No matter how much progress women make in our society, there is still the same passe pressure to find a man, to get married and to grow old together.

From books, TV and movies to  friends, family and beyond, we hear it. Single is bad. Relationships are good.

And I’m not going to lie to you, relationships can be good. They can be amazing. But not all relationships are created equal. And this pressure to be in a relationship means that women sometimes value the idea of the relationship over their own happiness. It means they settle for something that is not making them happy or, worse, something that is abusive or dangerous. It means they stay in toxic relationships because they believe it’s better than the alternative.

Before we continue to discuss why women stay in toxic relationships, I want to be clear that a toxic relationship is one where there is dishonesty, disrespect and/or disregard. Examples of toxic relationships are:


Lying includes half truths, when your partner leaves out important information. It’s like when he says, “Hey, me and my co-workers are going for drinks after work.” But he left out the fact that he is having drinks with just one co-worker… of the opposite sex… who is going through a break-up. So, yes, half truths are still lies.


We all know that having sex with someone who is not your partner is cheating (unless it is agreed upon in your relationship). Emotional cheating is when your partner is consistently talking on the phone, texting, messaging on social media or having face-to-face conversations with someone with whom they have an emotional attachment. No, they have not had sex, but they have opened up their heart to this person and have romantic feelings.


This includes physical/emotional/sexual/verbal abuse. Hitting you, pushing you, cursing you out, calling you names, hitting walls, breaking things, talking down to you, moving forward with sex after you clearly have said no… I know this last one seems shocking, but just because you are in a relationship, it does not mean your partner can do whatever he likes to you. Your body is still your body.


Limiting your interactions with friends or family or making you feel guilty for enjoying yourself without them. They are secretive about their whereabouts, but they want to know your schedule. This includes gaslighting, starting fights so they have a reason to leave the house, shaming you for standing up for yourself, becoming abusive when things are not going their way or withdrawing from the relationship as a way of retaliation.

If you look at these examples of toxic relationships, you see that most of them can be misconstrued, meaning you know it is happening and you know how you feel, but it is difficult to explain or describe to others and sometimes even to yourself.

This is one of the main reasons we stay in toxic relationships. Society has made us think that if it’s not one of the BIG three — physical abuse, sexual infidelity or drug/alcohol abuse — then, “Honey, you have no cause for leaving.” You have probably heard this, or something similar: “If he ain’t hitting you, cheating on you or using drugs then you can work it out. Especially if he’s paying the bills.”

Reading this, you may be thinking, “Suntia, I think that society has evolved from this way of thinking.” And I wish that was true, but I see many women who have been told this by their friends, family or church leadership. On top of that, if it’s something we don’t have concrete proof of, others usually do not believe us. We are left feeling crazy and alone. And eventually we grow silent, we stop saying anything to others, and we give up the fight. We stay, and we are stuck living a life that is not our own.

That is not the only reason women stay in toxic relationships. The other reason is what I call “picture frame relationships.” This is when you create a big, beautiful picture of what you want your relationship to be. You have an Instagram-worthy image of your partnership, and you work diligently to sustain that facade, ensuring that others see it as real.

Yes, you know he is lying, cheating and being manipulative. However, you have invested too much time into the relationship and the image of the relationship to let go of it. You are ready to get married or already married, and you want to keep up appearances. Maybe you are afraid of being alone, and you don’t know if you can keep up your lifestyle without your man.

I truly believe the “picture frame relationship” is more common than ever. With the overwhelming popularity of social media, women constantly compare their relationships with others. Plus, no matter how much you want to change your situation, changing your relationship status to “single” is, well, unimaginable.

So you stay and you tolerate disrespectful behavior from your partner because what would “they” say if you left? And who would you be without your relationship?

But by staying in a toxic relationship, you are not loving the most important person: you. I know, I know, it’s a little cliché, but is it not true? You tolerate mistreatment in the name of love; however, their actions do not make you feel loved. Or maybe they do — because this is the only type of “love” you have known.

Think about this: If you were to love yourself, make yourself a priority, ensure you achieve your goals and pay your own bills, you would feel valuable and you would not need others to make you feel good about yourself. If you loved yourself, you would be able to leave someone who said they loved you but treated you badly. You would be whole before they arrived and you would be whole after they left.

So let’s just say our goal was not having a perfect relationship. Let’s say we did not attach our personal value to our relationship status. Let’s say our goal in life was to rock it out! Be happy! Be successful as we define success! Be open to give and receive love! Spend time with family and friends! Be at peace!

And as you navigate on this vibration in life, you are in tune with your intuition and you KNOW when it’s time to let something or someone go.

I believe that what separates the girls from the women is that girls need proof. Women just need their intuition. A girl needs to catch her man in the act. A woman does not need evidence, arrest or trial before they come up with a verdict. They have had experiences that give them wisdom, and they listen to that inner voice that guides them.

But when your aim is perfection, you no longer listen to your inner voice. You are so focused on keeping the relationship together and sustaining that perfect image, you don’t listen to the truth.

And you suffer. You suffer in silence. You feel alone. You cannot trust others because you are afraid they will confront your partner or tell other people or tell you that you need to leave.

So you continue to pretend that everything is okay while enduring the disrespectful, demeaning, disregarding behavior. And the more a woman pretends that everything is okay, the more she loses herself and that measurement of what is real, what is a lie and what is part of the facade. That’s when you become desensitized to your partner’s behavior. Subconsciously, you have accepted your life, and that acceptance manifests itself as excuses. For example:

    • Yes, he cheats, but he takes care of me and the children.
    • Yes, he is a alcoholic, but his father was one too.
    • Yes, he hits me, but I make him so mad and jealous.
    • Yes, he doesn’t tell me everything, but he only wants to protect me.
    • Yes, he talks down to me, but I don’t pay him any attention.
    • Yes, he doesn’t treat me right, but where will he go without me?
    • Yes, he lies sometimes, but I do not want him to be with anyone else.
  • When I think about this, I think of the Maya Angelou quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” It’s about having confidence in your own intuition and keeping people in your life who respect you, love you and treat you as you deserve to be treated.Don’t stay in a toxic relationship out of fear or because you hope to change someone or because you can see their potential. Do not stay in a toxic relationship because of what other people will say or think if you leave, or because you are not quite sure what life will be like with your relationship status set to “single.”

    Instead, look at how your partner treats you. Ask yourself, Do you deserve better?

    Now I want to turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on why women stay in toxic relationships? Maybe you, like me, have been in a toxic relationship in the past and have good advice for other women. Together, we can step out of silence to help your fellow sisters and give them strength to leave bad relationships behind and find the happiness they deserve.