Why is it we stay when we know a relationship is over? When we are being treated as less than, when our needs are not being met? How is it that a man can just up and leave, whatever his reason? But we women stay, we struggle, we cry and we hang on tight. Why is that??
If you’re married, was it the vows you took? Or family- you have children or your parents might be upset. Or religious views- marriage is for a lifetime…Finances? Many women stay in an unhappy relationship because of the financial support.
Or is it something more? Some ancient nagging thought, buried deep in our psyches, the fear of being a woman alone in the world. Of not mattering to a special significant other. The idea that we are singular?
I have been actively seeking the answer to this curious question- What makes you stay?? In a Facebook group of 7000 members, I asked that very question. Here are the results I got back:
Marriage vows and commitment ranked as the number one reason women stayed in a loveless unfulfilling relationship, followed very closely by Family (Children/Parents). Financial reasons were number 3, with religion ending with less than half as many votes.
Behind these reasons often lay buried subconscious reasoning that we might not even understand logically. For instance, fear that you are not REALLY ok. Being in a relationship, even a bad one, can make you seem more ok. You don’t have to face your own brokenness head on because you are too busy watching him and what’s wrong between you. In this case, a bad relationship makes you feel like the better person. You cannot give it up, for you would be failing, and not ok. This equates to Low self Esteem.
What about fear of being alone or lonely? Loneliness is a primal fear, based on false beliefs that we cannot be happy in a singular state. Often though, in an unfulfilling relationship, you are alone,missing parts of yourself that you tucked away to survive. To heal, it is often required to be by yourself and learn to meet your own needs. Failing to do so, you will never be able to be fulfilled in ANY relationship. Fear makes you limited in your ability to give as a partner.
Women often stay because they believe that a difficult relationship is leading them on a spiritual path. This is completely false. Suffering and sacrifice do not lead to personal growth- we are put on this earth to learn from love and loving relationships. If you are settling for being unhappy and unloved, look to why you have closed yourself off? When you are closed, tight and in fear, you do not grow. You are settling for just enough for all the wrong reasons.
Many couples operate on a system of trade-offs. Sex for security, money for caregiving- it’s a business endeavor devoid of intimacy or happiness. You may believe the benefits you have outweigh any change you might have to make to be more fulfilled. This often stems from childhood beliefs learned from your family dynamics.
It is also possible you may believe in what you were fed by TV, movies, Disney and Hallmark. There will be a happy ending, after the struggles comes the love ever after. This is cultural brainwashing that leaves many women waiting for him to change, hoping that things will be better with time. They cannot quit, for fear that will bring shame that they gave up too soon. Shame of failure is referred clinically as Cognitive Dissonance.
Finally, we have to consider self-sabotage. If misery was in your childhood, you became used to settling for misery because it was familiar. Being happy is for “others” not for you. So you do the opposite of what would make you happy and fulfilled, you stay stuck in darkness. It feels safer than venturing into unknown territory. Your habit is too strong to resist. Self-sabotage can often be tied to abusive relationships- you are used to mistreatment and subject yourself to more.
Any or all of these reasons can be holding you in place, unable to make the changes you dream about. None of them are worth your happiness, but only you can decide if and when to change. I can tell you this- staying in a bad relationship will only cause stress and depression. To make changes in your current relationship requires BOTH partners to agree to do the work. If yours will not work towards change, there is little hope of it getting better. It is easier to prevent bad relationship than to save it, so pay attention to the big red flags in a dating situation- it will NOT improve with commitment or marriage.
It’s vital to your health to understand what motivates you to stay when your heart and soul are telling you RUN!! Your motivation and what drives you will be what carries you through the dark days and towards the light of your future.You deserve happiness. You deserve unconditional love. You deserve kindness, compassion and being cared for. Don’t settle for less.