Many people feel compelled to stay in relationships that are destructive or toxic for them. Perhaps having low self esteem to begin with, the destructive actions of the partner can serve to drive down feelings of self worth even further. Often, the victimized partner feels a sense of loyalty to the partner who may be emotionally or otherwise abusing him or her. While loyalty in healthy relationships can be a very positive and securing trait, when it is applied in the context of an emotionally abusive and destructive relationship, it becomes misplaced. Here are 3 reasons loyalty is mistakenly given in these types of relationships:
1. The victim confuses fear with loyalty. In healthy relationships, loyalty arises from empathy, honor, and a desire to protect the other person's security and feelings in the relationship. If the victim is behaving in certain ways out of fear of retribution, this is not truly loyalty, but more along the lines of fear and intimidation.
2. The concept of loyalty is often set by the abuser. This means that unreasonable requests or demands may be made all in the name of "loyalty." For example, an emotionally abusive partner may demand that a partner stay away from friends and family to prove devotion and commitment to him or her. In a healthy relationship, this would likely be seen as unreasonable, but the emotional abuser can frame loyalty in whatever terms he or she wishes in order to maintain control over the victim.
3. The victim is wracked with guilt and may view that emotion and compulsion as loyal. The abuser may blame the victim for causing him or her to be abusive, and point out how the violation of the abuser's parameters shows disloyalty. Once again, the goal for the victim is not to honor his or her partner's feelings out of true loyalty, but as a way to avoid further confrontation and possible abuse.