I’m not referring to the promises you make to your parents or your friends.
And you should certainly keep the promises you’ve made to your children.
However, there are times when you should consider breaking the promises you made when you married a lying, manipulative cheater.
There are many reasons why women and men stay in bad marriages, but one I’ll talk about today comes up often when I’m working with clients. And truly, it’s heart-rending because I remember what it was like when I was in their situation. After all, I was once so determined to make it work with my ex that I agreed to be his second wife, but that’s a little extreme and not applicable in most cases.
There is a similar reason, though, which I discuss below. Following is one of the top reasons people tend to stay in bad marriages, and why adhering to it can ruin your life:
I don’t like being a quitter or breaking my promises
I won’t speak to whether divorce is a sin. Each religion has its own criteria and exceptions. With that being said, I’ve had clients whose partners were members of the clergy (male and female), and used religion as a tool to “counsel” others on the sins of divorce and cheating while carrying on their own extramarital activities – so be careful from whom you seek counsel, even within the Church.
What I’ll discuss today is the phenomenon of people having been so conditioned by generational dysfunction that they believe if they divorce their toxic partner, it would make them quitters, losers, and black sheep of the family.
What do I mean by generational dysfunction? For starters, past generations stuck to the philosophy that marriage was for life, insisting on staying with the person they married, all while there was emotional and physical abuse going on, alcoholism, drug addictions, child abuse, and so on.
Our parents were largely raised by mothers and fathers who were neglected and abused themselves. Consequently, many of us are so greatly affected by our parents having stayed together that we are codependent, depressed, on anti-anxiety medications, and stay in our own bad marriages or relationships.
Others turn out to be narcissists (but you shouldn’t use that as a reason to justify their bad behaviors or feel sorry for them).
I was once so conditioned by false beliefs and hypocritical societal norms that I believed I had a duty to stick through it all – because that’s what Mom and Dad did, as did my grandparents and great-grandparents, etc.
Or, maybe your parents divorced when you were young and you want to keep a “stable” family unit for your children. If there is abuse and dysfunction in a marriage, that’s the opposite of stability, and in fact will likely perpetuate the dysfunction – especially in cases where children witness emotional and physical abuse and/or are targets of it themselves. They grow up believing that love and marriage “naturally” include certain elements of betrayal, abuse, and the allowance of those acts.
Which is why we stayed/stay in our own toxic marriages and relationships. Sure, there are psychological and biological addictions and trauma-bonding going on, but had we healthy beliefs about what love and relationships are all about, we wouldn’t stay long enough for those to kick in.
Don’t be a martyr
Why should you have the self-sacrificing resolve of Mel Gibson’s character in “Braveheart”, when your cheating, lying partner is out in the world desecrating the marriage vows you took with them?
Why should you stay in a marriage you know is wrong for you and your kids because someone else thinks it’s the right thing to do?
When will you do what’s right for you (and your children) and let go of the opinions and beliefs of others?
I got to that point. I was so miserable and exhausted at the end of my marriage that I didn’t want to live any more.
But then, a magical thing happened. I stopped caring what other people think. I no longer cared what my ex said to me because I knew he said those things because of who he is. I stopped caring what people would think if I divorced because – truth be told – many of them should have divorced a long time beforehand.
I decided to stop being a martyr, break the promises I made to my abuser, and live true to myself.
Now that I’ve been out of my own toxic marriage for a a while, I am proud to say that I’ve healed enough to where I am no longer affected by the way I was mistreated, nor do I experience sadness or remorse when I think about my past with him. Well, save for one regret – I stayed in the dysfunction too long and there may be repercussions regarding my children’s sense of themselves.
My oldest son is showing early signs of codependency and my middle son struggles with authority figures. I can say without a doubt that the time I spent in my previous marriage may affect my sons throughout their lives. I should have left much earlier. Now, I can only help them and lead by example.
Leaving wasn’t easy. There were times when I didn’t have the money for a cup of coffee, but I am now reaping the benefits of my decision…and my children finally know what it means to live true to oneself and that if someone is abusive, oppressive, or just plain mean, then we have every right to kick them to the curb – married or not – regardless of who they are.