I understand there are reasons people stay together and fight for their marraiges but what if the fighting/staying just isn't worth the reward at the end. Are we all being martyrs trying to earn our way in through the pearly gates?
I think you'll see it mentioned fairly often that it's not about the outcome, but about the journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. You seem to be very focused on how your actions or positioning makes you look. I don't mean to single you out here, but your words demonstrate what a lot of the beliefs that a lot of the people here operate from. Having a great marriage is a goal, THE goal for most people when they get here, but all the personal goals that constribute to the success of the big one are more important. They are the ones you can control as an individual, and they are the ones that drive your happiness and satisfaction in your life, regardless of what your relationship status is.
These goals, this growth and honest self awareness is not about figuring out how to play the perfect role that will win your spouse back. It's about being sincerely honest with yourself and living up to your own potential, whether it dooms or enhances your marriage.
Either path I choose I'm dammed...file and I'm the bad woman that didn't do all she could to keep her family together for her own selfish reasons...stay and I'm a weak woman who tolerates a sub par marraige.
You're not damned, there are simply negative consequences to your choices. As there are to every choice you make. If you focus on the negatives, it's all you will have. You make all these associations with the outcomes, and in doing so, you keep yourself prisoner, and define yourself in these grandiosely negative ways. Your choices determine the path your life will take, but they do not define you. You are who you are regardless which labels you apply to yourself. Another thing I feel compelled to comment on is that you talk of tolerating a sub-par marriage. The way you have phrased this suggests that you see the marraige as something in and of itself, not a manifestation of you and your spouse's choices. If you focus on your choices and make the best ones you can, you're not "tolerating" anything. If your spouse's choices are one's you don't want to live with, don't. Establish whatever boundaries you need to in order for you to live the way you choose to, but don't "tolerate" anything because you expect to earn something by doing so. Don't play the role of a victim or a martyr because you're throwing your life away because you expect some payoff that will never come.
Now, why do I choose to maintain hope for my marraige? I do it because I committed to. Because my son deserves to have both of his parents together. Because together we can do a lot of healing and growing (things that we are each addressing on our own now). Because we had a deep connection at one point, and I believe that the potential is there. For financial reasons. Because a person is never the problem - interactions and situations are. Because I made choices in life, and I choose to own the responsibilities that came with these choices. Etc., etc., etc.
Why is it difficult to let go? Avoidance of the shame and stigma of failure. If the marriage hasn't ended, I haven't failed (whether it's failure is another debate entirely). Fear of the unknown. Fear of accepting that I'm not good enough for my W (my own negative interpretation of "we don't fit"). There are a whole host of low self esteem reasons for clinging and hanging on, just as there are for running away. Fear of harming my son. Fear of letting my family down. Fear of having regrets later in life. Fear of a future of unending conflict with my Ex-W (because we haven't resolved our issues or solved the real problems in our relationship - something that will still exist whether we are married or not).