Are You Trapped & Unhappy in Your Relationship?
Do you feel trapped in a relationship you can’t leave?
Of course, feeling trapped is a state of mind. No one needs consent to leave a relationship. Millions of people remain in unhappy relationships that range from empty to abusive for many reasons; however, the feeling of suffocation or of having no choices stems from fear that’s often unconscious.
People give many explanations for staying in bad relationships, ranging from caring for young children to caring for a sick mate. One man was too afraid and guilt-ridden to leave his ill wife (11 years his senior). His ambivalence made him so distressed, he died before she did! Money binds couples, too, especially in a bad economy. Yet, more affluent couples may cling to a comfortable lifestyle, while their marriage dissolves into a business arrangement.
Homemakers fear being self-supporting or single moms, and breadwinners dread paying support and seeing their assets divided. Often spouses fear feeling shamed for leaving a “failed” marriage. Some even worry their spouse may harm him- or herself. Battered women may stay out of fear of retaliation. Most people tell themselves “The grass isn’t any greener,” believe they’re too old to find love again and imagine nightmarish online dating scenarios. Also, some cultures still stigmatize divorce.
Despite the abundance of reasons, many of which are realistic, there are deeper, unconscious ones that keep people trapped – usually fears of separation and loneliness. In longer relationships, spouses often don’t develop individual activities or support networks. In the past, an extended family served that function.
Whereas women tend to have girlfriends in whom they confide and are usually closer with their parents, traditionally, men focus on work, but disregard their emotional needs and rely exclusively on their wife for support. Yet, both men and women often neglect developing individual interests. Some codependent women give up their friends, hobbies, and activities and adopt those of their male companions. The combined effect of this adds to fears of loneliness and isolation people envisage from being on their own.
For spouses married a number of years, their identity may be as a “husband” or “wife” – a “provider” or “homemaker.” The loneliness experienced upon divorce is tinged with feeling lost. It’s an identity crisis. This also may be significant for a noncustodial parent, for whom parenting is a major source of self-esteem.
Some people have never lived alone. They left home or their college roommate for a marriage or romantic partner. The relationship helped them leave home – physically. Yet, they’ve never completed the developmental milestone of “leaving home” psychologically, meaning becoming an autonomous adult. They are as tied to their mate as they once were to their parents.