A Million Reasons...

Million Reasons by Lady Gaga. This song speaks volumes to me. It really does only take one good reason amongst a million bad ones to keep you in a relationship that is not good for you. I know because I've been there. I'm sure many of us have. The question is, why do we do it? Isn't it interesting that no matter how bad "love" can be for us, we keep going back for more? It's like gambling. In fact, it works in the same way that gambling does. What we think is "love" is actually just an addiction.

It is obvious that gambling has horrible effects on the people that engage in it, however, it is extremely hard to conceive (for non-gamblers) why the person would keep gambling even though it's clearly not doing them any good. Similarly, it is easy looking from outside-in to judge whether someone should or shouldn't be in an abusive relationship, physical or emotional. It may be so bleedingly obvious (literally) to you that the relationship is bad for them, and you may even think to yourself "if I were them I would have left years ago". Wrong. If you were them, you'd do exactly the same thing they're doing. Here's why:

After doing some random internet surfing I stumbled across a theory called "Intermittent Reinforcement" coined by Behaviourist Burrhus Frederic Skinner. Skinner says, to put it in very plain English,  there are two types of reinforcement. Continuous reinforcement and intermittent reinforcement. Continuous reinforcement refers to the reinforcing of reward or punishment consistently to a certain behaviour. For example, a mother's continuous reinforcement may be to say "no" to a child who is yelling and screaming for ice-cream, but say "yes" when the child asks politely. The child will soon learn that she will get what she wants by being polite. There is no mystery here.

Intermittent reinforcement, however, is the random reinforcement of reward or punishment to a certain behaviour. Using the same example, a mother may say no to her child for yelling and screaming for ice-cream, but may also give in and say yes. The child then becomes confused as to what behaviour to exhibit and will try everything until the desired "yes" is achieved. In the gambling world, continuous reinforcement would become very boring for the player as they would know the exact odds and would see how pointless it is. The fact that the payoff is completely random is what keeps a gambler hooked. They will keep dropping coins in, all their coins if they have to, until the machine says "yes".

Now let's swap the word "yes" for "love". Imagine you're in a relationship where most of the time your partner is either physically or emotionally abusive, but also very occasionally and randomly gives you love and affection. Your addiction to this unpredictable hit of love and affection will override any rationality you have for wanting to leave that relationship because it feels so good.

Now here's my theory about the whole thing. You will only be ruled by this sort of relationship dynamic if you don't have clear cut boundaries and haven't developed a strong sense of self-worth. This, of course, is not your fault. You most likely had parents who also controlled you by unconsciously using intermittent reinforcement! It is important for you to acknowledge that you're in such a relationship, then become clear on what it is that you deserve and how you want to be treated. I'm still in the process of getting clear on this myself. 

The only thing I'm left to wonder is if I, on the receiving end, was also doing the same thing to my partner at the time. Were we both intermittently giving each other love and affection which is why we both couldn't leave even though we knew we were so bad for each other? I know I wasn't exactly an angel in this relationship and it is likely that I also was emotionally abusive in one-way or another. Either way, I am now fully aware that this was a relationship destined for failure. Neither of our needs were being met on either side, and we were hurting each other more than we were adding value to each other's lives.

So, to wrap it up I'll leave you with my cover version of Lady Gaga's Million Reason's. Hope you enjoy.