Why Some People Stay In Unhappy Relationships


There are many reasons why people stay, long after the fire has died.

Libby-Jane Charleston-  Associate Editor

The saying, ‘Breaking up is hard to do’ is one of the biggest clichés of all. But anybody who has been in a relationship that needs to ‘move on’ knows that actually leaving – or making the decision to leave – can be the most gut-wrenching thing of all.

That’s why many people stay in unhappy relationships – because for many people it is too difficult to actually leave. The reasons can be endless but, according to clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack, these are some of the most common reasons:

  • Financial reasons. Your partner might be the main breadwinner. Or, if a breakup means divorce, nobody ends up financially better off.
  • For the children. Putting kids through a breakup is very difficult. Plus, a breakup in most cases means shared custody so both parents have to give up their kids for some of the time.
  • Denial. Some people stay in an unhappy relationship because they keep telling themselves that it’s not THAT bad. Or that things will improve.
  • Insecurity. Some people feel too weak to leave.
  • Expectations. For some there’s a feeling that they will disappoint friends and family if they walk away from their relationship.

“It is not a good reason to stay ‘just for the kids’ – they will live what they see. They’re learning how to behave in their own adult relationships in the future. Is this what we want for our children?” McCormack said.

“If there are unhappy parents in the house, then this mood affects their interactions with the children. Or it’s possible that the children see the injustice in the relationship and become defensive of one parent and angry at the other, regardless of who really may be responsible for the marital issues.”

McCormack suggests that people who know they are in an unhappy relationship should make a decision to work on it and, if they can’t, then they need to find a way to leave.

“If the only two people in the relationship are the partners, then it is entirely up to them. It might be financial issues keeping them together. However, in my view, this is no longer living in an ‘unhappy marriage’ it is two people co-habitating.”

“If there is no damage to themselves or their partner, then it is up to them. Social status might be a reason for some people, but for most of us, it wouldn’t be a serious concern. The cost of keeping up the facade might be too high for most of us. If there is no damage to themselves or their partner, then it’s a case of ‘to each his own.’

However, if there is some financial / social benefit, then McCormack said perhaps that is a justifiable reason for some.

“Basically there is a difference between an ‘unhappy marriage’ and a ‘neutral marriage’ where there is no love, but also no unhappiness either. A ‘neutral marriage’ might be one where the people ARE able to remain together satisfactorily and the damage is not too high (even for the children).”

“However, the children still learn what they live, and will probably find a partner that they don’t really love either. Most of us would NOT want that for our children.”



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