April 22

I Am Stuck in an Unhappy Marriage and I Want a Divorce … I Think?!


deciding to divorce, divorce blog

Perplexed woman holding her face with a question mark above her head.Nothing is worse than being stuck in an unhappy marriage. You don’t know whether you should hang in there and keep trying to make things work, or whether it’s time to give up the ghost and get a divorce.

The truth is, you really don’t want a divorce.

But you don’t want to live the way you are living now either. You have gone over and over this a thousand times in your head, but still, you can’t decide.

You are stuck.

Being Stuck Sucks

Being stuck in an unhappy marriage is a lousy place to be. One minute you are completely convinced you want a divorce. You are done! You want out! Your marriage is killing you and you know it.

But then you think about what getting a divorce will mean. You think about your kids. You’re worried about trying to make it on your own financially. You think about maybe having to spend the rest of your life alone. (After all, who would want you? You’re damaged goods!) Suddenly, leaving your spouse doesn’t seem like such a fabulous idea.

So you stay. You’re not happy. But you stay. You want to leave. But you don’t. You want a divorce, but the price of getting a divorce seems way too high. Yet, the price of staying married and miserable … How much is that costing you?

Young woman in a white dress in the forest holds a picture of herself trying to get out of the picture frameWhy People Get Stuck in an Unhappy Marriage

People become unhappy in their marriages for a lot of different reasons. But people get stuck in unhappy marriages for one reason: their beliefs. They want to do one thing (leave) but their beliefs tell them they have to stay.

For example, here are the most common beliefs that will keep you stuck in an unhappy marriage:

1. Marriage is supposed to be forever.

Leaving my marriage would make me a liar, a quitter, a failure and a fraud.

2. No marriage is perfect.

So what if my spouse is an alcoholic, a gambler, a drug addict, or abusive? I should just “tough it out.”

3. Staying married is best for the kids.

It’s better to fight like cats and dogs in front of the kids, than to make them come from a “broken” family.

4. I made a vow years ago and I can’t go back on my word.

Even if I was naive and made a mistake, or if things have changed and my marriage is toxic, I can’t leave. Ever.

5. Divorce is against my religion.

No matter how miserable, unhealthy, or dangerous my marriage may have become, I have to stay married because God said so. (And, by the way, God loves me.)
Words on a blackboard :"Happy," "Unhappy," "Not Sure."

6. If I just work at this harder, everything will be okay.

Even though I may have been working on my marriage for years (or decades!) if I just try a little bit harder, or do a little bit more, maybe things will change.

7. If I get divorced, what will people think?

Everyone thinks we are the perfect couple. How can I disappoint them?

8. I don’t know if I can survive on my own.

We are not millionaires! If we get divorced I’m going to have to get a better job, or live on even less. I don’t know if I can do that.

9. If we get divorced, I won’t be able to see my kids every day any more.

Sure, my kids are in school, and have activities. Of course, I work, too. So I am not focused on my kids 100% of the time right now. But, I still don’t want to give up my time with them!

10. I can make this work!

So what if my spouse checked out of the marriage years ago? It doesn’t matter if my spouse refuses to work on (or admit) we have problems. I have superhuman powers! If I just don’t give up, I can fix this!

Stuck in an unhappy marriage: Small man trapped in a big mason jar.How to Get Unstuck

If you believe any of the things written above, getting divorced is not going to seem possible for you. That’s why you feel so stuck. Violating your beliefs just doesn’t seem like an option. The truth is – it’s not.

If you firmly believe that marriage should last forever under any and all circumstances, then no matter how miserable you are, you are going to have a hard time wrapping your head around the idea of getting a divorce. Getting divorced would make you “bad” and “wrong” in your own eyes. You just can’t do it.

They real key to getting unstuck lies not in trying to do something you feel is fundamentally wrong, or in trying to be something you are not. The real key to freeing yourself from a seemingly impossible marital situation is to change the way you are thinking about it. In other words, you have to change your beliefs.

Now, you may be thinking, “Whoa! Wait a minute! I can’t just change my beliefs. They are the truth!” But stop for a moment and ask yourself, are they? Are they really “The Truth?” Really? How do you know?

Storm with a lightbulb and a quote by Albert Einstein: We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.The Truth About Your Beliefs

The “truth” is that you were not born with a set of “beliefs” that were imprinted in your head like the ten commandments. Someone (most likely your parents and your family) told you what to believe. They said, “this is what is right.” When they did, you believed them without question.

For awhile, probably most of your life, believing what your family taught you made sense. It served you. It gave you standards to live by, and bonded you with your family. Your family all believed the same things. But, then you grew up. Life changed. Society changed. You changed. Yet, your beliefs have stayed exactly the same.

As revolutionary as it may sound, now may be the time to open your mind.  If your old beliefs are keeping you stuck in an unhappy marriage, it may be time to question your beliefs.

How do you do that? Start by asking yourself, “Is this belief true? Is it always, absolutely true in every circumstance? Or, can it be true in some situations, and not true in others?”

If questioning your beliefs seems unthinkable, ask yourself why you feel that way. After all, if what you believe is “True” with a capital “T,” then questioning it shouldn’t be a problem. The “Truth” will be true whether you question it or not.

On the other hand, if  what you believed to be “True” is only true sometimes, if at all, then maybe it’s not as true as you thought.

The other question you might also want to ask when you are examining your beliefs is: “Is this belief helping me, or is it hurting me?” If it is hurting you, why are you hanging on to it? Unless you enjoy suffering, it may be time to re-examine your old beliefs.

I want a divorce! A man over chalkboard with a thought bubble drawn in it and the word divorceHow to Decide if You Want a Divorce

Deciding whether you truly want a divorce or not is a huge decision. Examining a belief system that is keeping you stuck in an unhappy marriage is an important first step in making that decision.

Of course, examining your belief system is just the first step in your decision-making process. You will need to examine much more than just your beliefs before you are ready to finally decide whether to stay in your marriage or leave it. But, if you start by examining your beliefs, you may give yourself the ability to look at other parts of your life, too. If nothing else, seeing your beliefs in a new way may give you the power to wiggle a little bit out of the mud, and get yourself unstuck.

Are you still spinning around in your head, trying to figure out whether divorce makes sense for you? Get your FREE E-Book: Should You Stay or Should You Go: How to Decide When You Can’t Decide.  Just CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW.
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  • Your obviously an atheist or someone that has a religion to fit in with society, one who does not truly seek to know God or his purpose. I hope you find him one day.

    • People make choices to be in relationship, GOD DOES NOT FORCE ANYONE. and WTF does GOD have to do with this you dumb fuck? If you believe in God so much go prey you worries away an other shit. People really need to learn to keep “GOD STUFF” to themselves and respect what other people think and believe.

      • Amen to that. This GOD/Jesus crap is killing my relationship. I believe in God and all of that. However, my wife works at a Lutheran Church, and she cares nothing about my beliefs (Methodist). Though, I respect hers, but she pushes her beliefs on me. Also, she makes fun of all non-Lutheran churches. There is so much I can take. I am at the point, I hate church, Jesus, and everything goes with it.

        Plus, I want children, but she wants dogs…well, I save that for some other time.

        • DEAR MR WEST DON’T LET YOUR WIFE CAUSE YOU TO STOP BELIEVING IN GOD. iF you have an issue directly about God then I can see. In the start of your dating her you should make it clear to her that you will not talk religion. You have you church and she has hers and let it be just that. My husband and I are from different church and that did not came between us.

  • Hi Karen,
    Your website is a wealth of information. Like many others, I am stuck in making a decision to leave my marriage, mainly because I have a 6 year old. I find myself bitter and angry most days, and only enjoy time with my daughter and friends/family.. We have been to 2 different marriage counselors trying to resolve a huge issue of my wife sleeping in my daughters room since birth, occasionally spending part of the night in “my room”, but I have always woken alone.
    It’s strange feeling lonely and bitter, scared and guilty at the same time. I keep hoping something will just click in my head and push me in the right direction. I dont want to be stuck forever. I see a therapist regularly, which helps, and have a great support group of family and friends.
    Thanks again for the valuable information in you blogs!


    • I assume that you’re saying that your wife is sleeping in the same room as your child while you sleep alone.

      The best way to address that is probably through marriage counseling. If you try to confront your wife directly (as I’m sure you have) you’re going to start an argument and probably accomplish very little. A good therapist, however, will be neutral and independent. S/he will be better able to get to the bottom of why your wife is really doing this. Is it that she thinks this is good for your child? Is it that she doesn’t want to be with you? (Sorry! But it’s possible!) If that’s true, WHY does she feel that way? Or is the problem something else entirely?

      If your wife will talk to you about this directly, great. Maybe you can work things out. But my suspicion is you need help. That’s where a therapist can help.

      Also, if you can find a therapist who works with couples AND small children, that will be great too. Then the therapist can help both of you understand, not only what you’re doing to each other, but the effect your behavior may be having on your child.

      Hope this helsp.

  • I don’t know if you still comment on your articles but I need help. I have been married 35 years. We married young, I was leaving horrible abuse. My husband has never physically hurt me and he is faithful but he does not want to be deeply connected. I have tried for years and he simply ignores the fact that I am so unhappy. We have gone to counseling but I end up being the one that needs help. I am a Christian so this will be very hard. Many people will reject me. My children are in their twenties. I don’t have any money. When I work. My check goes to a joint account. My husband is a nice man. He is obsessed with sports. He never wants to go anywhere but to eat out. I don’t want to hurt him. I know he will be very sad like a pouting dog. He won’t take care of himself physically. He is clean cut but have a huge belly and man boobs and doesn’t care. Many times when I want something I wait for years. I have been in the same house for 25 years but he does not want to move until he retires. I have been trying to get him to change his mind for two years.

    I am afraid I won’t make it financially but I don’t need a lot. I can live simple.

    I have talked to him about divorce two times recently but he basically ignores me.

    • It sounds like you need two things: knowledge and support.

      You need to figure out your finances and find out if you will be able to support yourself if you divorce. If not, then you need to start working on changing that now.

      You also need emotional support – especially if you know you will get rejected if you leave your husband. (The truth is, everyone loses friends and sometimes even relatives when they divorce. But some people definitely lose more than others!) Finding a good therapist (an individual therapist NOT a couples counselor) and a divorce support group can be a huge help for you right now.

      You would also be wise to learn as much as you can about how divorce work so you can prepare yourself for the future. One way you can do that is by checking out the online Divorce Road Map Program. It is specifically designed to give you the information you need to get through your divorce in the least destructive way possible. CLICK HERE to check it out.

      I hope this helps.


  • I know that I am most miserable in my married life. I know that I have to leave. When I do so how can I afford this very expensive rent in NY.I think because of my financial condition it might be extremely difficult. I am very unhappy and need to be happy. I guess that I have to figure out a good way out.

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