What To Do When The Sweetheart You Married Becomes A Jerk Later On

A therapist shares the signs that mean a man is changing, and how to keep yourself from being pulled under.

Last updated on Nov 02, 2023

Couple facing each other while facing away from each other Cawis, Primipal | Canva

You fell for Mr. Wonderful, and after you settled down, he changed — and not for the better. He made you think things were going one way, and you just wound up going along with it until you got stuck and didn't know how to get back out again.

It's like you woke up from a terrible dream to realize you’re living a nightmare.

You open your eyes and ask, “Who is this guy anyway?” You keep thinking, This is not the same guy I married.


You vowed to yourself that your marriage wouldn’t be like your best friend’s, remembering the day she called you in tears to tell you that Mr. Wonderful of eight years put a ring on her finger, married her, and then struck her on their honeymoon. You were speechless, shocked, and helpless.

You’ve known them as a couple all that time, and you couldn’t remember any signs it was anything but good love between them. How is that possible? But she's your best friend, of course you believed her. 

For you, it was going to be different. When you met Mr. Wonderful, it was love at first sight! It was magical! You believed it was fantastic.


Until it wasn't. 

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He was charismatic and oozed charm to you and likely to all the other women he saw. You couldn’t help but want to love him because that’s how he made you feel. So, how did he become this guy? And would he get worse? 


Eight warning signs that the man you love is changing — for the worse 

1. Your friends stop asking about him and visiting

Your guy friends might even have warned you, but you didn't believe them. They had liked him, but slowly went quiet.

One day you turned around, and they had stopped coming over. Now that you think about it, no one comes over anymore. You don’t go anywhere that he doesn’t want you to go, so you’ve lost a lot of friends over the years.

2. He treats you like you're Cinderella — except he's not the kindly prince

Mr. Wonderful is gone, and all you’re left with is him. Now you’re his personal Cinderella, and he’s trapped you.

He verbally puts you down when you’re alone and sometimes when you’re with others. It goes up, and it goes down, over and over the same cycle of feelings: hope, disappointment, hurt, anger, loss.


It feels like you're losing control of yourself because he keeps telling you things you know aren't true, and then you start believing them. And when he pushes it too far, he convinces you that he'll get better.

And for a little while, he might even do it.

At first, you have hopes that he’ll change like he promised you he would.

Then, when he doesn’t, you’re disappointed again! Finally, when you share your feelings with him he turns everything on you and makes you feel responsible for his poor behavior.

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3. You can't keep up with his moods and demands 

How come you didn’t see any of this coming?


In the beginning, it wasn’t even tangible. It started with a glance, a small word, maybe even a stare. The next thing you knew, you were living life to make him happy at your own expense.

The more you tried to please him and do it his way, the more he found fault. For years, your only priority has been to make him happy and feel supported, but he takes and takes from you and never gives anything but misery in return.

If he’s not happy, then you’re not happy, and if he’s happy, you’re happy, but there's a dash of fear it’ll change on a dime (because it usually does).

4. People have no idea what's happening behind closed doors

You decided to give him even more so that things would be perfect.


The hurtful part is that the more you gave him, the less you kept for yourself.

In other words, you kept offering up everything to him: your thoughts, your emotions, your hopes, your paycheck, and then all of a sudden… it turned sour. Now you feel numb, confused, sad, and angry.

Everyone else tells you how lucky you are to be married to someone so charming, intelligent, and successful. They have no idea.

You hear their words and see their smiles, but you can’t even wrap your head around what’s happening in your life.

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When you know he won't get better, take matters into your own hands

Right now, the one thing you know for certain is that it won’t get any better. Beyond that, it’s all a blur. Your life is a composite of only two emotions: despair and fear.


Starting now, you can change your thoughts and your reality, too.

What to do next 

Now is the time to make yourself a priority! If you’re tired, rest for a bit. If you’re hungry, feed yourself. If you need a hug, hug yourself.

Start taking better care of yourself. Take a walk, or walk the dog a little longer. Talk to someone not in your circle of friends, see a counselor, or talk to someone you trust.​

Whatever you do, start inserting a new way of being, and you’ll get a different deliverable outcome. Start showing up with a new attitude about life and a higher level of hope for yourself — not for him — and see how that feels. If you keep moving along while repeating the same thing, nothing will ever change!


"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." — Wayne Dyer

Your life shifts when you change how you think about yourself and invest in positive conversations about yourself!

First, you’ll need to start seeing him through a different lens (less hope and more reality). Remember, this is about you! This is about you changing, not him. This is about investing your focus, time, money, and thoughts into your well-being!

First, you’ll probably notice that you feel lighter and more hopeful: your mood will lift, and you’ll feel less anxious and overwhelmed. Then, as things become more clarified, you’ll find your path.


If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

Editor's note: If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.

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Margot Brown, LMFT, PsyD, is the author of Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On Or Move Out, a guide for communication between couples.