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Trapped in a Marriage

Updated on May 14, 2020
Grahame Milton-Jones profile image

Grahame has used his knowledge of psychotherapy built up over 20 years to provide this valuable advice.

There are huge numbers of people who feel trapped in their relationship and the trap can be in many forms. It is usually only when the downside of the relationship considerably exceeds the good side, that people finally make the decision to end it

Unhappy Woman
Unhappy Woman | Source

Where is the institution of marriage going?

Marriage has now been around for thousands of years. There are arranged marriages, same sex marriages, marriages of convenience, political marriages and love marriages. Though each form has its own advantages and disadvantages, the love marriage is still the most common.

Entering a marriage is a relatively simple matter; it is when the marriage goes wrong that things become complicated. It is not the legality of ending a marriage that stops people doing so, it is the sum of all the others issues that surround it that prevents people seeking a divorce.

On the face of it, marriage should be a logical step for people that love each other. It is a public statement of their intention to live together for life. Even though approx 50% of marriages fail, people still seem to want to make the commitment. Any other activity engaged in by mankind that has a 50% failure rate has been ended long ago, so why do people still believe that their marriage will be different?

The problem may be that marriages are usually entered in an emotional state

Marriage starts with the best intentions; there is an agreement to share all the chores, to both contribute to the family income, to stay together while the children grow up, to remain monogamous. Why is it that these simple agreements are so hard to follow?

What are the most frequent traps?

Monogamy used to be regarded as the problem for the man, but society has changed and it now appears to be equally shared between the sexes. At last, women’s sexuality has been fully recognised and women want a full sex life as much as men. Women also like the idea of multiple sexual partners. Though some marriages include an agreement to have sex outside the marriage, it is still the norm to believe that both partners will remain faithful to one another. Perhaps this is a mistake that should be recognised before the vows are planned.

Marriage is often referred to as a prison where both parties are forced to live together and work out their problems. It is true that the courts often impose settlements that are unfair and parties are afraid to take their chances in such an arena. The goodwill at the start of the marriage is absent leaving the court to decide what will happen.

Perhaps the most frequently cited reason for long term couples staying together is the fear of loneliness. They have been married for maybe 25 years and have the same friends; if the marriage ends they fear they will lose their friends or that friends will side with the other party. It may be that they have few friends and their partner is the only person they have much contact with. They fear that after the relationship ends, they will be left alone with nothing but the television and the cat.

Another fear is the volatility of the partner which may lead to violence. In these cases, even a hint of dissatisfaction may result in the partner becoming angry. When this happens, the row and possibly violence that follows may be too frightening to contemplate. Both men and women can be victims of violence though violence against women is more often reported.

Another major cause of long term couples staying together is the finance trap. This is where there is insufficient money in the family pot to enable the parties to split up and each have a home and income. Some marriages appear to result in a good lifestyle, with holidays, a nice home and all the material goods that mature marriages have. If it only works when they remain together, finance is an invisible but binding bond.

The finance trap also arises when one party is the main finance generator. In the past, it was the man who was the “bread winner” but this has changed and now, often, it is the woman who earns the most. This leaves the other partner feeling no option but to stay in the marriage even though they may long to leave.

Leaving the good life is quite a barrier for many people. A life with someone who has all the resources comes at a cost and when someone has enjoyed a good life for many years, the thought of leaving may feel unthinkable.

When to break out of the trap

The truth of long term relationships is that people do not grow at the same rate, and they do not grow in the same direction. As a result, after a few tears they have less in common or even nothing at all. The logical conclusion is either to live together as flatmates or to exit.

There are few (if any) marriages that are good all the time. Generally, when a relationship is good 60% of the time, it is worth saving. It will require time in the workshop but it is not bad at all.

The time to end a marriage:

  1. There is any form of violence.

  2. The bad times exceed the good.

  3. The future looks worse than the past.

  4. The plan for fixing the problems has failed or run out of time.

Both parties then have to face the consequences and look to their individual futures. They have to seek a new life including how they will deal with their finances and loneliness.

Of course there are countless marriages that appear to work from the outside but in reality have failed years ago. These are marriages where the parties cannot leave and simply stay together due to having no other alternative. These, sad, empty marriages give off signals of which the parties are unaware.

Unhappy Man
Unhappy Man | Source


There are many reasons why people feel trapped in their marriage. There is a point, however, when there is nothing to be gained by persevering and it is time to call an end.

Often, the most important matter regarding the end of a marriage is for both parties to achieve satisfactory closure so that they can proceed with their lives.


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