Why Men Don't Leave Their Wives. Why Women Don't Leave Their Husbands.

Sometimes people are too comfortable where they're at, no matter how bad it is.

couple sitting together in front of fireplace New Africa / Shutterstock

We all know someone, are friends with someone, or dated someone who is in a constant state of "separation" — or worse, on and off with his or her husband or wife.

I had a guy friend who constantly complained about his wife.

Divorce threats came out of his mouth as if his life depended on it. He "dated" people, wondered why his wife was mad, and complained he had to leave her. But guess what? As time went on, nothing changed. He was still the same old hamster, stuck on his wheel.


Then, there was my female friend. The marriage was brutally awful and the plan was to leave him in five months. Then six months. Then seven months. The reasons why she hadn't yet left him simply changed or got more complex.

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Then, there are the numerous "separated guys" — and women too, I'm sure — you go out with, only to discover that they're not divorced yet, or you knew they weren't divorced but separated only to discover that their idea of separation doesn't quite match yours.

Why? Why do people stay despite their pledges to leave?

When a man isn't leaving his wife,  he complains about her non-stop, or you meet him online (or anywhere really) and he says they're separated.

What does that mean? Maybe they live separately. Maybe you discover they're "living together" until he can figure things out or any other number of legit or non-legit reasons. Maybe they're talking to lawyers.


No matter what the case, she's still his wife. He complains to you, a friend or family member, or he romances you, the love interest. It doesn't matter who you are in relation to the Guy Who Won't Leave His Wife, because the end result is the same: He's not getting a divorce. Why?

Why men don't leave their wives:

1. He doesn't want to

He's not divorcing his wife because he doesn't want to. If he really wanted to, he would.

There are very few reasons for someone to delay a divorce other than fear or simply not wanting to. Me, my ex and I took a while to decide to divorce because of our daughter, but eventually, we did. He's not leaving his wife because he's probably still in love with her.

2. He's too comfortable

He's not leaving his wife no matter how badly he kvetches about her because he's comfortable. It's nice not paying alimony and child support. It's nice staying in your own home. And if he has kids, it's nice not sharing them.


3. He doesn't want to lose time with his kids

He's got kids and he's afraid of losing time with them, afraid of how his wife will parent them, and fears she may be negligent or afraid of paying for them. He's afraid of how they will take the news, how they will cope.

But if he really is unhappy, he will still leave his wife. For my ex and I, we worried about our kid, but we did what we felt was best for everyone's happiness.

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4. He fears for her stability

He stays because she's not stable and he enables this. He stays because he fears for her. He stays and fools himself into thinking he can make things better.


5. He wants things to get better

Because he doesn't really want a divorce. It's all threats.

6. He can see other women on the side and still keep his comfortable life

Why should he break up his family when he can see other women on the side for sex and companionship? Why should he be inconvenienced? He's a selfish jerk. He stays because he can have his cake and eat it, too. He stays because he can Facebook his exes and flirt. He stays because he will online date anyway, despite his "status."

7. He doesn't think she can do it on her own

He stays because he says she can't survive financially, forgetting that he will be paying out to some extent and that she can always work. Unless she's sick. If she's sick, he may stay because she's not well.

8. He stubbornly doesn't want to part with his money

Yes, women can end up paying alimony and child support but it's more common for men, and he doesn't want to part with his dough or pay for a lawyer or mediator.


9. He's being emotionally abused

Emotional abuse has fooled him into thinking that this type of marriage is normal.

10. He's fearful

He's afraid of the unknown, and staying is known. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't.

On the flip side, women don't leave their husbands for a variety of reasons. She complains about him non-stop. He's abusive. Mean. Controlling. Doesn't pay attention to her.

Or, you reconnect with her on Facebook or meet her online, and she says they're separated or they're "going to be separated soon." Yet the date keeps getting pushed back.

What does that mean? Maybe they live separately. Maybe they're "living together" until she can get a job or get a lawyer or get the guts to end it (that will most likely never come).


No matter what the case, he's still her husband. It doesn't matter who you are in relation to the Wife Who Won't Leave Her Husband — ex-boyfriend reconnected on Facebook, best friend, or sister —  because the end result is the same: She's not getting a divorce. Why?

Why women don't leave their husbands:

1. She doesn't want to

Whether she's your BFF who has been talking about a divorce since the dawn of time or a flirtatious woman you met online, she's not divorcing because, like the Guy Who Won't Leave, she doesn't want to leave him. She's probably still in love.

2. She's too comfortable

She, like the man, doesn't want to lose her home or move or have to go back to work or have to manage on her own. She stays because she doesn't want to lose time with her kids. She stays because it's comfortable.

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3. She's scared of finances

She's afraid to swing it on her own, especially if she's not educated or currently working. She stays because she's a stay-at-home mom and likes it that way. She stays because the idea of doing it solo is frightening. She stays because getting a job seems more daunting than living a life complaining about your happiness.

4. She doesn't think she can do better

A man could think the same way, but more often than not it's a woman who doesn't believe she deserves better. Who thinks that, somehow, this is the best guy she's going to snag? Because she's used to dysfunction.

5. She can get emotional attention elsewhere and still have comfort

She stays because she can flirt and have emotional affairs, all while living in a married "stable" home. She may be having affairs and online trysts. Having your cake and eating it too is pretty sweet, right? And goddamn selfish.

6. She doesn't want to leave the kids

She stays because she can't imagine him caring for the kids without her. She stays because he might be a negligent parent otherwise. She stays because she worries about how the kids will take it. That the idea of sharing the kids is unbearable.


But still, if someone is unhappy, they will divorce for the kids' sake and his or her own happiness.

7. Lawyers are too damn expensive

She knows divorce is expensive. The idea of this is so paralyzing, she stays, not taking into consideration that being unhappy is a higher price to pay.

8. She thinks things will get better

Because she doesn't really want a divorce. It's all threats.


9. She's being abused

Physical or mental, the abuse is so pervasive that she can't see a way out.

10. She fears for his stability

Enough said.

Both husband and wife stay in their marriage because they're used to being unhappy and like drama.

They stay because if they went off with someone else, they would find fault in that individual as well. They stay because they fear they're too old, too fat, and too thin — fill in the blank with any fear you like. They stay because they're not ready and most likely will never be until they're beaten and defeated.

So if you're seeing this separated yet stalled person, keep in mind: He or she is NEVER going to leave their spouse. There could be physical abuse. Mental abuse. And it won't end unless the person really changes.


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Laura Lifshitz is a former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, and marriage. Her work has been featured on YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.