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January 9, 2017

Stuck In An Awful Marriage

The comments and questions found on many marriage blogs are filled with tales of misery.

It is heartbreaking to read about people who suffer every day in terrible marriages with spouses who behave badly. The problem may be ongoing infidelity, lying and secrecy, financial dishonesty, sexual starvation, extreme laziness, criminal acts, anger issues, verbal abuse, bullying, general meanness and neglect, or complete indifference. Usually it is a combination of several problems. The unhappy spouse is left feeling lonely, unloved, desperate, and hopeless.

Often these people say that their spouse refuses to go to counseling, or that they have tried counseling but it didn't help because their spouse would not accept any of the counselor's suggestions. The problem spouse may be perfectly content with things as they are, or may be somewhat unhappy but unwilling to take any responsibility. Nothing changes, except, perhaps, to get worse.

When I read these stories, I feel very sad for the people involved. The daily suffering of the unhappy spouse is exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness. Both people are missing what should be the best part of their lives, the joy of a loving connection with a trusted partner.

It is all too common for people to live this way for ten, twenty, or more years. Surprisingly, they often say that the marriage was like this from the start. The bad behavior started in the first few months or weeks of marriage, sometimes on the honeymoon. Worse yet, sometimes the bad behavior began before the wedding, and yet they married this person anyway. Now, they feel trapped. Divorce seems impossible because of their financial limitations (especially when there are minor children), or because powerful religious and social pressures make them feel obligated to stay, or because they are afraid that leaving will lead to violence.

I wonder how this happened. Why did these people get married in the first place?

The most common explanation is, "I thought he would change once we were married."

No, no, no! Most people are on their best behavior during the dating and engagement period. Someone who isn't yet married and is already behaving badly, who doesn't make the effort to even try to pretend to be better, is not likely to improve.

If you are contemplating marriage with a difficult, unpleasant person who treats you badly, ask yourself, "Is this what I want the rest of my life to look like?" If the answer is no, it is time to end the relationship and move forward.

If you are in a miserable marriage with a partner who shows you nothing but contempt, refuses to change, blames you for everything, and does not respond to your best efforts, it may be time to ask yourself that same question.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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