Why Do People Go Back To Their Past Abusive Relationships?

Why Do People Go Back To Their Past Abusive Relationships?

Why Do People Go Back To Their Past Abusive Relationships? why do people go back to their past abusive relationships?
Photo by Fernando Jorge on Unsplash

We repeatedly see or even witness someone close to us returning to their abusive relationship. Research indicates that most people go back to an abusive relationship at least 5–7 times. It’s a common occurrence, and several factors contribute to this tendency.

Toxic relationships cause emotional damage, yet some individuals still find their way back to them. Why? From a third-party perspective, understanding this behavior is challenging. However, for someone who has been in a toxic relationship, the healing journey often feels like being trapped in quicksand. The pull and urge to return are so strong that, at times, they simply give in.

This article will explore the numerous circumstances and conditions that lead someone back to unhealthy relationships.

1. Hope

The first factor that leads us to return is the enduring feeling of hope. We remain optimistic that things will change and improve. We cling to the hope that our ex-partners might have an epiphany and change for the better. They may have even promised multiple times that they would change, but these promises were mere smoke and mirrors, as change never materialized.


Moreover, toxic individuals are often charming and manipulative, sometimes claiming to have started therapy or engaging in self-help to entice us back. While it’s natural to hope for the better, it’s crucial to recognize that true change only occurs when someone takes accountability for their actions and demonstrates a genuine willingness to change. Another characteristic of toxic relationship dynamics is that toxic individuals often show a caring side when they feel they’ve lost control over you. This fuels the fire of hope that things will revert to how they were early in the relationship. This illusion and confusion can lure someone back into a toxic relationship.

“Harsh reality is always better than false hope.” — Downton Abbey

2. Low Self-Esteem

Another factor contributing to people returning to toxic relationships is low self-esteem. As mentioned in a previous article, being in a toxic relationship damages one’s self-esteem, making them feel devoid of value. With this sense of worthlessness, an individual may believe they are so damaged that they don’t deserve better than their toxic ex-partner.

Low self-esteem also erodes one’s ability to stand up for themselves or assert their needs. They may feel that the only place they can find acceptance is within their past toxic relationship. A significant fear is that they won’t find anyone else willing to be with them, leaving them alone. Low self-esteem acts as a prison, restraining them from exploring a world that might include rejection.


This feeling of being imprisoned by low self-esteem leads them to consider going back to the relationship as their only option, as they’ve deeply intertwined their sense of self with it.

3. Familiarity

The saying “better the devil you know than the angel you don’t” rings true, especially in the context of toxic exes. We understand their abusive behaviors, which makes us feel safer in the chaos and drama than facing the unknown.

The familiarity of our toxic relationship grounds provides a sense of safety for our minds accustomed to that environment. Even though being in a peaceful environment might seem dull, the constant drama from the past relationship becomes the norm. Some people admit missing the chaos. Even if someone’s behavior and actions are unpleasant, there’s a subconscious comfort in familiarity.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns (in less than 2 months) , then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

Toxic or not, the environment we’re accustomed to feels like the home we want to return to. In short, people return to their toxic partners because they feel secure with those they are familiar with, knowing what to expect from them.

4. Toxic Relationships Are Addictive

Toxic relationships can be as addictive as drugs or gambling. One addictive aspect is the relationship’s intermittent cycle of love and affection followed by periods of abuse. These highs and lows create a pattern of intermittent reinforcement, analogous to a gambler and a slot machine.

The gambler rarely wins, but the intermittent wins trigger dopamine rushes that keep them hooked. Similarly, toxic relationships function similarly: no one knows when the next surge of love and affection will come, creating an exciting adrenaline rush while waiting. Returning to the relationship becomes enticing just to experience those fleeting moments of intense highs.

5. Lack of Proper Support

A lack of adequate support during the healing journey can also lead someone back to their toxic relationships. This support might be emotional, financial, or mental.

Toxic relationships often isolate individuals from family and friends, leaving them without accountability or a confidant. Having a compassionate person to talk to fosters a sense of safety and hope during the healing process.

Additionally, family and friends might criticize or undermine survivors of toxic relationships due to a lack of understanding. Some loved ones might even side with the abuser.

Furthermore, individuals might lack the financial resources or awareness to seek professional guidance, which could validate their experiences and aid their healing. Feeling isolated from the world and loved ones leaves them with only one option: returning to their ex-partners to regain a sense of “companionship.”

6. Loneliness

Loneliness can drive someone back into an abusive relationship. The overwhelming feeling of loneliness can make them believe that something is better than nothing. When coupled with a deep-seated feeling that no one else will like or accept them, this sense of emptiness becomes unbearable.

Being unused to taking care of themselves due to their past reliance on their toxic partner makes it even harder for them to find worthwhile pursuits. The emptiness becomes so unbearable that they may return to their ex-partners, even if it means engaging in something harmful to themselves, just to fill the void.

7. Path of Least Resistance

Lastly, returning to a toxic relationship is often seen as the path of least resistance. Investing time and energy in any relationship is demanding, and the prospect of starting a new relationship can be daunting. Finding a new partner requires substantial effort, from dating to building a life together.

Some may also fear attracting another toxic partner and therefore find it easier to return to the familiar person they know. The mental and emotional investment made in the relationship can also be a powerful motivator to return to what’s already established, rather than starting anew. The mind naturally gravitates toward the path of least resistance, avoiding emotional challenges. Rationalizing the toxic partner’s behavior can further convince someone that returning is the easier option.


When the desire to return becomes overpowering, and thoughts of missing the toxic partner become obsessive, falling back into the cycle of abuse is a real risk. It’s natural to seek to avoid the discomfort of loneliness and vulnerability, especially after enduring emotional abuse in the relationship. Despite this, it’s vital to make going back an unacceptable option and to seek help when needed.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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