The Fear Factor: Reason #2 Women Stay in Bad Relationships

(Update: All the posts of this series have been collected into one piece, Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them.)

In From Selfless to Selfish: 1 Reason Women Remain in Bad Relationships and From Selflessness to Selfishness: Go, Xena, Go!, we looked at one reason women too often stay in bad relationships. Today we’ll look at another factor that tends to keep women rooted in relationships from which they really should extract themselves: Fear of the unknown. There are few things in life as paralyzing as fear of the unknown. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” goes the old saying—and that’s a song to which many dance in place their whole lives long. But fear is real; and a woman in a bad relationship can have a lot of fears that are as legitimate as wanting to know where her and/or her kids’ next meal is coming from. Let’s now take a look at four of the different forms or aspects of the one Big Fear that tends to freeze women in relationships from which they know they should break out. 1. Things could always get worse. A lot of women in bad and especially abusive relationships know this all too well; very often their lives haven’t exactly been leaping up from one fantastic plateau to the next. There is comfort in the devil you know: the fangs of the next one might be longer, the nail sharper. 2. “I’ve never been alone.” This one’s massive. A lot of women have never been on their own: they went from their father’s home to their husband’s. You take a woman who’s never from the ground up had to build an Actual Life for herself, and you’ve got someone who (besides perhaps lacking the practical knowledge of things like doing taxes, or fixing fuse boxes or water heaters, or whatever) likely lacks a paradigm of herself in the kind of leadership role she needs to assume if she’s going to become captain of her own ship. She simply can’t imagine herself being the final authority in her own life. She tries to imagine that—and gets a blank. And a blank is unknown. And the unknown is frightening. unknown future 3. “Will I ever find another man?” This is a huge swath of the Big Unknown. Few women want to be perennially single—and yet most cringe at imagining themselves hittin’ the ol’ dating scene. There’s so much competition out there. All the decent guys are already married or in committed relationships. I’d embarrass myself on a dance floor. What if I never find anyone? What if I die single? These and a thousand similar thoughts ricochet through the minds of a lot of women when they think of themselves newly alone. And it tends to make them a lot more interested in sticking with whatever they’ve got. 4. Money, Honey. Lots of women who’ve spent too much of their lives dominated by men lack marketable job skills. Being financially dependant upon their husbands is of course the reason so many women stay right where they are, no matter how bad that place may be. Better to eat in prison than starve while free. That’s a terrible formula; but, alas, it’s one that defines the core dynamics of many women’s lives. Tomorrow we’ll talk about how each of these fears can be addressed and absolutely overcome. Please pass this piece—or any piece from the series—to anyone whom you think it might help. Thank you. Help me by joining my Facebook fan page here.

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  • altonwoods

    After my stellar debut yesterday, I’m not sure if I can top that but here goes…

    Is there really two sides to every story? In no way would I attempt to rationalize physical abuse perpetrated by men upon women, however, (and here’s the big but) What I’m trying to bring forward is this, we recognize many forms of abuse, physical,verbal,psychological, but do we overly validate one of them and under validate the other? “well, yeah, getting the crap beat out of you is just way harder to ignore than having your feeling’s hurt” I get that…try to get this, because it is so much easier to ignore peoples emotional wounds it’s no surprise that they never get dealt with. What’s right or wrong here is sort of irrelevant, of course they should’ve sought help for their “issues” but that just never happened, maybe women should’ve got to know these men better before they took those vows to stay with them until “death do you part” oh! I’ve stepped on some toes there. Even now,I can practically feel the hair rising on the back of peoples necks about what I’ve just said, but can you not see my point? Perhaps I’m just tired of seeing men “demonized” and held entirely responsible for everything that goes wrong. It’s not only in marriages but we’re fair game just about everywhere else too. It seems as though the cycle of the double standard comes to visit us all. No it’s not fair, right, or in anyway how we would want it to be if we could wiggle our noses and fix it, it’s just how it’s always been. If the past is any indicator of the future then maybe we should actually defy the definition of insanity and try a different approach besides placing blame or creating scapegoats…I’ve never hit a woman, nor would I stand by and watch it happen…I just think there’s a whole lot more to the story and that there really are “two sides to every story”. Again, In no way am I advocating or excusing physical abuse in any form…I’m just saying that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that our propensity to blame is a part of how the problem is perpetuated.

  • Dee

    There are THREE sides to the story… His, Hers and The TRUTH!

    Altonwoods, are you saying that men physically/emotionally abuse because women/children aren’t perfect and the relationship is difficult at best? I’ve actually heard those very words spoken by my husband when confronted with the physical abuse he meeted out on my son… “Well, he deserved it! He was being disobedient!” However, no child (or wife) deserves to have his head bashed into the floor repeatedly while blood is running from where finger nails were tearing the flesh behind his ears. My husband today will never admit he was abusive and blames all the trouble on me and my sons!

    Mature people get help when they abuse. Mature people admit that they both contribute to the problem and don’t continue to excuse the abusive behavior! Mature people repent for their wrong and forgive those who have wronged. When that doesn’t happen, NO relationship can be repaired. BUT no one should stay in an abusive relationship hoping that the abuser will just get better. Do what you can to get help, get counseling, seek to resolve the issues. When only one person does that, they have the right to protect themselves against abuse.

  • Dee: Yikes. Awful. So are you thinking about leaving your husband? It sounds like you … well, must be, given what you’ve said.

  • altonwoods

    Dee, No, that's not what I'm saying at all.. I think you put it very well when you said this,

    Mature people admit that they both contribute to the problem and don’t continue to excuse the abusive behavior!

    When a relationship fails for whatever reason both people need to own their responsibility for it…If they don't chances are they'll take it into the next one.

    My overall point is that abuse has many different faces, it's both physical and verbal. IMO, the contention that it's the sole dysfunction of the man is actually counter to ever really putting a stop to it.

    (children are of course an exclusion)