How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married

    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 on 7 Signs Your Marriage is Over:

    “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.

    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.

    Know that divorce isn’t easy

    If you decide you can’t cope with being unhappily married, prepare yourself for a hard road ahead. 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:

    How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married

    How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married

    “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 survive a loveless marriage 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.

    My prayer for all women who are coping in unhappy marriages is for strength, wisdom, and power. May you find the energy and faith you need to make the right decision for you and your family.

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    25 Responses

    1. D. Allen says:

      I am in a terrible dilemma. I have Generalized Anxiety disorder, complex PTSD, and very painful Fibromyalgia. I am on full disability; but this is less than $1000 per month and does not cover medication. I have a 7 yr. old daughter; and I am in a miserable marriage that is now causing me to become depressed. My husband has severe ADHD, which was diagnosed after our marriage (so was my disablilities). Before marriage, I worked full time, had a home and a friend. I functioned well. My husband is emotionally unavailable. He cannot recognize and react appropriately to my feelings or my daughter’s for that matter. He has grown children that he rarely speaks with and two adult children that he emotionally abandoned at very young ages. He cannot manage others feelings, especially if he is at fault for hurting someone. I’m hurt, lonely, and at my wits end. I have begged, pleaded, yelled, threatened over the last 16 yrs. to be noticed, considered, confided in. He just does more physical work. He has no understanding of what I’m asking of him. I want my friend, my confidante, my partner, the charming man who courted me for eight months then emotionally left me all alone. We have gone to many counselors and it ever helps. I come from an emotionally abusive childhood, so have no family support. I have gone to two different attorneys. Both of these men told me that I needed to conform. I actually sought one of these attorneys a second time and he threw me out of his office. What am I supposed to do? I can not believe that I have lost so much control of my life. I was doing well and living independently; now, I am completely dependent on this man who will not acknowledge a part in our misery. I cannot force him to change. But how do I get some of my happiness and pride back. I am a good, honest person. I try so hard to be a good person. How did this happen to me? I am literally all alone with no means and a dependent child. How do you suck it up and accept that life will never include healthy love and companionship? How to stay in a lonely, loveless marriage to keep out of homeless shelters and soup lines? He would take my child in a skinny minute. He’s already told me that he didn’t want me to live a life of leisure on his support. What single mother has ever lived outside of the poverty level on child support? And most of them hold down at least one full time job. He literally only cares that my healthcare is taken care of, if I stay married to him! What kind of love says you’re only important if you stay miserable with me, otherwise, you can suffer from no care?!

    2. Peter says:

      As a man, this may seem strange, but it was me who wanted to initiate the divorce. As being unhappily married, I reckoned that the only solution was to end it all, since your partner knows that you cannot do without him/her. It all ended recently and how great it feels to know that I have made the right choice, especially after years of drama and ridicule. I don’t hate her actually, but boy do I feel relieved

    3. Wendy says:

      I am no one, i have no value, i am invisiable

      • Ashley says:

        I see you. You have value to me. You are beautiful- like a fragile snowflake- sometimes lost in the blizzard, but you ARE seen.

    4. Christine Donahue says:

      I just need some help! I too am unhappily married and feel like a worthless piece of crap, what makes it even worst is my best friend is staying with me for another 8 days and we both are so exhausted from crying and trying to figure out what to do it’s crazy! We pray morning noon and night but nothing seems to help anymore. She wants to go back to her home in France but doesn’t want to leave me in the U.S. I JUST WISH I HAD TOLD MY FAMILY MORE OF WHAT WAS AND IS GOING ON, not sure if they could help but there prayers would go along way!

    5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

      My prayer for all women who are trying to cope when they’re unhappily married is for wisdom, peace, and guidance. May you find the support you need, and may you stay hopeful and faithful! It may not seem like it, but God loves you and wants you to have a fulfilling, meaningful life of purpose and depth.

      I don’t know why you have to go through what you’re going through – or why you have to learn about coping in an unhappy marriage – but I believe God has a purpose for your life. The trick is finding it, and moving forward in faith and hope.


    6. Karen says:

      I don’t even know where to begin. I’m told I’m a loser, a piece of sh%t. I feel I’m no good to anyone anymore. Thank you for advice

      • T says:

        It doesnt matter what he tells you! You are great and can be strong! Mine tells me all the time how stupid I am and how everything I say is stupid! We dont do anything I enjoy cuz “its stupid”. What I think is stupid is the fact he tries to get out of spending time with his son, putting me down for taking a job that I dont require to pay for daycare and getting two months off in the summer. I get told I dont work enough and I dont clean enough. And when I was working full time with overtime, I would get home when is was my sons bed time and have to make dinner for him before putting him to bed. Found out im pregnant again and want to give it up due to the awful relationship we have and all he could say is: “that is the stupidest thing I have heard you say even after…” (going on to list something else we has recently argueed about.
        I tell him he is abusive and needs to do something about it bu does nothing. He has punched holes in a few doors and tried to throw my bed at me and once he almost even pushed me into our son. I am ready to leave but yet still feel scared and alone!

        • seren says:

          I really wish I knew u. I’m going through something very similar. I really wish we could be each others support. :'(

      • Ruthie says:

        I have been abused all my life, told I was Sh*t. i would never amount to anything.My husband avoids me at all costs and I live in his moms spare room as we lost everything when he lost his job. I already tried suicide once a few weeks ago, because I simply see no way out .I may have cancer now sad thing is even as a kid i just wanted to be loved…

    7. Laurie says:

      Thank you for being so brave – it takes courage and strength to share how you’re coping with being unhappily married! I know your experiences will help other women deal with difficult marriage.

      My prayer is that you find the in-person help you need to move forward in your life. May you find faith as well, and know that an endless source of love and guidance is available to you. May you tap into this connection, and find a spiritual ocean of faith, love, hope, and strength.


    8. renee says:

      You wrote in your article to begin getting power by talking about it. I am unhappily married and want to leave my marriage. I’ve been married for almost 15 years and have 3 children with my husband. I am financially dependent on him. I’ve also recently been diagnosed with a medical condition that will prevent me fron working a full time job.
      We moved into another state 4 years ago where I’m not near any family. He says he won’t let me have custody of our children and so I cannot move back home to be with my family. I don’t know how to support myself and kids not being able to work????
      I feel so trapped, I recently cut my hair very short to see what it would be like because i will need brain surgery in the future due to my medical condition. My husband publically cursed me out and insulted me on Facebook and blocked me from his page.
      I’m lost and don’t know what to do, hopefully writing this will help me to start talking to others.

    9. April says:

      Hi I looked all over your website and I didn’t see a post my story kind of area so I hope you will soon find this… My name is April and I have been married for almost 14 years. We have 4 kids ages 16 (stepson) through age 5. I believe I am in an emotionally abusive relationship. This year I am looking at websites and trying to better myself, self-help books and websites. Mostly just realizing that this is really affecting my kids and I see that in order for me to get them to do good I have to figure all this out…A few months ago things got really bad and we had a huge fight, I told him I wanted a divorce. I have tried to leave in the past and I always come back. That night I just felt like I had nothing left to give. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t eat or sleep. When he wouldn’t just give me space anymore he knew I was mad, and then he couldn’t just let me be. He started to argue and get defensive asking if I wanted a divorce I said honestly I don’t know, I just feel numb. One week prior to this he got in a fight with my dad (who lived behind us). Cops were called and it was a ugly yelling name calling rooster crowing kind of argument. My dad moved out and won’t have anything to do with my husband, says my husband is a bully. My Husband says the same thing about my dad. They are very similar. When I told my husband that my dad was moving out I thought this fit of his would settle. He then became more upset and was saying things like well when? He needs to go now, and what about all his crap, just being such a jerk in front of the kids. I told him he was undermining my feelings and I asked him to stop he immediately turned it on me and saying I put everyone ahead of him once again. The fight escalated… I told the kids I would put them to bed but I had to go back over to my dad’s since these two were arguing, when I came back home, I could see he was really upset. There is this darkness in his eyes. My children were all upstairs crying so bad, not normal, not that this should be normal, but it was different….Their dad yells a lot, he breaks stuff a lot. His bark is worse than his bite, I know it sounds like I am making excuses again but this is what we all have come to know as our home life, and then they told me that their daddy really whipped all of them and was screaming at them….I explained to the kids that right now Daddy and Grandpa are not getting along right now and we need to be good and quiet so Mommy can go talk to Daddy. He now will use the kids saying they lie and are playing me against him. This might have some truth what kid doesn’t play parents, but not to the degree he believes to be truth full.
      So I went down stairs and remained calm, but I said how can you do this to us? How can this be ok? How can you spank and yell at our kids like that. He got defensive yelling at the kids that their liars. Finally I got him to calm down some, but it was a long night. Neither of us slept. He would turn the lights on or take my covers, making his presence known so I can’t ignore him anymore. Throughout the night I kept saying I don’t want to argue anymore, he then at one point said then if you don’t then you want a divorce….I said yes I do. I was strong, empowered…scared to death….At 6:30 am it was time to wake the kids to get them ready, he ran up their telling them mommy wants a divorce and I was separating from them. My 5 year old daughter said mommy are you separating with daddy. This broke my heart…
      My kids were besides themselves. So I thought okay here we go finally….This was Nov 1. The next few days were a blur, he was emotional and crying trying to hold on to me and I would break free. He would call me names, make me feel like I couldn’t take care of me and the kids all on my own while I work and he is disabled and has SSI income, and gets more than me. I was a stay at home mom until 2 years ago when he became disabled. He still accuses me of cheating or talking to other men. I am not allowed to use my cell phone around him, or the computer. He is against anything technology. If I grab my cell before I run to town its an argument. I have to sneak it… I feel like a little kid who is always on punishment. My kids feel the same way. Yesterday we had free ice skating and I thought how nice it would be to take the family out…I knew he would start in. The kids don’t deserve to go ice skating… He acts like they are the worst most ungrateful kids around. They are normal kids. Who like to play and not pick up after themselves all the time, or keep their rooms clean. Typical sounding kids to me. Everyone tells me how good they are. They are hyper, and loud, and they fight just like normal kids… The kids did get to ice skate I let them for 30 minutes he waited in the car stewing….We fought all the way home, didn’t stop and get groceries, or dinner, which was the original plan. I got home and started some easy food for the kids, mac and cheese and hot dogs. I first started to make chicken alfredo but he yelled at me that he wont eat that shit so it was up to me to feed the kids and myself. I did feed the kids, but then he wanted me to order him and I dinner so I did. Then I made the mistake of grabbing my cell before I left. He was waiting for me when I got home and I could tell he was not happy. We had to argue long into the night. I was able to get the kids into bed and though they wouldn’t go to sleep on time, he left them alone….I did manage them to go to sleep around 10 but who could sleep when all you hear is yelling…..
      Back to today….Were buying our property from my dad. Now my dad is moved and I would think his attitude would be better. It has been about 4 years since it was this bad. He was only physical once. Years ago, he says he blanked out…Now we have more kids and more stress. He says as long as I don’t want anything but to spend my days with him we will be okay. He wants me to quit my job, and that terrifies me. He acts like he is so ill that he is dying. He is not anytime soon. He is a brittle diabetic with bi polar and God knows what else is wrong in side his head…..
      I am looking for help, in making me stronger. I want to leave him but I am not sure how. I have been all over to find some kind of book audio would be great but reading is great too. I have yet to find one. I have been getting stronger. But this is scary and I feel I cant leave my house with the kids, and I will not leave them either….I wish he could get help but he lies so much I am sure the counselor thinks I am this wife who don’t care and does nothing at the house, puts her job before her husband and kids…I am so not that person, he makes me out to be a monster…..Please help!

    10. S.C. says:

      I have been married for seven years. I am 32 yrs old and I come from an abusive home. I resent my min for allowing this to happen to her, and here I am, in the same situation. I do not worth but I am a disabled veteran. As soon as I get paid, my money goes to household bills. I get no money to myself, and I’m unable to financier pay on my student loans. I have to hide money from my spouse and it’s always doesn’t on stuff like dog food when we need it. My husband brow beats me and refuses to acknowledge that I am a real human being with emotion. Over the years, I have been prescribed anti depressants just to help me cope with my abusive relationship. When I take my medicine, he makes fun of me for it and callas me names. When I don’t take it, I begin to realize that I deserve better than what he treats me, and he doesn’t like that either. My therapy is counseling thru the va, exercise, and my dogs. If I leave my husband, I will have to vehicle of my own to make therapy, and I will not be able to take my dogs. I feel trapped in his stick, spider web. He has hit me numerous times and used to punch me in the head so the police will not be able to see my bruises. I have one child and three step kids. I have no job because everytime I get one, he makes me quit because I need to be there for the kids. When I don’t work, he throws that in my face too. If i try to express any of my feelings to him about anything, he turns it into something about him and uses it against me later when he’s mad at me. My husband drinks and has become verbally meaner when he drinks. He will put his face in mine and talk very loudly and spit little drops on me when he’s talking to me. He is not afraid to do this I front of anyone and even the children. My daughter cries because he is so mean to me and my step children love me and not him and they want me to leave him.

      • Erin says:

        I’m sorry to hear about the pain you are going through. But I hope we all remember there IS support out there for us and we can draw strength from each other.
        I think we should all brainstorm of ways we can get out of our unhappy situations. I know you all give me strength and there are women out there who have left far worse circumstances than ours with virtually nothing to their name.
        I don’t yet have kids, but my first is on his/her way. Unfortunately I am very unhappy with the father
        There were problems before I got pregnant but now they’ve only magnified. I meet with a social worker this week to discuss my options. I don’t have any family support and am not currently working as I had to take time off due to health concerns during my pregnancy. However,.I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to figure out how to turn it on!
        Hugs and prayers to all of you. Will update you when I get more news.

    11. Patrice says:

      I have been married 30 years. My husband no longer wants to sleep with me or have sex, although I must admit I never enjoyed sex.

      We cannot afford to separate because I can’t work and support myself. I have fairly severe fibromyalgia.

      We used to be really close and had a great relationship but now I just feel we’re just existing together because there is no other option..roomates really.We never do anything fun together anymore as he doesn’t seem interested. He is often really stressed and grouchy. I feel like we’re definately in a big, deep rut.

      I will never leave him as I don’t want to live alone but I’m sure sad at how our marriage has turned out.


    12. amelia ellen says:

      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!

    13. Nomvula says:

      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.

      • Tiffany says:

        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.

        • Suzy says:

          Quite a few years ago my mum left my dad, I was 13 at the time and very upset, my mum left because my dad was an alcoholic. At the time I was devastated, but you know what it didn’t take long for me to love the stability and no fights. What children need more than anything is a stable loving environment. One parent is better than two if there are always arguments.,

    14. Susie says:

      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

    15. Laurie says:

      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.

    16. Caira Woo says:

      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.

    17. Laurie says:

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


    18. 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,