5 Reasons You Feel Trapped In Your Relationship/Marriage (+ How To Get Out)

Are you feeling trapped in your relationship or marriage?

This is a common situation that many people will have to face at some point…

…but the good news is that there are solutions for every problem.

Let’s take a look at the 5 most common ones, and how to fix them.

1. You Still Love Each Other, But Not “That” Way

Every experience we have changes us in some way.

This means that we’re all growing and shifting direction on a constant basis.

As a result, we’re very different today than we were a few years ago.

As you can imagine, this has repercussions when it comes to our interpersonal relationships.

The two of you might have gotten along amazingly at the beginning, but you’ve both changed several times over since then… and not necessarily in the same direction.

Your interests, political leanings, and even your bodies may have changed exponentially.

Sure, the two of you may love each other dearly, but you’re basically platonic housemates at this point.

Alternatively, they might still be interested in you romantically, but you’re not interested in them the same way.

That’s significantly more uncomfortable and can make the “trapped” feeling even worse.

Things get even more difficult when and if you feel a sense of guilt or obligation at the thought of leaving them.

You may cringe at the thought of sexual intimacy with them, but feel like you’re abandoning them if you leave, especially if they have mental or physical health issues that damage their self esteem.

Situations like this don’t resolve themselves…

You’re not going to wake up one of these days magically back in love with your partner, and staying in this situation is just going to make things worse.

Resentment, depression, and anxiety are just a few negative issues that’ll arise if you don’t take action to get the situation sorted.

Be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling. It’s going to suck, and it’s going to get ugly, but there will also be resolution.

You may be really afraid of hurting this person because you do care about them so much… but if you really care about them, you’ll want them to be as happy as they can be.

And that’s not going to happen with you being resentful of them.

Be honest, talk things through, and work toward the next steps together, as the amazing friends that you are.

2. You Feel That You Need To Stay Together For The Kids

Feeling trapped in a relationship is difficult enough, but it gets more complicated when there are children involved.

You and your partner work together to take care of your kids, with responsibilities ranging from feeding, changing, and bathing, to homework guidance and taking them to various extracurricular activities.

If you know deep down that your relationship with your partner is over, you might feel like you have to stick around because the thought of dividing those childcare tasks even further might be an absolute nightmare.

Especially if you already carry most of those tasks yourself: you may be terrified that you’ll be under enormous pressure that you won’t be able to handle, and it would just be easier on everyone if you stayed together.

Alternatively, you may have a child with special needs, or one who deals with severe anxiety.

In cases like these, you may feel that you have to sacrifice your own happiness and well-being for their sake: that their care is the priority, and you just have to slog through your own daily distress and depression for the sake of their care.

The thing is, kids pick up on tensions between their parents really easily, and they can tell when you’re miserable.

Another thing to consider is the kind of example you’re showing them about what healthy adult relationships look like.

Remember that they learn by watching, and if they’re growing up in an uncomfortable, tense, resentful environment, they may grow up believing that this is just what a relationship looks like.

They might even end up following in your footsteps, repeating your life choices as their own.

Is this what you want for them?

Once again, the answer to all of this is honesty… which is often the most difficult thing to face, let alone talk about.

Be honest with yourself as to whether you can do this much longer without permanently damaging your own well-being.

Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling – chances are they feel the same, but haven’t been able to drum up the courage to talk to you either. 

And most importantly, be honest with your kids, especially about the fact that none of this is their “fault,” but rather is just part of life.

Remind them that you both love and support them unconditionally, and will work together to make sure they stay happy and healthy.

There are always solutions when it comes to custody/parenting arrangements and responsibilities, especially if extended family can lend a hand.

Some families do well with a “one week with one parent/one week with the other” schedule (which also gives each parent every other week off for their own pursuits).

Also, if you and your partner still get on quite well, you can get together as a group for birthdays and other occasions.

You CAN make this work. It’ll just take some courage and honesty to make it happen.

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3. You Can’t Afford To Leave

There are countless reasons why someone may be struggling financially, ranging from personal health issues or family responsibilities to unexpected unemployment while living in an expensive city.

Dealing with money woes is difficult enough, but gets downright excruciating when you feel trapped in a relationship and literally cannot afford to leave it.

Life changes cost money. Saving up first and last month’s deposit for an apartment rental can be daunting enough, never mind lawyers’ fees, childcare, etc.

If you’re already feeling claustrophobic, a lack of funds to make change happen can make this experience excruciating.

In this situation, it may be in your best interest to be honest with your family, friends, and social circle, and ask for their help.

This doesn’t mean asking for a financial handout: you may discover that someone has a cheap apartment that’s currently vacant. Or someone else can hook you up with a job. Or affordable childcare. You get the idea.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to plough through all of life’s difficulties on our own, but no-one is an island.

You’d happily help others if they needed it, right?

So lean on your own circle and allow them to take care of you too.

If you don’t know where to start with this, check out Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help for some tips.

4. You May Be Afraid of What Comes Next (Like Being Alone “Forever”)

If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, chances are you’re pretty comfortable in your arrangement.

You may have a cozy home, you’re on good terms with your in-laws, and your relationship might fit like an old shoe.

Even if that shoe is full of holes and rubs your heel raw, you know it well, and might feel like the discomfort is worth the fairly decent fit.

Change is scary, and a lot of people believe that putting up with feeling unhappy and trapped is somehow better – or easier – than throwing themselves into the chaos of starting anew.

This is particularly true for older couples, and those dealing with serious health issues.

You and your spouse might spend all your time in separate bedrooms, and gripe at each other in shared spaces, but they’ll still drive you to health care appointments and help take care of you through difficult spells. 

This very situation is one that keeps many people in uncomfortable partnerships.

You two might not be on great terms, but there’s a comfortable companionship there, despite the griping.

But how comfortable is it, really?

Fear and comfort shouldn’t be the only reasons to maintain a shared life with another person.

That’s not fair to you, or to them.

If you have serious health issues that make you nervous, consider an assisted living apartment. You’ll have autonomy and your own space, but there are healthcare providers living on-site, available at the click of a button. 

Similarly, if you’re scared of living alone, consider housemates instead. Once again, you have your own space, but there will be other people to socialize with and share household tasks and expenses.

If you’re simply terrified of the unknown, you may wish to focus on being present.

None of us knows what comes next, but being present and mindful can help a lot.

Try reading Pema Chödrön’s book Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion for some helpful advice.

5. You’ve Realized You Just Like Being Single

It can take a long time for us to really understand who we are, as individuals.

This can lead to all kinds of life changes, from drastic career overhauls to gender transition.

Some of these epiphanies can take decades to realize, and that’s absolutely okay. In fact, getting to know who we really are is a major factor in our life journey. 

Sure, it may be difficult to really embrace who we are, especially if living our truth means potentially alienating others close to us, but being true to ourselves means that we’ll be much happier in the long run.

How does this relate to feeling trapped in a relationship?

Quite simply, some people realize over time that they just prefer being single.

They like to live their lives on their own terms, in their own space, without constantly having to interact (or compromise) with other people.

They may struggle to make room in their lives for others, and are happiest in solitude, hanging out with friends on their terms, and coming home to uninterrupted peace with an animal companion and a good book.

And that’s absolutely valid.

Yet again, the solution here is honesty: with yourself, and your partner.

If the only way you can be truly content is by being alone, then be alone.

The break-up process will be uncomfortable, sure, but it will result in you having the space you desperately need, and your partner will be free to find someone they connect with the way they need to.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.