(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.