Why Do So Many Women Stay In Relationships They’d Rather Leave?

While you should never be too hasty when it comes to ending a long-term relationship — you don’t want to throw in the towel too quickly or quit just because you hit a temporary rough patch — there comes a point when you know things just aren’t working out and you’re prolonging the inevitable. It can be incredibly difficult to walk away from someone and something into which you’ve invested so much time and energy. However, sticking around is only going to make you miserable. It makes you wonder why so many women stay in relationships they’d clearly rather leave. Turns out, there are some easy answers.

  1. They’re financially dependent on their partners.This sucks but it’s true. Relying on your partner financially doesn’t make you less of an independent woman, of course — there are many reasons this can end up being the case. Maybe there was an injury or illness, or they wanted to be home to take care of kids, if they had them. Or, maybe they’re simply struggling to find well-paying work while their partner brings in the big bucks. Whatever the situation, leaving financial security behind is extremely difficult. The sad reality is that there are plenty of unhappy couples that are too broke to break up.
  2. They want to stay together “for the kids.” If they have kids with their partner, many women feel like they need to make the relationship work for the children’s sake. They want the kids to have both parents or to avoid trauma they experienced themselves as a result of their own parents splitting up when they were younger. Of course, it’s important to note that kids know when their parents are unhappy and would rather them be apart and happy than together and miserable.
  3. They feel pressured to be in a relationship. Societal and cultural expectations can exert significant pressure on couples to stay together. This is especially true for women once they reach a particular age. For instance, being over 30 and ending up the only single woman in your friend group can feel particularly isolating and make you feel like a failure. Many women will force things that aren’t working to avoid dealing with this.
  4. They have a fear of the unknown. Ending a relationship can be an uncertain and intimidating process, especially if you’ve been with someone for a long time. This is one of the biggest reasons women in stay in relationships they’d rather leave — it seems better than the alternative. Being alone, reentering the dating scene, and other realities of being single admittedly don’t seem particularly attractive, which means many couples continue way past their sell-by date.
  5. They’re emotionally attached to their partners. No matter how terrible things are in the relationship, emotional attachment can make it difficult or nearly impossible to walk away. After all, when you know your partner inside-out and have developed a comfortable (and comforting) routine with them, you become attached to it and them.
  6. They have religious or moral beliefs that make leaving hard. This is a biggie and one worth mentioning. Many women (and people in general) come from strict religious or moral backgrounds that make splitting up extremely frowned upon. They believe that once you commit to someone, you stick with them even when the going gets tough. This is especially true for couples who are married, but the same can be applied to long-term couples who are in an unmarried but still committed relationship.
  7. They lack a solid support system. It goes without saying that your closest friends are the ones who get you through all the terrible times in life. Not only do they stand by your side to encourage you, they also know how to lift you up and remind you of how amazing you are. Women who lack that kind of intense support system often feel alone and like no one has their back. This means they tend to stay in bad relationships because there’s no one there to remind them of how great life can be outside of them.
  8. They think things will get better. This is probably one of the most popular explanations for why women stay in relationships they’d rather leave. The idea is that if you just stick it out one more day or one more month, the tide will turn and the relationship will miraculously heal itself. It’ll be like you’re back in the honeymoon stage and everything will be amazing. Of course, even with couples therapy or other interventions to try and get to the root of the issue, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes relationships are just over, and knowing when to walk away is vital.

It should go without saying, of course, that the decision to stay in an unhappy relationship is a deeply personal one, and women shouldn’t have to justify why they’re doing it. Every situation is unique, so if you know someone in this situation, try to avoid judging them and instead offer them understanding and support. (And if you’re in this situation, offer yourself the same!)

Jennifer has been the managing editor of Bolde since its launch in 2014. Before that, she was the founding editor of HelloGiggles and also worked as an entertainment writer for Bustle and Digital Spy. Her work has been published in Bon Appetit, Decider, Vanity Fair, The New York TImes, and many more.