7 Stupid Reasons People Stay In Relationships When They're Unhappy

by Lauren Martin

We all know that one couple. Whether it’s your sister and her boyfriend, your best friend and his ball and chain or those two screaming people you call your parents, they’re that couple that’s just that miserable.

They fight and talk behind each other’s backs and say they absolutely "hate" the people they’re so in love with. Many times, they will cheat on each other or talk nonstop about how much they’d like to. They bitch, moan and point out the others' flaws in attempt to prove exactly how much they suck.

It’s like they’re waiting for you to give them the I-promise-not-to-testify-in-court-if you-kill-them nod. But if you dare pose the "b word” -- dare acknowledge that they could live a happier life without them, broken up -- they act as if you just shot them both.

They get defensive, protective and alarmingly confused at the absurd idea you just slammed on the table. Break up? Why the hell would I break up with the person I want to kill? Why would I end it with someone I’m not happy with? Their double negatives are palpable, yet we continue to appease them.

“Oh, sorry. Just sounded like that was the simple answer to your question,” is what you’d like to say back, but instead you just nod and listen to all the reasons they would never end it with the person they love to hate so much.

“I mean, at the end of the day I do love them,” is the most popular response. The most popular hidden meaning is: “I’m scared of being alone.”

In a study conducted by Slater & Gordon, a UK law firm, the main reason people stay together in bad relationships is exactly this, fear: the fear of divorce, fear of being alone and fear of not being financially stable on their own.

Of the 2,000 surveyed married couples, 20 percent said they felt trapped in their marriages, but would not divorce unless they were guaranteed financial security, while 29 percent said they would advise younger generations not to get married. It’s this epidemic of settling rather than risking solitude for something greater.

People would rather settle for inadequate relationships than be single and open to something -- or someone -- that could make them happy.

I’m not sure where this aversion to solitude came, but it’s been keeping couples chained to unhealthy relationships for years. It’s this antiquated notion that you are not validated until you are in a relationship. It’s this ingrained idea that being single is bad and being a couple is worth the tension.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Being single isn't worse than being in a bad relationship. Being single isn't guaranteed unhappiness. Being single is not just liberating; it's the only way to get to a better relationship.

Documented in the survey, people admitted to the top seven reasons for staying in their unhappy relationship. None of them are valid.

1. Loneliness

Richard Linklater said it best, “Being alone is better than sitting next to a lover and feeling lonely.” Loneliness is a state of mind. Just because you are single and alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Loneliness occurs in crowded rooms just as easily and often as it does when we’re by ourselves.

Staying in an unhappy relationship may keep you from being alone, but it will not keep you from wishing you had someone who didn't make you feel so lonely.

2. Fear

Fear of being on your own is just fear of being alive. We weren’t born together and we can, indeed, survive without one another. It’s natural to be on your own and to get through life as a single entity. Just because you don’t have someone to call yours doesn’t mean you, by yourself, are no longer valid.

Fear is something we create for ourselves. We're scared of being alone because we're not used to it. We're scared because we think we'll never find someone again. We're scared because we'd rather be complacent in our unhappiness than risk change for something greater.

3. Guilt

Staying in a relationship out of guilt is just as bad as eating an entire plate of brownies so no one will know you had just one. You will end up with a pain in your stomach and a ton of angry party guests.

When you stay with someone because you feel bad for them, you are unconsciously -- and sometimes consciously -- hurting them from the inside. They will pick up on your distance and feel the strain of the relationship. Your decision to stay will be a daily reminder of your absence -- rather than one swift blow.

4. Time

“I’ve already invested so much time into this relationship,” is not a valid excuse. Neither is, “I’m so old now, I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Time is indeed something people take from us, but it’s never wasted. Every month, year or decade we spend in a relationship that doesn’t work out is just a learning experience.

Every moment becomes part of your past and there’s no shame in having history full of exes. It shows you can give things a chance without being scared to walk away when it’s no longer working.

5. Stuff

So you have an apartment together and a dog. You may even have some investment properties. Much like a broken relationship, these things can be divided.

Stuff is never something that should weigh you down, whether in a relationship or not. Staying together because of the stuff that’s between you is just ignoring the issues that surround you.

6. Regret

The feelings that come with transitioning from being a relationship to being single many times feel like regret because you are not used to these feelings. You are not used to going to sleep alone or having no one to text throughout the day. These are just temporary adjustments, however, that you will get used to with time.

Regret is something different; regret is something that will come when you’re 45 and realize you’ve spent all your time with the wrong person.

7. Hope

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s broken beyond repair, stop wasting money and accept that you need to throw it away.

There are some things that will get better with time. For those couples who made the commitment to get married, breaking vows should only come when all is permanently lost. In a relationship that’s easy to walk away from, one must evaluate the severity of the problems and if they are worth the time and effort to fix.

If you find you are just two incompatible people, the problem isn’t something that’s going to improve with time, but only increase your hatred over time.