How do we know if we should stay or leave a marriage?  Based on my personal experience and the feedback I have received from people I have spoken with or coached over the years, this question can be extremely perplexing.   Even when there is physical or emotional abuse and even if infidelity or an addiction of some sort has destroyed all trust.  We are reluctant to let go and move on.

I have met both men and women, who have stayed in  life-draining relationships year after year for a variety of reasons, until they woke up one day to find that 15 or 20 years had slipped past.

Here are ten of the most common excuses we use for staying in dysfunctional marriages:

  1. I am staying for the kids’ sake.

  2. Financially, I can’t make it on my own.

  3. I don’t want to be alone.

  4. I made a promise “until death do us part”.

  5. Divorce means I am a failure.

  6. I just need to try harder to make him/her happy.

  7. Denial… He/she doesn’t mean to hurt me.

  8. Getting a divorce is too much work or will be difficult.

  9. I don’t want to hurt my partner’s feelings.

  10. He/she can’t control their addiction, it’s not their fault.

When you are on the outside looking in on a marriage, it can be easy to see through these excuses.  You might wonder why a couple stays together, when they are obviously unhappy.  But, when you are in the marriage and trying to sort out your own situation, your vision is often clouded by emotions, internal self-sabotaging dialogue and real or imagined outside pressure from your family, society or religious doctrine.

If you are feeling trapped in your marriage or feeling confused about whether you should stay or leave, one of the best things you can do is to find a supportive therapist or coach to help you sort through your thoughts.  If that is not an option, confide in a trusted friend or family member.  Make sure it is someone who is good at listening and will give you the space to  find your own answers.  Simply hearing your own uninterrupted thoughts pouring out can be enough to point you in the direction of the solution that is best for you.  If you do not have a safe person to talk to, write your thoughts out in a journal each day.  Getting anxious or confusing thoughts out of your head and onto paper will help you gain clarity so you can make the decisions that are best for you.   Attending divorce support group meetings or  Al-Anon meetings can also be very helpful.

Problems seem much bigger when we try to solve them on our own.  Our society sends us the message that only weak people ask for help.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It takes courage and strength to ask for and accept help.  If God intended for us to solve all our problems by ourselves, we would not be surrounded by so many people who are willing and able to assist us.


Note to the reader:   If you would like to discuss your specific situation and get personal support, please complete the sign-up form to the right.  You will receive one free 30 minute coaching consultation with me.