Unhappy marriages are more common than you think – but who wants to be common? These tips on surviving when you feel stuck and alone in an unhappy marriage might help you break free. I’m not necessarily talking divorce…I’m talking about learning how to survive an unhappy marriage.
The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis offers practical ways for marriage partners to avoid the “divorce trap”, move beyond ineffective, hurtful ways of interacting, learn how to survive an unhappy marriage by identifying relationship goals, and overcome infidelity, Internet obsessions, depression, sexual problems, and midlife crises.
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! No matter how unhappy your marriage is, you can be happy as an individual…even if that means a solo glass of vino. Surviving an unhappy marriage means doing whatever it takes to feel empowered and strong.
Are you trapped in a unhappy marriage with a man you don’t love – or with a man you believe 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 my article about coping with a critical husband:
“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, but I can’t offer marriage advice or counselling. That said, however, there are several things you can do to free yourself and survive an unhappy marriage. These tips aren’t about saving your relationship; they’re about saving yourself.
Surviving an Unhappy Marriage
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 survive in an unhappy marriage is about deciding what your options are, and learning how to live with the choice you make about your life. Whether you’re learning how to survive an unhappy marriage because there is no intimacy in your relationship or no love in your life, you CAN get through this.
Choose the most difficult path
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 even an unhappy marriage. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to leave your husband or learn how to survive an unhappy marriage. It just means you need to accept your reluctance to leave as a normal part of separating.
Connect with women who are surviving 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 an unhappy marriage 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 surviving an unhappy marriage! But if your hands are tied in your relationship (literally or metaphorically), get strength from women like Rebecca. They found the courage to leave an unhappy marriage.
Start taking action – it’ll help you survive an unhappy 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 learning how to survive an unhappy marriage, you need to start talking about your life. You can’t leave a man you’ve loved for years unless you get support. And trust me – you can find support! 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 for surviving an unhappy 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.
How do you survive and stop feeling helpless in an unhappy marriage? 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.
If you want to leave your unhappy marriage but don’t have money, read How to Save Money for a Divorce.