Feeling trapped is never a good thing – it’s a feeling that induces panic and a sense of helplessness, and impacts nearly every component of the ability to find happiness in life.
No one needs permission to leave an unhappy relationship, and we are firm believers that nearly all marital problems can be solved with the right combination of focus and hard work. When people feel trapped in their marriages, but aren’t making efforts to change them, it’s almost always a result of underlying (and sometimes subconscious) fear.
That may be fear of a life outside of the marriage, fear of loneliness, fear of independence, fear of social consequences, fear of financial burdens, and particularly fear of facing problems in the marriage.
Before we go any further, it should be noted that physical abuse and violence are NEVER an acceptable component of a marriage, and feeling trapped in a cycle of abuse is one of the most difficult to break out of. In this cases, call the authorities, reach out to local support groups, and get out of the abusive relationship by any means necessary. Fear is still a very real piece of the puzzle here, but the longer these issues go unaddressed, the more severe they often become. This is often the one marital problem that cannot be overcome – if you’re in a violent relationship, get out immediately.
Now, for other troubled relationships, that feeling of being trapped is a psychological wall most people have built for themselves. At the core of the fear is almost always some lack of autonomy. This means that the person who feels trapped is simply not prepared to exercise their independence – even within the marriage.
Autonomy means confidence in decision-making, not needing to define yourself in relation to your partner, having your own opinions, and most importantly, being in a marriage because you choose to be, not because you feel like you have to be!
So, if fear of being alone, fear of confrontation, and lack of autonomy are the problems here, what can you do to overcome them?
As with many other things, it starts with small steps. First, accept the fact that most relationships will go through tumultuous periods, and that a stretch of “bad times” doesn’t mean you’re on a sinking ship. Addressing the problems head on can bring even disastrous marriages back from the edge of divorce, and build them into happier relationships than they’ve ever been.
By admitting your fears to yourself, you can begin to move past them. What’s so scary about facing your troubles? Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow, and harnessing the courage to address the problems in your marriage will only lead toward solutions. Making progress, however slowly, is better than being stuck in a cycle of unhappiness.
Facing fears and developing personal autonomy will help to make you a stronger individual, as well as a stronger couple. If you’re confident in your own ability to make sound decisions, to direct your future as you see fit, to stand up for what you believe in, and to speak up about dissatisfactions in your life, you have nothing to fear! Starting down the path of solving problems only takes a single step, and if you know your own autonomy, you know that you will be able to rely on yourself no matter how things unfold.
If you feel trapped, don’t resign yourself and let fear define your relationship. You are stronger than you think, and it only takes springing into action to discover it! If you are unhappy with your marriage, it’s up to you to change it.
It can be a long road to finding autonomy and overcoming fear, but every little bit of growth helps, and strong, autonomous individuals who choose to shape their marriages to their wants and needs will be happier and healthier in the long run.
What are you afraid of?
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
We have been in counseling since April and things are only getting worse. I am at the end of my rope and don't know what to do anymore. There is no trust, no respect, and most of all, we can't keep the past in the past. There is much anger and a ton of resentment which keeps coming up in our fights. I don't know that counseling will ever help with those issues. We have our good days but when they go bad, they go BAD. How do you know when to just call it quits? We have been married 27 years with 3 grown children. I need advice because I feel like I am losing my mind. I have nobody to turn to besides my best friend who is in a different state. Our therapist has not helped at all and seems to make things worse. She sits and watches us argue.
I have just figured out my husband has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Marriage is hard enough and now I have this to deal with? His brain does not work right. He is very, confusing, lacks empathy and has a terrible memory. He also has developed a lot of personality maladaptions because of his condition. People that know feel sorry for him, but I have suffered so much and feel I've wasted my life trying to untangle the confusion. It's been 22 years, but I knew something was wrong years ago. I know I should just divorce him because I cannot be happy. I'm just so scared of going through it and being on my own again. Any questions or feedback are welcome. I need people to discuss this with.
I have been married to my wife for 24 years, and deep down I want to stay that way. But it seems as if that is impossible. We live in a state of low- to medium-level tension and have done so pretty much the entire time we have been married. We are not compatible in the least and have had some really nasty fights.
Arguing during counseling is a huge waste of time and money. Is your therapist an experienced marriage counselor? You might need a different therapist that is stronger and can keep the sessions on track. My husband and I are seeing one who really keeps to the agenda, knows we have a limited budget and is really keeping us focused. We have weekly assignments to do individually and some things together. Also, I am in a new city with no friends in the area. I found some groups on meetup that have been great. Some are just fun and social, and others are for support. Hopefully you might find some in your area. Hang in there!
Hi, Jasmine - Gale has some great ideas. I agree you need to find a counselor who can help you through the issues, not just sit on the sidelines. ere is some advice on ending the conflict, and I hope you can find someone to help you. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/marriage-counseling-video-stop-fighting-calling/
Hi, Gale - Those are some great ideas and I'm happy to hear you have found someone who works well for you. Good for both of you for giving it another shot and I wish you both the best!
Hi, Denis - That is a pretty serious condition to diagnose on your own. Perhaps if he were to see a doctor with the knowledge you have about him, he can find some ways to better control whatever condition he is suffering from. Having a spouse with a debilitating illness is very difficult for both of you. Here is some advice on if health issues are harming your marriage. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/health-issues-harming-marriage/
Hi, Camino - Try to end that never-ending conflict. It's hard, but possible! https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/how-to-stop-the-never-ending-argument/
My husband and i only been married a year and we are already separated. This is his second marriage and my first. I'm learning the do's and don't to marriage. Should i call my husband and ask him to come home and try to communicate with him? I'm still learning and i feel i have even been given a chance to show him i can be a great to him. Trust, communication, and stress of our jobs is our big issues.
Hi Mia - I would talk to him. You know the areas you need to work on. Every marriage is different, even if you've been married before. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/communication-in-marriage/improve-communication-in-relationship/
This sentence really resonated with me: "This means that the person who feels trapped is simply not prepared to exercise their independence" I have been unable to exercise my independence in my marriage for years. I'm the husband BTW. There's something about always being on duty which prevents me from really being myself. I'm constantly hypervigilant: is she OK? am I doing enough? Does she have enough space? This is exhausting and I don't see a way around it. We make a decent team but we're horrible mates. I don't enjoy what she enjoys, and vice versa. We communicate very differently. Our sexual timing is always off 180 degrees. We;re constantly pissing each other off, but we love each other enough to let each occasion slide. I might be happier if I developed a life outside the marriage, but male free time is not looked at positively. I also feel like I need to filter and my wants and needs through the lens of "is this right for the relationship?" And frankly, I'm plain sick of being in ANY relationship because of it. I fantasize about what it would be like to be free. To leave the house and not come back until I want to. To take a true vacation and wander somewhere, anywhere. To work in another country for a year. To order what looks good on the menu without discussing it. Maybe I want to talk to strangers, any stranger I wish. My wife does give me space but even then I feel that "free" time must eventually end. I must eventually return to the marriage. To some people, that's stability. For me, it's a permanently closed door. I don't want to cheat. In fact I believe that if we were not together, I might never be in a relationship again. Obviously I should never have been married to anyone. But at 42 I have no life outside my marriage. It's consumed me. Any books to recommend? Podcasts? I have forgotten how to be a functioning independent person.