As many of you know, I work at an elementary school. This lets me see children interacting in a safe social atmosphere daily. I find this really interesting. Seeing how children deal with their problems is often enlightening for understanding how adults deal with their problems as well.
This learning something about adults from the children happened not too long ago.
We have a new student without many friends yet. He has made a couple of friends with a group of boys who do not seem to treat him very well. They call him names and pick on him. Nothing serious, but not the way most "friends" treat each other.
However, even after his mother asked him stay away from the boys and us to keep them separated, he continues to interact and play with them when no one is watching. We can tell the boys not to play with each other on the playground repeatedly, but he continues to make his way over to them. It is his first impulse during free play.
Don't get me wrong, most of the time they are fine. None of the interaction is even to the point of me considering it bullying. He just gets irritated with how they act and talk and it makes them feel even more inclined to act and talk that way when they see they are getting a rise out of him. They are ribbing him for ribbing's sake, not out of malice.
I tried to figure out what would make a person, child or not, continue to voluntarily hang out with people they are constantly tattling on and accusing of hurting their feelings. The only thing in this boy's case I could see as a causal factor is that he is new to the school.
He doesn't have any other friend options at this point. He can either play with them and be mildly upset or be lonely and play by himself. In his case, he repeatedly chooses to be "abused" over loneliness.
I don't think this is much different than adults. Many adults I know will continue to hang out with people they don't like simply because they think it's better than being alone. In fact, some of the adults I know will even say bad things about their friends behind their backs because they have no adult figure like the boys do to tattle to. This gossip in adults is much like tattling with kids. It's a way to voice dissatisfaction and "wrong doing". Instead, they just say what a bad friend they have and continue hanging out with them when they're lonely.
It's really amazing what humans will put up with to avoid loneliness. In many cases, they'd rather be unhappy with others, than be alone and happy or neutral at worst. The examples above are very moderate in their consequences. However, I do think this acceptance of abuse in any form can often stem from the fear of loneliness. Not every time. Just often.
As adults, here's my suggestion. Maybe try choosing the loneliness once in a while instead of abuse. There is no reason to let negativity into our lives.