So your marriage isn’t working anymore. What used to be affection has turned into acrimony; laughter has been replaced with sarcasm and love with disgust. But getting a divorce and dealing with the changes is too complicated. Property has to be divided, children shuffled between two households and child support has to be discussed in a not-so-amiable setting. Perhaps the only good thing a divorce brings is getting rid of a once-loved spouse.
But many people choose to stay in a toxic relationship rather than get a divorce. Surveys show that the most common excuses for staying in a stressful marriage are:
- Convenience – they don’t want to disturb the routine and familiarity of daily activities, even if what is normal in the house isn’t necessarily good for them. It’s akin to fear of change or facing the unknown. Staying for this reason is often rationalized by saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
- The kids – children are a convenient and plausible excuse for staying in a toxic marriage. They need to grow up in a normal family with both parents present. They need constancy and shouldn’t be uprooted.
- Belief that the abusive spouse will change – hope springs eternal and the victim desperately hangs on to the union and focuses on the positive traits of the partner, believing that someday, the abuse will go away.
- Fear of being alone – many people equate being alone with loneliness. Nothing is farther from the truth. Often, this fear is the underlying reason why spouses stay in an abusive relationship. Being married, no matter how harmful and destructive it is, is better than being by their lonesome.
If you are in an abusive relationship, what you may not realize is that a tumultuous marriage is very detrimental to your psychological, behavioral and physical health. The symptoms creep up on you insidiously until, without warning, the conditions manifest themselves on your body and psyche.
The Long-Term Effects of a Stressful Relationship to Your Health
- Increased risk for heart attacks and other health conditions
Frequent exposure to physical, verbal and emotional abuse gives you chronic stress. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that women in stressful relationships were 12 times more likely to develop heart disease and 14 times more likely to have a stroke.
Aside from heart conditions, chronic stress raises the risk for high blood sugar, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
- Psychological Conditions
Anxiety, depression and low self-esteem are some of the common consequences of spouses subjected to abuse by their partners. Long-term abuse can strip you of your self-confidence and make you feel despair at losing control of your life. You are always tense and on edge waiting for the next round of abuse you know will come. After a while, you lose all interest in anything. It’s like being sucked into a black hole where there’s no escape. Many times, victims of abuse commit suicide.
On The Other Hand, There’s Divorce
One of the major decisions an individual has to make in his or her lifetime, if push comes to shove, is getting a divorce. Tony Dunne, a family lawyer based in San Diego, knows that emotional stress, financial upheaval and the breakup of a family can turn a divorce into an ugly affair. The effects of a divorce on a person are actually similar to that of one in an abusive marriage. The risks for heart diseases and other chronic conditions are higher and the divorced spouses go through a myriad of emotions that ravage the emotional and mental well-being.
But, while these consequences see no end within a stressful relationship, they are of shorter duration in a divorce because the causative factors – constant fights, putdowns, physical violence – are eliminated. Legal counsel can also do a lot towards helping the divorce procedure be with as little turmoil and contentious encounters as possible. Without advocating for divorce, a new study has found that people who have gone through the legal separation process can be as healthy as people in a stable and harmonious relationship if they have bounced back and begun a new and happier life.
To conclude, staying in a stressful or abusive marriage, in the long run, is more toxic than getting a divorce and starting anew.