How many times have you looked at an unhappily married woman and said, “I wouldn’t tolerate that. I would leave?” Sometimes it’s hard to understand why women stay in situations that we think we would abandon. But perhaps other women look at our marriages and think the same thing. Just as women marry for different reasons, women also stay in bad marriages for different reasons. We all have different thresholds and different priorities and different fears.
Author Allisonn Pescosolido, MA, co-founder of Divorce Detox, shared “Why Women Stay in Bad Marriages” on last week’s HuffingtonPost.com. It’s an excellent insight the reasons women stay in unhappy unions. Maybe one of these is or would be yours.
1. They don’t want to hurt their spouse or kids.
As Pescosolido points out, women are wired to put others first, especially our kids.
2. Their biological clock is ticking.
Whether a woman wants to have a child or wants more children,” says Pescosolido, “the idea of starting over close to child-bearing age invokes feelings of desperation. She may feel that leaving her marriage, no matter how bad, robs of her of only chance to be a mother.”
3. Their lack of self-esteem causes them to settle.
Many women, especially older women, feel they wouldn’t be able to find someone else. As Pescosolido points out, an unhappy marriage can erode self-esteem to the point of being nonexistant.
4. They don’t want to disrupt their married lifestyle.
For women who have become accustomed to the married life, it can be a difficult habit to break,” says the author. “Whatever the case, the desire to maintain her present lifestyle can be a powerful deterrent to any woman considering a separation.”
5.They lack the financial means to leave.
For some women, this is perception more than reality. For others, it’s the cold, hard truth. Women choosing to end an unhappy marriage will undergo some sort of financial upheaval that means going back to work, working more hours or changing jobs and living on less. It can be done, but the idea of it is enough to deter many women.
6. They don’t have a reference for a healthy relationship.
Many women simply don’t know how bad their marriages really are because they’ve never seen a happy one up close.
7. Divorce seems worse than the bad marriage.
This is kind of an extension of the concept of the “devil you know.” Some women simply fear the unknowns of divorce, whether that means being single, sharing custody of the kids or just dividing up the friends.
8. They lack the skills to restart their lives and move on.
This is less of a problem than it was thirty or forty years ago, but there are still many women who have never had a career or lived as a single adult. The idea of starting over can be very intimidating.
9. They fear the misery of being single.
Many women fear being alone. The dating world is intimidating at any age, but we all hear the horror stories of trying to find a companion or mate at 40, 50 or even older.
10. They remain committed to their commitment.
Although remain committed to marriage for personal reasons, family tradition, religious beliefs and other moral yardsticks, that commitment can be strong enough to keep a woman married, no matter how unhappy she may feel.
While all of these reasons for staying in an unhappy marriage are valid and real, divorce is not the only alternative to an unhappy marriage. The same strength that keeps you going in an unhappy marriage is the strength that can help you work to repair that marriage. It’s important to remember that it takes real backbone and perseverance to stay in an unhappy marriage and those are two very valuable qualities when it comes to turning that marriage around!