Being in an unhealthy relationship can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Yet some people choose to stay in an unhealthy relationship for months and even years without making the effort to get out of it. Some of you may ask, “Why would someone remain in an unhealthy relationship?” To help understand what an unhealthy relationship is, why someone chooses to remain in a unhealthy relationship and what someone can do to get out of it I have interviewed therapist Russ Baker.
Tell me a little about yourself.
“I’ve been a Licensed Professional Counselor since 2000. Before that, I worked as a paraprofessional for about 10 years. I worked in adolescent residential treatment facilities and a freestanding children’s psychiatric hospital. I’ve been in private practice since 2004, shortly after getting back from being deployed to Iraq. Also in 2004, I earned the National Certified Counselor accreditation. About half of my practice is children and adolescents. The other half is adults. I have two specialties. Stress management/relaxation techniques and working with victims of abuse. I have done extensive work, research, and counseling with children and adults on attachment disorders and relationship disorders.”
What is considered an unhealthy relationship?
“An unhealthy relationship is any relationship where one or both parties cause the other emotional, mental and/or physical harm. This includes coercive behaviors.”
Why are there some people who remain in an unhealthy relationship?
“I’ve found that most often people remain in an unhealthy relationship because of low self-esteem and/or low self-confidence. They feel they only deserve an abusive relationship, generally after years of someone belittling them and telling them they don’t deserve better. Some, however, stay because of financial concerns, fear of reprisal, or any number or combination of other reasons.”
How can someone identify that they are in an unhealthy relationship?
“By how they feel emotionally. Not just about the relationship, but also about their life in general. Do they feel happy and enjoy life and being in the relationship? Or, do they feel trapped? Do they look forward to spending time with the other person? Do they feel loved and needed? Are others telling them the relationship is a bad one, or commenting on their lack of happiness?”
What can they do to get themselves out of an unhealthy relationship?
“Plan, plan, and plan. Then leave. They can ask for help, from supportive persons or even the police.”
What advice would you like to leave for someone who knows of someone who is in a unhealthy relationship but is having a difficult time getting out of it?
“Be supportive. Not judgmental. Do not speak of the abusive partner negatively. Help them create, add to, or use their support system. Offer them hope, and assistance if requested. Help them understand the relationship is unhealthy. Talk with them honestly about why they feel they are staying in an unhealthy relationship.”