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3 Reasons I stayed in a bad marriage too long

Lauren Cioffi is a happiness guru for lost twenty-somethings, creator and Founder of the What is Perfection blog. "I started the What is Perfection Blog to help inspire women to lead happy and authentic lives that they are proud of! Dis...

How to know if you're staying in your marriage for the wrong reasons

Sometimes, the things we love are taken from us unexpectedly. We care for something, or someone, and without a moment's notice, we are without it.

Divorce isn't really one of those things. Divorce is a choice. Before we say goodbye, before we let go and move on and venture into the unknown without the person we once loved, we are faced with a decision: Do we stay? Or do we go? Do we say goodbye? Or do we hold on?

More: The moment I knew I wanted a divorce

I myself was faced with this decision three years ago. Battling with the thought of whether or not to end my marriage was just that: a battle. It was an emotional struggle to figure out whether or not I should end my marriage — a struggle that lasted for quiet some time.

Knowing when to break up, as I discuss on my site, is different for everyone. For me, wrestling over whether or not to end my marriage was one of the most difficult emotional struggles I have ever faced. I had ended other relationships in the past, but divorce? Divorce was a scary thing. Getting a divorce was permanent. It was giving up on a vow. It was exposed in front of all my family and friends. It was signing legal documents, dividing assets and packing up my belongings. It was messy — and far more painful than ending other relationships.

Years later, after the pain, and finding my own sense of happiness and joy, writing about my past on the What is Perfection Blog, I am reflecting more and more on the moments that brought me to finally find my sense of self. It all started when I got divorced.

More: I quit my well paying job without having a new one lined up

Looking back on the time I spent wondering whether or not I should end my marriage, I realize that there are so many reasons I was holding on to that relationship, reasons that were wrong and self destructive.

The wrong reasons to stay in a marriage:

1. Your partner is threatening your happiness, but you believe he can change

This was the main belief that really kept me holding on to my marriage for much longer than I should have. When my ex-husband brought some very destructive and unhealthy habits into our home, it wreaked havoc on our relationship, and completely destroyed my ability to be happy. He was addicted to drugs — something I never knew until after we were married. Once his secret was exposed, it became very difficult for me to accept the fact that the man I fell in love with was different than the person he actually was.

I had this faith in my heart that he would change. For a long time, I believed that if he loved me enough, he would change his long habit of lying. But the lies only continued, and I grew to feel increasingly unhappy. If you are holding onto a relationship hoping that the person you are sharing your life with will suddenly change his unhealthy habits, you are failing yourself. Holding on for hope with no signs of small changes to his habits is only going to ruin your chance at happiness.

2. He isn't who you fell in love with, but you hold onto the person he once was

Our minds have an incredible ability to alter the reality of our present circumstances by reminding us of the past. I will never disagree that my ex-husband and I once had an incredible relationship. There was a time where we were in love. There were moments in the past where our relationship was wonderful and full of joy. There are memories of us falling in love that are still as clear to me today as they were three years ago.

They are just that: memories.

Those moments were years behind us when the topic of getting divorced surfaced. I held onto those moments dearly, thinking that they somehow tied me to still being in love with him in some way. I fought for our marriage based on memories, because they still felt very real to me when I thought about them. Once I stopped focusing on our wonderful past, I realized how truly unhappy we were in the present. Holding on to an unhappy relationship because it was at one time or another full of love is not the right reason to stay with someone. Staying with someone because of feelings you once had years or months ago is like living with a ghost.

3. You are afraid of disappointing other people

When I got married, so many people told me not to. I was 22 and young, he was older and had a child from a previous marriage. It took a long time and a lot of work for people to see that the man I fell in love with was right for me. So when our marriage was starting to crumble, I grew fearful of how I would be perceived by friends and family if I gave up on our vows and walked away. I kept thinking about all the people who would tell me, "See, I told you so."

I became worried thinking about all the people who loved me and came to the wedding and gave us gifts to celebrate our unity. I grew to mourn all of the time we spent with family and friends who helped us plan the wedding. I started to become overcome with feelings of disappointment and guilt when I thought about all the money we had spent: our money, our families' money, money that was thrown into a marriage I was now so unhappy in.

But I realized something: The vow we made was between us and no one else. I said them in front of family and friends, but I didn't make a vow to them. If I was going to end my marriage and break my vow it was a decision that should be based on my feelings and my marriage: not other people. If you are holding on to something because of other people — whether it be family or friends — you are not holding on for the right reasons. Being selfless can be perceived as an act of kindness and love, but if you aren't being kind, loving and true to yourself, you are doing a complete disservice to the people who really truly care about you.

Ultimately, I couldn't be my true happy self for the people I loved if I stayed in a marriage that bought me an overwhelming amount of happiness. Even though you may be scared of disappointing other people, you will ultimately disappoint them even more if you aren't being true to your own needs and wants and happiness.

So, the lesson? Look deep inside your heart. Ask yourself what it is you have right in front of you here and now. Ask yourself what it is you really truly want for your own life. You should never feel like a prisoner to your past decisions of commitment or your fear of failure. Divorce, as painful as it is, can be the start of a whole new amazing journey of self discovery. It was for me.

More: 4 Lessons I learned from ending my relationship this year

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