Social Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Why would a couple remain in a loveless marriage after the children have left?

Asked by LostInParadise (28380points) October 16th, 2011

I met a partner in such a marriage and it struck me as a bit strange. The nearest I could figure for why they stay together is that two can live cheaper than one. They both have good incomes and live in a large home. It reminded me of the Robinsons in the movie The Graduate.

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32 Answers

augustlan's avatar

Fear of being alone or force of habit, probably.

Bellatrix's avatar

Perhaps they are religious and don’t believe in divorce.

Perhaps they do love each other but not in a passionate way but that is enough for them.

Perhaps they have a complicated financial situation that they don’t want to mess with.

As @augustlan said, perhaps they would rather be together rather than alone.

It could be because of many reasons or most likely a combination of a few reasons.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Fear of being alone? Sometimes it’s easier to stay in a routine that you have known all your life even if you are unhappy than break the cycle and start over.

Mantralantis's avatar

Because, to find out what love truly is, they have to remain loveless, perhaps even for years, until one of them finally finds out where the other has been hiding all their money the kids really never got. And that’s even if they had kids to begin with. Or maybe one cat named Sunshine…that I miss dearly. Oh, no! She’s still alive. She has has nine lives, you know.

I tried. It’s probably why I never really, truly married the first time. Nine-years ago.

Soupy's avatar

Perhaps the idea of change, and of being alone after being in a pair for so long, is just too intimidating for them.

Mantralantis's avatar

@Soupy – I somehow agree with that notion. I see it with my own parents. And I have a step-mother whom I’ve always battled, knowing she was too proud for my father to love her. My biological mother left us when I was only two. But God bless her she had problems I forgive her for to this day…and has passed recently in a stroke.

Hibernate's avatar

If it’s after a few decades it’s not because it’s a force of habit it’s mainly because they know it’s gonna take too long to get something “Better”.

marinelife's avatar

Fear of being alone.


Need to punish oneself.

chyna's avatar

Financial reasons, too lazy to do what needs to be done to get a divorce, including the moving out process.

JLeslie's avatar

Assuming no one is abusing the other, they are still family. They have been together for many years, have many shared experiences, have a routine with each other, will still probably be there for each other when God forbid one is sick or needs help. Not being in love, but still having respect and consideration for the other person sometimes is enough. It might feel like settling a little, but it would depend on the expectations of the person. Maybe in their 50’s + they are not looking for, or don’t need an intense love afair with their spouse, but companionship, and happy to be with the same familiar face. Also, some couple eventually find the love again with each other. Children put tremendous stress on couples. i recently heard a study saying couple with young children score low on the happiness scale, but couple with adult children score very high. You have to allow the relationship to get to the happy part when the kids are finally out of the house.

Being alone is better when you hate the other person, but not necessarily when you want to be independent, but still have some support. Each spouse might very much do their own thing most of the time.

dabbler's avatar

Inertia? Better than nothin’ ?

Judi's avatar


WestRiverrat's avatar

They are too cheap to spend money on a lawyer for a divorce.

john65pennington's avatar

Fortunately, I am not in this situation. Our children are grown and gone and now its time for us to have fun, together, again. I could understand leaving, if the love also left, but we still have it for each other and I thank the Lord for that.

Staying together, without love for each other, is like living alone, so why bother?

Mantralantis's avatar

Yeah, John, I can’t disagree with for two reasons: I’ve not grown old exactly with someone I still have something for and the fact that LONELINESS is still one of the biggest bully’s on the block of existing with a purpose driven life.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, fear, inertia, fear of change, laziness, masochism, obligation, duty, addiction, fear of loneliness. All the usual dysfunctional reasons people allow themselves to stay stuck in limiting situations.

I found the courage to leave a 22 yr. marriage when my daughter was 15 and I have never been happier than I have been the last 8, almost 9 years.

While I have empathy for those that struggle with this issue, I also feel a sense of disgust, I mean it is YOUR LIFE…do you not think that you DESERVE happiness?

I let go of a friend in this situation some months ago, I just couldn’t deal with her never ending martyrdom, staying with her verbally abusive and 2 time cheating husband of 30 years. Of course there were other reasons as well, but, being one that took that leap off the cliff into the unknown, I just cannot listen to those that choose to bemoan their fate and stay stuck in chronic victimhood anymore. Just too far removed from my reality.

Mantralantis's avatar

@Coloma – Respectfully, you can’t expect everyone can find what you did when you left. I’m willing to bet some others (besides myself, yep) that would say that your being very unfair with what you commented. Yes, sure people may need to get up and change their direction. But what about the many, who still have genuine feelings for their spouses or mates. I just can’t entirely agree with that comment. But I do understand you have your say in the matter.

Coloma's avatar


Mmm…sorry, nope, I have come too far to look away from abusive and addictive relationship dependency. I tried my best to help my friend wake up, she chose not to, and I chose to remove myself from her unhealthiness as it was starting to effect me negatively.

Mantralantis's avatar

Were you ever proactive in helping her get any adequate professional help she needed…from the outside, the best you could do, then? If so, then I can start to understand what you mean by “removing myself from her unhealthyniness…starting to effect me negatively”

Coloma's avatar


Absolutely. It was sad, but, along with some other things, it was time to jump ship. One can only lead a horse to water.

OpryLeigh's avatar

There is a really good saying: “You can love someone but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are in love with them”. I can understand when couples stay together when they aren’t in love because loving someone like a friend (which is, obviously, different to in love) usually comes with respect and compassion. It’s when a couple don’t have any love for one another, only resentment and disdain, that I think it’s time to call it a day.

Mantralantis's avatar

Okay, I’m sure it was hard for you, Coloma. But no one, even yourself, may have perhaps knew her deepest feelings for her situation with her terrible husband. But I didn’t so I would assume you are right about what you know. See there’s that assume. Yes, it can be a bad thing. Even for me. As you’ll agree now, I don’t have the answers for that situation or others like it. But I fear no one really does. And, yes, thats very scary for everyone involved. Well except for someone who abuses, I’ll agree with on that one.

Mantralantis's avatar

There can be a period where a man can rehabilitate himself from commitiing abuse. I heard very good cases before. But I’m not exactly siding with the abuser here.

LostInParadise's avatar

In this particular case there is no abuse but there has been infidelity.

Kardamom's avatar

The couple may not love each other, meaning love in the traditional sense of marriage with passion and sex, but they make truly like each other. I can easily see a couple who has more of a good friends kind of relationship or a brother/sister type of relationship where they actually enjoy being with living with and sharing their life together. Not everyone, especially older folks who have been there done that, need to have a passionate love affair. Some people are happy to be healthy and content. Plus the alternatives may seem a lot worse. They both could end up alone, or with people that they dislike.

They’re probably both very comfortable and settle in their lives. They may have had passion at one time, or maybe they never did and maybe neither one of them needed the passion.

They probably also have a moral code that frowns upon divorce, or breaking up when they have children, even if the children are grown. Some people think that breaking up a family, is one of the worst things you can do. If they get a long OK and they don’t need passion, then they’re probably doing better than most couples.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Health Insurance, finances, fiscally related issues.

Divorce costs a lifestyle change besides money. Some people simply aren’t up for that type of change.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

The friendship/companionship between them is comfortable.

The couple enjoys their mutual friends and each other’s families.

Their lifestyle is such they wouldn’t be able to have it if independent.

They may be dabbling with romance on the side to where there is no rush to separate.

They may feel romance/sex is overrated compared with all they have achieved, built or invested.

LostInParadise's avatar

This couple does not particularly like one another. They have different circles of friends. They only infrequently go out as a couple.

augustlan's avatar

Sometimes it’s a matter of “living with the devil you know”. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force, and I suspect that for some people, it only gets more powerful the older you get.

LostInParadise's avatar

Let me throw out a wild theory. Suppose these two people are not capable of strong emotional commitments. Their marriage provides a stable base and an easy means to distance themselves from people so they can casually enter into and exit from relationships.

augustlan's avatar

Could certainly be true. I doubt they are conscious of it, though.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @augustlan

It’s all about ones ability to become a conscious co-creator in their lives and relationships.

The unexamined relationship is not worth living. lol

For someone of my orientation I can think of nothing worse than simply existing in the dead zone of anything.

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