How Stress and Abuse in Relationships and Marriages Affect Women

Stress and Abuse in Marriages

A healthy relationship is something that everyone wants. As social beings, we welcome having someone around to lessen loneliness, share experiences, and improve quality of life. We feel wanted, safe and more confident in a relationship—but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, what may look like a healthy relationship might not be real. 

Many relationships start great, with both parties thinking it will lead to happily ever after, but, the relationship dynamic can change. One party might feel like they need to lead in the relationship, which gives them a false sense of power. Some red flags might pop up, such as lack of communication, immature behavior, or even jealousy and ridicule. 

What can happen then is that the other party falsely considers these red flags to be signs of love and continues to abide by newly set but unhealthy rules in the relationship. That can lead to years of stress or abuse, until the damaged party realizes the mistake. Love slowly fades away and becomes replaced by fear. Family cohesion is disrupted, and recognition grows that it’s best to separate and find happiness somewhere else. 

The Importance of Family Cohesion

Family Cohesion- everyone is getting along

Family cohesion, the positive emotional bond that family members have with one another, is the opposite of family conflict. Sociologists define family as “an intimate domestic group of people related to one another,” as a social unit that can adapt and survive through time. The importance of family cohesion lies in both the sense of connection and freedom to separate. For families to thrive, there needs to be a positive balance between the two. Healthy families nurture their members’ ability to stay independent while being there for them when support is needed. 

On the other hand, family conflict can disrupt the sense of togetherness and create a toxic environment. There can be different types of conflict, such as verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, or financial. The conflict can occur between different family members; between couples and parents, parents and children, or children themselves. There are instances where one party is trying to avoid family conflict, which leads to increased levels of stress for that individual. This tress can result in dysfunctional relationships that affect children the most. 

Rates of Violence by Age Groups

Violence in marriage

According to dating abuse statistics, girls and young women aged 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of violence in relationships. That makes them the most abused age group. Marriage abuse statistics say that 20% of married couples assault each other in some way. The abuse usually starts with small acts of aggression and progresses to severe violence. Elderly abuse is considered to happen in 3%–10% of elder relationships, but the numbers are hard to obtain due to difficulty in sampling. 

Why Do Long-Standing Bad Marriages Continue?

Unhappy Marriage

According to some experts, only 17% of married people are happy. This means that bad marriages endure, but what are the reasons? There’s a notion that invested time adds value to a marriage, even if it’s terrible. Moreover, married people can’t accept the idea of being alone after so many years, and fail to realize that an alternative might be a solution. There are cases of involuntary relationships held together by dictatorial parents, clan leaders, cultures, or others. There’s also the matter of low standards—some people believe they can’t do any better or deserve the bad treatment they receive. 

Why Do Women Tolerate a Bad Marriage?

Taking off the wedding ring
  1. Fear.  This includes:
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of loss
  • Fear of the future
  • Fear of the partner 
  • Fear of adverse judgment of others.

While fear is supposed to protect people from making bad choices., sometimes it can paralyze and stop women from improving their situation or moving forward. 

2. Wanting To Preserve Happy Memories. Some can cling to the good things they once had, in the hopes that they can compensate for or ameliorate current, bad experiences. Such emotions can be strong enough to trick women into thinking that things are, or can get better. 

3. Protecting Children. Some women are unsure how their children will react to separation or divorce, believing that it is unfair to subject them to such traumas. They fail to realize that children can also suffer due to a bad marriage. Since kids learn from experience, they can carry legacy problems maintaining relationships into the future. 

Do Women Chafe at Automatically Being The Childrens’ Caregiver?

There’s an innate difference between men and women. Thinkers disagree among themselves whether this difference is genetic (biological) or cultural (learned). In a nurture versus nature mindset, while men are providers, protectors, and problem-solvers, women are nurturers and caregivers. That means that women will naturally be more inclined to care for a child than men, although that’s not always the case. 

According to Canada’s latest census, childless couples and empty-nesters are growing at a faster rate than couples living with kids. The proportion of couple households without children (25.8%) is almost equal to the number with children (26.5%).  Where there are children living with only one parent, the ratio of female versus male household-heads is five to one. Since women account for almost half of the US workforce, many women would by choice or necessity prefer to have a career than children. Many working women, especially those in executive ranks, support the idea that their husbands should be stay-at-home dads. That’s why today there are thousands of stay-at-home dads in the US, while moms are working. 

The experience with COVID over the past six months in Canada seems to show that many working women are giving up career advancement in favour of assuming principal parenting responsibilities for younger children. Whether that choice is willing or unwilling doesn’t change the enormous effects on workforce composition, women’s future goals, conception rates, and relationship stress.

Ethical Dilemmas of Abuse

Domestic abuse shouldn’t be supported or condoned by any means. However, problems can and do arise when the victims of abuse want to change their environment or seek help.  Social workers, for example, face many ethical issues while working with female victims of abuse. They know that the client’s interest must be their priority, but at the same time, they feel that various legal obligations may limit the ways they can assist. 

There’s also an issue of the victim’s autonomy. Women’s advocacy groups and health professionals often feel that reporting the abuse to the police may lead to increased risks for the victim. This involves interference with the victim’s choices, autonomy and breaches of confidentiality. To solve the ethical dilemmas, involved third parties should consider: 

  1. Deontological ethics, which emphasizes following the rules
  2. Teleological ethics, which focuses on the consequences of actions 

A deontologist will obey the rules even if a spouse or child suffers; a teleological thinker will weigh the benefits on specific individuals or cases. One way to solve these ethical dilemmas is to increase society’s participation and preventative work to minimize domestic abuse and the adverse impact it has on women and children. 

Stakeholders must work on maintaining a healthy family environment for all. There’s a huge social responsibility to victims of domestic violence that must not be ignored. The more effective way of dealing with domestic violence must be multi-sectoral — that is, including health-care providers, counsellors, police, governments, schools, and other public service agencies. Emphasis must also be placed on any private or public employer having family and staff programs to address the needs of victims of domestic violence.

Final Thoughts

Women have always been considered members of the weaker sex, and men have often taken advantage of their unequal position in relationships and marriages. Unfortunately, many women tend to stay in bad marriages because they’re afraid for themselves and their children and hope that things will change for the better. This adversely affects quality of family life. 

Developing, maintaining, and improving the existing social support systems can help victims feel safer and strengthen their faith in society and institutions. After years of abuse, leaving a bad marriage is not easy, but it certainly is the right thing to do. 

Further Readings:

2Date4Love Blog – 12 Relationship Red Flags That Say It’s Time to Move on:  May 6

Springer Link – Family Conflicts:

 Love is Respect Blog – Dating Abuse Statistics:

AAMFT – Domestic Violence:

 NCBI – Domestic Violence: June 26

 Wevorce – Why are so many people in an unhappy marriage? Jan 9

 Divorce Mag – 3 Reasons Why We Stay in Unhappy Marriages: July 5

 Catalyst – Women in the Workforce – United States: Quick Take: June 5

Smith College PDF – How social workers resolve the ethical dilemmas that arise when working with women experiencing domestic violence:

 NCBI – Addressing Domestic Violence Against Women: An Unfinished Agenda:

Nikolina Jerić
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