Why Leaving An Unhappy Marriage May Not Make You Any Happier

If you’re unhappy and married, a divorce won’t make you any happier.

Last updated on Apr 27, 2024

Unhappy woman, in marriage. Unsure if she should get divorce PixelsEffect | Canva

Wondering, 'Should I get a divorce?" It might turn out that being divorced makes things worse and that marriage counseling could have saved your relationship. Most assume there are only two choices when faced with an unhappy marriage: Stay in the relationship and be miserable, or divorce and be happy. But you have more choices than just staying or going, and there's a lot to think about before you start trying to figure out how to file for divorce.


Staying in your marriage doesn’t have to equal misery, and figuring out how to get a divorce and leave doesn’t always lead to happiness. Marriages are very complicated and unique to each couple. What one couple considers the worst possible situation imaginable is merely a bump in the road to another. Knowing when it is time to divorce is important because you want to make sure you're making the decision.

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Each spouse in a marriage is unique, too. You and your spouse each had different experiences before you ever met that molded each of you. Some of this shaping was helpful and some you may still be working through because it trips you up at times. Then there are the experiences that you’ve had together. Some have probably been good, while others haven’t. You and your spouse may even disagree on which experiences have been good and which weren’t. However, if you’ve made it to the point where you’re searching for information about how to divorce or when to divorce your spouse to escape an unhappy marriage, you need to understand what it means and what it doesn’t.


Divorce is one of the most distressing life events you can ever experience. It hurts in ways you might not be able to imagine if you’ve never been through it. And if you have previous experience leaving an unhappy marriage, each divorce hurts differently because no two marriages are the same. Divorce allows you the opportunity to live alone or start a relationship with someone new. If you have kids, chances are it will give them two homes — one with you, and one with their other parent. It also means that you’ll likely have some kind of relationship or interaction with your former spouse for the rest of your life. Divorce might give you the freedom to do the things you stopped doing when you got married. However, you have to choose to do them, and for some, this is a difficult choice to make.

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Unfortunately, leaving an unhappy marriage isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be happy after divorce. That’s because it may not be just your marriage that's making you unhappy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between unhappiness about your life or a portion of it with being unhappy in your marriage. It can be so much easier to see your marriage as the problem instead of looking for other possible sources of unhappiness.


Other possible sources of unhappiness can include work, other relationships with family or friends, parenting, an empty nest, a challenge with physical or psychological health, lack of a sense of purpose, what’s happening in the world, comparing your life to someone else’s, and so many more. On the other hand, it really could be your marriage that’s making you miserable. Maybe you and your spouse have become fundamentally incompatible. Maybe something unforgivable has happened.

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Maybe you’ve forgotten how to communicate in a kind way or even at all. If it is your marriage that’s at the root of your unhappiness, leaving now may not be the right answer. Marriage therapy may help make things better. Or, maybe you know things will never get better and you need to begin working toward an exit plan. It’s only when you’ve asked yourself the hard questions about what’s causing your unhappiness that you’ll be able to make the best choice regarding your marriage. It’s with the answers you discover that you’ll be able to know if leaving an unhappy marriage will work, or if fixing a broken marriage will ultimately bring you happiness.


RELATED: I Stayed In An Unhappy Marriage Because Of Money — It Only Hurt My Kids

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.