Why smart women settle for dumb relationships

By Lisa Merlo-Booth

Why Smart Women Settle For Dumb Relationships

Women are settling for dumb relationships everyday. Bright, smart, competent women are living in emotionally cold marriages that are filled with sarcasm, contempt, betrayal, addiction, and even rage.

Why are they settling? Because of fear, stress, their children, and a lack of belief that things can be better. They are fearful to be on their own and figure living with someone is better than living alone. They’re scared of making waves with their partner because “he might get angry or leave.” They want their children to be raised in a two-parent home no matter what the cost to themselves. Women don’t trust that if they fought for something better with their partners that they’d actually get it — so they settle. They settle for an empty marriage and they lower their expectations.

They do not settle however, without a cost.

Research shows that marriage is good for a man’s health — regardless of the degree of marital satisfaction. This does not hold true, however, for women. Women benefit from marriages if and only if they are satisfied in them. When they are not satisfied, it is, in fact, harmful to their health to be married.

Psychologist Darby Saxbe reports that women in chronically unhappy marriages can often be on a “roller coaster ride” of stress levels that rise and fall so frequently that eventually the body stops being able to relax easily. This elevated level of stress has been linked to extreme tiredness, depression, a weaker immune system, osteoporosis, and even cancer.

Women are unhappy because they’re not getting what they want, and they don’t know how to fight to change that.

Why are so many smart women so unhappy in their marriages? They are unhappy because they’re not getting what they want, and they don’t know how to fight to change that. They end up accommodating and getting resentful, or raging and going over the top. In essence, they either overshoot or undershoot.

Rachel, for example, has been married for 15 years and has three children. Rachel’s disappointed that her husband works so much and she wishes he would do more with the family. She doesn’t like it when he’s short with her and the kids; however, she understands that he’s under a lot of stress so she just lets it go. She wishes her husband would talk to her more, but he’s just not a talker.

She knows he loves her. Rachel doesn’t want to add to his stress by complaining about their relationship. She’s been trying to make life easier for her husband for most of their marriage. She believes that if she keeps things calm, then her husband won’t take things out on her and the children. She has learned to accommodate just like her own mother did.

In contrast, Karen has had it. She’s livid and not afraid to say it. Her husband is irresponsible and passive aggressive. He agrees to do something one day and then gives her a thousand excuses about why it’s not done the next. She’s on him constantly to follow through with his promises and can barely look at him she’s so fed up. She screams at him often because it’s the only time he listens. If they didn’t have kids she would have been out of the relationship a long time ago. She’s seriously considering leaving anyway.

Both of these women are in unhappy relationships. Although Rachel accommodates and Karen rages, they both have adopted unhealthy strategies to help them cope. Karen overshoots and Rachel undershoots. Neither strategy is effective.

When women overshoot, they yell, control, go on and on incessantly, or make repeated empty threats. All of these are ineffective. When women undershoot, they accommodate, say ‘yes’ when they mean ‘no’, take whatever they’re given, and either shut down, and become resentful, or get depressed.

Both of these strategies lead to unhappy relationships. Women often incorporate one of two ‘solutions’ to these relationships: they either eat it or leave it. Those that eat it try to stick it out as best they can. They say little, hope for better, and try to make the most of a bad situation… all the while it takes a toll on their emotional and physical health.

Women instigate more than 75% of today’s divorces. Lori Anderson, cyberparents.com

Those that leave it either separate or divorce. Lori Anderson, in her article, “Why Are Women Leaving Marriage in Droves?” from cyberparent.com, reports that women instigate more than 75% of today’s divorces. They feel as though they’ve been carrying the bulk of the household duties while also working a full time job anyway. Being a single parent, they believe, may not result in that great a difference in their day-to-day lifestyle. In addition, many of these women have greater support, higher incomes, and greater financial independence than women in older generations, making divorce a more viable option.

The problem with either sticking it out or divorcing, however, is that each comes with a significant cost. When women accommodate, they become resentful, stressed, and physically unhealthy. Furthermore, they teach their children a very unhealthy model for relationships; a model their children are likely to repeat when they get older.

When the women choose option two and stand up and walk out, it also does not come without a cost to themselves and their children. Often divorce leads to depression and issues of self-acceptance for women. In addition they often suffer up to a 30% decline in their standard of living.

The cost to the children is also often significant. Divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances. When you have children it’s even more difficult. Research has shown that children of divorce often experience difficulties in school, and exhibit more health, behavioral, and emotional problems than children from intact homes.

So what are women to do? If they stay in a miserable relationship it hurts them, and if they leave a miserable relationship it hurts them. Is this a “no win”?

Instead of either extreme, it’s important for women to first do everything in their power to change the relationship. Rather than accommodating and taking it, they need to learn how to ask for what they want and then fight healthily to get it. If the relationship still doesn’t change, then the woman can go, knowing she has done everything she could to make it work. In essence, she’s earned a way out.

One of the problems with this approach, however, is that women don’t know how to fight. Women need to learn how to fight for their relationship… relationally. And the first step towards changing the relationship is changing themselves.

The first step towards changing the relationship is changing themselves.

Women need to adopt a quiet strength. They need to realize that they deserve to be treated well by all people, at all times… and their loved ones deserve the same. If someone is not treating them well, women need to stand up with a quiet, confident, powerful strength and set a limit. They do not need to beat the person over the head with rage and empty threats.

It’s the difference between screaming, “You’re an idiot. Don’t you dare speak to me like that!!!” and stating in a strong, respectful tone, “I want you to know that if you continue to speak to me like that, now or in the future, this marriage is in trouble.”

When you speak tough truths with calm and conviction, it has a way of stopping people in their tracks and…they listen. Once they’re listened to, then women have to learn to back their words up with actions.

I see smart, competent women, who are extremely successful in their careers, have the most unsatisfying relationships imaginable at home. It’s as though they leave their best self at the office. It’s time for women to bring this same level of competency to their marriage. It’s time to do this with a new, more refined feminine power. We do not need to nag, bitch, or rage but instead stand up with a quiet, respectful, powerful strength that is centered, calm, and comes from within.

When women learn to harness this quiet strength, they will set in motion a ripple effect that will influence relationships across the world.


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