Why Don't People Leave a Bad Marriage?
In Caroline Shannon’s divorce360 article, “Mental Health: Fear of the Unknown Keeps Many People in Bad Marriages,” she consults two experts in the areas of a family therapy and counseling, as well as a Ann Fry, a woman willing to discuss her own thoughts about staying in her own unhealthy marriage. As we examine these cases, it seems as though the main reason many people stay in their failing marriage has to do with the fear of the unknown, the fear of being newly single at an older age.
Ann Fry, a respected psychotherapist, attended a workshop for personal growth and subsequently had an encounter with one of the speakers at the seminar. Fry had been brushing off her negative thoughts about her marriage, telling herself “it’s not that bad or that “I should be able to make this work.” The encounter at this seminar led to Fry’s revelation that she may be sticking around because she doesn’t honor herself, or is willing to withstand the pains of her marriage simply because she doesn’t know what she might do next.
Fry states that she tried to blame her staying on several excuses such as worrying about her husband, how her son would handle the change, even wanting to succeed in fixing this marriage to triumph over others she knew that divorced. Eventually, Fry admits; “We’d become so estranged, and I was lonely – that made me want to leave. And all of this made it difficult to stay or buy into my excuses.”
Experts in this area, such as the certified mediator and family therapist Dr. Elinor Robin, would confirm these excuses as cover-ups for simply not wanting to face the ugliness of a failed marriage: “…most of us don’t want to be single, so it’s easy to stay in a crummy marriage.”
Robin suggests that many people stay in their dying marriage because becoming single again seems so foreign, and a divorce seems so daunting. After however many years spent with your spouse, perhaps we begin to value that length of time instead of the quality of time, or the quality of the relationshipt.
Robin also lists various ways in which one can help decide if the marriage is really over, and if it’s determined that it is, one should not hesitate to take action, keeping in mind that “the time is never right… it’s easier to leave at 33 than 43, and easier to leave at 43 than 53.”