6 Signs You Are Stuck in a Bad Marriage


This Post Isn’t About What You Think

Help! I'm stuck in a beautiful pasture and I can't get out!

I took the picture that accompanies this post earlier this summer while I was on vacation in the mountains of Colorado. This cow (or possible bull? I really don’t know) is stuck. Her pasture is surrounded by electric fencing. Her future is certain. Eventually some of her will end up on someone’s dinner plate and the rest of her will end up in some dog’s bowl.

There’s nothing she can do about this. She could try to escape. But really, why bother? Cows can’t jump, and they can’t run very fast either.

You, on the other hand, are not like the cow in this photo. You are not being forced to stay in your current situation. Your future is not certain. Anything could happen because you have choices. You could stay in your marriage. You could leave it. Or you could attempt to change the system from within.

You are reading this blog because you are attempting to change the system from within.

Still, despite all of this, you probably still feel stuck and you might even feel a bit angry at me for telling you that you have choices. That’s understandable. All I can give you are two words. They are “been” and “there.” I once felt just as stuck, too.

I eventually learned, however, I was staying stuck in a bad marriage because I was resisting change. I was, as Albert Einstein once said, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein also said that we can’t “solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” It was only after I changed my thinking that I was able to change my marriage.

What follows are the types of thinking I had to change.

  1. You only notice what your spouse does wrong. I still do this occasionally. For instance, this Saturday, my husband did something and I thought, “Typical” quickly followed by “figures. He WOULD do that. He ALWAYS does this.” I had to stop myself and remind myself of all of the many things he does right—and that his behavior that morning actually wasn’t typical, not anymore anyway.
  2. You refuse to change your communication tactics. If you are a yeller, then you just keep yelling. If you are a sulker, then you keep doing that. If you are a silent-treatment-doller-outer, then that’s what you do. You keep communicating in this way even though it’s not working for you.
  3. You want to be understood, but you don’t try to understand. You want to be loved, but you don’t love. You want to be heard, but you don’t listen. I could go on. Life is a paradox. Many times what we most want is the very thing we often refuse to give. Give and you shall receive.
  4. It’s all about your issues and not your spouse’s issues. You want your spouse to take you seriously when you ask her to help you keep the house clean and orderly, but you don’t take her seriously when she says she wants more passion in the bedroom. To her, this issue is just as important as your issue. Until you see that, you will be stuck.
  5. You refuse to go out of your comfort zone. You might say, “I don’t do affection” or “I’m just not into giving compliments” or something else. But these are all skills, skills you can learn and become comfortable with. When you tell your partner, “I just don’t do _______,” what you are really saying is “You are not important enough for me to stretch out of my comfort zone.” That stings.
  6. You expect more than your spouse is capable of giving. The flipside of #5 is that some people really are only capable of so much change in a given amount of time. Sometimes acceptance is in order. Learn how to deal with the issues that matter most and to let the small stuff go.


  • The August Reader of the Month is donating her free pass to an Orlando theme park because she lives overseas and can’t use it. I will pick one commenter on this post randomly for that prize. When you comment, please mention whether you want to go to Orlando.
  • I have a new co-authored book coming out in a few weeks. I wrote it with a retired FBI Profiler. Dangerous Instincts is an important book, one that I think everyone needs. Therefore you should absolutely preorder it of you know what’s good for you. I’ll be telling you more about this book closer to its release date.
  • You can listen to my interview on Woman Talk Live here.
  • You have until September 24 to win a free copy of the No Fight Divorce Book.

87 comments… add one

  • Sara August 19, 2014, 3:14 pm

    Like you Brenda, I am living in a relationship where my husband gives me the silent treatment any time I say anything he doesn’t like. He will not take responsibility for his actions even as far as laying blame on our 6 year old – “she wanted to play the 17+ age restricted game with me” when I complained that he had allowed that. My husband is in hospital now after having severe pain last night – I have been the dutiful wife and gone to visit him and take him what he needs, but it is a relief to have him out the house – this seems to be the end of a week long silent treatment and I have no idea whether it will continue when he comes home or not. We are also in a sexless marriage (his doing – not mine) and the constant rejection is wearing me down. I have two beautiful daughters from this, my only marriage and for that I will forever be grateful, but the isolation and loneliness is crippling and when I did not want to visit him in hospital and when I did not care that he was in pain or had to go there, I felt like I must be a bad person, but it is hard to care for someone so distant and so intent on punishing me for anything that expresses a desire other than what he wants. I am scared to leave – my children have friends and a life they would lose and they still love their Daddy though they see him so little and spend no time really sharing with him (he puts them in front of the TV while he plays computer games when he is with them – any technology is an excuse not to get to know anyone, including his wife).

    • minadach August 29, 2014, 12:05 am

      I am so sorry. I wish you the best. You don’t need that. I consistently try to change my husband but I realized that you can’t change someone who is blameful, hateful and a wall. He finally after I left him for four months decided he was going to try and we after a year been doing way better than before. He used to not even try and get so angry, but now he actually sits and try and ot makes me try. Instead of me getting potty and play the blame game, I don’t react as quickly and yell as fast. Until we both saw that we both needed to work than nothing was going to change. Unfortunately I don’t see that in your relationship. He seems childish and unfortunately not showing any love :( hope ot gets better or you get the courage to move on because you can’t truly be there for your children if you are unhappy.

  • Incredulous August 19, 2014, 4:27 pm


    Narcissists are game players. I understand that the rest of us have feelings, and when we respond with the same tactics which they treat us to, we feel horribly. However, it is the only way to salvage a shred of humanity, and more importantly, a way to break the cycle and save your children. I understand you are afraid of uprooting your children and taking them from their friends. However, we all grow and move on to new and different friends throughout or lives regardless of whether we stay in the exact same location or whether we move. Your children won’t be losing what you think they will and instead they will be gaining so much more. They will be gaining a mother who can be wholly healthy and they will be gaining independence they never realized they didn’t have. I completely understand how difficult and scary it is to turn and run from not only an inconsistent tormenter, but also someone who potentially does provide some bit of support in some ways. I have complete faith in you to put yourself on the path where you can be free. You don’t need the excess baggage. You aren’t gaining anything from such a sad sack of nothingness. Give him doses of his own medicine, and silently slip away in the dead of night so that you won’t have to see what happens when you really upset a narcissist. Best wishes!

  • Anyadviseplease April 1, 2015, 12:47 am

    Let me start off with background. 10 yrs married. 3 lovelys, 3 dogs, a cat and barely my sanity. We are in process of selling our too small home. The prob is we own mom/pop construction co. I could go on and on.. But I need to know how to love someone who is NEVER wrong. It is wearing me down, I love him but do not like him. It’s hard for me to comprehend how an individual can never be wrong. Is there any hope with someone with this mentality?


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