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Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

Dating in today’s society is difficult. It’s like navigating a mine field. Once people finally find someone they can settle down with, they want that relationship to last. Even if it means settling when they feel unhappy in the relationship, have to tolerate discomfort in the relationship, and convincing themselves that the relationship will be better some day.

No one wants to be sad for sure. But why so many people choose to stay in an unhappy relationship even though they find it unfulfilling?

Think about life before anyone entering a relationship. They were going along, relatively happy, free and doing their own thing.

    Then they met and possibly fell in love with their partner. And things changed.

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      It was great at first. They started to build their own box, forming a close bonding.

        But then things began to shift because of different reasons. People will endure sadness, depression and live a life that is unfulfilled because it’s convenient and they are afraid to leave their comfy and cozy little box.

          They will rationalize staying for a variety of reasons. Maybe they have kids together or have lots of shared memories. Maybe they have been together for many years and have invested a lot in building the box. They just don’t want to waste everything they’ve built.

            They may think that they can still make the relationship better. They look at everything in the box and though they see the massive room for improvement, they want to fix those issues. They believe that love is tough and it needs to be hard in order to work. Or, they feel that they just haven’t tried hard enough.

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              Humans are creatures of habit. Once you find something that works and that makes you feel comfortable, you fight to keep it. For most people it’s just easier to stay. That’s the default. The box is safe and familiar.

                The Problem with the Box

                The problem with the box is that it blocks people from being aware of what happens inside and outside their relationship.

                  While some of the reasons such as having kids together are legitimate to stay in a relationship, people need to do a deeper assessment to determine the true reasons for wanting to stay.

                  If people only think about the effort spent on building this box, all the memories, emotions and things shared throughout the time and hate to let all of that go; they are sacrificing their opportunities to be happier. This is actually a sunk cost bias. It means when people have spent a lot of effort on something, they won’t stop investing in it even if it’s going wrong. They don’t want to waste the previous investment but this has blocked them from exploring and investing in better opportunities.

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                  Many have also misunderstood the term “hard work”. No one should work like a slave to make a relationship work. Engaging in the constant struggle only brings the worst out of both people. These struggles won’t make a relationship healthy and loving.

                  People might ask “but how’d you know if you never tried? Maybe when I try harder, things will be different.” No one would ever know the future. As humans, we’re hard-wired to want to know the unknowns. Anything that has not yet been completed will leave us wonder how it will become. It’s our nature to wonder, but everyone has the power not to be led by their curiosity when deciding what’s best for themselves. Besides, you would never know you wouldn’t be happier if you never got out of the unhappy relationship.

                  How to Get Out of the Box

                  The first and most important thing to do when contemplating ending the relationship is talk with your partner. Regardless how they feel and what you ultimately choose to do, your partner deserves to know upfront that you are happy and are contemplating ending the relationship. Having this type of crucial conversation is not fun or easy. But it is the right thing to do for both yourself and your partner. Honesty is always the best option in the end.

                  Press Pause

                  Sometimes, easing out of a relationship is easier than just ripping the band-aid off. So after initiating that difficult conversation, both of you may need to take a break from each other. It could be the best way to give you both space to breathe and really evaluate the relationship.

                  Taking a break is not a license to cheat. Nor is it an opportunity for you to see if there is someone out there better than what you have. The break is about self-reflection and self-evaluation. It’s a trip you have to take alone. If, per chance, you do find someone else during your time apart, break things off with your partner immediately. You always want to act with integrity.

                  Set a time limit for how long the break will last. Once the predetermined amount of time has passed, be sure to come together and discuss next steps. You never want to leave the relationship or your partner in limbo. You, the relationship and your partner need closure.

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                  Talk the Difficult Talk

                  When the break is over, gather again to talk about your thoughts about the relationship. If you have decided to end the relationship, don’t establish false expectations in any way. Be clear about your intentions and your desire to end the relationship amicably. Don’t make your partner think that if he or she changes something that the relationship will continue.

                  Don’t blame them for the relationship ending. Just let them know that you are unhappy in this relationship but not because of anything he or she has done. It isn’t a good fit. Be lovingly firm in your explanation.

                  Stay Because of Love, Not Fear

                  Deciding to end a relationship is never really easy— especially if you care for the other person.

                  If you want a genuinely happy, healthy and fulfilling relationship, you have to be willing to take some risks. Staying in a relationship out of fear, guilt or for any other reason except genuine and true affection for the other person is damaging to you, your partner and the relationship.

                  If you truly love your partner, have the courage to stay. If not, have the courage to leave.

                  More by this author

                  Anna Chui

                  Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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                  Last Updated on October 30, 2019

                  How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

                  How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

                  Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

                  In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

                  Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

                  You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

                  What is the Stages of Change Model?

                  Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

                  Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

                  Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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                    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

                    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

                    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

                    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

                    1. Precontemplation
                    2. Contemplation
                    3. Determination
                    4. Action
                    5. Maintenance
                    6. Termination

                    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

                    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

                      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

                      Stage 1: Precontemplation

                      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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                      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

                      Stage 2: Contemplation

                      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

                      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

                      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

                      Stage 3: Preparation

                      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

                      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

                      Stage 4: Action

                      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

                      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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                      Stage 5: Maintenance

                      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

                      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

                      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

                      Stage 6: Termination

                      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

                      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

                      How long does each stage take?

                      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

                      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

                      The limitations of this model

                      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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                      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

                      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

                      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

                      Difficult to judge your progress

                      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

                      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

                      Conclusion

                      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

                      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

                      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
                      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
                      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
                      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
                      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
                      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
                      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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