One of my best friends stayed in an unhappy relationship for years. I often wondered why, but didn’t say anything to her for a long time. I felt that, if she wanted to talk to me about it, she would. Then, one rare occasion when we were alone together, I asked her why she stayed when she was obviously so unhappy. She got so angry with me for asking that she walked out and refused to speak to me for over a year.
So, I waited. I let her have her space. It was only after she finally left him that she called me. She came over to my house and we talked almost all night. The reasons she gave me for staying with him both surprised me and didn’t surprise me. They were all of the same reasons listed below.
If you have a friend like mine and are really confused as to why he/she stays in their unhappy relationship, I hope this helps you understand.
This was the main reason my friend gave me for staying in an unhappy relationship for so long. She didn’t want to break up her family. Her children loved their father and she couldn’t bear the thought of them being hurt.
She also didn’t want to have to go through a custody battle and didn’t want to have to give up birthdays/holidays/weekends with them. What she slowly came to realize is that it was hurting them to see their parents so unhappy.
Reason number 2 for her was finances. She didn’t want to have to move from their home, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to afford to live there without her husband’s income. She had quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and hadn’t been out there in the job market for years. Luckily, she was able to find a job that would support her and her children comfortably with the help of child support.
But, she did have to find more affordable housing. Something else that helped her was her parents paying for a divorce attorney for her. The cost of divorce is mind-boggling expensive. She never would have been able to do it without her parents’ help.
3. Time invested
In my friend’s case, she and her husband had been together for over 10 years. That’s a lot of time invested in a relationship and she felt that she couldn’t just walk away from it. She had also built a life with her husband. They had a house that she had worked hard maintaining and improving. They had a lot of mutual friends she was afraid of losing. She loved her in-laws and was afraid they would hate her for leaving.
And, she also thought that if she just gave it time……
4. Things will get better
She kept thinking things would get better. She had a beautiful home, great kids, friends, a husband. She should be the happiest woman in the world.
So, she thought maybe something was wrong with her. She thought that if she just worked harder to be a better wife/mother/person, and gave it more time, everything would get better. She asked her husband to go to counseling with her, but he refused. So, she started seeing a therapist by herself and what she discovered through therapy helped her finally make the decision to leave.
5. Public opinion
My friend worked so hard to keep up the public facade that everything was great, she was afraid of what would happen if she left the relationship.
What would people think? Would they all think she is a failure? Will her family and friends think she’s wrong? Will her in-laws hate her? She didn’t want to have to explain over and over again what happened. She didn’t want the public scrutiny and judgment.
6. You still care
My friend still loved her husband. They had built a life together. It was extremely hard for her to leave because of this fact alone. The relationship wasn’t working for her, but that didn’t mean she didn’t love him anymore. She told me that divorcing him hurt her as much as his death would have and she grieved for a long time. It took her years to even begin dating again.
As you can see, there are many reasons why people stay in relationships they’re not happy in. If you know someone like this, the only thing you can do is continue to love and support them without judgment. They are the only one who can decide what is best for them. Maybe, like my friend, they will decide to leave. Maybe they won’t. The decision is theirs alone to make.