Today we are going to hear from Mary who feels like she is stuck in an unhappy marriage.

By her account it has been like forever since she has not felt any kind of love connection with her husband for a very long time.

But before we get to her story, I have a few opening thoughts on this topic of how to get out of an unhappy or bad marriage.

So what are you to do if you feel trapped in a marriage?

Are there surefire miserable marriage signs that you can look to that will give you assurances that the time has finally come to pull out of your unhappy union?

For those who have not faced a similar situation, it might be confusing why some women find it so difficult not to recognize when it becomes necessary to pull the plug on their marriage.

Sometimes we can miss what appears to be obvious unhappy marriage signs.  The reason being, we are too close to the storm.

One might think after hearing a woman’s sorrowful account of her pain and suffering that it should be easy walk away.

surviving a crappy marriage

But for any of you who have a taste of what it is like to feel trapped, it is evident that simply walking out and away from a relationship is seldom an easy decision.

It can be like you have two minds.  One might be saying, get out…get out.  The other is saying…maybe I should give it another try.

After all, how does one leave a marriage after 5, 10, 15+ years or  however long the couple has been together?

Time has a way of fusing us together, even if we are not right for each other.

What if there are kids involved?  How do you get out of a bad marriage when children are in the middle of the mess.  Just this component can be disabling, causing one to invest more and more of their time in a poor marriage.

What if abuse is in the picture?  But what if the type of abuse levied against you made you feel insecure, less confident and afraid?

What are you to do if you feel scared, even fearful about the whole prospect of ending an abusive marriage?

Stepping Away From My Fear of Him

What if you husband controls all the purse strings and all financial decisions go through him?

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a wife tell me, “I want to leave, but I have no money and I just don’t know how I will survive.”

Then there are women who really feel so trapped they cannot bring themselves to head for the marriage exit door.

It is as if fear has gripped them so hard they cannot compel themselves to do the very thing they know is right.

Perhaps their husband is so controlling and domineering, their very sense of who they are and whether they have the capability of walking away becomes warped.

In other words, some wives can become so twisted with anxiety and indecision, mixed in with sadness and disappointment, they get stuck and waffle back and forth.

And how do you get out of an unhappy marriage if you don’t think you can afford it?

It’s not like money is falling from the sky.

And how do you escape your controlling husband if you feel frozen in fear or you are  psychologically stuck convinced you are to blame for everything?

The real bad husbands will do that to you.  They will beat you down to the point where you are second guessing everything, stripping away your dignity and self respect.

What are you to do if you feel like you are a prisoner to both your circumstance and the man you neither like or love seems to have this invisible hand of control on your choices?

Why Do You Feel Confused or Petrified To Leave Your Marriage?

should I get out of this mess of a marriage

Obviously, there are practical considerations one has to take into account. The business of calling an end to things is a serious undertaking.

It is hard to convince yourself to end the marriage when it wasn’t that long ago the two of your were close.   You did once love this man.  And it’s not like there has been a parade of bad marriage signs raining down on you for the entirety of the relationship.

It seldom works that way.  Marriages are fluid and are formed and shaped over time.

The feelings you had in the beginning of your relationship with your husband never entirely goes away.   And in a lot these cases, the husband is not always a rotten guy or the marriage didn’t start crumbling on day 22.

No, this is not the way a marriage unfolds in real life.  There are usually a lot of ups in the beginning.  Then some ups and downs.

And if you are in one of those marriages that is torn open, the down moments will come in waves, creating chaos.

And when chaos visits a marriage, it is really hard to get a grip on anything, never mind think straight.

So I understand the confusion that can grip you.

And I know that living and operating within a dysfunctional marriage is one of the hardest things for any woman (or man) to cope with.

I know that at one point during the marriage, you probably felt invested and wanted the relationship to work.

But when it began failing, as I alluded to earlier, the connection between husband and wife doesn’t usually fall apart instantly.

It’s not like the marriage fell off a cliff and suddenly you are just gripping to the edge of sanity.

Typically marriages that unravel do so over time.

I Am Tired of Being Afraid in My Marriage

When it comes apart at the seams, it is usually slowly.

You may not want to think about what may seem more obvious to outsiders.  Whether it is your sense of “hanging in there” or “working at it” that keeps you plugging along, just know that marriages rarely just end unless there is a lot of pain and heart ache.

In most cases, husband and wife will try to work things out.  After all, they have a lot invested in each other.

But sometimes they can’t work it out.

Perhaps that is not all bad.

Not all us are going to find the right partner the first time around.

If the couple has a chance of picking up the pieces and making the relationship work, then most certainly they need to do that and make every effort to make the marriage work.

But sometimes the routines of a bad marriage and staying the course creates this inertia that prevents you from seeing the bigger picture.

For some married individuals, getting off the marriage train wreck becomes less of a potentiality and more of something you just push out of your mind.

Some day“, you might say to yourself, “I am going to leave him“.  But the next day comes and you are back to being busy with life.

What Stops You From Breaking Away From Him?

time to get rid of my man

There can be legitimate and rational reasons that cause you to hesitant to leave.

There can also be psychological barriers that makes it more challenging to step away.

There can also be some highly personal reasons that contributes to a woman’s (or man’s) resistance to call it quits.

You might fear those whispers from others insinuating you failed at your marriage.

There might be concerns over the embarrassment it might cause you in your social circles.

You might be struggling with disappoint in yourself.  You likely had high expectations for yourself and wanted badly for the marriage to work.  If it is not working, even if you feel largely blameless, the thought that the marriage is doomed is a big emotional load to carry around.

Getting Out From Under Your Indecision to Leave Him

So what you need is a game plan on how to process it all and what actionable steps you can take to move forward to a better place.

What you need sometimes is to learn how to turn those cries of, “I can’t leave him” or “I don’t won’t a divorce, but I really do” into a calm and calculated approach to how you want to map out your life going forward.

Today we are going to hear from Mary.  We will learn about her story.  Then I will walk you through the  4 critical steps you need to take to successfully extract yourself from a horrible circumstance.

Notice I didn’t say retreat.

If things in your relationship are horrible and you are being mistreated, there is no shame in getting out.

And if fear and money are your biggest concerns, just know that there are ALWAYS multiple escape routes from a screwed up marriage (as Mary puts it).

Here is Mary….

Chris asked me to talk to you ladies. Being that there is no such thing as a bad marriage test, I had to learn the hard way that my husband was a scoundrel.  I know that now. 

I use to be weak and fearful that something awful would happen to me and my life if I rocked the boat.  Mind you, the man I was married to was a monster. It’s a really screwed up marriage. 

I use to hate him, but I now know that is all wasted energy. Looking back, I hardly even recognize who I was back then, putting up with all his crap.  He made me afraid on purpose to control me. My husband belittled me.  He got his kicks out of making me squirm and seeing that I was uncomfortable.  He demanded sex when seldom I had interest.  Zero interest in the last few months we were together which is what brought things to a head because we stopped sleeping together. 

If you are asking how did I know that I should leave my husband, then the answer is I never knew for sure I should or would until the very end.  And that is the thing I regret the most.  We have a four-year old and it is a blessing I have her in my life.  Maybe taking to Chris got me over the finish line.  But when you see everyday that you are bring up a little girl in such a toxic marriage, it makes the decision easier.  It took me a while to see that, but when Chris asked me what impact the marriage was having on my child, I couldn’t even talk.  Then it all snapped into place.

Were their unhappy marriage signs that I could point to that said, “Yep, we are finished”?

I guess not anything really big.  It was like once we got married he just started to think he could get his way all the time and he would pitch a fit when things didn’t turn out right.

I would be the one he blamed for whatever bad was going on in his life.  So, yes, there was a long time of negative problems just piling up on each other. 

Sometimes I felt trapped in my unhappy marriage, but couldn’t leave for a million stupid excuses I kept putting out there.

My family and my friends kept saying, Why?   Why are you still with him?  Why not just call it quits, you have tried, but he is not trying on his end and it’s be too long.  You both chipping away at making it worse.  

I took this survey Chris came up with.  I forget what he calls it but it was one of those figure out if you are unhappy marriage quiz.  I kinda knew what would be the outcome because every question was leading me to remember some horrible or hateful thing he said or did and those memories would be in my mind as I filled it out.

I think that was another turning point for me.  Everywhere I turned, I was getting feedback that, “No you are not trapped.  You don’t have to put up with his verbal crap or stay with a man you don’t love”

So, yep, looking back now, I see that I had all the unhappy marriage signs that point to you’ll get divorced soon if something dramatic doesn’t happen.

Foolishly, I kept waiting, hoping that my husband would change, become that dream guy I had hoped he would be.

It was never in the cards.  I see that now.

But I made the jump.  I guess it was more of a bolt.  Chris told me I needed an exit plan and I should have most everything lined up.  A place to say.  Some money stashed away.  A support system.  I had my sister and my parents and my friends to help me.  I am working, so while it’s not easy, it is so AMAZING to have a life with just me and my little girl.

I never realized how much strain I was under and how foolish I was for staying so long. 

Some people ask me if I felt guilty or if I struggled with the breakup of my marriage (note: we are not divorced yet, but I am working on that).  Once I decided, stopped thinking about it. I never felt bad. It’s like I didn’t look back and question whether I was doing the right thing by leaving him. 

Actually, I got really mad at myself for a few days when I realized how much I was missing out on by not leaving sooner. 

Things are different now. Hugely different. My mood is better. I feel free and I see through all his lies now.  My confidence is returning and I feel happy about coming home to my little place.

So yes, ladies.  You can escape a miserable life with your husband if you want to.  Wash away those fears and don’t let your husband intimidate you or put doubts in your mind.  Ignore him when he says you will be a lamb for slaughter.  Your guy will probably say a lot of cruel things.  Just shush it out.

I am getting by just fine.  Actually no.  I am doing fantastic.

4 Steps To Keep in Mind When Walking Away From Your Marriage

4 ways to get away from him

1. Take a Look at the Picture of Your Marriage

Often when you are in the midst of a troubled marriage, you can’t see just how bad it is.  You can get accustomed to certain behaviors that are highly inappropriate and while you can actually break free of the currents that steer the marriage, fatigue and uncertainty often take over preventing you from getting a real accounting of what has been unfolding in your married life.

To break out of this mold you need to talk to someone you trust that can give you an honest accounting of what they think about your chances if you stay.  Friends and family can sometimes help you with this.  But your best tool might just be what I call a Plus/Delta.

This is how it works.  List out all the positive things that your husband offers to you and your life.  Then list out all the negative problems that stem from being married to him.

Honestly evaluate whether the two of you have made sufficient efforts to work on the martial difficulties.  Ask yourself, what kind of self-help resources have you tapped into?

Have you pursued any martial counseling?

How long have the two of you struggled in your marriage?

These are the things you need answers on.  Now take all this into account and objectively ask yourself….will your husband continue to be part of the problem or does he have the potential to be part of the solution?

Answer that question, then you may be ready for Step 2.

2. You Need an Exit Plan

Getting all worked up and leaving in a huff and puff is hardly a solution.  More often than not, giving in to anger or turning the whole “I am leaving this marriage” into a drama is not the direction you want to go.

Your best results will come from planning and calculating what it is you need to get on without him in your life.  Maybe you are not 100% certain that you want to divorce him, but you can’t imagine spending any more time in that same house with this man because the marriage has completely unraveled.

Whatever the case, before you choose to leave, be sure to have a complete action plan.   When its time to get out….then by all means get out.

If later things change significantly such that you choose to revisit returning, that is always your prerogative.

Know where you are going to stay.  If you think your husband might get physical or violent, keep a close friend or even the police in the loop (e.g. restraining order).

You can arrange for a friend to be with you if that makes you feel safe.  You also need to plan for the practical things you will need such as your personal clothes and important documents.  Don’t worry about taking it all.  More than likely, you will have an opportunity to get the rest of the lesser important stuff or arrange for someone to pick it up for you.

Have an emergency backpack with essential items available to you if you need to expedite your departure.  You will also need to look at your finances.  Do you need time to save more money?  Do you need to move money around?  Will you need to borrow money?

Think through all these things and plan accordingly. Remember, your need to leave your husband could come faster than you think, so don’t put off having your exit plan in place.

3. Communications With Your Husband

What you say (if anything) to your husband and how you say it depends on your individual situation.  Ideally you will want to explain to your husband in person what you are doing and why.

But in some cases the husband might be a real jerk and could potentially turn the whole exit episode into a bitter fight, creating even more turmoil and bad feelings.

If you feel there is a reasonable potential for that to happen, then it may very well be in the best interests of everybody for you to first leave quietly, then communicate about your reasons later.

If your husband is shocked about your need to get away from him, then that says something about him right there.  If he is completely clueless and flabbergasted, then obviously he has been deluding himself.

If your husband frequently mistreats you and shows himself as a vile or vindictive person, you owe him no courtesy of explanation until you are ready and it should be on your own terms.

And whether that be a in personal meeting or correspondence or phone call or having a friend step into to deliver the news, that is always up to you.  Each of these approaches have advantages and disadvantages depending on your unique situation.

4. Once You And Your Husband Have Parted – It’s Time To Start Healing

Now you are out and away from the unhappiness that has plagued your life.  Don’t you think it’s time for some healing to start!

You have probably been through hell.  So be good to yourself and start in on a variety to things you can do to become the best version of YOU.

It’s not going to be an easy ride.  Despite all his faults, you have become accustomed to certain routines and habits.  Good routines can make us feel safe and tap down anxieties.

So some of the comfortable routines may be missing now.  But that’s OK.  Remind yourself that you can start new routines.  Remind yourself of the bad habits you slipped into or the uncomfortable routines you had to repeat in the other environment you were in.  Now those are no more.  Your tomorrows can be a whole lot better.

The past is behind you.  While it may still linger in your thoughts, it is the future you need to focus on.

Getting emotionally and physically healthy is important.  Getting engaged in new activities that you find fulfilling is critical.  I have written about this extensively that on this website, so feel free to explore.

How likely is your marriage to succeed?

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9 responses to “I Want Out of My Bad Marriage But Am Scared and Have No Money

    1. @J there are plenty of other articles. Keep googling that is what I did. However, Mary explained how she left with her 4 year old.

  1. I have been in individual therapy for 7 months to rebuild my self-esteem. My marriage is doomed. He refuses counseling of any kind. I’m not a mousy woman who’s going to quietly sneak away. His name is not on the deed to this house. If anyone moves it’s going to be him. I am standing my ground. I’ve handled him yelling at me for the last nine years. What’s a few more months? The time it takes to to divorce him and evict him from the house. Only a crazy woman who hates herself would let him stay and continue to put up with his garbage.

  2. You did not address being unable to leave, due to lack of money. What if you are disabled, on a fixed income and can not afford the cost of renting a rat hole? You stay and hope he dies first? Waiting lists for subsidized housing are years long or closed. I am disabled, living with a roommate is out of the question. I am too vulnerable to live with strangers and I have no friends or family to which I can turn. I am trapped, with no escape.

    1. I wish there was a way for us who are stuck due to financial or other limitations to get together and help one another. I don’t feel comfortable going to a DV shelter and I wouldn’t feel comfortable w siblings (if they had room). I just can’t wait to have my own place and begin a life in peace- away from crazy.

  3. My issue is my 20 year old who has been gaslit and my 14 year old who is riddled with guilt. Upcoming renovations. I just want out. I see no recovery 22yrs later.

  4. Hi Chris,
    I am excited for you to begin to put our more content on Marriage Recovery and I wonder if this is a good site for me. I am trying to sort out a marriage crisis (husband midlife crisis, affair, 20 year marriage, etc) and I wonder if Anna might be able to help me. I have been dealing with this all for a couple of years and have found your EXBoyfriend recovery YouTube channel. I very much like your content, but would like more guidance for marriage with children, etc. Please let me know how I might proceed and if you think your content/coaching would be applicable to my situation. I am 52 years old and my husband is 54. We have been separated for about 4 months. Thank you! Tracey