All of us, who are married, have occasionally been not happy in marriage, especially if we’ve been together a long time. There is a difference in marriages that are continually unhappy or hurtful, and marriages that are experiencing the normal ups and downs of any growing relationship. 

During a long marriage, there are a lot of things to work out. I have slammed the door after an argument and gone to the local bookstore to cool down. I have walked home from a party in the dark because of something he said. At those moments, I was definitely unhappy in my marriage. (By the way, he followed me in his car that hot night because he thought it wasn’t safe for me to be walking the 2 miles home by myself at midnight! As mad as I was, his following me home made me remember how much I loved him, and I knew we could figure this out!) 

In a healthy marriage, we work through all those sometimes infuriating situations. In good marriages, we cool down and really talk about what’s going on. In an unhappy marriage, we don’t talk. We don’t come to a mutually agreeable solution. We simmer. We seethe. We close down or we blow up…again and again. 

If we don’t know how to fix an unhappy marriage, we start asking ourselves, “Is this marriage even worth saving?” If the problems aren’t addressed, the “divorce” seed can be planted in the back of our thinking, and that changes everything.

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Step 1: Think About Why You’re Unhappy

If we are continually feeling unhappy in our marriage, we need to identify what is making us unhappy. We need to figure out if our problem is something that can be fixed with some give and take by both partners, or are there long-standing moral, psychological or personality problems that will make it impossible to find lasting joy together? 

Step 2: Communicate This To Your Partner

Being honest with our marriage partner can be risky. We’re afraid to rock the boat. Keeping those things that are not satisfactory in our relationship to ourselves can do great damage to the relationship in the long run. None of us are mind readers! Unless we have the guts to tell our spouse when something is hurting us or bothering us, we can’t fix it. 

In all the years I’ve been doing midlife divorce recovery work, there is something that REALLY bothers me! Men especially will often sneak around and have affairs or unexpectedly leave the marriage, and then when the distraught wife wonders, “What happened?!,” he says, “I’m done. I haven’t been happy for 10 years!” 

Really!? Then why in the heck didn’t you say something?!! It’s gutless to pretend to be happy (or even just “okay”) in your marriage, when in reality you are looking for a way out before your spouse even knows there is a problem. By that time, often so much damage has been done that the marriage is very, very hard to fix. Talk now if you’re not happy!

Is Your Partner Happy?

In the best marriages we’re each responsible for our own happiness. At the same time, we need to pay attention to how we can affect our partner’s happiness, too. Marriage is not all about “me.” It’s about what is going to make the best relationship possible for each of us. When divorce happens, it’s usually because someone forgot about the “we” part of the partnership. 

Step 3: Make Changes Together

When things have deteriorated in a marriage to a place where we are trying to think of how to get out of our unhappy marriage, we usually need help from a mentor, a mediator or a therapist. If we have long ago retreated to our separate corners, it can be hard to work together to make positive change. 

Both partners in the marriage need to be willing to actively listen and then make changes together for the good of the relationship. Ultimately that’s best for each of us as individuals, too. Marriage is supposed to be fun and enriching! If we aren’t willing to make adjustments, the marriage is unlikely to be very good for either of us.

Reasons For An Unhappy Marriage

There are lots of reasons for an unhappy marriage, but there are a lot of benefits in a happy marriage, too! Occasionally, little irritations in basically good marriages slowly pick, pick, pick our love to death. If that’s going on in your marriage, speak up! Again, be honest with each other! Make some changes!

There are also understandable and serious reasons for someone to say, “I’m unhappy in my marriage.” Below are a few that show up regularly when people contact Midlife Divorce Recovery for advice about how to get out of an unhappy marriage or how to fix an unhappy marriage.

Not Enough Independence

With couples marrying later in life, (for the first time or after a divorce) people are often accustomed to a certain level of independence. We may have become more used to finding our own areas of interest and may be more comfortable doing things apart from our partner. Figure out a workable compromise. 

Too Much Independence

Just like people have different thoughts about how much time apart is best for each of us as individuals, we have to figure out how much time together is best for our relationship, too.

People have contacted Midlife Divorce Recovery who had agreed to the idea of having an “open marriage,” only to find out their partner wanted more and more independence, and it threatened, and then caused the end of the relationship. Don’t smother your partner, but be sure you know the risks of going off on your own too much for the good of the marriage.

Outside Stress

Stress affects individuals and relationships differently. The outside stresses of health problems, caretaking obligations of family members, financial problems, in-law disagreements, blended family challenges and a host of other issues can cause us to neglect our primary relationship as husband and wife. 

If your relationship is facing any of these issues, it’s even more important to get on the same page as a couple. Get help. Make sure you focus time and energy on your primary relationship as a couple first. That makes it easier to face all the storms of outside stress that may attack your marriage. 

Stuck In The Same Routine

When we start trying to figure out what to do to fix a marriage we’re not satisfied with, sometimes we discover our partner isn’t all that happy either. Again, be honest and address the issues that are causing trouble.

Stability is great for marriages. Boredom is not! One of the appealing things about an affair seems to be that it’s exciting and unpredictable! When things at home are all about responsibilities, the kids or our budget, we need to do things to delight our partner. When it’s all about our duties in the relationship, that can make for an unhappy marriage. Create unexpected joy and just plain fun in your relationship! Try some simple surprise today!

Lack of Physical Intimacy

Marriage, itself, is one definition of intimacy. We’re living with a person day in and day out hopefully for many, many long, good years. After awhile, we feel like we know pretty much everything about that person. In a fulfilling, thriving marriage, we experience all kinds of intimacy … sexual, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual.

Usually, however, if there is no physical intimacy, that is not good for a marriage. Physical intimacy is one of the most fun and fulfilling and enjoyable parts of being married. We all need physical touch! Being open to and available for great sex is good for all of us. It’s a bonding, sharing experience that can keep a marriage together when we’re going through tough times. Lack of intimacy can definitely make the rest of the relationship more difficult.

Adultery, Abuse or Addiction 

Adultery, Abuse and Addiction are three common reasons for unhappy marriages that end in divorce. People dealing with a spouse with any one of these issues often ask themselves, “How can I get out of this unhappy and destructive marriage? Get advice and decide if you can stay in a relationship where any of these realities are causing trouble in your marriage.


The sexual intimacy in committed relationships is such a personal, vulnerable, connecting experience, that having a partner share that private experience with another person is usually devastating to a relationship. Adultery often includes lying, deceit and financial infidelity as well. All of those things make you unhappy in your marriage and depressed as well.


Any kind of abuse (physical, emotional, financial, verbal etc) is not compatible with a good, strong, healthy marriage. This goes beyond an unhappy marriage. Abuse creates a dangerous environment for everyone involved. Take the steps necessary to make sure you (and your children) are safe. Talk with someone you trust and make a plan. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline if necessary.


Addictions are more common than ever. Some of the most damaging to marriages are the ones we hear about every day…drugs, alcohol, gambling, work, and now pornography is becoming more and more of a problem as well. Like abuse, addictions makes having a happy, supportive, thriving relationship almost impossible. The addiction takes precedence over everything else including your family’s happiness and safety. If your marriage is unhappy because of addiction, try Al-Anon for some great tools.

How To Survive An Unhappy Marriage

No one should just survive in his or her marriage. Marriage is supposed to make life better for both of you. If you are trying to figure out what to do if you’re not happy in your marriage, don’t just keep adjusting your expectations down! Face the facts and go from there.

With your spouse, take stock of why your marriage is not working and figure out what you both need to do to make your relationship great! Be kind, but completely honest, about why you feel unhappy in your marriage. Listen and let your spouse respond. Get help to move forward. 

If he’s not willing to make the changes you need, think about what you want to do next. Do not suffer in silence. You both deserve to have a marriage that is positive and makes you both more excited about life!

Can An Unhappy Marriage Cause Depression?

If you feel stuck in an unhappy marriage, do not stay there! The constant stress and sadness that an unhappy marriage can cause is not healthy for either of you. It’s not good for your children either. If that sadness goes on too long, depression and feelings of hopelessness show up. Talk to someone about it. Talk to a friend, a therapist, your physician.

If you have tried everything to fix your marriage, and are considering separation or divorce, contact Midlife Divorce Recovery. We help you get stronger whether you end up staying with your spouse or not. We can help you get some clarity about what you want. Every marriage deserves a chance to be great. But if that isn’t happening, sign up for our Free Divorce Recovery Crash Course.

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