How to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage

Living in an Unhappy Marriage

Kim Love, Marriage 18 Comments

Many couples today are living in bitterness and resentment, or worse – total isolation. They didn’t start here. All married couples (or most) start off with love and commitment in their heart. They fully intend to keep their promise to love, honor and cherish. So how do marriages become unhealthy?

What to do if you find yourself Living in an unhappy marriage

Many couples never talk about what their daily marriage life will be like, only the wedding day. They have been existing on feelings, emotions, energy, and that unsustainable love known as Eros. Eros love is completely self-centered and self-absorbed.  It accentuates the emotional and physical with sexual attraction as the primary focus.  All love starts out this way with a “Me First, I will love you to get what I want” phase.  Many people get married in this phase, then when the Eros love fades – and it will, as this is not sustainable – they find themselves in loveless and unhappy marriages wondering what happened to their soul mate.

How to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage

All couples have a mental list of expectations when entering marriage; it’s only human nature. Here are just a few examples:

  • My husband will be the main provider
  • My wife will stay home with our young children
  • We will live in X number square foot house
  • I have to watch football every Sunday
  • We have to spend every holiday with my family
  • The home has to be kept exactly the way my family did it
  • The vacation starts when you arrive at the destination, not when you leave for the destination
  • We have to have intercourse at least x times per week
  • I need dinner on the table when I walk in the door
  • I don’t do housework

I think you get the point. The first few expectation start off pretty innocent; as we move further down the list, newly married couples try to compromise their way through the various challenges that come up in life. If you don’t have open and honest communication and clear boundaries on who you are, one person in the relationship starts to give too much, as the other takes too much. Bitterness and resentment often follow. Your “Days of Romance” are now replaced with “Days of Reality.” Here comes unhappy marriage.

The Unhappy Marriage

If a course correction is not made, the marriage quickly moves into Days of Resentment. This is where the blame game starts. One or both parties may feel trapped in the relationship. The NEVER and ALWAYS statements start flying around. This is where anger and contempt can settle in. This feels hopeless and isolating. You wonder how the person you loved so much can think or say such horrible things.

Intimacy cannot exist without trust and safety; it will all but disappear. Many marriages will head for divorce, while others will stay together for the sake of the children or for convenience. They will live in this unhealthy situation, coexisting. They are no longer able to see any of the good qualities in their spouse, they only see the anger and resentment of unmet expectations. It becomes easy to see what your spouse is doing wrong in the relationship. You see it so clearly, in fact and are so focused on this, you miss all the things you are also doing wrong. 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Dr. Gottman says the last stop is The Days of Rebellion. When hearts harden to the disappointments, unmet needs and expectations, and anger, they begin to outwardly rebel against their spouse. You no longer see your spouse as your partner; instead you look at them as your enemy.

Let this sink in for a minute…think back to the last time you argued? What set it off? If you’re being honest, were you already angry or irritated about something from a previous event?

What would happen if you only thought about times when your spouse was loved, cherished, needed? What if you cultivated this attitude instead of the contempt that had been building? When you speak to your spouse, they would not only hear the difference, they would feel it.

This new attitude would be cultivated every day. What a blessing for your children. You would be giving kindness, mercy, and grace.

In order to get your marriage back on track, here are some suggestions:

  1. Stop buying into the fantasy version of love and marriage. Don’t go into marriage believing you will never be lonely, sad, afraid, unhappy, dateless (fill in the blank) again. Your spouse can never fill all the voids you are missing. That’s not what marriage is about. Throw the word UNHAPPY out of your vocabulary. Unhappy is a state of mind. It is a choice to be happy or unhappy. Your spouse is NOT responsible for your personal happiness; only you are responsible for this. Please don’t teach your children to live this way. They will always be a slave to external forces. If you cannot live with joy in all circumstances as it states so often in the bible, you will have difficulty getting through life.
  2. Take full responsibility for your marriage being in trouble.  I’m not saying here that everything is your fault. Marriages take two people and sometimes people (knowingly or unknowingly) actively or passively dismantle their marriage. Do some soul-searching, find out where you fail, and what you could have done differently. Make a list if you need to of all the ways you have failed to live up to your marriage vows. This is you being accountable. Now come up with an action plan of how you plan to keep this from happening again.
  3. Do not come up with an action plan or get well plan for your spouse. This will just be received as one more layer of expectations they will need to meet or a reason for them to feel judged. You never want to be your spouse’s mother or father in the relationship – this is a sure way to kill intimacy. You also don’t want to be their accountability partner.
  4. Make a list of all the reasons you fell in love with your spouse. Be specific. Share it with them. Don’t have any expectations they will do the same.
  5. Start to build trust. Your spouse needs to know they can trust you again. This will be the first step in restoring your relationship. Talk about your responsibility for the problems in the relationship and apologize. Do this face to face. If your spouse also apologizes, great. But if not, remember not to get upset. They are not yet in the same place you are.
  6. Mind your communication. I talk about this all the time. Our words, our facial expressions, our body language, whether we look at someone as they speak to us, how much time we give a person before we space out or move off to something else all speaks volumes about how important someone is to us.
  7. Put God first in your life and in your marriage. We are all selfish human beings. A relationship will not work if you take turns putting each other first, or if you just put yourself first over your spouse. Christian marriages build on the foundation that God is first, your spouse is second, you are third. Learn it, know it, live it. It works – and it is a beautiful thing when you practice it.

Love grows one moment at a time. It starts with a glance, then slowly builds until the sparks fan into flames of passion, and finally – if we work hard – a smoldering lifetime of Agape love. It takes a choice – every day – to keep this fire burning. With each hurtful word, each missed event, lost opportunity for intimacy, you starve love. The fire slowly dies. Don’t let this happen to your marriage.  Don’t lose hope. Your marriage isn’t dead, it is just smothering under the unmet expectations, anger, and resentment.

Give the above a try. You will be amazed how fast things can turn around from unhappy marriage to fulfilling marriage.

This video(Andy Stanley’s iMarriage) is a little long, but worth the time. It is so funny, but also a great example of how expectations in marriage can quickly become a problem.  Have a look and see if you can see yourself here. I know I can!

Where do you think you have let expectations break down trust and intimacy in your marriage?


If you could offer any advice to couples just starting out, what would it be?


This information is based on the book, Two Becoming One by Don and Sally Meredith, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, by Dr. John Gottman and on the video iMarriage by Andy Stanley. Photo credit,

Do you have questions about whether to stay in an unhappy marriage?

For more help with your marriage, check out Communication Breakdown, Women Logic, and The Power of Words or contact me via the comment section.


I link up here sometimes.

Keep the Faith,
Kim Adams Morgan

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Comments 18

  1. Pingback: Women Logic = Unhealthy Relationships - Kim Adams Morgan

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  4. Heather B

    Thank you, Kim. This is spot on. It aligns so well with a brand new book I just finished reading. It’s about effectively influencing our marriages in a positive way by changing what we can – ourselves – our attitudes, actions, decision,
priorities and words. It’s called “The Wholehearted Wife: 10 Keys to a More Loving Relationship,” by Erin, Greg and Gary Smalley. Biblical, inspirational, affirming. One of my favorite quotes is, “When we turn to God for help, he fills us with hislove and enables us to see ourselves and our husbands through his eyes. Keep in
mind that a wholehearted wife focuses first on her own heart!” I highly recommend it!

  5. Pingback: Two Reasons Marriages Fail - Pouring Down Like Rain

  6. kattie

    ”I read your special report. I just wanted to thank you for putting that on the internet. I feel better and I know I have a roller coaster ride though hell. I know I will be stronger once I pass hell and turn into a stronger person. Thank you again. You are a good man to help people after what you went through. Maybe one day I can help people like you have helped me…thanking greatzalilu for helping reunite with my family again,i can just forget all that you have done for me.

  7. Lisha

    This meets me head-on. The Father has been graciously (and patiently!) walking me through what it means to love when there is no feeling of love and has been faithful to gird me with older women and church leaders who are speaking truth into my life. A few years ago, I’d been asked to do a devotional message at a bridal shower, and God moved me to speak on this very thing – that you cannot put all your hope in your spouse to fill your needs, because the Lord is the only one able to do that. Turns out, He gave that to me because I desperately needed to hear it (“He preaches best what he needs to learn most” is how the saying goes, I believe).

    I’ve had to wrestle with the depth of my own sinfulness and shortcomings in our relationship and remind myself every day that it is not Will I am fighting, rather I am fighting for his soul and our marriage. And to relinquish the role of the Holy Spirit that I’ve been trying to play for years…! I don’t see how it’s possible right now, but I am trusting that one day, the Lord will bring about change in both of us that will allow for a total reconciliation!

    Thank you for the blessing of the reminders, Kim! This is a much-needed message :)
    Lisha recently posted…How-to: preschool for a 3-year-oldMy Profile

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      Lisha, Thank you for stopping by and also for your honesty. I have also been here; God does amazing things with willing hearts. Keep turning toward each other and also toward Him. Trust. God bless you both!


  8. Beth

    You’ve offered some amazing words of advice here, Kim. I’m nodding along with you and giving you a “high-five,” sweet friend! I don’t really know what I’d add, but I will say that your challenge to us to keep our eyes on our own sins, instead of trying to “change” our spouse is so very, VERY important!
    Beth recently posted…Where Forgiveness Must BeginMy Profile

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      Thank you, Beth. I appreciate this so much. I respect you and your blog so much. I had not intended to do this post, but got up in the morning and was “redirected” to write this. Strange and wonderful how this happens. Blessings and prayers to you, friend.

  9. Ceil

    HI Kim! What a comprehensive look at marriage! I just saw another blog post ask “How did Disney ruin your marriage?”
    We all buy into that fairy tale, and it can be a rude awakening, that’s for sure. I don’t look like Cinderella either!
    I think respect is so key, as you said. It’s not all about fixing ‘him’, we’re a couple so we have to fix ‘us’. And expectations have to be grounded in reality. I can struggle with that sometimes.

    This is a serious subject, and you really did a great job at covering it. Nice! I hope I will be more grounded today because I read it.
    Blessings to you, my friend :)
    Ceil recently posted…SHOUTS and WhispersMy Profile

  10. Mia

    Dear Kim
    Great suggestions, dear one, and I especially like your words about the fact that it takes two to tango! One thing I did that was very wrong in my marriage was to look to my husband for that love and intimacy only Jesus can give us, but we learn through the years. My oldest son and his girlfriend are planning on getting married early next year and this was the first advice I gave them both. First to look to Jesus and then to one another.
    Blessings XX
    Mia recently posted…The Flying DutchmanMy Profile

  11. Jill

    Great article Kim! I just made a list of 20 things that I love about my hubby and I am putting it in his lunch box so he can read it while on break at work. :) A lot of great reminders in this post!

    1. Post

      Hi Jilly-hon! I love leaving my honey notes. I’ve found that he keeps them in his briefcase, sometimes for more than a year. He leaves me cute I love you notes and I have a collection of them now. It helps to build on the foundation of playfulness, romance and intimacy. I’m so glad you liked it. It means a lot to me.


  12. Caroline

    Makes me sad that so many people are so unhappy in their marriage :( I think the first piece of advice would be the key is selfishlessness and more importantly, to pray together! The divorce rate drops to 2%ish percent for couples who pray together!! There is nothing more intimate than that!
    Caroline recently posted…DIY Natural Products: Body Wash & Hand SoapMy Profile

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