Jun 172014

I don’t need to tell you how your marriage is affecting your life, but I can give you a few tips on how to cope when you’re unhappily married! These ideas are inspired by a reader who emailed me, asking for help coping in an unhappy marriage.

How to Cope When You're Unhappily MarriedThe Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis will help you revitalize your marriage and regain your happiness.

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.

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.

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

“How to Cope When You’re Unhappily Married” image by Broin via Pixabay, CC License

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.

Is your marriage in trouble? Get a free marriage assessment and relationship advice.

If you're dealing with a breakup, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love

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.

coping Unhappily Married

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

Find ways to gain courage to cope when you not happy in your marriage. 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, 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.

If you’re tired of trying to cope in an unhappy marriage, read How to Leave Your Husband.

About Me

quips tips love relationshipsI'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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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