Main Reasons Women Stay in Toxic and Unhappy Marriages Instead of Getting a Divorce

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Many hardworking or seemingly independent women choose to stay in bad marriages instead of divorcing, which is mainly but not exclusively, directed by finances. No-fault divorce laws are new, and spousal abuse has been around for only a couple of decades, which all play a significant role in a woman’s choice to stay married. But there’s more to it, though finances have to be on top of the list. 

Financial situation 

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According to The Pew Research Center survey published in early 2023, the average woman makes 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. That’s a massive improvement compared to 1982 when a woman made 65 cents for each dollar earned by a man. Divorce is expensive, but it is more costly if you’re a woman. 

Parenthood and influence of women’s careers 

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The same study found that mothers aged 25 to 44 are less likely to be part of the workforce than childfree women. Both groups of women, including working mothers, still earn way less than men in similar categories. On top of that, there are more educated women in the workforce now than ever, but the gender pay gap is not catching up. 

Loss of health care and other benefits

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If you are on your husband’s healthcare plan, the risk of losing is possible, depending on your state. With daycare costs and the so-called “motherhood penalty,” it became clearer why divorce, in many cases, proves that women are dependent on men despite getting an education and being part of the workforce. 

Loss of living space


Another common fear is that a woman won’t be able to afford a home and all necessities for herself and the children. It is followed by a fear that the children’s father will not pay his child support, and even knowing that the state has your back does not mean that a woman will be able to keep postponing paying rent or daycare since the system is slow.  

Divorced women are happier than those in bad marriages

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Unlike men, divorced women are happier compared to women who are trapped in toxic marriages. The toxic partnership has adverse effects on a person’s immune system, not only mental health. Yet, being left without enough money to pay for daycare can be reason enough for a woman to put up with a nasty, even abusive spouse. 

Other common reasons women choose not to divorce 

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There are many obstacles for a woman to get to the point where she acknowledges that divorce is the only solution. Some fears predate a decision to file for divorce, including influence on children, tradition, or a sense of obligation. Here is a list of the most common thoughts that come across a woman’s mind when she’s at the point of thinking about divorce. 

Influence on children 

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Many parents believe that a divorce will harm their children. But some mothers are afraid that fathers will “punish” them by not spending enough time with their kids or even completely leave their lives. In smaller percentages, women are worried that husbands will kidnap their children or legally take them away from them, which is still possible if the husband is well-connected. 

Losing family members 

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Not only are mothers afraid that their children could lose their fathers, but they could also lose their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. This does not mean all these people do not love their grandkids, nephews, and nieces, but some husbands will do anything to make a woman feel like a failure, including turning their loved ones against their children. 

Fear of abusive spouse

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Abuse can happen regardless of your gender, but when it comes to volatile spousal abuse, women are in more fragile situations. A wife in an abusive marriage commonly fears reporting her husband, believing he will only get worse. In such cases, if a woman decides to leave the marriage, she needs a solid support system and exit strategy. 

Believing they don’t deserve better 

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Some wives do not think they deserve better. It could be that their husbands or abusers broke them too many times, though it could also be a childhood trauma that influenced their decisions, including staying in a marriage that could leave them in physical danger.  

Believing it is a personal failure

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Men are more than twice as likely to suffer from post-divorce depression than women. Life after divorce is more challenging for men because they tend to withdraw and are less likely to seek professional help. Still, women feel that keeping everyone happy is their job, which is why they see divorce as a personal failure. The difference is that women are more likely to talk to friends, family members, and therapists, though some will stay in a toxic marriage to avoid that deeply rooted belief that it is all their fault. 

Other people’s opinions 

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No one ever divorces because their marriage was great, but people will talk and force their opinions on both sides. Due to fears of what others will have to say, many postpone their impending divorces. As if deciding to get a divorce isn’t stressful enough, many people will have to navigate how others feel about their decision and constantly explain themselves. 

Fear of staying alone forever 

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A bad marriage can make a woman feel unattractive and impossible to love and put her in a position where she fears being alone. This fear leads to believing that she will be alone forever, which could explain, in part, why more women feel relief post-divorce and once they realize that solitude is not the same as loneliness. However, this is a justified feeling since, for centuries, divorced women were treated as second-class citizens. 

Fixer’s mentality 

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Some women believe they can fix everything; all they have to do is work harder and beyond human expectations. This “fixer” mentality shows that a woman’s self-perception and self-worth are linked to their ability to fix her husband. It comes from the idea that if you work hard, good things will happen, but it takes a life of its own if a woman believes she can change a person. 

Dating seems like another world 


Another reason women are not taking the first step toward divorcing their spouses is that they think they should throw themselves into the dating arena, but the last time they dated was maybe years or even decades ago. Divorce is a loss, and grieving a relationship is a natural process. Believing that you must push yourself into the dating pool right away will only make you hold onto your marriage, even if it makes you miserable.  

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.