Stuck in this marriage

One of the most common sentiments I hear from married people is, “I feel stuck in this marriage.” Yes, you’re miserable. You’re needs aren’t getting met. There’s little or no intimacy or sex. Your spouse doesn’t get you.

But I’m here to tell you, you’re NOT stuck in this marriage!

Perhaps if you’re reading this from some middle-eastern country that might be true – sort of. But even there we regularly hear stories of women who refuse to be stuck. Some may be whipped, imprisoned, or killed for trying to leave – and that’s NEVER NEVER ACCEPTABLE! But the point is you always have options regardless of your gender.

That also illustrates that your choices have consequences. In most of the world you have the choice to get a divorce, to leave the marriage. That choice may involve financial difficulties, trauma to your children, emotional and spiritual baggage, and a change in the way others see and treat you socially. But that is a choice you can make.

So get it out of your head and your vocabulary that you’re stuck. Remember the maxim that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results? It’s time to do something different if you want a different outcome. Now that we’ve illustrated what may be the extremes, let’s consider some of the various choices you have if your marriage is not the way you’d like it.

You have the choice to:

 1.  Leave the Marriage

Let’s get real. Sometimes a marriage becomes too destructive to save. Even the Bible acknowledges that in our sinful world not all marriages will be redeemed. That’s not because of any failure on God’s part; it’s because God has given human beings free will – including to both you and your spouse. God hates divorce not because of any heavenly hierarchy of sins, but because it hurts His children.

Yes, leaving the marriage will have consequences. Some of those consequences may be outside of your control. Abuse happens even in Christian marriages, and there are times leaving becomes a matter of survival. Or you may have done things that have harmed your marriage and your spouse is unwilling to work toward reconciliation.

You also have the choice to leave simply because you’re unhappy. Is that a choice God can bless? Only you and God know the answer for sure. I happen to believe that marriage is not about happiness, but about learning to love well. But the point is, you do have the choice about whether to leave or stay. If you’re reading this, you’re not chained to the doorpost. Leaving the marriage may be the option with the longest-lasting consequences, but you still have the choice.

2.  Shrivel Up and be Miserable

If you decide to stay you still have several additional choices available. You could decide to suck it up, play the victim, and resign yourself to a life of misery, secretly hoping your spouse dies or becomes more miserable than you.

Playing the victim sometimes gets you sympathy. (Is that what you’re looking for?) Your unreasonable or unresponsive spouse gives you plenty of reasons to complain. You can hold him/her responsible for your failures, your emotional state, and perhaps even your spiritual stagnation. Isn’t it nice to have someone convenient to blame when you want? And with this strategy things aren’t likely to change much, so you pretty much know what to expect in the future.

Of course this choice has consequences also. You won’t have to exert much energy in changing, but you’ll probably always be unhappy and bitter. You will continue to shrivel into a tighter and tighter little ball, your heart getting smaller and smaller as the years go by. But no one will stop you from wallowing in misery if you choose to.

3.  Try to Manipulate and Control

Nagging, criticizing, withholding affection or sex, demanding, reminding, yelling, ignoring, keeping score, raging, frequent subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints, highly religious out-loud prayers, emotional outbursts, constant drama, verbal punishment – oh isn’t it fun? (Don’t miss the sarcasm, please.) You know just what your spouse should do and not do, so of course you’re the one who should be in charge.

If your spouse is the compliant type, your manipulation might work in some respects. You might get a spouse who toes the line most of the time, who walks on egg-shells around you, who does some of the things you want just to keep the peace. If your spouse is the non-compliant type, you’re sure to enjoy regular conflict with this strategy. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice your passive aggressiveness, verbal weapons, or strategies to control.

But the consequences of this choice don’t end there. Trying to manipulate safety, love, or intimacy will result in you becoming more and more frustrated. The wall between the two of you will grow thicker and higher, and his/her heart will seem unreachable. And your own heart will grow harder and ever more desperate as well.

4.  Change Yourself

If you don’t like yourself the way you are now, and since you can’t change your spouse by controlling them, the remaining choice is to change yourself. While your marriage and all your other circumstances do affect you, they do not control you. You don’t really want to give your spouse the power to decide your total wellbeing, do you? God didn’t give your spouse that responsibility, and you shouldn’t either.

It’s time to get proactive and make some tough decisions. If your spouse is not meeting your needs, how can you find other healthy godly ways to get your deepest needs met? If the connection between you and your spouse is gone, what can you do to re-connect? If your spouse doesn’t share your faith, how can you make your faith appealing to them?

Changing yourself will result in a different outcome. Whether or not your spouse changes in response, your own future will be happier and more satisfying. This choice will provide the only possibility you have of deepening intimacy and love between the two of you. What your relationship looks like in the future is not guaranteed, but changing yourself will guarantee both you and your relationship will be healthier than it is now.

What will you choose?

Above all, remember that you’re not stuck. The options may not include the one you most want, but you always have choices available. Prayerfully consider the likely consequences, and then make your choice – consciously, proactively, thoughtfully.

Your future – in your marriage and your life – awaits.

Your Turn: Have you felt stuck in your marriage? What option are you now going to choose going forward?

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If you’re feeling disconnected, there are things you can do to improve the intimacy between you in each of the 4 Facets of Intimacy.

In order to help, I’ve prepared a Resource Guide to help you Re-Connect with your Spouse. I hope you take advantage of this FREE resource right now!