By Allison Pescosolido MA and Andra Brosh PhD, founders of Divorce Detox
Few people "want" to get divorced. It can be incredibly difficult and painful. As a result, an extraordinary amount of women remain in marriages that are unhealthy and even border on dysfunctional. It may sound obvious to jump ship when a marriage goes south, but there are a multitude of reasons why women (perfectly capable of making sound decisions) stay.
Why Women Stay in Bad Marriages
1. They don’t want to hurt their spouse or kids.
Many women are conditioned to put others first. When it comes to making decisions, they will consider everyone else’s feelings before their own. While the intention to not hurt loved ones is beyond reasonable, sacrificing one’s own happiness for the sake of others can backfire.
2. Their biological clock is ticking.
Whether a woman wants to have a child-- or wants more children, 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.”
Nothing erodes self-esteem quicker than an unhealthy relationship. Many women remain in dysfunctional marriages because they are convinced that this is all they deserve. When bad things happen, they simply grit their teeth and tell themselves that they should be grateful for what they have.
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. Their professional and/or social circles might look unfavorably upon those living the single life. Their families may stress marriage as the only path to happiness. Perhaps they plan to have a child or an additional child. Maybe they simply enjoy the domesticity that often goes hand in hand with marriage. 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.
There are many women who fear the loss of financial support once divorced. This is a legitimate concern for many women, but it is often a false belief founded on insecurity and being overly dependent. In the end however, a lack of money should never stop a woman from doing what she needs to do to protect her own health and happiness.
6. They don't have a reference for a healthy relationship.
Some women in dysfunctional marriages are simply re-enacting the dysfunction that they experienced throughout their lifespan. Many women have no healthy relationship models to draw from leaving them powerless to know that they can do better.
7. Divorce seems worse than the bad marriage.
When women get to this point their thinking has really gone askew. Irrational fears and negative future fantasies can distort a woman’s perceptions keeping her stuck in an unhealthy marriage. Using rationalization and denial, women convince themselves that their situation isn’t really “that bad” and end up staying too long.
8. They lack the skills to restart their lives and move on.
Many women simply don't know how to leave their marriage and go after the life that they deserve. Starting a new life can feel daunting. Without the proper education and tools it is impossible for a woman to envision herself beyond her current situation.
9. They fear the misery of being single.
Although many equate the single life with being unhappy and alone, this is quite often not the case. The merits of marriage and the merits of remaining single must be weighed on an individual and ongoing basis.
10. They remain committed to their commitment.
A commitment should always be placed in context. The world in which we live is far from black and white. Women who remain committed despite high levels of pain and suffering should ask themselves precisely for what they remain committed.
Allison Pescosolido, M.A. and Andra Brosh, Ph.D. are experts in Divorce Recovery and starting over. They co-founded Divorce Detox, a full service center to transform the lives of individuals transitioning through divorce. With advanced degrees in the field of Psychology, and as certified Grief Recovery Specialists® by The Grief Recovery Institute, Andra and Allison are proactively challenging and changing the stigma of divorce on a national level.