You could have given your partner the world, and that wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

Let go of the “would have, could have” ideas in your head. And instead, focus on improving yourself and creating the life you want on your own. 

Rebuild your self-esteem

Your self-worth and self-esteem were in the hands of another person. If you don’t want to keep going back for more, you need to build yourself up again on your own. 

Instead of focusing on bad thoughts about yourself, it’s time to embrace the beautiful things about you (because you are beautiful). Every day, write down the positive attributes about yourself, acknowledge them, and accept them as the truth.

This will help you build yourself up, brick by brick.

Create your standard for love

You set the standard for the love you deserve. If you want to enter a healthy and respectful relationship, you’ll need to accept your past and set the boundaries. 

If you don’t set the boundaries, you run the risk of reentering another toxic relationship and starting the whole cycle all over again.

To move forward, accept the past and decide how you want to live in the future.

Final Thoughts

Even as a self help writer, I had to learn from these experiences as well. What’s important is that you genuinely learn from your toxic relationship to avoid repeating it again.


On Key

Related Posts

two white women on couch laughing

Is My Relationship Toxic? Signs of a Toxic Relationship

So, if you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you’re not feeling good about your relationship. If you’re asking yourself, is my relationship toxic? It’s time to know the signs. Here are the signs of a toxic relationship.

indian couple on mountain

How to Know if You Met the One

You’ve met someone that you’re sure is the one. Now, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. I don’t even know you! But here’s the thing, are they really the one? Here’s how to know if you met the one.

Looking for real connection?

Get real relationship and dating advice straight to your email now.