18 Signs Of An Unhappy Marriage And Tips To Handle It

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Controlling behavior, abuse, infidelity, or love fading away are certain elements that lead to an unhappy marriage. Every relationship goes through the trial of time, but love helps sustain it. Unfortunately, when you start falling out of love, other problems get the chance to spring up, and marriage could feel like a burden. For example, constant arguments and losing interest in intimacy with your partner can signify the beginning of an unhappy relationship. These are much greater than the minor issues that occur in a marriage. Such problems make you feel like you are in a destructive relationship. In this post, we tell you about indications of an unhappy marriage and ways you can deal with it.

Signs Of An Unhappy Marriage

It could be difficult to figure out if you are in an unhappy marriage, as the signs are subtle and look like common conflicts in any marriage. Even when you try to act brave and conceal the misery, if your gut is telling you that something is wrong, then look for these signs to know if you are in an unhappy marriage.

  1. Less communication, more conflict: One of the profound signs of a happy marriage is the way you talk to each other. If you are constantly fighting with your partner over trivial things, and that fight lasts for days followed by weeks of silence, then you are not in a happy relationship. Alternatively, you may not fight at all but the bitterness builds up and you silently drift away from each other.
  1. No time for the “us”: You do not have time for each other? When a person does not receive much-needed attention, it often leads to depression and disappointment. If you or your partner is constantly finding ways to avoid each other and do not long to spend quality time together, it could be a sign of an unhappy marriage.
  1. Not being there for each other: One of the best things to happen in a relationship is to get emotional support from the partner. But if you barely share your feelings or support and empathize with each other, then it is not a healthy sign.
  1. Constant irritation: The qualities that you have previously ignored in your partner now cause annoyance to you. For example, your spouse has the talent to talk and impress people from the opposite sex. You knew about it but never took it seriously. But now cannot stand it anymore.
  1. No physical intimacy: Physical intimacy is a way of expressing love for each other. You might not be as active as you were during the initial days of marriage, but if your count of physical intimacy is as less as 15 to 10 in a year, then it is a red flag.
  1. ‘My way or the highway’: In an unhappy marriage, you no longer compromise for your partner. For example, the career option you have been putting off because of your spouse suddenly becomes irresistible. You give more importance to your needs and seldom think of how they will affect your spouse.
  1. The marriage is no longer a priority: “The grass is greener where you water it.” As long as you nurture your marriage, it is healthy. But when you start ignoring it, it will slip and fall. For example, your spouse takes up a job far away from your place. They do not care to take your opinion on it or think of how it would affect your marriage.
  1. Abuse and control: You are always being criticized and ridiculed and your values and opinions are ignored. Worse, your spouse abuses you and resorts to violence. In the cases of domestic violence, you need to talk to your family or friends and seek legal remedies.

If you are in a relationship for quite some time, you might have gotten used to the pain. The future of your children, financial insecurity or some other obligations might make you continue in the relationship. However, understand that unhappiness will have its effects on you and the family.

Effects Of An Unhappy Marriage

An unhappy marriage is like a leak in the boat, the more you choose to ignore it, the faster it sinks the ship. Here is how an unhappy marriage can affect your life.

  1. Effects on self: An unhappy marriage can cause health issues such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiac issues (1). And to relieve the tension, the partners may resort to alcoholism, smoking or extramarital affairs, which will only cause more trouble.
  1. Effects on children: If you are continuing in a marriage for your kids, then think again because an unhappy marriage does not provide the children with a healthy and happy environment at home. They do not get the support and affection that they are supposed to get. Such an environment might result in long-term emotional issues in the child.
  1. Effect on the extended family: A marriage is about teamwork, it is about how you both work together in fulfilling your responsibilities in the extended family. When there is no peace in your paradise, you cannot keep your parents and your spouse’s parents happy. Your fights and disharmony are bound to radiate into the rest of the family.

In order to avoid such effects on you and the family, you may have to decide whether to stay and work on the marriage or leave it and move on.

Should you Stay Or Leave an unhappy marriage?

The answer lies within you and your partner. It is for you both to decide because it all depends on your emotional state and feelings you have for each other.

  • If the reason for unhappiness is serious such as infidelity, abusive behavior or addiction, then you could consider leaving, as it might cause permanent damage.

However, if the erring partner realizes the mistake and sincerely wants to make the marriage work, then the other partner might consider giving them a chance. We agree it is not easy to know if your spouse is faking to be good or if they are genuinely trying to be good. Give them some time, and observe them closely to know their intentions.

  • On the other hand, if you once had a thriving relationship and this is just a rough patch, then consider talking to your partner and working on the relationship. You may have a couple’s therapy and evaluate if there is any change in the situation.

So, before coming to any conclusion, try everything to save the relationship. But when you are absolutely sure that you have done everything possible without any improvement, then make a decision that is best for you and your children.

What To Do Next?

You cannot continue to be unhappy in a marriage hoping for things to change magically. Take things into your hands, and bring in happiness into your life either by working to improve your marriage or by moving out of it.

1. Fixing An Unhappy Marriage

If you decide to stay and repair your marriage, then before beginning the healing process, have an honest heart-to-heart conversation with your partner because both of you need to work together to make it work.

  1. Diagnose and seek help early: Do not wait until you both start resenting each other. It is easier to repair when the conflicts are still at a nascent stage than at a later stage. This does not mean you make a big deal out of trivial things. Watch out for the signs listed above and take action.
  1. Listen to each other: Everyone has fears, triggers and pains, and when in a relationship they expect to be heard. Next time when your spouse is talking about spending time together, listen and understand them instead of blaming and accusing them.
  1. Make your marriage your top priority: It is time to bring your relationship to the top of your priority list. Work until you both are back on the track again. And then, you will be surprised how much laughter you can have in your relationship.
  1. Stop thinking about divorce: Once you have decided to work on the relationship, throw the thought of getting divorced out of your mind. Remember, you cannot get back to normal overnight; you will hit dead ends but do not get discouraged. Run again, stay focused and try to love some more.
  1. Give, do not expect: You both might have started together, but now you have come halfway, while your spouse is progressing slowly. Do not stop to compare yourself with them. Continue being positive, and motivate your spouse. Eventually, your spouse will also pick up.
  1. When you do something, mean it: If you are saying, “I love you,” mean it. If you are really missing them, tell them. Words have the power to melt the coldest of hearts. Have enough patience to try again if your spouse is pushing you away. With time, they will definitely realize your efforts.
  1. Be open and loyal: Do not repeat past mistakes. Let go of your pride and ego, as they are not worth losing your partner. If you have cheated on your partner, then take up the responsibility of being transparent about your whereabouts and your devices. Never make them doubt your intentions again. If you are angry, tell them; if you are happy, let them know.

2. The Well-thought Divorce

Consider this option only when you are one hundred percent sure of your feelings and prepared for the outcome. Divorce is not an easy process, and you need to be strong enough to go through it. However, if divorce is the only option, do not hesitate. It could be painful now but will heal with time.

If you have children, explain to them why you had to take this decision but do not blame your partner for that. Take some time for yourself to come out of the trauma. Go for therapy and learn how to handle such situations gracefully. Finally, divert your mind and focus on your action plan, find a job, and work on rebuilding your life.

If the arguments are increasing, both you and your partner are becoming ignorant of each other’s feelings, and the marriage is starting to take a toll on your life, it may be an indication of an unhappy marriage. Although small flights and conflicts are common, some signs cannot be brushed off easily. Instead of seeking divorce immediately, you may try reasoning out and having an open conversation. Decide after considering the pros and cons. A happy marriage requires mutual understanding, compromise, and hard work to turn things around and build a long-lasting relationship.

Key Pointers

  • Constant fights with your partner, lack of emotional support, and an abusive environment are some signs of an unhappy marriage.
  • It can adversely affect you, your children, and your family, leading to emotional issues, disharmony, alcoholism, and more.
  • Resolve the problem by prioritizing your marriage, communicating effectively, and seeking professional help if necessary.


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Vincenzo Sinisi

Vincenzo Sinisi is a clinical psychologist (HPCSA), psychoanalyst (SAPA/IPA) and group analyst (IGA). He offers in-depth psychotherapy (individual and group) for adults from his private practice in Cape Town, South Africa. Sinisi is an active member in the psychotherapeutic community and has held executive positions including chairperson of the Cape Town Society for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, secretary of the South African... more

sanjana lagudu

Sanjana did her graduation in Pharmacy and post graduation in management. It was during her first job, she recognized her skills in writing and began working as a freelance writer. Later, she completely moved into content writing and began working as a full-time content writer. Sanjana's articles in MomJunction cover topics related to new parenting and relationships. A fitness enthusiast... more