Feeling Trapped in a Relationship? What to do…

Are you feeling trapped in a relationship or feeling trapped in marriage? Another way of saying it is you’re in an unhappy relationship and can’t find a solution to make things better.

These struggles may have you wondering when to leave a relationship. You could be increasingly ready to call it quits. But that isn’t always the case. It could be that you have no intention of leaving your relationship at all, but perpetual boredom has set in. That complacency leaves you regularly wondering if you’re missing out on something better.

It’s also possible that you’re in a long-term relationship and, although you wouldn’t consider physically leaving the relationship, you emotionally left your partner a long time ago.

Feeling stuck is a pretty miserable feeling whether that means economically, career, relationship-wise or something else. What leads one to feel stuck in a relationship and the best solution can vary greatly from person to person. That being the case, let’s start where every person feeling stuck in a relationship currently lives.

The Unbearable Present

You feel like a prisoner. The type of jail cell? Your romantic relationship. What likely once felt blissful now feels more like a burden.

We can all agree it’s a highly unpleasant place to be. We can also agree that things shouldn’t and can’t go on like this. You don’t want to become a shell of your current self, after all.

So, what we’re aiming for is change. Yes, it’s hard. But, sometimes, staying where you’re at is even harder. If you’re consistently feeling trapped in marriage or in a significant other relationship, what you need most is change. That looks different for everyone, but here are some ideas to implement that change.

What it feels like you need at the moment and what actually is best could be different. There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in feeling stuck in your relationship, especially if you’ve been struggling with this for quite a while now. For that reason, proceed with caution when it comes to change.

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled, Do You Feel Trapped in an Unhappy Relationship, Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT shares the following:

The way out may not require leaving the relationship. Freedom is an inside job. Develop a support system, and become more independent and assertive. Take responsibility for your happiness by developing your passions, instead of focusing on the relationship.”

Evaluate Why You Feel Stuck in Your Relationship 

There a myriad of reasons someone may feel stuck in their relationship. They could feel like they married the wrong person, may be experiencing abuse or could be blaming their unhappiness on their relationship when depression is the real culprit.

In addition, some may wish to leave their current relationship but feel they can’t. That could be due to having a child together, financial concerns, guilt over leaving or, in the case of an abusive partner, they may fear retaliation if they walk away.

By finding the root cause of why you feel stuck, you’ll be able to better come up with a good solution. Often, this can be surprisingly challenging for an individual feeling stuck to determine. Working with a counselor can help to sort this out.

For instance, the solution for feeling stuck in a relationship would be quite different for someone being physically abused by their partner than it would be for someone whose relationship feels dreadful primarily because they or their partner is clinically depressed. 

Seek Out Personal Autonomy to Feel Less Stuck 

The subtitle of Darlene Lancer’s article quoted earlier is, “Without autonomy and boundaries, relationships can be suffocating.” One key to overcoming feeling stuck is nurturing your own identity.

If you do this right, you’ll start feeling less stuck and improve your relationship in the process. This could be as simple as taking time for your own hobbies instead of just those of your partner. It could also mean setting boundaries if your partner doesn’t give you enough space.

As Lancer reminds us in her article, it’s not bad to depend on each other. It just needs to be done in a healthy way which leads to autonomy and not feeling stuck.

Is It Your Relationship or Something Else? 

Your relationship may not be the underlying cause of why you feel stuck. For example, if your job is miserable and you regularly hate going to work, your suffocating feeling of being stuck at work can hurt your relationship.

In this scenario, it may feel like you’re stuck in your relationship when that’s just a symptom of a greater problem—your job dissatisfaction. This is just one example of why it’s important to correctly assess why you feel trapped in your relationship.

Look for an Exit Door if Necessary 

Virtually every counselor out there would say the “exit door” should be used sparingly when it comes to long-term romantic relationships. There are times, however, for the sake of safety because of abuse, for instance, that this is the best route.

Abuse aside, it’s generally far easier to make your current relationship better than it is to abandon it and start over.

Are You Feeling Trapped in a Relationship? Counseling Can Help 

Feeling trapped in a relationship isn’t always something that can be addressed alone. That’s where a licensed professional counselor can help. You can be confident that your interactions will be kept confidential too.

Could you use some evidence-based guidance for how to handle feeling stuck in a relationship? If so, feel free to schedule an appointment with the OC Relationship Center. We provide marriage counseling, couples counseling, individual counseling and more in the Orange County, California region. Our counseling offices are conveniently located in Mission Viejo, CA and Newport Beach, CA.



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