Why Do People Stay In Toxic Relationships?

Toxic relationships. Image from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-signs-toxic-relationship

What makes love cross from being a thing of joy to being a thing of sorrow?

When a 20-year-old boy from Matili Technical Training Institute was recently reported to have committed suicide over love gone sour, he reminded me of all the numerous reports about young people committing suicide in our institutions of higher learning. I have a faint memory of a neighbour who died over a woman he loved and although I was just 10 years old, I remember very harsh words being said about the deceased and how it is was stupid of him to die for love. At the time, I didn’t know what love was (to be fair, I still do not know) or whether or not it was intelligent to die for it. But this funeral remained lodged somewhere in my brain and to a large extent, continues to colour my opinion about people who commit suicide, kill or even do other extreme things for love.  Before the Matili Technical Training Institute incident, there was the Moi University Student who was stabbed in a love triangle. That was followed by an assortment of stories about romance deaths across campuses in the country. But how do people get here; love to the point of irrationality?

Toxic relationships. Image from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-signs-toxic-relationship
Toxic relationships. Image from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-signs-toxic-relationship

Now if like me, you can try to forget the horrid illegality and criminality in these love-related deaths or even the violence that is continually reported in our media; if for a moment you can forget it might be really stupid to kill yourself at 20 years old over a girl you will part ways at the end of your campus life and perhaps never meet again, can we try to understand how we get here as human beings in love? And this does not just happen for the young in love. We have seen it happen across ages – from police officers shooting their colleagues or wives for this same thing called love to other stories about young people who while trying to see how love works out, end up maimed or even killed.

Now that we have agreed to put aside the thoughts of the horrible inhumanities that happen in some relationships by not judging them at face value, we can go back and look at the reasons why people remain in such toxic relationships. I mean, by the time someone gets up and kills you, surely there had been red flags. In fact, there are people who stay despite repetitive abuses and it is just mind boggling how some people seem to be enchanted by dangerous lovers.

Are you in a toxic relationship? Image from http://listovative.com/12-dangerous-signs-that-you-are-in-a-toxic-relationship/

So what are the reasons why people stay? Let’s try to walk a mile in their shoes and perhaps that way, we can be better friends or colleagues or sisters and brothers.


I had a lot of trouble digesting this point when I was first told until I came across a site that broke it down for me. Seemingly, people who have stayed in an abusing relationship for a little too long begin to have erosion in their self-esteem. Finding love again feels impossible for them who have been through toxic relationships and finding true love feels like a very huge task and therefore, rather than leave and remain alone, these people would prefer to stay and have some love rather than walk out and be lonely. In some cases, these people begin to feel that abusive relationships are actually the norm.

2. Confusing destruction with passion

There is an argument that people aged between 21-24 years old are emotionally volatile so what happens is that there are relationships where there are too many extremes and the people in the relationships become addicted to these extremes. Laura Yates on Thought Catalogue argues that constant fights and disagreements sometimes become too much a part of a relationship and the people involved may fail to distinguish between a relationship that is toxic for them and the normal ups and down in a relationship and hence, continue to stay on with devastating end results.

3. External pressure

It could be social, religious or even situational. For example, a woman who has already had a child with a partner might feel tied to this partner even if they display abusive qualities. Some people might also feel pressured by their friends to remain in a relationship because they believe that the abusive partner will change or because the guy is a catch, you know like a cool guy with muscles and a six-pack. There is also the pressure to keep up with appearances in the social spheres and this could make someone decide to stay on.

4. Reliance on the abusive partner

This could come in the form of economic reliance, especially. Sometimes people in abusive relationships stay because they may lack finances or a place to go and for these reasons, they prefer to just stay on in the toxic relationship and keep hoping that it turns out well for them or that their partner changes.

5. Confusing jealousy that borders on mental problems for love

Ever heard the stories about women whose boyfriends’ call them to quarrel any time a man posts something on their facebook timeline regardless of whether the post was a link to a newspaper article that the girl is interested or just a joke from campus days?  There is the tendency for women in such relationships to confuse insecurity from their partners to be love. This is the narrative that the girl who led to the murder of her boyfriend at Moi University told – the boyfriend saw her with another guy and felt insecure. This is not an isolated case.  A lot of (young) people stay in toxic relationships and fail to know when this has crossed over to become something very unhealthy.

Florence Bett in her article: Is your man irrationally jealous or just territorial writes that when you are in a relationship with a morbidly jealous man, you may not know it but you irk him every time you fight off his absurdity and one day, he will erupt. Perhaps this eruption is what we see manifesting in the various forms of crimes of love.

I am sure that I have not exhausted the reasons why people still stay in abusive relationships. Are you in a toxic relationship or do you know somebody who is in one? Why do you stay on?

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