7 Reasons People Stay In A Marriage That Doesn’t Work

marriage that does not work

Why is it so hard to get out of a marriage, despite knowing that it’s not working out? Despite knowing that you are extremely unhappy and miserable for years?

I have met many people who tell me they have been thinking about divorce for a very long time. By the time they come to my office, their struggle has become a painful loop of indecision. “Should I leave? I don’t know if I can (or should) do it.“

Why is it so hard to leave your marriage when you have been unhappy for years? You have fantasied about what the breakup would look like for a long time. You imagine a better life, and then you imagine the things that worry you most. You feel more and more stuck.

There are several reasons that you may struggle with this decision.

Here Are 7 Reasons People Stay In A Marriage That Doesn’t Work

1. Fear. This Is The Biggest one.

a. You are afraid of making a mistake: “What if I regret this later?”

b. You are afraid you’ll damage the children: “I worry it will ruin my kids’ lives.”

c. You are afraid you will be alone forever: “No one will ever want me now.”

d. You are afraid of the economic costs: “Divorces are expensive, and I don’t want to end up in a dingy basement apartment, or worse yet, a bag lady.”

e. You fear you will hurt your spouse: “She is a good woman, but we just can’t get along.”

f. You are afraid of change: “I like my life the way it is, just not with him in it.”

g. You fear the losses that may come with divorce: “My family and friends will not support my decision, and I’ll have to give up my relationship with my in-laws.”

h. Fear of being blamed: “If I am the one to make the decision, everyone will blame me for the divorce. And they’ll see her as a victim.” “What if my kids blame me? Or take sides with him?”

Fear and Guilt are the most common reasons people stay in bad marriages.

Related: What To Do If You Have An Unhappy Marriage But Are Afraid To Leave

2. Guilt. This Is The Next Most Common Reason, In My Experience.

a. You feel guilty that you didn’t try hard enough. “He begged me to go to counseling with him but I thought it wouldn’t help to pay someone to listen to our problems.”

b. You feel guilty because you are not keeping your marriage vows. “I meant it when I said, “Till death do us part,” but now I just can’t do it anymore. I am letting myself down, not just her.”

c. You feel guilty because of an affair or an addiction. “I was weak. I just wanted some fun. I couldn’t stop myself.”

d. You feel guilty because you regret your hurtful actions. “I know I said and did a lot of things that I shouldn’t have done. I guess I didn’t know how destructive it was.”

e. You feel guilty because you realize you haven’t been a very good partner. “I didn’t pay enough attention to him after the baby was born. I thought he was being selfish and jealous of the baby. I was too tired to have sex or even go on a date night.”

3. You Can’t Afford To Divorce.

a. The cost of the divorce itself varies, depending on how complex the issues are, and how much conflict you have. Arguing is expensive, and an amicable divorce costs much less.

b. If you are having a hard time making ends meet now, it will be harder when two homes need to be supported. “There is no way we can support two homes, we have to stay together because we have no other choice.”

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Ann Gold Buscho Ph.D.

Dr. Buscho is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in family issues and issues related to divorce, parenting, parenting planning, and co-parenting counseling. She has professional and personal experience in nesting, co-parenting, step-parenting, and single-parenting issues. She has presented widely at the state and national conferences for attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals on collaborative divorce, forgiveness practices, nesting during divorce, and consensual dispute resolution. Dr. Buscho is also a co-founder of a residential treatment program for traumatized emergency responders and their families at which she volunteers regularly.View Author posts