Why Won’t I Leave My Husband?

Question: I’m married and have two sons. Even from the beginning, my marriage wasn’t great. My husband constantly cheats on me, even when I was pregnant! Whenever I confront him, he promises not to do it again but he does. It’s like he can’t stop himself.

If it was just the affairs, I could deal with it but we also fight all the time. This has made me depressed and anxious. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve even been hospitalized. I know my marriage isn’t worth fighting for (even my oldest son begged me to leave) but I can’t. I realize I’d be better off without him but I don’t know how I’d manage on my own.

Why can’t I leave him? My family says that I love being miserable. I’m not sure what I really want. Please help me!

Answer: It sounds to me like you do know what you really want. You recognize that your husband is not going to change and that you’d be happier without him. Given this, it sounds as if you are allowing fear to dictate your life rather than doing what you know would be best for you. And this is a legitimate way of living except for one thing: now your children are involved.

Research consistently finds that it’s not the dissolution of a relationship that negatively impacts the children. Instead, it’s the conflict and tension within a relationship that’s the most harmful. Children tend to be extremely sensitive and are very much affected by their environment. Their emotional and sometimes even their academic development can be negatively affected by the stress of a conflictual home life. Most importantly, your son has repeatedly asked you to leave. As such, something must change for the sake of your children if not for your own.

It appears to me as though you have three options. You can continue doing what you have been, you can stop arguing with your husband, or you can leave. The first option doesn’t seem to be helpful for anyone. You’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked.

The second option would mean that you accept that your husband will cheat and that he will not be the loving and nurturing partner you deserve. This would be very difficult and would not be a good example for your sons. I doubt you want them to learn that women should be treated poorly or that one partner gets to behave badly without many consequences. Healthy relationships are ones in which there is trust, compromise and loving interactions. Your boys deserve to see this so that they will have healthy relationships when they get older. Thus, the second option is possible but not desirable.

That leaves the third option of ending the marriage. Leaving would be a challenge but, at least with this option, you have the chance that things could get better, not only for you but also for your sons.

The thing about fear is that, the longer you listen to it, the worse it gets. Instead, the way to overcome it is to make a plan, start slow, and then keep plugging away at it. Part of the problem may be that leaving seems so overwhelming. As such, why not figure out everything that needs to happen and then pick one thing to do first? For example, you’ll need to support yourself, so finding a job and figuring out the money may be the first step. Perhaps your family can help (this is a time to utilize all your resources). Once that’s accomplished, figure out what’s next that you can do and so on.

After a while, you’ll see that leaving isn’t as difficult and that you are capable of living without your husband. Most of all, your sons will see that there is a life out there for them that includes peace and loving relationships. They deserve that and so do you.

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