Why Do You Stay in an Unhappy Marriage: Love or Guilt?

Guilt, cognitive dissonance, and emotional dependency versus love.

Eva Grape
Heart Affairs
Published in
8 min readJun 9, 2024


AI-image generated via MidJourney.

A reader triggered me to an interesting debate the other day around the concept of love in unfulfilled marriages where some people choose to stay despite dealing with addicted partners, ill or dying, or struggling with mental illness, all in the name of love.

The discussion started in the context of infidelity, with this reader arguing that “… a person of integrity who truly loves their partner won’t do it.”

The comment triggered me because this reader fails to understand the complexity of the human being and simplifies her arguments to black-or-white statements, which I have a hard time accepting, especially since I come with first-hand experience of what it means to live in an unfulfilled marriage that people like her would motivate through love.

Love is not enough. And I’ll explain why.

But first, let me clear up one thing so I don’t exclude a small but important population in the marriage realm. Those would indeed love someone (other than their child) unconditionally.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but rather, special, hence scarce.