Being in an unhappy marriage feels like being stuck at a dead end. You feel both mentally and emotionally drained. There is a vacuum inside your heart that nothing seems to fill. So, what to do when you are not happy in your marriage but don’t want to go down the path of divorce?
It can seem that there are no easy answers to this question. Particularly, given your circumstances where a sense of gloom and loneliness become your constant companions despite the fact that you are wedded to a partner.
It is as if you are stuck and don’t have a way out. Unhappy marriages bring anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and self-doubt. We’re here to help you learn how to survive a bad marriage without divorce.
Top 3 Unhappy Marriage Signs
After some time of your marriage, you start noticing the red flags that draw your partner away from you and make you unhappy. You try to reassure yourself that everything is alright and your relationship is worth saving but these troublesome signs only get stronger.
Psychological Counselor Sabatina Sangma says, “The reasons why someone is not happy in married life can be diverse. From the inability to resolve conflict the right way to misaligned or lacking goals, absence of initiative to make things better, unrealistic expectations and cheating or infidelity, to name a few.
“When people constantly wonder should marriage be hard or feel trapped in their relationships, usually one of these underlying triggers is at play. Often, these issues hide in plain sight.
“For instance, both partners could just be waiting for the other to initiatives. Or there may be a lot of expectations from the marriage, where at least one spouse expects their partner to fulfill the expectations not met by their parents.”
These underlying triggers inevitably manifest as signs that you are not happy in your marriage. You feel angry and frustrated all the time and you feel always angry and negative. Here are the top 3 unhappy marriage signs:
1.You both are preoccupied with yourselves
Even though you are a couple, you both are pretty much involved in your individual lives. You have your own set of priorities and there seems to be no intersection. True, you are married, but you are actually leading your own lives your way.
You have neither the time nor the will to know what your partner is doing because you are too busy with yourself. Kiera and her husband Karl were the living embodiment of this tendency. They both became too deeply involved with the demanding nature of their corporate work-life that it cause them to drift apart.
While Kiera couldn’t shake off the ‘my husband is miserable in our marriage’ feeling, Karl also felt the same way about his wife. The distance between them grew to a point that even when they were together, they didn’t know how to engage with each other.
Related Reading: What Do You Do When You Are In An Unhappy Marriage?
2. You don’t talk anymore
When you both are together, it is difficult to start a conversation and keep it going. At times when you do talk, it is mostly about something like kids, relatives, finances, an impending task and so on. Neither of you shares your feelings with the other and you go on meeting the responsibilities and obligations of a marriage like a robot.
When you’re in an unhappy marriage but can’t leave, over time you and your spouse may go from being a couple to two strangers living under the same roof. You do not connect on a personal level, your interactions are limited, and when you do engage with one another it leads to arguments.
You and your spouse may have already checked out of the marriage emotionally and are bound together for reasons other than love.
3. Aren’t having meaningful sex
You have been going through a dry spell on the intimacy front for so long that it feels like you’re stuck in a sexless marriage. Even the sex you do engage in once in a while neither feels meaningful nor satisfying.
This is because according to the marriage statistics in the survey conducted by Readers Digest1, 57 percent of those in unhappy relationships still find their partner extremely attractive, owing to sex without any emotional connection.
11 Things You Can Do When You Are Not Happy In Marriage
If you identify with these signs, it’s safe to conclude that you are not happy in a marriage. The question now arises: What to do when you are not happy in your marriage? Your first impulse may be to escape from this loveless and unhappy marriage. However, letting go of bad marriage is not easy and divorce must always be considered as the last recourse.
So, if you’re in an unhappy marriage but can’t leave or don’t want to leave until you have exhausted all your options, you can definitely try to save your marriage. Here are 11 things you can try:
1. Practice forgiveness
Sabatina says, “Forgiveness in a relationship can work wonders in helping partners heal their bond. The act of forgiveness is akin to freeing ourselves from the feeling that the other person owes us something. When we forgive someone we are releasing ourselves from that pain that we carry.
“Many times in our life we make mistakes and we have to forgive ourselves for those mistakes. And many of us have more resentment towards ourselves than anyone else. Often expressing offering an apology in any form will help us to release ourselves from that pain. Do everything you can to make a situation better and then let it go. Any act of forgiveness must start with you.
“That’s because we punish ourselves when we make mistakes and unconsciously also punish our partner too. At the same time, forgiving your partner is also equally important if you’re not happy in your married life because keeping negative feelings towards your partner will just create a wall between you. Release yourself and your partner from the pain of holding onto it.
2. Support your partner
Marriages are about two people sharing individual goals, interests and combining them into shared goals. Paths of individual goals transform into shared goals when both partners support each other’s goals and dreams. Show your support for your partner in whatever they do.
Take more interest in their work or projects they are working on even though it is something out of your league. Such things would be good for starting conversations and your partner will feel good that you are taking interest in what they do. It will also help in getting to know your partner better.
3. Appreciate them
True happiness comes when you appreciate the things you have. Do not compare your marriage with that of your friends or acquaintances. The grass always looks greener on the other side. Appreciate your partner for who they are. Don’t aspire for lavish lifestyles or your partner’s promotions.
Value what your partner has and appreciate what you have. What if you are not happy in your marriage? Well, it becomes even more pertinent in that situation. Appreciation can serve as the perfect antidote to the feelings of resentment and anger that may be making your marriage an unhappy union.
Joshua and Rose went into couple’s therapy to seek an answer to what to do when you are not happy in your marriage. The counselor asked them to start by making a small change in their interactions with one another – look for things you appreciate in one another and articulate those thoughts.
This seemingly simple exercise was hard to incorporate in their life for both. But once they did, the quality of their marital bond started improving, slowly but surely.
4. Build shared interests
As said earlier, marriages are about sharing similar goals and interests in their journey together. It is normal for two people to have nothing in common. For a marriage to work, you both need to invest time in each other’s life.
If you are not happy in a marriage, you need to make a cohesive, collective approach to ensure it is what you want. Make your partner do the activities you love and do activities and you do the same for him/her. This will help you both develop shared interests and you will also find activities that will become routine for you both.
When you’re not happy with your married life, the onus of changing that lies with you and your partner. Something as simple as committing to eat dinner together or going out for walks post dinner can create opportunities for bonding.
You can then build upon it and start doing more things together. This creates the perfect opportunity to spend quality time and learn to enjoy each other’s company all over again.
5. Take care of your appearance
As the marriage keeps getting older, with kids and household or work-related responsibilities, people tend to give less focus on their looks. You no more dress up like you used to and mostly roam around in your sweatpants and with messy hair.
When was it the last time you made your partner’s head turn around and they said, “You look beautiful today”. If it has been a while then there is some thinking to do. Remember how you would dress up for a girl’s night and do the same now. Pamper yourself once in a while.
Take care of how you look and feel and it will send positive vibes to your partner as well.
Related reading: 10 ways to shower appreciation on your husband
6. Compliment your partner
When you are not happy in a marriage, you tend to take everything for granted and refuse to acknowledge anything good about the marriage as well as your partner. You forget to compliment your partner. Now, paying compliments doesn’t have to be about their looks or physical attributes.
Compliment your partner once in a while on little things too. Say thank you to your partner even for the smallest efforts. Such efforts, though seem meaningless but make your partner feel appreciated and they feel that their actions matter and are noticed by you.
Counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam says, “Something as routine as thanking your partner for bringing you a glass of water when you get home after a long day can go a long way in making them feel valued and cherished.”
A heartfelt compliment like ‘you are so thoughtful’ or ‘I love how you know what I need even before I ask for it’ can be the perfect cherry on the cake.
7. Practice active listening
Sabatina says, “Understand the need for active listening and try to listen to one another. Being an active listener it not only allows us to make appropriate decision but also it shows that we care about what our partner is saying and that we respect their perspective.”
This becomes even more crucial during disagreements, fights and arguments. If you’re not happy in your married life, take a moment to reflect whether you and your spouse actually hear each other out. Or is the focus on making your point, being proven right and gaining an upper hand?
The latter becomes a breeding ground for resentment and unhappiness in a marriage, driving a wedge between partners. Not matter how heated an argument, always accord each other the chance to put forth their point of view. Even if you disagree, wait for them to finish and then offer a rebuttal or counter what they’re saying.
8. Be honest in your marriage
Sometimes hiding things from your partner leads to misunderstandings. Your partner feels that he/she isn’t considered important enough for you to share those things with them. It is important to be honest in the marriage no matter how bad or embarrassing the thing is. This will help build trust and a strong foundation that will lead to a healthy marriage.
In her efforts to survive a bad marriage without divorce, Tracey started hiding from her husband things that she knew would lead to arguments or fights. Over time, these bricks of lies and omissions created a wall to thick that neither could break it down and reach out to the other.
For Tracey, her friend Mia’s advice came as a savior for her marriage. “She simply said if you can’t even be honest with each other, what’s the point of staying married. That hit me like a bolt out of the blue. I promised myself to make amends at my end. My efforts paid off.”
Related reading: 23 Little things to make your marriage stronger everyday
9. Give surprises
It is important to keep the surprise element going even in marriages. Most marriages are unsuccessful because of things getting mundane too fast. Keep giving your partners surprises and do things to make them happy.
Chances are that they will do the same. Marriages are unhappy because of lack of any thrill or lost love. It is important to keep that thrill going for you both to stay in love.
A weekend getaway on your spouse’s birthday, a fancy dinner on your anniversary, getting them the ticket to their favorite band’s concert or favorite game – gestures such as these are enough to infused new energy into your relationship.
10. Be happy from within
In order to be happy with anything around you, you need to be happy yourself first. Only if you are happy from within will you be confident to deal with the problems of an unhappy marriage. Once you feel content and happy from within, you will gain the confidence to work on your unhappy marriage.
Don’t put the onus of happiness on your partner. No one can and should have the power to influence your feelings and state of mind. Be in control of your feelings, indulge in activities and engage with people who bring you true happiness.
Instead of blaming yourself or your partner, you will find ways to resolve the unhappy marriage rather than moving away from an unhappy marriage. When you’re happy, you will project that energy on to your relationship as well.
Related reading: 10 Beautiful Quotes that Define A Happy Marriage
11. Engage in self-reflection
“Self-reflection is very important in every journey of our life. It allows us to understand ourselves, our actions, our thoughts and our feelings. We always tend to blame our partners for how they treated us but have we ever try to ask ourselves about our own actions, thoughts.
“Once we start to reflect on ourselves, we know which area we need to improve and the changes that we need to be made in order to rebuild the marital life. It helps us understand the problem and our relationship even better. Always remember that when we become our best self, we attract true and lasting love,” says Sabatina.
After a few years of marriage, often partners start losing interest in each other which are early signs of an unhappy marriage. However, at the early stages, lost love can be reignited if proper steps are taken to find happiness again in the marriage.
It is always easy to move away from an unhappy marriage but a marriage is a commitment that you make to your partner ’till death do us part’, thus, it is not that easy to give up on it. Remember what made you say yes to your partner in the first place and make you think that he/she is the one.
Should unhappy couples continue to stay in a marriage without even giving it a chance? Work on your marriage, you might find a way to find happiness in your marriage again.
While there are phases in every marriage where partners can feel unhappy or discontent, a prevailing sense of unhappiness is neither normal nor healthy. If that’s how you feel in your marriage, it’s time to introspect and take concrete steps to salvage your relationship.
Yes, with the right support and the right approach, it is possible to heal your bond and transform your unhappy marriage into a happy one. However, remember that it takes two to tango. Both you and your spouse have to be committed to make a change to be able to see any real improvement.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship you share with another person. One in which your lives become completely intertwined. So, tearing your life apart and starting anew can be an unnerving proposition.
If your marriage is abusive, you should absolutely have no second thoughts about walking away. Abuse in a marriage can be emotional, physical or sexual. Other than that, addiction and infidelity are among the common causes behind marriages falling apart.