Why Do We Stay in Bad Dating Relationships?


Samantha has a hard time hanging out with her friend Paula, but it’s not because of Paula. It’s because of Jason, Paula’s boyfriend. Samantha can’t stand the way he treats Paula. He yells at her, threatens to leave if she doesn’t do exactly what he says, and makes disparaging comments right in front of her. 

But Paula thinks she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to leave the relationship. It’s driving Samantha crazy, and she’s really concerned Paula is going to marry this guy and regret it forever. 

Why do some people stay in relationships that are unhealthy for them? Here are a few thoughts on how well-meaning people can sometimes end up getting “stuck” in painful dating relationships.

1. They’ve Seen Only Poor Examples

Sometimes we find ourselves in poor relationships because we don’t know how valuable we are. We actually don’t know how we should be treated, because no one has ever shown us.

When a woman is dating a man who doesn’t cherish and respect her, it is possible she comes from a dysfunctional family, where the parents fought all the time and didn’t treat each other very well. This can certainly play a role in what she expects her future to look like.

2. They Have a Painful Family Life

Another reason some of us stay in bad relationships is that our parents didn’t show us love and value.

Much of the time, we get a huge chunk of our self-worth from our parents. For women in particular, the relationship with the father is important. When our dads treat us with delight, cherish us, pour out their attention on us, and make us feel loved, we have a much better understanding of our worth.

My dad was really good with me, and this helped me connect more with God. I was able to feel God’s love for me in part because I could feel my earthly dad’s love. I knew I had worth because my dad showed me.

Our personal sense of worth and value has a lot to do with the way we see the opposite sex in general and the way we see ourselves.

3. They Don’t Know Their True Identity

Do you agree with the following statements?

  • I am worth dating.
  • I am worth someone’s time and attention.
  • I am worth being treated with respect.
  • I am worth someone’s delight.

All of these things are true for you. It is important you understand your value and really take it to heart.

We need to know how God sees us and how much we are loved. If we don’t know who we are, we can end up making poor decisions in relationships.

Men, on the Other Hand…

Now that we’ve discussed the female end of things, why would a man stay with someone who treats him badly? This is not as common as it is with women, yet there are situations where men choose to stay with women who are abusive in some way.

In these situations, the man likely deals with a lack of security and—just as it is with women—a lack of knowledge concerning his worth. The answer for him is to understand his value and have the courage to step out of a situation that is harming him.

No matter our gender, whether we are dating or single, have regrets or have never dated anyone in our lives, this is one of the all-important keys to dating well: We need to get to know our heavenly Father and find healing for the hurting spots within us. This enables us to be ourselves—our real selves—and we are then able to make much better decisions when it comes to dating and relationships.


For more information on discovering your worth and identity, get a copy of Salomé’s book, Becoming the One. Click here to learn more.