Sep 172013

You’d be surprised at how many of your neighbors and coworkers are unhappily married…but that’s not very comforting, is it? Here are a few tips on how to cope when you’re unhappily married.

I just wrote an article about being happy single, and I suggested readers grab a glass of wine to accompany their reading. Maybe you should do the same – especially if you don’t agree with Dale Carnegie that “Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.” For that means that no matter how unhappy your marriage is, you can be happy as an individual.

Are you trapped in a marriage with a man you don’t love, who doesn’t love you? Do you feel helpless, scared, and alone? These tips will help you stop feeling helpless and start making changes in your life.

Here’s what a reader said in an email to me:

“I’ve been married for 34 years, my husband does not want me to have friends. When I call the police, he says they think I’m crazy. I don’t work, so I depend on him…I also take care of my brother who is living with me…my husband talks down to him…I feel trapped and don’t know what to do. My husband says he wants to leave, but he doesn’t. He’s always accusing me of something. I feel alone and unhappily married. I just need someone to talk to.” The last sentence broke my heart. I emailed her back, but I can’t offer advice or counselling. That said, however, there are several things you can do to free yourself when you’re unhappily married. These tips aren’t about saving your marriage…they’re about saving yourself and leaving.

Fix Your Marriage

How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married

No matter how your husband treats you, you may still love him. Or, you may yearn for the way your relationship was, or the way you wanted your marriage to be. But you can’t force life or love to be the way you want. The sooner you recognize that you have choices and options no matter how trapped and helpless you feel, the sooner you can start taking action and empowering yourself.

Learning how to cope with an unhappy marriage is about deciding what your options are, and learning how to live with the choice you make about your life.

If you decide you can’t cope with being unhappily married, know that divorce isn’t easy. Maybe you can’t change your mindset and thoughts, and be happy in your marriage. Maybe you need to leave. I don’t know if this is the right decision for you, but if you’re trapped in a relationship with a man who treats you like dirt, then I encourage you to sit with the possibility that you can leave. When you’re trapped in a relationship, you feel helpless and isolated – because your husband wants you to feel that way. His goal is to make you think you have no options. That’s why he doesn’t want you spending time with your friends or even working outside the home. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to leave a marriage, even if you’re unhappily married. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to leave your husband. It just means you need to accept your reluctance to leave as a normal part of separating.

Find women who coped with being unhappily married. I found a blog called The Last Straw – Support, Motivation, Tips and Warning Signs of Domestic Violence. Rebecca Burns is the creator; she left a man who abused her. She knows what you’re going through because she’s been there, too. Here’s what she says about leaving when you feel trapped and helpless:

“Looking back I know the answer to why doesn’t a woman just leave. I have said time and time again, I stayed so long because I feared dying more than I feared leaving….[I was in] seclusion from the world for most of my twenties. I have been away from this man now for over 10 years. The physical threat of him was gone after only 1½ years of having him removed from my home, but only because he died of a heart attack. The mental threat of him really only left my mind in the last year. I fear it will remain forever for my son.”

Of course, this is on the extreme end of coping with being unhappily married! But if your hands are tied in your relationship (literally or metaphorically), get strength from women like Rebecca. They found the courage to leave unhappy marriages.

Start taking action – it’ll help you stop feeling trapped in your marriage. The first step is often the hardest, my friend. Asking for help when you feel isolated, alone, and scared may feel impossible – but it will change your life. When I worked at Big Brothers and Big Sisters, we would encourage children to tell someone they trust when they’re hurt. We told them to tell someone – anyone – and keep telling until they found the help they needed. If you feel helpless at the thought of how to cope when you’re unhappily married, you need to start talking about your life. You can’t leave a man you’ve loved for years unless you rally the troops. And trust me – you have troops! Your church, your kids’ teachers, your neighbors, your family, the people at the other end of the helplines. You need only ask for help, and help will be there.

I think the most important tip on how to cope when you’re unhappily married is to figure out what’s going wrong, and if you have the power or energy to save your marriage. I’m not a proponent of rushing towards divorce when a marriage is unhappy, but I also don’t think you should stay married if you’re unhappy.

What do you want to see happen in your marriage, if you had the power to wave a magic wand and create a miracle?

How do you stop feeling helpless when you’re unhappily married? Tell me what makes you feel strong, courageous, and able to take care of yourself – even if you haven’t felt that way for years.

unhappily married


If you’re tired of trying to cope in an unhappy marriage, read When to Leave a Relationship.

laurie pawlik kienlenI'm Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen - Christian, bookworm, travel bug, flute player, writer, blogger, warrior princess. :-) My husband and I live in Vancouver, Canada with our cat and dogs.

What's happening in your life? I welcome your big and little comments below! I can't give you advice, but writing might bring you clarity and insight.

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13

In peace and passion...Laurie

  8 Responses to “How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married”

  1. I am 53, I am disabled due to MS, I have been married to my husband for 17 years and been with him for 19. I want a divorce. All these years I can do very little right, I make the house a “pig sty”, I am “totally inept” when it comes to finances and I have to ask for money which always starts a big fight… I get blamed for things I didn’t do. I have not been happy for the past 14 years and I am emotionally spent. I get SSID, Medicare, and a small IPERS from having worked for the AEA for 12 years as a ParaEducator before becoming disabled. I need all the help I can get to know what my options are and what help is available… services, etc. This was much help but I can use more if there is any! Thanks!

  2. I am 38 years old been with my husband for 11 years now and been married for a year. I have a beautiful 6 year son, whom I am worried about that he is starting to pick his father’s disregard of me and thinks that’s how you treat your spouse. I have always felt alone, unloved by this man, which is a mystery to me ,why I married him.
    He does not support me in any why, although he never stops or discourage me to do anything.
    Sometimes I feel like we are just cordial room mates, even when I am sick he never cares, but he is always sooo nice and considerate to every one else, including my family. He will go out of his way to assist anyone except me.
    I never know what he does with his money, he has huge debts that he has made while we were together but I never saw the money or what he did with it. He enjoys spending my money and if I don’t give him money or buy what he wants he gets angry. I have to pick after him, not ask where he is going if I do he tells me that’s not what he signed up for.

    Every time I raise my unhappiness with him, he either ignores me or say I am insecure. I am so lonely and lost that sometimes I think about suicide, but I know I could never do that to my son.

    I have been thinking about leaving him, reading all the relevant articles but I am scared especially about what would this do to my son.

    • I find it interesting that most of these comments are written in the early morning hours at the end of another exhausting day of having to deal with all we do. I’m 40 and been married for 14 years with 2 little girls 7 and 10. I’m not being beat – my basic household needs have been met (although I shop mostly at Goodwill) I just don’t feel the desire to be with this person anymore and that’s what makes me most guilty. I tried everything for him to rekindle our relationship before I became uninterested in doing so anymore and now I feel it would just be easier to be on my own. Course it is not that easy. He has known for 2 years I wanted to be apart, but will not entertain divorce – as he does not want to lose money or me as a babysitter and constant childcare resource all these years. We sleep in separate rooms. I feel that life is short and “ever after” stories are obsolete. My greatest concern is my children and their emotional well being. That is what has held me back. I don’t really even think of being with anyone else. I just want some peace by myself for a while. The fighting has really started to effect the girls, but he keeps telling me divorce would be worse. It’s selfish, but I want a 2nd chance at myself in the time I have. Even if I screw it up and end up alone.

  3. Thank you for your article. I feel so alone in a house full of people. My husband hasn’t wanted sex with me for years, since the birth of our second child about six years ago. He was never very interested but was ok. He has refused to talk about it, always citing stress at work, being tired, or some other temporary reason. I felt it was because my body was changed by child birth and started to loathe myself. Recently we moved closer to my parents and eventually bought a large house so they could move in with us as my father is infirm and my mother was struggling to cope alone. It was all his idea and I asked him time and again if he was sure and reassured him it wasn’t expected or necessary. I was grateful to him. He is always miserable and joyless but I felt he must love me really to do it. He is quite critical of me and we never go out together – I stopped buying clothes for myself years ago as I feel as if people are looking at me and wondering if I realise how ugly I am when I am in clothes shops. I want to shout that I know I am ugly. The thing is I am a good 44 year old. Not overweight and whilst not a beauty queen, not ugly either. This Christmas he finally told me he is not interested in sex at all. He says he did love me but doesn’t know if he does anymore but in any event he has thought about the financial implications and he doesn’t want to end up in a bed sit, trying to sell our house in a poor market and taking the kids out of their school so we will just have to try to make it work. What does that even mean? Try to love me or try to put up with me? I feel liberated by the knowledge in a weird sense but shocked at the same time as I had no idea he was thinking of leaving me. He is right about to e financial implications . I can’t be responsible for my elderly parents ending up on the street or my kids having to leave their school so I will just have to stay. I am trapped. Why doesn’t he love me? I try so hard

  4. Thanks, Caira! I appreciate your thoughts and am glad you found the article helpful. Coping when you’re unhappily married is a difficult way to live life, isn’t it? But hopefully people can learn the art of peaceful coexistence.

  5. This was an outstanding article. It is never easy to leave an unhappy relationship, especially an abusive one. If victims tried these baby steps, they will find the help and courage they need to leave their relationship. Many victims of domestic violence are unaware they are victims. A common predisposition people have of domestic violence is that it is physical abuse. However, domestic violence also includes mental abuse. The first step in preventing domestic violence is educating the public on it. With an educated public, people will know the warning signs of domestic violence and be able to make safe and sound decisions for their safety.

  6. Thanks Rebecca – I really appreciate your comments! Thank you for all you do to support women who are unhappily married – or worse.


  7. I thought this was a great article, I found it from the link to my site, I am always so grateful that my words can support another. Thank you for all that you do to help others. I look forward to reading more of your posts in hopes of recommending them to others, it takes the support of many to help.

    Love & Peace,

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