As a therapist, I directly worked with many women unwilling to accept divorce as an option.
They admit to be unhappy, they just know to be married to the wrong person and yet they choose to remain in what they describe as a safe shell, compared to the difficult life of a divorcee.
“Why don’t you just leave him?”.
These women hear the sentence quite often. It might be easy to judge from the outside.
However, I think it is important to fill their shoes to deeply understand their reasons.
When women think of separation and divorce, they can experience a long list of fears and their unhappy marriage seems to be the lesser of two evils.
Divorce, in fact, means to be suddenly alone. Many women fear not to find a new partner again, especially if they have been married for a long time and they have a lack of self-esteem – quite common for women who are stuck in dysfunctional relationships.
They would also be exposed to the judgment of other people: although society sees women as way more independent than before, there is still a significant stigma around the status of “married woman” and lack or loss thereof. Some women are just not ready to loose this social status; their social circles might not be in support of the choice to divorce and women might be scared to be judged as well as to loose their friends.
Another common fear is related to children. Many women don’t want their children to suffer for the consequences of the divorce and decide to stay with the partner for this reason. Those who haven’t any children yet would see their biological clock as ticking and they would think that remaining married could increase their chances to become a mother.
I worked with successful and economically independent women who would not be financially bothered by the divorce; however, another common reason for persisting into an unhappy marriage could be lack of money or fear of losing lifestyle.
There is no exact science to this, but the choice to divorce, or not, is generally related to the level of autonomy and independence; and fear of change is generally a strong driver in the maintenance of a dysfunctional status quo.
I work with my clients raising awareness about what they really want and supporting them in their choice.