26 Nov The top 5 reasons people stay in unhappy relationships
“I’m scared to leave my relationship and that’s why I’ve stayed for so long” a recent client told me during a coaching session. In fact I probably hear this at least 5 times a week for a variety of different reasons. This particular client had been unhappy in her relationship for several years but she hadn’t felt able to leave because she had children who were both under 10 years old. She explained part of her reason to stay was for the children and to give them a better upbringing.
One thing that I have learned since I opened my Divorce and Breakup Clinic is that every relationship is different and has its own unique dynamics. There is no one solution that fits every situation as there are so many factors to take into consideration. There is certainly no right or wrong answer or set path to follow. The key to moving forward is get to clarity on your individual circumstances as this will empower you to make a better decision for you and your family.
The top 5 reasons for staying in an unhappy relationship that I hear from clients are:
- Kids: Some people stay as they believe it is better for the children to grow up with both parents under the same roof, no matter how dysfunctional the relationship is.
- Fear of future: Many people have a huge fear of what life would be like if they left. There are so many uncertainties for example where will they live, how will they cope without their partner and will they ever find love again. These uncertainties keep them in the relationship.
- Lack of confidence: Often if you have been in an unhappy relationship your confidence will be at rock bottom. I see many clients who have experienced emotionally abusive relationships and as a result their self-esteem and self-worth is so low they don’t think they could cope on their own.
- Feeling selfish: Some people feel that it would be selfish to leave as it would be causing pain to their family. They believe it is better to stay and be unhappy then to leave in search of happiness for themselves.
- Financial reasons: Many people are financially dependent on their partners and are worried what their quality of life would be like if they broke up. Breaking up means dividing the finances and this can mean a change in lifestyle. Funding two homes is more expensive than one and this can mean sacrifices at least in the short term.
All of these are good reasons to consider staying. In fact divorce is known as the second most traumatic life experience after death of a loved one so it shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if children are involved too. It is a painful process and it is definitely not the easy way. It should take a lot of careful consideration to decide to leave a marriage, it should not be taken lightly. I recommend at least a period of 3 months of working hard on your relationship to do your best to save it if possible before you make a final decision to split up.
However there are also good reasons to leave an unhappy relationship that are often over looked.
- As a parent you are a role model for your children. They are watching and learning from everything you do. Be aware of what you are teaching them by staying in a relationship that makes you unhappy. Could it be that you are showing them that you should stay in a loveless marriage? That your feelings don’t matter? That a marriage is about arguing and being unkind to each other? Kids are more resilient than you think and can cope better than we sometimes give them credit for.
- It’s natural to be a little anxious of change however it can also be a really positive thing. If you are unhappy where you are then maybe the change will give you a chance to feel happy again. Think of a time when you changed something and it worked out well for you. It’s up to you to create the life you want to lead. If you stay where you are what will life be like in one years’ time? In 5 years’ time? In 10 years’ time? Is that what you want or is stepping up to make some changes what you need to get your life back on track?
- If your confidence has been eroded over a period of time it can be hard to summon up the courage to leave, even if you really want to. It’s important to remember that just because you have been told you are useless, unlovable, pathetic, incapable of surviving without your partner that doesn’t make it true. Connect back to a time when you felt good about yourself and think about all the things you have successfully achieved in your life however big or small. It’s amazing how many doors open and opportunities arise when you are out of a destructive or unhealthy relationship.
- Leaving an unhappy relationship is not selfish as if it’s not working for you it will not be the best relationship for your partner either. You both deserve the opportunity to be with someone who truly loves and cares for you and wants to be with you. By hanging onto them you are denying them the chance to be happy too. If you think the children will suffer if you leave then you need to consider how they are suffering by having two parents living together who don’t love each other too. There are always two sides to situation so make sure you are looking at all the angles.
- Financial reasons are a strong reason to stay put in an unhappy relationship as if breaking up will dramatically affect your standard of living then this will be a big factor. The best way to work through this is to get absolute clarity on your financial situation if you do leave. Take professional advice to work out what funds you would have and how this would affect your lifestyle. Many people avoid doing this as they don’t want to know. However clarity gives you power and even if it what you find out isn’t what you wanted to hear it gives you options. You can put a plan together to fill the gaps and find a way to make it work. Not knowing where you stand leaves you unable to make a good decision and keeps you stuck.
You only live once and it’s important to find happiness along the way. It’s important to know that leaving a marriage or long term relationship is not a failure. Breakups and divorce are part of everyday life as people grow apart or fall out of love. You will have achieved so much during your time together such as some happy memories, your children and friendships. You can still keep hold of the good times and the great memories and at the same time set yourself free to be happy again. By taking responsibility and grabbing back control of your life you can create the life you want to live.