What Makes Someone Feel Trapped in a Relationship?

People who resist leaving bad relationships may experience internal conflict.
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You may have family or friends who stay in relationships that are bad for them. Although they may complain about being unhappy, there are many reasons why certain individuals feel trapped and unable to leave a relationship. Understand what makes a person feel trapped so that you can sympathize and possibly help if help is warranted.

1 Emotional Dependence

Some people will stay in an unhappy relationship because they prefer not to be alone, according to marriage and family therapist Darlene Lancer in "Are You Trapped & Unhappy in Your Relationship" for Psych Central. The feeling of needing to be in a relationship makes him dependent on his romantic partner for validation and self-worth, and makes it hard for him to leave the relationship. He may feel trapped because he does not want to be lonely and fears that he will never meet another person who will date him. His insecurities could be keeping him with his girlfriend, especially if he centered his whole life around her -- friends, classes and hobbies.

2 Feeling Responsible or Obligated

Someone might feel unable to leave a relationship if she has taken responsibility for the other person and feels obligated to take care of him. If she is the type to try to "save" a guy when dating him, she may enjoy taking on the role of being a caretaker and might fear the thought of not being needed. If her boyfriend has a tough home life or no friends at school, she may view herself as the only stable person he has and feel that she has to stay with him. She might have a hard time not feeling responsible for his actions or feelings.

3 Fear of Hurting Feelings

Even though the relationship isn't working out, a person may feel too scared to break up for fear of hurting his girlfriend's feelings. He may feel especially guilty if she hasn't done anything wrong. He might also be a people-pleaser and not want to upset her. It is not fair to either person if one stays in the relationship despite being unhappy, says D. Ivan Young, PhD, in "Break Up, Don't Break Down: A Relationship Manual Survival For Surviving Breakups, Separation and Divorce."

4 Manipulation or Abuse

Being in a physically, emotionally or psychologically abusive relationship can make someone feel that she has to stay with her abuser. She may be scared for her own safety or the safety of her family and friends, especially if he has threatened to hurt her if she breaks up with him. He may also be manipulative and guilt her into staying by threatening to hurt himself or commit suicide. To prevent any harm from happening, she may believe she has no choice but to stay in the relationship, says psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker in the Psych Central article "Why Women Stay with Controlling Men."

Sarah Casimong is a Vancouver-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She writes articles on relationships, entertainment and health. Her work can be found in the "Vancouver Observer", "Her Campus" and "Cave Magazine".