What Are the Dangers of Staying in an Unhealthy Relationship for Too Long?

Though ending an unhealthy relationship is difficult, the rewards outweigh the costs.
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It is a tragic fact that nearly 1 in every 10 high school students report that a dating partner has physically harmed them intentionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unhealthy relationships can range from mildly dysfunctional to overtly abusive, and they can involve family, friends, or romantic partners. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the associated risks and dangers of an unhealthy relationship until after the damage has been done.

1 Putting Your Other Relationships at Risk

Your time, energy, and emotional resources are limited. When you spend a great deal of time in an unhealthy relationship, you have less time to invest in building the kind of quality relationships that will truly enhance your life. People who care about you may become frustrated or disappointed with your decision to maintain a relationship they believe is harmful to you. Some may put their relationship with you on hold or even end it as a result.

2 Falling Into an Addiction

Professionals from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center warn that those who experience fear and anxiety when they consider leaving an unhealthy relationship may actually be dealing with an addiction-like situation. People struggling with an addictive relationship bear many similarities to those battling addictions to alcohol or drugs. For example, they may continue the unhealthy behavior, despite being aware of the negative consequences. They may leave the relationship for short periods of time, and then return to it in a seemingly never-ending cycle.

3 Suffering Psychological Harm

The longer your stay in an unhealthy relationship, the more difficult it can become to end it. In addition to the damage to your self-esteem, you may also experience fear, anxiety, or other emotions that have a negative impact on your psychological well-being. In addition, the CDC warns that when you become accustomed to receiving abusive treatment in dating relationships as a teen, you will be more likely to accept that type of treatment from others in the future. Unhealthy relationships can form a self-perpetuating cycle from which it can be difficult to escape.

4 Getting Help

In many cases, people involved in unhealthy relationships may have a great deal of difficulty either changing the dynamics of that relationship or ending it completely. Psychologists and counselors are professionally trained to help you evaluate your relationship and to assist you in making healthy choices. If the unhealthy relationship in question is abusive, it is especially important to enlist the support of a professional who can guide and support you. Ending an unhealthy relationship or implementing changes to make it more healthy may not be easy, but with the help of friends and professionals, it is possible.

Based in beautiful central New Jersey, Dr. Michele Blood leverages her knowledge of human behavior to write compelling copy for a variety of print and digital outlets including Skydive Jersey's SkyBlog, gDecide.com, ProQuest, SoloPRPro, and FindLaw, a Reuters subsidiary.