Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


4 Reasons Why Some People Run Away From Relationships

1. They do too much and become resentful.

Key points

  • Rather than working through relationship problems, some cut and run from them. The result is a life filled with broken relationships.
  • Some common causes are doing too much, having unrealistic expectations of others, and stacking up rather than solving problems.
  • The keys to breaking the pattern are confronting problems when they arise and clarifying expectations at the start.
Source: Fotorech/pixabay

Allie will admit that she doesn’t give those close to her much grace: Usually, it’s one strike, and you're out, but it’s been catching up with her.

When she looks back on her past, she sees a series of broken and cutoff relationships; she has few close friends and doesn’t have an intimate partner. Allie’s not alone; many folks handle relationships in the same way cut-and-run, we’re-done way, but why? Why do they do these cutoffs rather than working through them? Here are a few possible reasons:

1. They do too much and become resentful. Often folks like Allie start strong, throwing themselves into a relationship, whether it’s a new friend or an exciting new date. They work extra hard at being considerate, generous, and compassionate, and they do a lot of the heavy lifting, initiating activities and staging special events. But eventually, all this catches up with them. They either burn out and feel they have no more to give or, more likely, get resentful because the relationship is out of balance: they are not being appreciated enough for what they’ve done; they’re not getting enough back. They reach their bottom lines, and once they do, they’re done.

2. They have high expectations of others. These same folks often have high standards for themselves, are self-critical, and can be rigid in their expectations of others. Essentially they expect others to be like them—have the same drive, intensity, and values—make the relationship a priority, show the same interest, or step up and do more. But often, these expectations are never stated, and when they are unmet, and the relationship feels out of balance, they once again get fed up and quit.

3. Problems are not addressed. The underlying problem is that issues and disappointments that naturally arise in a relationship are swept under the rug, accumulating until they reach a tipping point.

4. This way of coping was often modeled. Handling relationships in this way is often learned, part of a family culture where parents and other important people do the same. Often there's a you-against-the-world stance where others can't be trusted, where they can turn on you or disappoint you. If you expect this from others, it's easy to find it, and once you feel wounded, you cope by cutting these folks off as quickly as possible.

Some individuals spend their adult lives living this way, creating a life of superficial or broken relationships with little intimacy. They often blame others for never stepping up, appreciating what they’ve done, or disappointing them but have little insight into their role. But if you’re aware of your pattern and are ready to change it, you're halfway towards doing so. Here’s what to do next:

1. Let others know what you value and expect from the beginning. Others can't read your mind. Let them know what you value so they can be sensitive to your needs and decide if your visions match.

2. Stop being over-responsible. Stop with the full-court press, the doing too much, the slipping into a martyr role. It’s your way of attaching, but it doesn’t work over the long haul.

3. Address problems as they arise. When the other person is chronically late or inconsiderate in some way, let them know and solve the problem rather than sweep it under the rug. This is how you not only avoid reaching that tipping point, but you actually may find that many people, despite your assumptions and past, are willing to accommodate and change. Find enough of these folks, have enough positive experiences, and you begin to change your worldview.

4. Give others some wiggle room. You may have high standards for yourself, but others are not you. Instead of one strike and you’re out, try three, or at least two. And while you’re at it, maybe work on your self-expectations and self-criticism.

5. Define your values. If you’ve inherited a particular worldview and way of coping from your parents or your past, maybe it’s time to decide for yourself how you want to be and how you want to treat others. You don’t need to go on autopilot, continue to get triggered by old wounds, or continue to do what you do. Instead, decide what you need and want now, and realize that problems are not reasons to abandon ship but opportunities to find a balanced relationship where the other's views and needs are just as important as your own. This is about being an adult, about being compassionate in a real way.

This is about getting the intimacy that you ultimately desire.

Facebook image: tommaso79/Shutterstock


Taibbi, R. (2017). Doing couples therapy, 2nd ed. New York: Guilford.

More from Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today
More from Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today