People stay in unhappy relationships for a few reasons. Sometimes, it is to keep financial security, other times it is for children. Whatever the reason is, it often leads to one or both parties being miserable.
However, if you are thinking, “I’m unhappy in my marriage but I can’t leave”, know it doesn’t have to be this way. While you may not be able to leave your marriage, there are things you can do to make the situation less unbearable and still find happiness in an unhappy marriage.
What Defines an Unhappy Marriage?
The definition of an unhappy marriage is simple enough. It is a marriage that you are unhappy in. Usually, a marriage is classified as unhappy when one party is unwilling to make any changes, or things like couples therapy haven’t worked out.
One partner is usually considered to be inferior to the other in terms of the relationship, and this is the person that is seen as unhappy. They are never listened to, and their problems aren’t taken seriously. Usually, they don’t get their needs taken care of as well, such as getting alone time, a break, or time to relax.
However, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, both parties can be unhappy. If this is the case, they usually stay together for an outside reason, such as not believing in divorce, or because there are children present.
It’s also often where someone feels trapped. Maybe they don’t have the funds or resources to leave or feel they have to stay in a relationship.
21 Signs You Are in an Unhappy Marriage
1. You actively try to avoid your partner.
2. You are angry or frustrated most of the time.
3. Love no longer exists between you and your partner.
4. When you are with your partner, you often feel sad or there are a lot of fights.
5. You’ve found yourself drawn to using substances to drown out your emotions.
6. There’s no intimacy in your marriage.
7. Everything they do bothers you.
8. You feel neglected and alone.
9. You feel you can’t tell them anything.
10. Cheating has occurred in your relationship.
11. You are depressed.
12. You’ve gotten to the point that you and your partner barely even talk, and don’t even put in the effort to argue.
13. There is some form of abuse in a relationship.
14. Everything gets priority over your partner.
15. There is no gratitude.
16. You don’t know anything about your spouse anymore.
17. One of you is always being defensive.
18. You’re jealous of people in your life that are single and happy.
19. You have little to no self-esteem anymore.
20. There’s no respect.
21. You don’t want to be alone together.
What to Do When You Can’t Leave an Unhappy Marriage: 15 Tips
1. Find Ways to Be Happy Doing Your Own Thing
When you are married, you expect to do a lot of things with your spouse. You should be spending time together, going on dates, or running the house as a team. Unfortunately, in unhappy marriages, that doesn’t often happen.
Instead, you will often find yourself doing things alone. It might make you sad at first, but it will benefit your mental health, in the long run, to not have to deal with someone angry, argumentative, or awkward to be around for every task and adventure.
Doing things that you enjoy alone can also boost your mental health. You can increase your self-esteem, learn to love yourself, and see that you are worthy of having a good time.
2. Focus on You Own Mental Health
Speaking of mental health, you must learn to focus on your own mental health rather than trying to constantly make your partner happy. While you don’t have to go out of your way to make them miserable, you don’t have to do everything to try and appease them.
Instead, you can do things to improve your mental health. Do things you enjoy, find small things to make you happy, and make foods that you like.
3. Be Grateful for the Things You Do Have
Most relationships aren’t 100% bad or 100% good. There is usually a mix. This is often what keeps people so miserable in relationships. They tend to keep hope when there are good days and get hurt all over again on the bad days.
While it is important to realize that you are still unhappy for the majority of the time, you do want to be grateful for what you do have. Maybe you have a loving pet, good friends, or even wonderful children.
Focusing on the positives rather than the negatives can help you to stay happier and realize that some good came from the relationship.
4. Leave the House Whenever You Can
Staying indoors isn’t good for your mental health. Try and get some fresh air and sunshine at least a couple of times a week. If you are busy it can be hard, but taking a short walk during the day can really make a difference. It will brighten your mood and make everything seem a little easier.
5. Don’t Bother with Fights and Arguments
When you are early on in your unhappiness, you and your spouse may have a lot of arguments. You are both irritated, hurt, and bitter, and take it out on the only person you can. This leads to a lot of mean, drawn-out arguments.
However, by acknowledging that you are unhappy and that the things you are arguing about aren’t the real problem, you can reduce the number of fights you are having. This can make your situation much more bearable. Having fights drains you and takes a lot out of a person emotionally.
6. Have an Open and Honest Conversation
Sometimes, we assume people are doing things on purpose to be mean or cruel. However, most of the time, people are focused on their own thoughts and don’t realize what they are doing to others.
Having an open and honest conversation where you both talk about how you feel instead of accusations can allow you two to see each other’s side of the relationship and make improvements to your relationship. If you don’t talk, nothing can get better.
7. Have Reasonable Expectations for Your Partner
Don’t expect everything to get magically better when you talk about it though. If your partner just doesn’t care, or is chronically known for not putting in any effort, expecting a big change is only going to make you upset.
The same goes for if you two decide to stay married though you are both unhappy. Things won’t magically get better, and you have to have reasonable expectations. By setting the bar somewhere reachable, you aren’t going to have your feelings hurt for not meeting your ideal expectations.
8. Try to Rekindle the Flame
If you both decide you want to try and make it work, then it is worth trying to rekindle the flame. The best way to do this is to treat your relationship like it is brand new again. Let go of expectations and previous problems and start over. Go on dates and try to learn more about each other again.
During your periods of unhappiness and resentment, you likely started to grow apart. You have a lot to learn about each other again to grow as close as you once were or want to be.
9. Set Boundaries
Whether you are trying to make yourselves happy again or trying to just get along with the best of the worst, it is important to set boundaries. This is to protect yourself and your spouse from mental harm and to allow you both to have some happiness.
Make strict boundaries. These can be whatever you think will benefit you the most, such as no fighting in front of the children, schedules on when you are in certain spaces, or what you talk about. As long as you can come to an agreement on the boundaries and your boundaries aren’t hurting the other person, you should be firm on them.
10. Find a Way to Be Friends or Coworkers
At this point, if you’ve decided you can’t make it work out enough to bring back the romance, you have to think of yourselves as roommates, coworkers, or even friends. You are working together to take care of children, or for any other reason you might have decided to stay together.
This means treating each other as just that. Don’t have expectations for romance, or even expect the same treatment as before. Work together to do what you have to, but don’t expect anything beyond that.
11. Focus on Positives
Don’t just focus on the negatives, or you will only ever be upset and hurt. Instead, try to think about the positives. Maybe they take good care of their children, or maybe they work hard to provide for or clean the home. Even if it is small things, work hard to find something to appreciate that your partner does.
12. Identify the Root of the Problem
Sometimes, if you can, you should try and identify the root of the problem. See what caused you two to become distant and what you can do to fix it. Maybe you have been overworked and stressed, or maybe you have grown apart. By figuring out the main issue, you can focus on that and work to fix it.
13. Realize You Don’t Know Your Partner Anymore
We often expect people to act the same way forever, without realizing that people change and grow. This is especially true with people that live together. However, if you have stopped communicating healthily or sharing in your days, your spouse can easily grow and change apart from you.
This means they may react differently to situations than you are used to, or just behave differently than normal. This doesn’t mean that they are purposefully doing things to throw you off or to make you uncomfortable, it is just who they are now.
14. Show Your Appreciation
Now that you’ve acknowledged that there is some good they do, you also have to make sure that they understand that you are grateful. Sometimes, we only express the bad, because those are the things we want to change, or we take their good actions for granted.
It can make your partner feel unappreciated or overlooked. Make an effort to explain the things you are happy or grateful for. This can do a lot to improve a relationship, even if it never goes back to what it once was.
15. Find People to Talk To
You will often feel alone in an unhappy marriage. This can wreck your mental health and lead to severe depression. Try to find friends or family members to hang out with and talk to so you don’t feel so alone.
When Can You Leave an Unhappy Marriage?
When you are sure that you put all of the efforts into your relationship you can or are willing to, that is when it is a good idea to leave a marriage. There is no point in staying unhappy or trying to put in effort when the other person won’t.
At some point, spouses can get too far apart to ever reconnect. There may be too much bad blood in the relationship, so they just don’t understand each other anymore.
Many people stay together because of the kids, but most of the time, staying in an unhappy marriage can be worse for them. They learn that they don’t have to be happy in their own relationships in the future and that a partner who is cold or rude to them is fine.
Instead, the goal should be to end an unhappy marriage at a point where the relationship can be congenial. Having a messy, bitter divorce can harm kids, but both acknowledging you are happier apart and you can both find a way to take care of the kids is healthy and sets a good example for your children.
Whether it is for children or not, you should never stay in an abusive relationship. If you are constantly being harmed, controlled, or insulted in any way that is a huge warning for your mental health and safety. If that starts to occur, you should work hard to leave, and take your children with you if possible.
Can You Fix an Unhappy Marriage?
It is possible to fix an unhappy marriage, but it takes a lot of effort on both sides. You have to be willing to have an open and honest conversation about your marriage and how you feel about your place in the marriage.
Then it will take a lot of effort and emotion, and can be very slow. But as long as you both are willing to work together, it is possible to fix it.
Is It Possible to Be Happy in an Unhappy Marriage?
If you absolutely can’t leave for one reason or another, it is still possible to find happiness in an unhappy marriage. You just have to learn to find that happiness with yourself and your friends instead of your spouse.
Sometimes, this means treating your spouse like nothing more than a roommate. Even with a bad roommate, you can find happiness. The best way to maximize your happiness is to avoid any expectations from them, focus on the positives that your spouse has, and worry about yourself more than them.