You don’t have to suffer through it forever.
By Mary Ellen Goggin Jerry Duberstein — Updated on Apr 23, 2023
Photo: Ilona Kozhevnikova / Shutterstock
Knowing how to get out of an unhappy marriage isn’t as simple as doing a web search for divorce lawyers. It’s not even necessarily about getting divorced.
There are two components to an “unhappy marriage” — unhappiness and marriage.
And when your disappointment, sadness, or downright despair starts making you eye the front door, one or both is the motive. You’re aching to get out of your unhappiness, your marriage, or both.
Some people truly want — and may need — to know how to get out of an unhappy marriage. Abuse, addiction, and ongoing and unrepented infidelity are definitely reasons that warrant the end of a marriage.
How to get out of an unhappy marriage without getting divorced
And, even if they’ve been staying in such a marriage for one reason or another, they would still like to end the misery.
Divorce has its own stages and obvious consequences, no matter who wants it or how amicable it may seem.
And, for some people, those consequences — emotional, familial, or financial — can be enough to put on the brakes and forge a creative solution.
If you’ve been trying to decide whether it’s better to stay in an unhappy marriage or if you’re better off getting a divorce, you may have another alternative.
But first, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions about your marriage.
Why is your marriage unhappy?
Is the discontent being generated from within the marriage or from without? Have you done everything you can to prioritize your marriage and protect it from outside antagonists?
Do you still respect and care for one another? How does an unhappy marriage affect you — or have you really stopped to notice? Have you asked for help?
Even if the idea of returning to emotional and physical intimacy with your spouse borders on impossible, divorce doesn’t have to happen.
But you have to decide if you can do what needs to be done to redefine your marriage in a livable way. And if you have children, your choice and commitment will be critical.
One way to get out of an unhappy marriage without getting divorced — or even separating — is to practice detachment.
If your relationship has been plagued with chronic annoyances and unresolved arguing, detachment can create some breathing room. It doesn’t solve the problems or the irritating behaviors that trigger your ire, but it allows you to not be affected by their consequences.
Detachment is the practice of allowing each person to be themselves without judgment, criticism, or expectation to change. In a sense, you’re walking away without walking away.
You get to shift your focus to yourself and your self-care. Since you no longer have to balance your own wants and needs against the interdependence of the marriage, you can emotionally exhale.
What does detachment look like and why would you choose it?
It looks civilized, respectful, and polite. It doesn’t have the cozy affection of early love, but in a unique way, it still demonstrates love. Conversations are more neutral and the focus is shifted away from the relationship.
If you have children, detachment can be a viable way to keep the family “together,” despite the change in marital expectations.
Children get to see their parents speaking respectfully to one another. The arguing is gone — or at least minimized — and the focus shifts to common priorities, like raising kids and making a smoothly running home front.
Even favorite rituals can — and should — be maintained, like eating dinner together, celebrating holidays as a family, and going to school functions.
What’s important here is letting go of the need to fix the other person. By doing so, you can find peace and work on your own growth.
Detachment is similar to a parenting marriage, in the sense that you’re in the same household, but it’s simply just that — a marriage based on co-parenting.
Your focus is on the kids, their needs, and managing and maintaining the home for their well-being.
A parenting marriage can also help you maintain financial security. After all, financial devastation or inequity is one of the primary reasons couples in unhappy marriages don’t divorce.
A parenting marriage also allows children to grow up with both parents without having their lives divided between two homes. As long as you and your spouse have a foundation of mutual respect, healthy communication, and united decision-making, it can work.
Living apart together marriages
There’s also the Living Apart Together (LAT) Marriage.
In this case, you physically separate but live interdependently. You don’t have to divide financial assets, but you do have the additional rent or mortgage.
In a LAT marriage, you both have space to physically separate and get away from triggering behaviors. But, as with the parenting marriage, you’re still contributing physical, emotional, and financial resources to a common goal.
These are just a few options to cope with an unhappy marriage without divorcing. You may not be able to fix your unhappy marriage, but you can be respectful and trustworthy, and things can work out.
Obviously, every effort should be made to save your marriage and revitalize it. One way or another, changes are going to have to be made.
Getting some professional help now can help you with that process or even with ending your unhappy marriage without divorcing.
RELATED: 8 Revealing Questions To Ask Yourself If You’re Considering Divorce
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Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner, Dr. Jerry Duberstein, to offer private couples retreats in Portsmouth, NH.
This article was originally published at The Free & Connected blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.