6 Steps To Take If You Are Feeling Trapped In A Relationship

feeling trapped in a relationship

Amy and Kevin had been with each other for five years. But Amy often felt like she was in a box; her relationship was suffocating her and she did not know what to do about it. Was this normal, she wondered. Did everyone feel this way? And what were the main reasons for feeling trapped in a relationship?

And she loved Kevin – they were happy with each other too. Unable to pinpoint the reason behind her feelings, Amy continued to suffer in silence and confusion. Gradually, this took a toll on her relationship. The tension in the room was palpable when she and Kevin sat down to dinner.

When things became unbearable, Amy reached out to a relationship counsellor. A few sessions later, Amy realized that her reasons for feeling trapped in a relationship were twofold. Firstly, she needed to work on building her self-esteem. And secondly, the relationship looked like it was going nowhere. It was time to take a break (if not a breakup) and do some recalibrating.

(Names changed to protect identities)

Did you resonate with Amy’s story? She is one of many others who have experienced similar feelings at some point in their relationship or marriage. But even after realizing what you’re feeling, taking decisive action can be challenging. To help you along the way, here is a guide of 6 steps to take if you’re going through the same thing and are stuck in a relationship.

With me I have counsellor Kranti Momin (M.A. Clinical Psychology) who has some stellar insights to give. She’s here to guide you through the rocky landscape of feeling trapped in a relationship.

It’s time to hash it out once and for all – what does feeling trapped in a relationship mean?

How Do You Know If You Are Trapped In A Relationship?

There are so many different kinds of signs – signs of sickness, signs from the universe, signs on the road – and they all fulfil the same purpose; giving us a heads-up. These indicators listed below are signs of feeling trapped in a relationship. Can you spot them in your life?

Kranti and I are going to give you a clear idea of what constitutes feeling trapped. Maybe you are having trouble putting a finger on what’s happening, because you don’t know the A to Z’s of it. (Or perhaps you’re in denial.) Worry no more – we’ve put everything down for you in this thought-provoking read.

Here are the signs you feel restricted in a relationship…

1. What does “feeling trapped in a relationship” really mean? The conundrum of happiness

A healthy relationship is a constant source of comfort, happiness and security in our lives. Our partners bring us joy with their presence and actions. While it is inevitable for boredom to creep into the relationship at some point, feeling unhappy or frustrated is a cause for concern. You need to address two main questions:

First – am I happy when I am away from my partner? If you are away for work, or with friends, do you heave a sigh of relief? Or are you actively seeking getaways? Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting a little space…heck, I’ll even call it healthy. But the reasons behind wanting that space are what matter. You are feeling trapped in a relationship if escaping from your partner makes you happy.

Second – am I unhappy with my partner? This question pertains to the general satisfaction in your relationship. If you are sensing irreconcilable differences between you both, then this looming incompatibility may be suffocating you. You could be unhappy with your partner for a number of reasons; they are impeding your growth, they have different values, their vision for the relationship is different from yours, etc.

The answers to these two questions should give you a fair idea of whether you’re truly feeling trapped in a relationship, or it’s just a passing rough patch you’re navigating. Kranti explains it best, “If you don’t enjoy being with your partner then you’re in the wrong relationship. If all you can think about is a happier life without them, then you’re clearly dissatisfied and need to leave.”

what to do when you're feeling trapped in a relationship
Are you unhappy with your relationship?

2. “It’s getting hot in here” – Main reasons for feeling trapped in a relationship

A major reason behind feeling restricted in a relationship is that you really are being restricted. Having a controlling partner or spouse can make all the (terrible) difference in the world. Being censored/critiqued for your speech, attire, habits, and so on, can be very corrosive to one’s self-esteem. Your feelings might be stemming from a place where you’re being told that you aren’t enough.

Kranti directs our attention towards the importance of appreciation; “One of the key contributing factors of feeling confined in a relationship could be a lack of appreciation. If you don’t feel valued or that your partner takes you for granted, it’s a symptom that the relationship is lacking in respect. Of course, you don’t expect your partner to shout praises every now and then, but respect and appreciation are a must.”

Another possibility is that your boundaries are being breached. You can feel your relationship encroaching on your personal space or individuality. In this situation, it’s natural to want to fortify yourself. And situations or incidents build up on each other; the intensity is felt over time. So ask yourself, am I being held back in my relationship?

The crux of this question is figuring out if you think you want something better. If you are convinced that you deserve a better environment and want to move on to better things, then that these are definite signs of feeling trapped in a relationship.

Related Reading: 17 Signs A Guy Is Unhappy In His Relationship

3. Red flags are red, stop looking for a clue

Your relationship is toxic and your partner too. Abusive or toxic relationships are a huge reason behind feeling suffocated by your partner. There are different kinds of toxic settings and behaviors. Physical abuse involves hitting, shoving, threatening. and even sexual violence. Emotional abuse in a relationship is comprised of verbal attacks, gaslighting, manipulation, disrespect, etc.

Kranti puts forth the other forms of abuse, “Besides physical and emotional abuse, you have psychological, sexual, spiritual, and economic abuse. One (or all) of these can make you feel caged. These behavior patterns are used by one partner to maintain power and control over the other partner.”

You might think there’s no way out of the situation, and you might even be in love with your abusive partner. Women keep going back to abusive partners, and victims often say, “I feel trapped in my relationship but I love him.” If you’re a victim of domestic abuse, please seek help. We have listed down what you can do if you want to stop feeling trapped in a relationship, but if you are in an unsafe environment – please extract yourself immediately.

Expert-recommended solutions to deal with the issue

A toxic partner rarely changes over time, and their anger issues/insecurities cause immense harm to you. If you have been harmed emotionally or physically, you aren’t feeling trapped in a relationship; you ARE trapped in one.

These signs of feeling trapped in a relationship have hopefully cleared your confusion about where you stand. Since we have located your position, shall we try and understand what to do about it? Here comes the difficult part – the steps to take if you feel restricted in a relationship.

Feeling Trapped In A Relationship – 6 Steps You Can Take

A children’s book by Renee Russel taught me a very valuable lesson in middle school; you always have two options in life – be a chicken or a champion. And neither is permanent since most people have been both at some point in time or the other. The way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with being a chicken as long as your own self isn’t being compromised. If at any point you see your self-respect at stake – it’s time to switch teams, champ.

Welcome to the champion section of this piece where we talk about the steps you can take if you feel restricted in a relationship. Seeing them through till the end will be a tough job, no doubt. But you absolutely must do something about your situation. It’s just what Steve Harvey said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going. Why would you stop in hell?”

Related Reading: 10 Signs To Know Your Relationship Is Over

1. Stuck in a relationship? Have ‘the talk’ with yourself

Conversations with your own self are the most important ones you’ll have. When you’re feeling trapped in a relationship, the first thing to do is to sit and reflect. There are two things mental maps you need to follow. The first is inward; by looking into your own behavior, needs, desires, and emotions. The second is outward; by thinking about the relationship.

There is a possibility that you are feeling confined because of low self-esteem. A dissatisfaction with your own self can, by extension, make you feel unhappy about the relationship. Carla from Newark wrote, “I was in a bad space back then. I had just lost my job and was feeling like a good-for-nothing. But it took me a while to realize that the source of my discontent was me. And your own self is the last place you look, so I kept pegging it on my relationship.”

Once you have introspected, proceed to examine the relationship objectively. Is it exhibiting any signs of toxicity or abuse? Is your partner not a good match for you? Or is it a right-person-wrong-time situation? Kranti puts forward an interesting point, “Maybe you’ve grown apart from each other. Not only does a relationship change as time passes, but so do you. In addition, your perspective on the relationship and life shifts. Your partner might not be pleased with the person you become, or vice versa.” 

Try and pin-point the main reasons for feeling trapped in a relationship, and where they are stemming from. Only you can diagnose the problem.

stop feeling trapped in a relationship
You have some serious thinking to do

2. Put in the hard work if you want to stop feeling trapped in a relationship

After you’ve figured out the origin of your emotions, put in the efforts towards rectifying it. Build your self-esteem step by step. Enrich your life by socializing with friends and family, taking up a new hobby, exercising and eating healthy, and working diligently. Fix your sleep schedule, and cut back on the screen time. Lead a good lifestyle and you’ll notice the difference it makes.

Consequently, if the relationship is facing problems, work with your partner as a team. The first step would be direct and honest communication. Be clear in expressing what you want and how you feel. Voice your concerns and expectations; never operate on assumptions. Spend quality time with them, take an active interest in each other’s lives, and spice things up in the bedroom. Set realistic future goals for the relationship, and heal from the damage that you may have unknowingly caused.

Emotional baggage of one or both partners takes a toll on the relationship. If you feel the need to reach out to a mental health professional, do so. You can approach any relationship psychotherapist or counselor individually or for couple’s therapy. Sometimes a little professional help can go a long way. Online therapy from Bonobology counselors has helped many people to move on after coming out of a negative relationship. We’re here for you and help is just a click away.

3. A multiple-choice question awaits

At this junction, you need to consider the options you have. The key question is: what do I want to do now? Maybe you would like to take a break from the relationship temporarily. Maybe you would like to break up permanently. Perhaps you want to continue seeing your partner, but at a slower pace. There are many alternatives you can look into.

Hitting pause on the relationship for a while might be beneficial to you both. Time apart can knit you closer, and you will get the much-needed space to recalibrate for a bit. Without the commitment of a relationship, you can get comfortable with yourself and do things you like. It will be like hitting reboot! After a few months, get back together with your partner and start afresh.

Think over all these pathways and choose one wisely. Don’t be indecisive or hasty. Or even worse – don’t choose one and then switch to another. But getting out of the relationship that is restricting you can be a good option to seriously consider. Much like a breath of fresh air!

Related Reading: First Breakup – 11 Ways To Deal With It

4. No relapses please

There are certain things you should never do after a breakup/break. They include creating drama, slipping into old behavior patterns, starting on-again off-again cycles, and so on. Once you settle on a course of action, stick to it diligently. Resist the temptation to call your ex or stalk them online. Don’t try and maintain a ‘friendship’ right after a breakup. Most importantly, don’t lose sight of the reason you broke up in the first place.

On the other hand, if you have decided to stay in the relationship or marriage and work on it, do it with your heart and soul. Don’t indulge in self-sabotaging behaviors or blame-games. Do justice to the decision you have made. Consistency is key when you are trying to stop feeling trapped in a relationship.

unhealthy relationship

5. Move on slowly but steadily

Dwelling in the past has never helped anyone, and neither will it help you. Once you’ve come out of a relationship where you were feeling caged, don’t look back. Keep your eyes on the future and move on with your life. Love yourself! Your progress might be miniscule, but that’s okay as long as you’re moving forward. It will get easier with time, and you will reach a place of happiness and peace.

Learn from your mistakes and tendencies, and be sure to avoid them henceforth. Self-awareness will prevent history from repeating itself. Be in a good space when you enter your next relationship, and maintain a solid distance from people with abusive or toxic traits. Strive towards finding a wholesome connection; a partner that you want to come back to every day.

6. Don’t give up on love

You can never let a bad experience determine your whole outlook on something. Sure, the relationship was an unhealthy one – but that is not a guarantee that all of them will be the same. Don’t lose faith in love, romance, the goodness of connections, and the prospect of dating again just because you were stuck in a relationship that didn’t work for you. You don’t have to get back in the game for a while, but please don’t shun it completely.

Kranti says, “Try to recall what you wished for before the realities of life and the quest of human accomplishment crushed your heart. Have faith because there are many things about relationships and love which are beautiful.” And this is a message you should definitely keep close to your heart. Becoming pessimistic or negative towards love is just a loss for yourself.

I hope we have succeeded in giving you a little bit of direction. While the choices are completely yours, our guidance might make the journey easier. Write to us and let us know how you fared; may you never feel trapped in a relationship again.

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