11 Things People Say To Justify Staying In An Unhappy Marriage

staying in an unhappy marriage

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Although every marriage and situation is unique, I think many people stay in their marriages because it seems like the best option. Maybe they weighed out the pluses and minuses of splitting up, and then determined that staying–even though they are staying in an unhappy marriage, is the better choice versus the alternative of divorce. I am not here to judge people. Everyone has to do what they think is best for them, and sometimes that means staying.

Whatever decision someone makes, they might say things to justify the decision-whether that is staying or divorcing. Again, no judgment on my part. But, what do people tell themselves so that they can justify staying in an unhappy marriage?

Here are 11 things people might say to justify that staying in an unhappy marriage is the right thing for them:

1. I don’t want my kids to grow up with divorced parents.

Ask yourself, are the children better off growing up in a household where there is no love or a lot of friction or possibly cheating or other unhealthy behaviors? Or, might they benefit from two households, and seeing one or both parents in a happy, healthy romantic relationship later on and learn from that?


Discernment Counseling for couples on the brink of divorce


2. No one would ever want to date me at this age, and as a single parent with kids.

This is a big fear for so many men and women and the simple truth is, it’s not valid. You have no idea how many older, single people are out there and want to be in committed, loving relationships. I have seen hundreds of people with this fear get divorced and go on to meet the loves of their lives.


Our Family Wizard


3. I’m scared.

I don’t blame you. Fear is normal in divorce, and actually fear can be good because it can drive you to make good, healthy decisions. Also, ask yourself which is scarier: staying in a toxic relationship or the unknown. I bet you know what the answer is.

4. I need his/her financial security. I don’t want to have to go back to work. I love my lifestyle.

It’s understandable. It’s a comfort zone. And I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to go back to work. But do you know what the worst part of going back to work is? The fear and anxiety about going back to work, and trying to arrange child care. But once you are back to work, you will reap benefits you never even imagined: self-sufficiency, self-love, feeling productive, feeling great about myself, and feeling really proud of myself. Sets a good example to the kids, too!


Katz and Stefani Family Law Attorneys


5. I’m sure a lot of couples feel this way and they just stay together.

That is true, but that doesn’t have anything to do with your happiness.  Don’t you deserve to be happy, even if they aren’t?

6. There’s no divorce in my family and I don’t want to do that to them.

Perhaps the worst reason for staying in an unhappy marriage, not wanting to be the first person in your family to divorce is in my opinion, ridiculous. You aren’t giving your family enough credit. Your family loves you and wants to see you happy and healthy. And if some of them are negative about the divorce, that’s THEIR issue, not yours.

7. I’ve never been alone. I don’t think I could do it.

It’s not easy and it takes time to get used to, but once you learn how to be happy living alone and being independent, you might look back and wonder how you stayed married for so long! It’s empowering and enjoyable to spend time alone. You have inner strength you don’t know about. And, you won’t be alone forever. If you want to meet someone down the road, then your being alone is only temporary, if you think about it.


Michael Cohen Divorce Mediation


8. I want to be a real family.

If there is love and warmth in your family, you are a real family! A real family means many, many things and it all has to do with happiness and being healthy–not being a wife or a husband.

9. I don’t want to have to move out of my house.

This is definitely a hard one for some people. But ask yourself, do I want a house or a HOME that is warm and loving and without conflict? Plus, you may not have to sell your house. Don’t assume anything until you talk to a real estate agent and/or a mortgage lender.

10. I don’t like change.

No one likes change. Change is scary and it feels uncomfortable. Change might be the hardest part about divorce, and it might be the reason people stay in an unhappy marriage for so long.  Change creates stress and fear. But sometimes change ends up being the best thing that ever happened.

11. I don’t want to be divorced. Again. (for second marriage). 

It’s OK!!! Stop worrying about other people and start thinking about your happiness (and your kids’ happiness.)


Catherine Becker Good Law Firm



The purpose of this article is not to encourage anyone to get divorced. Trust me, I am a huge fan of marriage, IF both people are happy. My point is that instead of accepting the unhappiness, men and women owe it to themselves to say, “I’ve had enough of staying in an unhappy marriage, and I’m instead going to make changes to improve the relationship or get out of it.”


Improving the relationship could include talking to the spouse and really making an effort to do things that make each other happier, going to counseling, and/or even a commitment to starting over with a clean slate, with an agreement to erase all resentments. It’s not easy, but couples have been known to succeed and become stronger and better than ever.


Let’s face it. Staying in an unhappy marriage is a choice. But, leaving things status quo could possibly be the worst choice of all.

Like this article? Check out, “9 Signs of a Healthy Romantic Relationship”

Listen to the Divorced Girl Smiling podcast View the DGS trusted divorce professionals! Divorced Girl Smiling is now offering a private, no-cost, one-on-one phone consult

Sign up for the Divorced Girl Smiling newsletter to get articles on divorce and dating.

Sign up


    Divorced Girl Smiling welcome video
    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    3 Responses to “11 Things People Say To Justify Staying In An Unhappy Marriage”

    1. Lora

      12. “I simply don’t know how to fix it, but I’m still hopeful.” Couples do what they know how to do. And in many cases, that’s holding onto the hope that healing will come and life will get better. Unfortunately the better life looks a lot more like generous, forgiving, humble and tear-ridden work, and a lot less like “in-control” fairy godmothers with glass slippers.

    2. Dor

      Staying in an unhappy marriage sucks
      I did it for 28 yrs til I was surprised with a divorce
      I was always alone when married ,so being alone now, post divorce is not difficult.
      Financially, I wish I was still in the marriage.
      Being independent is my positive now.


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *