People who find themselves in an unhealthy, even abusive relationship often ask themselves, "why do I stay?", "what is it that keeps sucking me back in?" Many times it can be the "courting behavior" that follows the abuse. In domestic violence, this is illustrated in the Circle of Abuse. The abuser becomes violent and lashes out at the victim. Afterward, he or she engages in the courting behavior they originally used when dating the victim. They are charming, caring, attentive. They lavish the victim with compliments and gifts. A victim who has low self esteem may tolerate the abuse to get the courting behavior. The pain of being hurt is overridden by the kindness and attention that are lavished on them after it is over.
In less abusive relationships a more subtle form of this behavior may exist. If someone is in a relationship with a narcissist or a sociopath, they may experience a constant stream of unloving treatment. Their partner may be uncaring, callous, accusatory, jealous, cold, distant, hostile, selfish, critical, demanding, demeaning, etc. They may heap insults on them or demean them with a constant stream of disparaging remarks. They may constantly accuse them of cheating. Or they may be dismissive and condescending. The relationship may be totally devoid of empathic, nurturing, caring, loving behavior. So why do they stay?
It may be that they are totally taken for granted, until they attempt to leave or start to pull away. When the emotional manipulator reailizes they've gone too far, they may engage in courting behavior to reel the partner back into the relationship. If their partner's self esteem is low enough this may go on for years and years. If their self esteem is somewhat higher, they may eventually realize that, "One compliment negates a thousand slights."