Staying in an Unhappy Marriage

Unhappy marriages are more common than you might think, and their effects can often be crippling. It can have a range of consequences on your emotional, physical, and even mental health.

As reported by the Pew Research Center, nearly 55% of American couples choose to stay in unhappy marriages, while the other 45% tend to get divorced. 

Let’s face it. Marriage has its fair share of ups and downs, but not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, and the marriage becomes unfulfilling and toxic. In such cases, staying in the marriage can have long-lasting consequences. 

Continue reading to know the consequences of staying in an unhappy marriage, along with helpful tips on how to overcome it.

What is an Unhappy Marriage?

Humans are wired to be deeply influenced by the behaviors and moods of their partners. Regardless of how long you’ve been married, there comes a point when the mere sight of your partner will make you upset. 

For some, living in an unhealthy marriage can be incredibly stressful, toxic, and mentally exhausting. In such cases, many people feel stuck. 

If you’re living in an unhappy marriage, it’s important to know the stages of a dying marriage. It starts from being disinterested to a lack of trust and communication and ends up with divorce.  

What Are The Signs Of An Unhappy Marriage?

Here are some of the signs that might indicate you’re unhappy in marriage:

  • There is a lack of physical and emotional intimacy.
  • There’s no celebration on special occasions. 
  • You don’t have any proper plans for the future.
  • You constantly avoid confrontation.
  • You’re in denial about negative patterns. 
  • There’s no compassion or understanding with each other. 
  • You’re constantly criticizing your partner. (and vice versa)
  • You’re being defensive. 
  • You feel more like “yourself” when you’re apart.
  • You stopped arguing with each other. 
  • You don’t celebrate each other’s wins anymore. 
  • There’s a lot of contempt. 

Consequences Of Staying In An Unhappy Marriage –

As we said, there can be awful consequences for continuing a bad marriage. Sometimes, when you look back, you might even ask yourself why you stayed in the marriage all those years ago. 

Here are some of the consequences of being in a loveless marriage. 

1) Emotional distress –

An unhappy marriage can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health. When couples lack emotional connection, they experience loneliness, dissatisfaction, and anger. 

The constant emotional upheaval damages your mental health, increasing levels of stress, anxiety, and despair. Those in toxic relationships may endure chronic grief and frustration, worsening their overall quality of life.

Moreover, adverse situations in an unhealthy relationship can create a vicious circle of negativity. This makes it difficult for you to find joy and fulfillment, even in little things.  

Sadly, a lack of emotional support and validation can diminish a person’s self-esteem and worth, which results in feelings of unworthiness and inferiority.

2) Mental health issues –

Besides struggling with low self-esteem, being in an unhappy marriage can really mess with your overall mental health. According to studies, people in toxic marriages are more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. 

Think about it for a moment. If you’ve ever worked for a toxic company, you know how hard it can be to cope with their demands. Now, imagine dealing with that level of stress every single day for all the long hours you spend at home. The thought itself could be quite frustrating.   

You might want to think about divorcing your unhappy spouse as soon as you can in order to reduce your chances of having to cope with these negative mental health issues. 

3) Physical well-being –

Our body is intricately connected to the health of our marriage. In many instances, the deterioration of your physical health is caused by what is going on inside your mind and emotions. That means the pressure from an unhealthy marriage doesn’t just affect your mental health; it also manifests physically. 

When you’re with someone who refuses to show you care and affection, your body tends to break down more than usual when it senses a lack of love. Then again, depression and anxiety may impair your immune system, resulting in chronic illnesses.   

In addition, conflicts in a marriage may cause damaging responses in your body, like changes in appetite, inflammation, and, most importantly, increased production of stress hormones.

All of this may affect several aspects of health, including heart function, the immune system, brain health, etc. 

4) Financial burden –

Financial security is an important thing in marriage. We all know divorce is not an easy process. Yet, staying in an unhappy marriage can lead to economic instability in the long run.  

Even though divorce is often described as expensive, there are other financial concerns in these cases. Just consider the financial burden that comes with trying to maintain a struggling household.

What’s more, being unhappy can result in a lack of motivation to work, financial abuse, and low productivity. These factors lead to decreased income, resulting in further financial instability.

5) Low self-esteem and self-confidence –

Self-esteem simply means the sense of self-worth that you have in you. A study found that there is a significant link between decreased self-esteem and staying in an unhappy marriage.

In an unhealthy marriage, it is normal to start to doubt your own worth. You may even begin to question whether you’re deserving of love at all. 

Being in an unhealthy marriage can even drain your self-confidence. Moreover, it can lead to negative self-talk and a sense of pessimism, which may affect your career and quality of life.

What’s worse is when you have low self-esteem, you may be less motivated to strengthen your marriage or make a hard choice to end it. 

6) Deep-rooted negative impact on children –

Children are indeed the light of your life. But what if your relationship with your spouse is toxic? This can cast a shadow on your children and your life as well. They learn by observing their parents’ behaviors. How you shout, talk, or disrespect your partner can have a lasting impact on their lives.

Children who grow up in such toxic environments may develop feelings of:

  • Depression and anxiety, 
  • Aggressive behavior, 
  • Deep fear and insecurity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Attraction to an abusive relationship
  • Academic challenges 
  • Insecure attachment style 

On top of that, they may also have trust issues and difficulty forming healthy relationships in the future. 

Many people stay in an unhealthy marriage for the sake of their kids. They believe it’s best for their future. While it may sound genuine, you don’t have to do this. In some cases, divorce is the only option to save your children’s future. 

7) Decreased productivity –

Another major consequence of staying in an unhappy marriage is that it affects your quality of work. Well, you can’t focus on work when you’re stressed out or simply unhappy, right?!

Turmoil at home may force you to fixate on the situation at work. This makes it difficult to focus and finish your tasks. Moreover, the stress from your relationship can disrupt your sleep, which affects your energy levels and mood throughout the day. 

8) Increased social disconnection –

We all can relate to this. We prefer loneliness over everything when we’re depressed. In an unhappy marriage, you begin to isolate yourself from society, especially if your partner is abusive. You avoid meeting your friends and family or attending any social gatherings.  

Staying in a relationship where you feel exhausted and unsatisfied is a type of self-betrayal. It’s common to feel humiliated about living in a bad marriage, which causes you to withdraw from your people. 

9) You become pessimistic. –

This is one of the worst consequences of being in an unhappy marriage. You slowly begin to lose hope in everything. In particular, love begins to feel like a far-fetched concept that exists only in fantasy. 

You also blame your destiny for whatever happens. You deceive your brain into believing that this is how marriages work in reality, and yours is no exception. 

What’s more, you’re not willing to trust anyone because you’re afraid of losing them. You’re also concerned that they will hurt or take advantage of you. Many people fear being alone because they think they will not find anyone in the future. 

10) Unfulfilled dreams –

As time goes on, the emotional toll of being in an unhappy marriage can impact your ability to chase after your goals and aspirations. You will have to give up your dreams to prioritize your marriage and focus on rebuilding relationships. 

As you put your dreams on hold, you may also struggle with feelings of resentment towards your marriage for limiting your personal growth.                         

As you can see, marriage is no joke, so you need to act now. Don’t let yourself feel stuck in an unhealthy marriage. No one should have to endure a relationship that makes them unhappy. So, how do you turn around an unhappy marriage? Let’s get into it.

What Should I Do If I’m Unhappy in Marriage? – Tips

Given the consequences we discussed, if you have decided to give your marriage another chance, here are some things you can do. 

i) Prioritize your physical and mental health. 

You can definitely fix your marriage, but for that, you need to work on your mental health. Also, no matter what, don’t mistake your marriage dissatisfaction for personal failure.

Even if your spouse isn’t showing up as they should, you can still meet your own needs and practice self-love. Do things that make you happy and alive. Join yoga or dancing classes. Party with your friends, and go on solo dates. 

ii) Talk it out.

As you may know, effective communication is key in any relationship. Make an effort to speak honestly and openly with each other about how you’re feeling in your marriage. 

Explain why you want to make this work. Consider everyone involved, including your kids, and list down the reasons you want to do so. If both of you are willing to put in effort, time, and patience to fix things, you can easily overcome your challenges. 

iii) Make a commitment.

If you decide to stay in an unhealthy marriage, you and your partner can make a commitment to work on making things right. So, make small commitments to each other to help manage the situation. 

Some of the things you can do include spending quality time together, staying calm during conflicts, equally sharing responsibilities, etc.  

iv) Be kind and have hope. 

Believe it or not, kindness is an attractive quality. If you treat your spouse with kindness, they will do the same for you. Then only then will you get everything you’ve ever wanted. 

It’s difficult to think about ever getting out when you’re in a bad place. But remember, you felt the exact opposite when you were in love in the initial days.

You never imagined that things could ever go this bad. Yet they did. Remember, unhappiness is temporary. Your marriage can and will get better. 

v) Consider couple therapy or marriage counseling. 

Couple therapy is the last hope for people who are unhappy in marriage, and yet the best course of action. A couple’s therapy can help you both talk through what’s not working and where things are going wrong. 

Therapists may guide you through the process of fixing your marriage if that’s what you wish. Many people have succeeded in saving their marriages because of such therapists. 

Not all relationships are meant to be forever; most aren’t. We grow and change in response to the challenges that life throws at us. It’s unrealistic. Either turn to one another with a shared focus or keep ignoring each other at your own risk. 

The Bottom Line 

As you can see, staying in an unhappy marriage can bring lots of consequences in terms of mental, emotional, physical, and financial health. Deciding whether to stay or leave in a bad marriage is a deeply personal choice. 

No matter how tough or hopeless things may seem, your marriage can still be saved. With careful planning and the proper support, you can find new ways of building the happy marriage you long for. It’s also important to seek proactive emotional and mental support from your loved ones.

But it’s okay if things don’t work out. Reflect on the above things and take the necessary steps to improve your overall mental and emotional well-being, even if it means ending your marriage.

Just remember to prioritize your mental health above anything else. 


1. What happens when you stay in an unhappy marriage?

Ans: When you stay in an unhappy marriage, it can breed feelings of resentment, insecurity, and despair. It can also result in harboring negative feelings towards your partner.

2. Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?

Ans: In most cases, divorce is better than staying in an unhappy marriage, even though it can be a huge emotional blow. However, studies found those who divorced were no happier than those who stayed in unhappy marriages. This means divorce didn’t help them stay happy either.

3. What to do when you’re miserable in marriage?

Ans: If you’re miserable in your marriage, communicate with your partner and identify the issues that are bothering you. Then, work together to come up with a solution. If it’s not working out, you can ask for help from a professional therapist. 

4. When should you leave an unhappy marriage?

Ans: If you feel like you’ve nothing left to give the relationship, or your partner is being toxic and doesn’t respect you, you should consider ending your marriage.

5. What does a loveless marriage look like?

Ans: When the basic feelings of love, trust, care, and understanding no longer exist in the relationship, it’s considered a loveless marriage.

6. Why is it so hard to leave a toxic marriage?

Ans: Leaving a bad marriage can be hard because of the fear of being alone or starting over. It also can also result in long-term depression, anxiety, and stress. 

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