How To Plan Your 'Escape' From An Unhappy Marriage BEFORE You Leave

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If all day long in your marriage you're saying to yourself: "My partner is driving me crazy. This relationship is making me sick," it’s time to plan your escape.

But you’re still hanging around because another pesky voice keeps saying:

You can't just leave.

You have to stay because of your credit card debt, rent payments, health care, and what your friends and family will say. Besides you’re not perfect; you’ve made mistakes, gotten angry and nagged. You did love him once, and some part of you still loves him. What’s blocking that love now?

What if you’re making a big mistake and will regret leaving him? Shouldn’t you just work on it? Have you really worked hard enough to make this relationship work? Do you really think you can do better? How are you going cope with being alone when you know how scared you are of being lonely?”

Let's face it, you're stuck in a cycle of upset, dissatisfaction, doubt, guilt, and confused feelings.

You might be afraid of hurting his feelings or, worse, you fear his anger, rage, and physical violence. But you’ve been unhappy for years and you’ve changed into this angry, bitter, depressed person who is not who you used to be. You’ve lost your true self in this relationship.

How have others solved this dilemma? Some have had affairs or elevate their level of anger to a point where one or the other is pushed to some form of physical or verbal abuse. This is a less than optimal (in other words, neurotic) way of sparking the motivation to file the divorce papers or call the lawyers. (That is, by making things in the relationship so bad that you finally feel forced to make a decision.)

Before you reach that desperate stage in your marriage, you might approach your partner with a more courageous and honest way of dealing with the changes in your relationship.

You could try to have your partner face the fact that you once fiery passion and romance has become a dying ember. You could say it this way, taking a page from the movie Annie Hall:

“Let’s face it, I don’t think our relationship is working ...  a relationship is like a shark: It has to constantly move forward or it dies. What we have is a dead shark ... let’s face it, this isn’t working.”

If you’re not ready to walk out the door this minute, but still know "the end" of your marriage is on the horizon, here are four steps to take now to get ready for life on the other side of divorce:

1. Set a target date.

This is the time to seriously consider a strategic plan for leaving your relationship at a time that is most beneficial to you. Consider how much time you need to scale down your expenses, pay off debts, get in shape, expand your social circle, and update your look.

Pick a specific date, say six to 12 months from today, that's convenient to you financially and emotionally — a date when you can feel certain you’ve given your relationship, your partner, and yourself a good effort.

Note: You are not trying to leap out of your current situation (home, job, or relationship); you’re building a bridge to your future, an improved life.

2. Change your inner dialog.

It's very natural to find yourself constantly complaining about your relationship to your friends and family. Once you've decided to start planning your escape, on your terms, you no longer have to keep telling yourself, "I hate him, I just don’t feel the same. I wish I had the courage to leave." Finally, you're taking action. Remember: a major part of your strategic action plan is to temporarily stay where you are.

Tell your complaining voice: "Thank you and shut up. By April 15th or June 15th, we'll be free and in touch with my old self. I'm choosing to plan my escape."

3. Watch your attitude improve.

Choose to build your strength and resources while you stay in your current home or relationship (or job) for a few more months. You’ll discover that your old feelings of being the passive victim, the prisoner, or the captive will significantly decrease. After all, you're being active in planning the right time for your escape.

I've heard this principal has been used successfully by the military in training captured soldiers to maintain their morale and increase their chances of survival.

4. Expect a surprise.

Everyone I've coached in this strategy has achieved more than he or she asked for or expected.

Start to improve your health habits, your look, and your wardrobe while writing down how you will feel in your ideal relationship or job. For example: I’d feel respected, heard, loved, appreciated, supported, and desired.

Rehearse asking for what you want from a better relationship. Let friends know. And, if you see any improvement in your partner, you might tell him.

Don’t accept arguments or guilt-tripping as a response, but do expect a surprise. Life tends to give you what you expect.

At times life’s gifts feel quite magical, but it’s just you telling your subconscious genius (and dreaming mind) to start working on bringing you your ideal. And your inner genius puts together the pieces and then taps you on the shoulder as if to say, “There he is; that’s who you told me to find for you.”

Neil Fiore, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, author and trainer specializing in productivity and success. Click here to read more articles on Optimal Productivity, Building Confidence and to learn about Effective Goal Setting and how to make yourself feel safe with you.