6 Reasons Not to Stay Married

This post is a companion to 5 reasons to stay married. To avoid confusion, please read them together.

1.    The kids. If you are in a hopelessly miserable marriage, you’ll do more harm to your children by staying put than you will by getting out. By enduring misery, you teach your children, “I don’t deserve to be happy.” By putting up with abuse, you teach your children, “Never rock the boat. Take crap from others at all costs.” By staying in a hopeless situation, you also teach them how not to communicate, how not to have healthy relationships, and how not to be assertive. Is this what you want to teach your children?

2.    You feel obligated.
I have news for you: you don’t have to do anything. There are no “have tos” in life. None. You don’t have to go to work. You don’t have to get out of bed in the morning. You don’t have to stay in your marriage. Every single thing you do or don’t do in life is a choice-and it’s your choice. Take control of your life by owning your choices. No one is forcing you stay in a miserable marriage. You have the choice to get out. Which choice will you make?

3.    You don’t want to be alone.
Being scared of singlehood is similar to a kid who is scared of the dark. You’re scared of it because you don’t know it. You can get used to being alone. You can even come to enjoy it. By being alone, you just might find yourself. You’ll grow into a stronger, more complete person.

4.    You made a promise.
You’ve probably made many promises to yourself that you’ve eventually broken. Think back to any number of New Year’s Resolutions. Why should this one be so different? The most important promise for you to keep is this one: I promise to do what I need to do in order to live a happy and fulfilling life.

5.    You’d rather have the misery you know than the misery you don’t know. Misery is misery. More important, life is one big problem. The sooner you start solving your problems and making the necessary changes in your life, the less miserable you will become. Misery happens when you stand still and do nothing. If you embrace change, you’ll also embrace happiness.

6.    You’re afraid of what will happen to your spouse if you leave. You are not responsible for your spouse. You are responsible for your self. By staying with your spouse, you are enabling your spouse’s dysfunction. If your spouse has an addiction, an anger problem, a drinking problem, or depression and refuses to seek help, the best thing you can do is remove yourself as a crutch. Once your spouse is forced to walk on his or her own two feet-as all grownups should-he or she might just grow up and seek treatment.

In the end, you should stay in your marriage because you want to, not because you think you have to. You stay in your marriage because you believe it has potential. You stay in your marriage because, most of the time, you still love your spouse. You stay in your marriage because, by being with your spouse, you see yourself growing into a stronger, happier person.

You stay in your marriage because you’ve made the choice to do so.

You get out of a marriage because you’ve made the choice to do so, too. Not every marriage can be saved. Try everything to improve your marriage. If your spouse refuses to change or you see not one ounce of improvement after several months of hard work, it’s time to think about getting a divorce and start thinking about living the rest of your life.

No one can tell you the right thing to do. It’s your decision. It’s your choice. It’s your life. It’s your happiness.

This post is a companion to 5 Reasons to Stay Married.

200 comments… add one

  • Me July 17, 2012, 10:55 pm

    On this specific problem, my therapist had me read co-dependent no more. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful this is.

  • Matt August 3, 2012, 8:12 pm

    I need help!!!!! I am a 38 year old man who has been married to the same woman for 21 years in Oct., we were high school sweethearts and our love has persevered through many hardships. I thought we were soul mates and something inside still believes that but there is so much irrepairable damage that I lose faith with every argument and derogatory statement directed towards me. We both are recovering from an addiction to pain medication that dates back ten years and as such I am told that similar situations are shown statistically to change any relationship drastically, whether its romantic or friendly. Things have always come so easy for us as we are intellegent and very impetuous, we purchased our first home at 19 years of age and I obtained a very good job with a prestigious company, but due to our addiction all success of our past is lost. We have very little of our old life left and our children have been greatly effected by it, but the thing is, save for any negative influence on my children I thought our love was enough to fuel our forward progress. My wife has become exremely paranoid, she incessantly accuses me of online chatting with females and spying electronically even though all my waking moments are either with her or my kids. I am at wits end which brings me to my next problem, as I have stayed with her, stood by her and likewise her by me I have completely been estranged from all friends and family including my parents. Due to her “disability”, the one she gets paid monthly for, she convinced me to resign from my job so she could maximize her benefits. As my resources are few and likewise potential help from family/friends, I am stuck. We fight all the time, three days out of two weeks she will be nice and act as if nothing is wrong, during those few days I am cordial and eat it up only I subconciously put up a wall and only allow her to get so close, the reason being obvious. She asks about it, and I really do try to get close even to the point of forcing myself, but somethings missing. When things were good I would have burnt in Hell to keep her safe and happy, although I still love her I think the best would be to leave and therein is where my problem lies. I also worry for the mental health of my children, we have a two year old that I have completely taken all responsibility for. She cares more for her computer than for our two year old, she loves him but I think she is too far gone to care for him and refuses to seek professional help. She states it would only be “something else I could use against her” as I would never do. Anyone who knows me would tell you I would never keep my boys from their mother. If someone has any ideas save for a homeless shelter I am all ears, I really am scared and wish things could go back to normal but it seems alas, that isnt to be.

    • Jezebel September 3, 2012, 11:58 pm

      Matt, sorry for your pain. I am so confused and lost also.

    • Annemarie Nelson October 24, 2012, 1:29 am

      Hi Matt,
      I’ve just read about your plight as above and probably like other readers, am feeling for your difficult situation. I’m no therapist/counsellor, but I guess the most difficult “first step” is for your wife to admit she has a problem and to seek help. Unfortunately, most of us as human beings suffer pride and think we’re ok and don’t have a problem and therefore don’t seek help. In order for your relationship to regain it’s healthiness, you both need to talk to someone outside of yourselves, ie, a good professional therapist who can advise you on taking positive steps to regaining control in both of your lives. You say you were on medication for 10 years, and are now in recovery stage. I do want to congratulate you both that you’ve been able to stop the medication. But in doing so, you now need to replace the negativity and damage that they caused be replacing them with positive steps. Doing nothing will not remedy the situation. Again, I feel for you and your wife, and your kids also. You need vital support in order for your relationship to survive and thrive again. I understand that if your wife is unwilling to seek this support, that it makes it a very difficult situation. If this is the case, then only you yourself can look at taking positive steps by talking to someone, maybe some free counseling if offered in your area, and do what you can do. Unfortunately we can only change ourselves and not someone else! If it were possible, I think it would be invaluable if you were able to let someone look after your children for a short time in order for you to both look at yourselves, your relationship and where it’s headed, and try to seek some help. For your children’s sake as well as your own relationship.

      All the very best to you, I do hope and pray that will be able to save your marraige..

    • George August 29, 2013, 4:25 am

      She is probably bipolar. This means even getting her to seek help is an extremely great challenge.

      You have two options: Get her to seek treatment or end the marriage. Also read the book “Walking on Egg Shells”

      • Williams July 20, 2014, 10:43 am

        Thanks George, you were right. It has been some time since I wrote this post. It was a issue and stress. We are much better now.

    • Ming January 14, 2016, 1:43 pm

      I will NEVER understand why people have kids .. and then when the kid is born (usually within the first four years) one person decides this isn’t the marriage for them. Do you NOT know this BEFORE you have the kid? Perhaps it’s denial? Save the marriage baby?

      I do not have kids and never will (besides, I’m way past the prime age for that). I never wanted kids because I always felt ONE PERSON wouldn’t be totally honest in having them.

      You had no idea before your kid hit two years old… BEFORE…. that your marriage wasn’t so good? Sounds like you knew and you are in denial??? I’m just floored by it. I have a neighbor whose divorced and his kid is 4. He didn’t know the state of his marriage until after the kid was born? I don’t get it.

      My suggestion – LEAVE. Period. Why stay? What’s the point? Seriously – I’d leave. And next time … don’t have a kid with someone when you know in ADVANCE that this isn’t the marriage for you.

  • Shannon August 9, 2012, 5:58 pm

    Great advice. That was very “cut and dry” and to the point.

  • Dina Diaz September 16, 2012, 12:43 pm

    This really helps me a lot, now I feel more confident about my situation and opens my mind to different ways on what to do ….thanks!!!!

  • special K September 23, 2012, 7:11 am

    The best advise I can give you is to think about the kids…. Clearly you are in a disfuntional relationship which can have a lasting effect on them. Seek counseling together for strategies to either strengthen the relationship or exist -(stage left)… good luck with that…..

  • m williams November 13, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Alisia Bowman…you sound so cock sure of yourself.

    I take this tone with you simple because of how you choose to phrase your first reason for on Not to Stay Married.

    Do you have a personal experience you are quoting from or are you just an arm chair critic? I would like to know your credentials first. I make no apology if i sound cut and dry just as the tone you take with your column.

    The kids. If you are in a hopelessly miserable marriage, you’ll do more harm to your children by staying put than you will by getting out. By enduring misery, you teach your children, “I don’t deserve to be happy.” By putting up with abuse, you teach your children, “Never rock the boat. Take crap from others at all costs.” By staying in a hopeless situation, you also teach them how not to communicate, how not to have healthy relationships, and how not to be assertive. Is this what you want to teach your children?

    Yours sincerley,


    • Williams July 20, 2014, 10:40 am

      My tone is fine.

      The purpose of my post and submissions here are to reveal that there are many perspectives to life and no one singular opinion is a fit for all.

      Please go on with your life the way you see fit…it is yours after all. Don’t let me stand in your way.

      Thank you.

  • Bill March 18, 2013, 9:57 pm

    This is why I chose not to marry or have kids and live alone.

  • grace April 4, 2013, 5:58 pm

    I believe you are hurting your children more than helping them by staying with their mother, believe me I can relate, i was married to a man who i loved very much, but he was and still is an alcoholic. I divorced him, it was very hard emotionally and financially. I am now retired and live alone, I would have it this way instead of living with an addict.

  • steve buc July 5, 2013, 6:03 pm

    hey know it all. how about this.i go on this site to find out what is holding me to being married to compulsive gambler. you say ,not even knowing anything about my aberant thinking and broken inside feeling that i dont have to do anything hey dumbass then if i dont then you dont so why does it not apply to you

  • snider July 8, 2013, 7:58 am

    I have been married for 4.5 year have two beautiful daughters.
    I met my wife online and married her on a whim which i would blame myself. I have disagreements with my wife with respect to spending, btw I am the only employed member of this house. We both have a lot of disagreements from spending, to maintaining the home and such.
    I have faced sever financial difficulties with my wife, and most of all i feel not getting the respect due from her. And I don’t think she is sympathetic to my problems and never shows empathy to me.
    I do admit on occassions i do get angry and have yelled at her, i feel guilty about it and sometimes i feel i am the monster in this relationship. I am loosing focus and my sense of self respect.

  • Abi July 14, 2013, 12:59 pm

    Hi, I’ve been married for 6years now and have 2boys aged 6 and 3yrs. My husband was abusive from the word “go” and I put up with it until last year,when he assaulted me. I had him arrested. After he was released on a warning,he still continued to abuse me. He abuses alcohol and very vulgar when he is drunk. He chases us around wth my kids and we had to sleep in other peoples houses or go 2my family. Sometimes very late at night. This year he promised he will stop drinking and will be more respectful towards the marriage and his family,but I’m not interested anymore. I do care about him coz he is my kids dad,but I do not love him anymore. I do worry about my kids becoz they love their dad so much, but I cannot live with him anymore. I want a divorce. I’ve waited too long for him to change. I think I’m done now!

    • ASD January 14, 2016, 1:50 pm

      So… you thought…. an abusive man from the word “go” was the PERFECT guy to have a couple kids with. Wow. I’m speechless. I just don’t get that thinking. Seems like he wouldn’t be a great father figure – ya think? And you’re surprised at how you’re treated?? What is surprising dear?

  • Robyn August 7, 2013, 10:42 pm

    Abuse of any kind will wreck a smith sailing ship! :-I don’t think ( anyone should stay in
    an avusive relationship. Granted, that’s easier said than done, but if your mother( whom you trust) , your true friends and even random outsiders tell you it’s not a good thing, well LISTEN to them!!! Find a place to stay get a place to hide if you have to but get put!!! What a miserable existence & no one should stay!! God Bless the ones who get out!’ God bless the ones who stay too! The a users day will come! Damn them for continuing that shit! It makes my stuff seem nil! :-(

    Ok sorry, I just get sick in my head & stomach at the thought of anyone sustaining a like of physical & mental abuse. It sucks!

    Here’s my story & I we’ve any advice or thoughts you may have to me.
    I’ve been martied for 17 years( wow that’s a long time , I know!!)
    We have 2 sons12 &
    8. My husband is very quick witted and that’s one of the reasons I ES attracted to him in the1st place was his great sense of humor . Laughter is true medicine for the soul!
    In a nutshell. He slept with my so called friend one night. it didn’t keep on going.
    Told me about it a year later. He lost his job, we moved. I was still angry even though I thought I was over it. We were back in the town were we from. I went out with some girlfriends, made out with a hottie. Thankfully he had a whiskey **** . My husband found out. …. We finally were somewhat back on track.
    I was ( he was too) abusing alcohol & drugs and said I needed help. Went to rehab( 10 days was what our insurance covered ). Next 18 months…
    Fast forward… His mother passed away, he was clinically depressed , lost his job because he failed a drug screen . He was eaten up inside & it was visually clear to me something was wrong . I got him to release what all had occurred that was killing h imside. And….. He told me he had slept ( one time) a finend( haha), had an affair while I was in rehab & had paid for a BJ from some skank at a massage palor!!!!!
    Now fart forward to today( found out all that 18 months ago). I tried to forgive( can’t seem to forgrt) . I filed for divorce 2 months ago. He hasn’t been served& asked for more time. We are about to lose our house& neither one of I’d can afford to get a stinking divorce!! What the hell would y’all do??!

  • Michelle July 16, 2014, 4:14 pm

    I disagree. Staying in a marriage for the kids and because you made a commitment are good reasons to stay. If not, nearly everyone would get divorced because we all get bogged down with life and frustrated with each other. I have a difficult marriage, but I stay in because of both of those things. On the other hand, I am not accepting the lot I have been given–living with a difficult person. I work each day to make my marriage good. I have good days and bad. The legacy of divorce and giving up is far more destructive than sticking in a less than ideal situation but working to make it better. The only exception is if the marriage is abusive and/or dangerous. Just I am not happy. No. Sorry. That is a cop out. It is selfish. It is lazy. I want to be a better example to my children.

    • Zulu October 1, 2014, 2:17 pm

      Being unhappy in a marriage for long periods can cause depression, bad health, self loathing, and resentment. I know because I’ve been through all of that, and am now taking the steps to get divorced. It’s not selfish or lazy, sometimes it’s life saving. I always believed as you did until i watched my mom dying over a few months. Yes, her and my dad were married 54 years, but i agonized over hearing how she wished she was able to do things she wanted to do in life. She never did because she stayed for us kids. My parents had different interest, likes,hobbies, choice of music, etc. They stayed together out of obligation. If you stay in a realtionship like that, you never reach your full potential as a person. I have been told “make sure you try everything”, What is everything? I’ve been married over 20 years, you don’t think I’ve tried damn near everything. Is “everything another year, 5, 10, 20? Everything can go on until one of us dies, and happiness and fulfillment will never be had. Everyone’s situtation is different, as is everyones’ pain. Never stay in a relationship if you can’t be the person you want to be,

      • Ms Len October 29, 2014, 2:06 pm

        Zulu, your post hit me the best with accuracy. Long-term marriage certainly isn’t easy, and a huge part of my does want to stay married, like Michelle but…I’m 60 years old, kids are grown and gone. Why is commitment so important now? Why can’t a marriage have an expiration date? I committed myself for 18 years, when is enough enough? And lastly, are we talking about staying together in the same house sharing finances ‘marriage’ or are we talking about living separately and do your own thing but stay married, if both agree? So many options now, just the choosing is difficult.

      • Kamama January 27, 2016, 2:20 pm

        Zulu, did you divorce? How are you doing now? I married at 19, and am now 39. Your story sounds like mine, I’m just afraid to divorce although I know I should and haven’t been happy for years.

        I’s love to know how you’re doing.

  • Scott April 22, 2015, 12:23 am

    Thanks for this. Most everything on the web is either written to put fear into you for thinking about divorce (you’re old and won’t find anybody, it’ll ruin your finances, etc.). The other articles are by divorce lawyers about the legal proceedings. Somehow everyone loves to tell the 40 year old man he’s just going through a midlife crisis. Well, I’m 39, and yes I’m going through a midlife crisis. The crisis is I’ve been miserable in my marriage for the last 8 years and unhappy for all 16 years. Unfortunately I kept putting off the question of divorce hoping and wishing for our fundamental problems to get better, but now I just feel like a sucker and a martyr who gave up my life for my wife, who has used our son as leverage to keep me from seeking fulfillment in my life through work and travel, always saying that by leaving her I would be abandoning my son. Of course that is not true. I feel powerless. I’ve lived my life by following my parents, religion, society, counselors, and stupid self-help blogs, ignoring my intuition that this has will be fatal to my health. Now I feel brushed aside for my feelings because of my age. And I suppose twenty years from now I’ll just be senile. This is insane. I have friends who are divorced and some remarried who seem a lot better adjusted because of it. What is the big deal. I’ve been unhappy my entire married life. I’ve still got my looks. My wife and I have been having the same argument for our whole marriage: she wants to live near family and I want to live in other countries. Guess who’s won. We live an hour away from her family. They never visit though and we never visit them. I’ve come up with lots of ways to live abroad but she dismisses every job I ever find, and there are several options nowadays. Unfortunately now it’s hard to break away because even my job I’ve chosen for her sake and I’m miserable there too, so I want to leave both. Yeah, turning 40 woke me up, but the problems have been here all along. Marriage sucks. I don’t see very much good about it at all for the man. The woman has all the leverage when you have kids together. She also has all of society on her side. Why did I ever sign up for this hell?

  • phillip December 21, 2015, 1:58 pm

    Not bad advice, but will you take care of the kids, I will just go off to some sunny sandy beach, I ‘ll leave you my mortage, and car payment. I like the sound of all this, lots of sex and no bills to pay. I think you have found the mystery to our sad life.


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