In response to my previous article "Surviving Ex-Wedding Anniversaries", the question was asked, “If the marriage seemed off from the start, what made you stay so long?” Regardless of the reasons for a marital break up, this question always comes up, but probably more so when it is obvious for a long time that the relationship isn’t working and, despite that, the couple continue living in such a situation.
Some claim to stay together for the kids. Some do it for finances. Some do it out of fear—fear of what family members will think, or fear of what their spouse might do. Some do it out of complacency—although their marriage isn’t happy, they’re content with the rhythm of life with each spouse fulfilling a part of keeping the household running.
I once heard a story about a woman who all but despised her husband and her living situation, but stayed to get the 10-year anniversary ring. What she would do after she got the 10-year anniversary ring she didn’t say and I’ve often wondered. I also wondered how sad is it—for her, her husband, and her children that her only focus is on enduring long enough to get jewelry? To my mind, that piece of jewelry would hold no fond memories or times of happiness, because it didn’t seem there was any of that in the marriage to begin with.
A little bit more about my story. My husband and I were married for 14 years when we finally “officially” separated. We had dated for one year prior to getting married and married after becoming pregnant (I will explore this in reference to marital successes in another article). There were a number of issues I know now that existed in the very beginning that in hindsight spelled disaster for a successful marriage, but I’m trying to keep to the topic at hand.
I had several reasons for staying. One, I really did love him. I wasn’t “in love” with him, but I did “love” him. There is a difference. Several years after getting married many people lose that “in love” feeling. If they’re lucky, they may come back to rediscover what it means to be in love with each other and become one of those cute old couples holding hands that we all admire. In every marriage, though, love is a choice. Every minute of every day our lives are filled with choices. I chose to love my husband because that’s what I had promised in my wedding vows. That’s not to say that I did it out of duty—although I suppose that’s partly true. But I believed in carrying out to the best of my ability the wedding vows and the covenant I had signed and pledged to carry out.
I believed that in doing so, I would show him how to love, what loving someone--not being in love with someone--really meant. It meant sacrificing and giving of yourself and thinking of the other person and doing kind things even when you don’t think they deserve them, and showing them that they are special to you. Of course, you can only teach those who want to be taught. Despite what he told me, I don’t think he really understood what love was. He couldn’t accept what I did for him as a gift of love because he equated love with something else—he still expected love to be a feeling not a verb. I realized this at the end of 14 years in a loveless marriage.
I stayed because we had two boys. There was no outright abuse going on in our household. And while I wouldn’t say our marital relationship was a prime example of what one should be to our boys, particularly our older one, there really wasn’t anything “wrong” or any other issues going on in our marriage that would deem the household “unlivable” for them.
I also stayed for financial reasons. For many years, ours was a marriage of convenience. We stayed together because it was convenient. We went to work, came home, looked after the children, and shared accommodations, but eventually the contentment waned for both of us and we realized that convenience wasn’t enough.
Marital Recovery and Discovery
Please share in our Marital Recovery and Discovery group how long your marriage was and why you stayed.
Perhaps your situation was like mine where there wasn’t any physical abuse or anything, just a gradual falling away before finally getting to the point where you knew there was no hope. Perhaps your situation was one of fear and control. Let’s talk it out.