How To Escape An Unhappy Marriage Without Getting A Divorce

Divorce is not the first escape route to consider.

Last updated on Apr 21, 2024

Unhappy and frustrated married woman, man Rachata Teyparsit, vkstudio | Canva

If you’re desperately wondering how to escape an unhappy marriage, your life has probably become intolerable. That’s because feeling miserable in your marriage colors your entire world and sucks the joy out of nearly everything.

You know there is a better way to live because things used to be better. Now, all you can think about is escaping the misery. The way to start planning your escape route is by understanding why you are unhappy in your marriage.


Here's how to escape an unhappy marriage without getting a divorce:

1. Look for something going on in a different part of your life that spills over into your marriage

Consider the possibility you could be stressed about work, your parents, your in-laws, finances, your kids, a life event, or anything else important to you. It can be way too easy to conclude your spouse is the cause of your unhappiness if they aren’t actively trying to help you feel better.

If your unhappiness originates outside of your marriage, work to resolve those issues. As you do, you’ll discover that you’ll have more energy to talk with your spouse about the problems in your marriage that led you to believe it was the cause of your discontent. When you and your spouse can work together to resolve the prominent issues while you are struggling with something outside of the marriage, you will have escaped your unhappy union.


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2. Is your relationship with your spouse what makes you unhappy

there is tension, unhappy couple not talkingPhoto: MDV Edwards via Shutterstock

The truth here is it takes two people to make a relationship work. It takes two people who participate in it not working. So, it’s time for you to get serious about how you’re contributing to your unhappiness.


Some of the ways you might be adding to your relationship woes include ignoring issues instead of addressing them when they occur, choosing not to talk with your spouse because it’s "not worth the effort", not respecting your spouse, or your spouse doesn’t satisfy your needs because you don’t tell them what they are.

Getting serious about being the best spouse you can lets you know if your marriage will survive. Being the best spouse doesn’t mean you become an automaton or a Stepford wife. It means you bring your best to your relationship. When you are the best you, you might find your spouse responds in kind, and your marriage ceases to be a source of unhappiness.



RELATED: Keeping A Promise To My Husband Nearly Destroyed My Life


3. Do everything possible when things aren’t working, even if you’re still feeling wretched

Doing your best to resolve things before choosing divorce as your path to freedom from your unhappy marriage is important. The effort wasn’t wasted. By giving your all to attempt to resolve things (or discovering that you’re unwilling to give your all), you’ll gain the clarity to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that divorce is the best decision for you and your family.

The other benefit of this clarity is that you can more easily proceed with the divorce respectfully and with understanding for yourself and your spouse. This doesn’t mean that divorce will be easy for you. However, it does mean that you’ll be more able to handle what happens as a result of ending your marriage.

Maybe your spouse consistently treats you with a lack of respect. Maybe you and your spouse have poor or non-existent communication about anything other than the necessities of making things in your household work.

Maybe your spouse completely ignores your need for connection. Maybe there’s something else going on in your life that you don’t want to deal with. Or maybe your situation is even more dire and your spouse is abusive to either you or your children.


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To succeed at escaping your unhappy marriage, you must get crystal clear about exactly why you’re so unhappy in it. The time you take to reflect on the core cause of your unhappiness is critical to you gaining clarity and confidence about your next steps. It will also allow you to move forward without regret.

Before you decide the only way you can escape your miserable marriage is by divorcing, you need to know getting divorced isn’t easy. It’s one of the most difficult life transitions you and your entire family can go through. You must consider the repercussions of divorce carefully before choosing it as your escape route.


There are three times when divorce is the immediate and best answer for resolving an unhappy marriage

  1. Your spouse is an active addict and refuses to seek help despite your repeated requests that s/he do so.
  2. Your spouse is abusing you or your children.
  3. You and your spouse are providing an abysmal example for your children of what a marriage is, and you are unable to make things better despite your best efforts.

If you’re not dealing with one of these three situations, divorce is not the first escape route to consider. Depending on your situation, there are other paths for you to examine first.

Escaping an unhappy marriage isn’t a quick and easy thing. However, by understanding the true nature of your unhappiness first, you can make the best decision about how to finally find the freedom and happiness you crave and deserve.

RELATED: How To Stay In An Unhappy Marriage Without Totally Falling Apart

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.