How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married

These ideas are inspired by a wife who asked for help on my “surviving an unhappy marriage” article. She feels hopeless and helpless, and just needs to know she’s not alone.

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 Melanie said on How to Survive an Unhappy Marriage: “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.”







I can’t offer advice or counselling, but 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.

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 (and even improve a bad relationship) is about deciding what your options are, and learning how to live with the choice you make about your life.

unhappily married coping

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 survived unhappy marriages

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.”



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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.

Believe you are braver than you feel

coping Unhappily Married

“How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married” Wall Sign

I love this You’re braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem, and Smarter than you think wall sign from Amazon.com. It’s what Christopher Robin said to Winnie the Pooh. Get something like that, put it somewhere so you can see it every day, and keep reminding yourself that you have what it takes to cope with your marriage.

Start taking action – it’ll help you stop feeling trapped in your marriage

The first step is often the hardest. 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.

unhappily married

Read Boundaries in Marriage by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Boundaries are the ‘property lines’ that define and protect husbands and wives as individuals. Once they are in place, a good marriage can become better, and a less-than-satisfying one can even be saved.

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.” That means that no matter how unhappy your marriage is, you can be survive and be happy as an individual.

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. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your thoughts.






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5 Responses

  1. Debbie R. says:

    You wrote in your article about how to cope when you’re in a bad relationship 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. Laurie says:

    Dear Melvis,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your experience. It sounds like you have a long road ahead, living with your boyfriend of 10 years. I don’t know of any websites that offer strategies or tips on how to live with a man you’re unhappily married to, and not lose your cool while you prepare to leave.

    I think acceptance is huge. Acceptance that it’ll be hard, he’ll push your buttons, and he won’t change. This is a temporary stage in your life, and it will pass! I think it’s important to grieve the end of your relationship as well, and accept that he may well have been using you for financial security. I know a woman in the exact same situation; her ex is actually suing her for alimony payments. It’s disgusting.

    Also, how’s your spiritual life? Are you connected with a Higher Power that can give you a continual source of energy, peace, and joy that surpasses your circumstances? That’s how I’d not lose my cool if I was coping in an unhappy marriage. I’d lean on God.

  5. Melvis says:

    I can so relate to alot of this, but I just wish there were more day to day instructions on how to deal with a loveless relationship without losing your mind!

    My BF of 10 yrs as become a roomate over the last 4 yrs, basically just paying rent and living in the downstairs bedroom. He does the least amount he has to just to keep me quiet from complaining of his lack of motivation. Its really tough for me to accept this, but I think he was using me for my financial status, because I made more money than he did for most of our time together. Took lavish trips, bought investment properties, really did well for the both of us. He has always worked lower paying jobs but was working his way up to get a journeyman, so I patiently waited until he finally got his license. Then I had to have 2 surgeries on my back and have been on a disability retirement since 09 and now its up to him to make the most money. Now all of a sudden, he has “issues” with how I spend the money. he purposely will not look for anything that pays a higher wage, its almost like he purposely sabotaging our financial status. But the truth really is that I knew down deep that he was using me, I just needed to see if he truly just needed time to get his license and the required experience to make more or if he is one of those guys who just refuses to be successful.

    Now I’ve decided I’m booting him out, but I need at least 8 months to pay off some bills and refinance my house to a more affordable payment on my small retirement. If you can point me to a site with step by step ways to keep my cool and avoid his trapping me into fights until then, I;d appreciate it!

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