by Joyce Bok
We know we are not treated right, so why do we keep going back?

Your partner says or does something to you, which does not sit right in your gut feeling. You feel bad. You feel angry. You feel triggered. You think, “that’s it!” “I am not putting up with this anymore!” And then you try to break it off. Then in the period you are away from him/her, you might start to feel better at first, but then feel worse later. You may be missing him/her, s/he may be trying to contact you and pursue you and you give in. Then before you know it, you are in his/her arms again. The pattern repeats itself. You wonder why and could you ever break it off? I ask you, do you really want to break it off or is it a game or pattern that you are so used to?

From what my clients tell me, there are a variety of reasons as to why they keep going back. They include:

Addiction to the person/pattern – These are unconscious needs. It could include being addicted to the drama and conflict. Often, the ‘making love’ is much better because there is an added ‘intensity’ to it. It is like a drug you need to feel ‘alive’ and alleviate bordeom or to avoid facing real intimacy. Nevertheless, you know it is not good for you and it is wearing you down, but you are addicted to it and perhaps at times, there are the highs that you get from it. Once it is taken away (cold turkey), you get withdrawal symptoms and crave for the person’s company despite the negative things that had happened.

Fear of being alone – You can’t face being alone for long. You start to think, “What if I never find someone else?” “What if I never find someone else who I can have the same amount of chemistry with?” etc. We have all types of fearful thoughts playing in our heads. We have an empty, hollow feeling in our hearts and we crave the company to fill up that hollow feeling in our lives.

Childhood fears/ hurts – All logic tells you that you are in an unhealthy relationship, but when you start to make the break, you are overwhelmed with uncomfortable emotions. It may be experienced as intense desperation, devastation, fear, pain, abandonment and/or rejection. These feelings take over and you become obsessed with the other person. You then go back.

The intense feelings may stem from childhood fears and hurts. Perhaps you felt abandoned or rejected in some way when you were a child, which had affected you quite deeply. If you think this applies to you, then perhaps some wounded child counseling or therapy with a professional may help you.

Attachment / love – Some people say they go back because they love the person or are attached to them. And perhaps that is true. You can be in love with the person, even if they don’t treat you right (obviously s/he was not like this in the beginning when you fell in love). The ‘can’t live with, can’t live without’, ‘love/hate’ or whatever type of relationship. But in my experience, love also has its limits.

The wounded child bond - You and your partner share a bond, the ‘wounded child’ bond. You both are close and intimate because you both had been through rough times as a child and been hurt. You both understand each other where no one else can understand to the level of depth that you both can. Thus when your partner does not treat you right, you can see that his/her inner child is reacting and hurting. You excuse him/her for her/his behaviour due to this because you feel ‘empathy’ or ‘compassion’ toward his/her inner-child.

This is quite a powerful bond, which can also be our weakness. It may be good to look at your inner child issues again and work it through with a professional.

Dependency or Codependency – The ‘can’t live without’ pattern. You are dependent on your partner or you and your partner are dependent on each other. It could be for love, reassurance, tolerance, to feel needed, money, or whatever. The fact is, you feel like you cannot live without the other person and that you cannot do certain things for yourself.  This usually stems from deep-seated unmet needs and roles that we had in our childhood, often from a dysfunctional family.

Guilt – Our partners may be very manipulative and know your weak spots. They can play on it and play on your guilt, obligation and sense of duty. You feel bad. You blame yourself. Somehow, you think that you have done wrong and need to make up for it.

Is it worth going back?

Do an advantages and disadvantages chart. It can seem like a tedious task, but it can help to see things visually and lay it out in front of you. List the advantages of staying. Include the qualities you like in the other person. Rate each advantage with how important they are to you or how intensely positive you feel about it, out of 10. Then do the same for the disadvantages. You can then compare the number of advantages/ benefits and disadvantages/costs and weigh them up. Also, don’t forget to take note of the ratings of each as the higher the rating, the higher its weighting.

Try to get a balanced perspective. Is there an alternative way of seeing the situation? Are you both caught up in a cycle? Are you and your partner willing to go counseling? What are the triggers in you and your partner? How much influence do you have in the conflicts?

Seek professional help with a psychologist, therapist and/or counselor.

How to break the pattern:

Become aware of the patterns, the part you play and the part your partner plays. It is like a dance. The pattern would not exist without your part to play in it.

Replace the ‘addiction’ by having your needs met rather than from your partner. Be aware of your personal triggers. Keep busy for a while, distract yourself. See and talk to friends or family instead of your partner if you are tempted to contact him/her. Find a new project that you can feel excited and passionate about. Notice the ‘high risk’ signs of getting back such as boredom, periods of being alone, unhelpful thoughts, etc.

Learning new skills, even if it is just life-skills as they can be boosting to your self-confidence and may assist you to move on and break the cycle.

Have a plan in place. If it gets really bad, you may have to change your phone number, email address and/or move places without your partner finding out. In cases of violence, it may be a good idea to talk to the police about getting a restraining order.


In summary, there are times when we need to contemplate on whether it is worth keeping a relationship or letting it go.  It may be helpful to take a step back and look at the costs and benefits of having the relationship in your life.  It would also depend on whether you and your partner are willing to look at understanding yourselves, take responsibility and be willing to learn and try new ways of interacting.  If you are definite that your relationship is costing you too much and want to end it but you are too fearful to leave, then I would suggest reaching out for help (Resources).

Disclaimer : The articles are of the opinion of the author only unless indicated otherwise. They are not written for individual advice. Please use your own discretion and make your own informed decisions about your situation.