Trapped in an Unhappy Relationship?

Woman Confined Behind a Chain-Link FenceDo you feel trapped in a relationship you can’t leave? Of course, feeling trapped is a state of mind. No one needs consent to leave a relationship. Millions of people remain in unhappy relationships that range from empty to abusive for many reasons; however, the feeling of suffocation or of having no choices stems from fear that’s often unconscious.

People give many explanations for staying, ranging from caring for young children to caring for a sick mate. One man was too afraid and guilt-ridden to leave his ill wife (11 years his senior). His ambivalence made him so distressed, he died before she did! Money binds couples, too, especially in a bad economy. Yet, couples with more means may cling to a comfortable lifestyle, while their marriage dissembles into a business arrangement. Homemakers fear being self-supporting or single moms, and breadwinners dread paying support and seeing their assets divided. Often spouses fear feeling shamed of leaving a “failed” marriage. Some even worry their spouse may harm him or herself. Battered women may stay out of fear of retaliation should they leave. Most people tell themselves, “The grass isn’t any greener,” believe they’re too old to find love again and imagine nightmarish online dating scenarios. Less so today, some cultures still stigmatize divorce. Yet, there are deeper fears.

Unconscious Fear

Despite the abundance of reasons, many of which are realistic, there are deeper, unconscious ones that keep people trapped – usually fears of separation and loneliness that they want to avoid. Often in longer relationships, spouses don’t develop individual activities or support networks other than their mate. In the past, an extended family used to serve that function. Whereas women tend to have girlfriends in whom they confide and are usually closer with their parents, traditionally, men focus on work, but disregard their emotional needs and rely exclusively on their wife for support. Yet, both men and women often neglect developing individual interests. Some codependent women give up their friends, hobbies, and activities and adopt those of their male companions. The combined effect of this adds to fears of loneliness and isolation people that they envisage being on their own.

For spouses married a number of years, their identity may be as a “husband” or “wife” – a “provider” or “homemaker.” The loneliness experienced upon divorce is tinged with feeling lost. It’s an identity crisis. This also may be significant for a noncustodial parent, for whom parenting is a major source of self-esteem.

Some people have never lived alone. They left home or their college roommate for a marriage or romantic partner. The relationship helped them leave home – physically. Yet, they’ve never completed the developmental milestone of “leaving home” psychologically, meaning becoming an autonomous adult. They are as tied to their mate as they once were to their parents. Going through divorce or separation brings with it all of the unfinished work of becoming an independent “adult.” Fears about leaving their spouse and children may be reiterations of the fears and guilt that they would have had upon separating from their parents, which were avoided by quickly getting into a relationship or marriage. Guilt about leaving a spouse may be due to the fact that their parents didn’t appropriately encourage emotional separation. Although the negative impact of divorce upon children is real, their worries may also be projections of fears for themselves. This is compounded if they suffered from their parents’ divorce.


Denial of problems, including addiction, is another reason why people can get stuck in a relationship. They may rationalized, minimize, or excuse their partner’s behavior and cling to hope or occasional “good times” or expressions of love. They believe broken promises and hope things will improve . . . “if only” often, denying their own pain, which might motivate them to get help and change.

Lack of Autonomy

Autonomy implies being an emotionally secure, separate, and independent person. The lack of autonomy not only makes separation difficult, it naturally also makes people more dependent upon their partner. The consequence is that people feel trapped or “on the fence” and racked with ambivalence. On one hand they crave freedom and independence; on the other hand, they want the security of a relationship – even a bad one. Autonomy doesn’t mean you don’t need others, but in fact allows you to experience healthy dependence on others without the fear of suffocation. Examples of psychological autonomy include:

  1. You don’t feel lost and empty when you’re alone.
  2. You don’t feel responsible for others’ feelings and actions.
  3. You don’t take things personally.
  4. You can make decisions on your own.
  5. You have your own opinions and values and aren’t easily suggestible.
  6. You can initiate and do things on your own.
  7. You can say “no” and ask for space.
  8. You have your own friends.

Often, it’s this lack of autonomy that makes people unhappy in relationships or unable to commit. Because they can’t leave, they fear getting close. They’re afraid of even more dependence – of losing themselves completely. They may people-please or sacrifice their needs, interests, and friends, and then build resentments toward their partner.

A Way Out

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.  Perhaps you’re unsure, and need help in asking for the changes that your want. Learn to be assertive in my ebook, How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits. If you feel guilty leaving, see my e-workbook, Freedom from Guilt.

©Darlene Lancer 2013

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225 thoughts on “Trapped in an Unhappy Relationship?

  1. hi
    i have been with my boyfriend for 3 years and now i can t have sex with him. he is a good person, he loves me and taught me how to be in a healthy relationship, he helps me and care but i feel so bad i don t enjoy sex with him i text other guys and feel so guilty. i care of him a lot but i don t know what to do.

  2. I’m extremely unhappy with my marriage and I’m totally trapped. I was married before for 8 years to a cheating spouse who ruined my credit and messed up my home so bad the kids and I were made homeless. It was done out of spite for leaving him.

    Fast forward to now I have overcome homelessness, illness and a major job loss. I was trapped living with a relative who has always been abusive after being homeless with the kids. I’ve spent 4 years enduring hell to ease into a relationship with a man in another country.
    I lost everything and gave the relationship a try. I relocated my whole family to Europe which I love. But I can’t stand him.

  3. What if there’s outside pressures? I’m trapped with an abuser because I am unable to afford to pay rent on my own and pay for my medical bills. I have investigated both public and private assistance and told I an ineligible because it’s not built for people with my problems. I work full-time but spend thousands every year paying for my medical care, and I have been told it will be several years before I’m considered experienced or educated enough to get a better job. I want to leave, but I don’t make enough to support myself and I have no one else to help. I contacted our local shelter and was told they couldn’t help me. What now?

  4. Me & my boyfriend have been together 4 years. He is 33 and I am 22. He lives with me and he has 2 kids. Last year he cheated on me, we stayed together and he was doing great as far as being loyal & regaining my trust. Now he is slowing going back to his old ways that he had before he cheated. Whenever I say something about it, he just says I’m nagging or being crazy. I’m so unhappy & have told him to leave a few times but he never does. I worry about his kids bc he has nowhere else to go. I don’t know how to get him out & I don’t want to get the law involved. Everytime I try to breakup he always tries me to make me out 2 be the bad guy..

    • You’re being emotionally abused. You need some outside support from a therapist and/or CoDA. Once you feel stronger in yourself, you won’t allow him to manipulate you and undermine your decision. When you tell him it’s over and to leave and mean it, he will.

  5. What if just do not like the person anymore? We have nothing in common and I do not enjoy his company. We have never been friends. Shotgun wedding. Child is grown and gone. He is not a supportive person. I have no job and where we live it is too expensive to live alone. If I leave him he will loose the house and struggle too. I don’t want to destroy his life. Help.

  6. I have been with my girlfriend for 7 years now. We have a 5 and 2-year-old. I am finding it hard to get the courage to leave. Lately, she has been arguing with me about being lonely. After her dad passed away a year ago, she has been a depressed monster. She won’t work because she says she has a fear of talking to people now. We are falling behind on bills. I work a full-time job and a part time job as well. I am also a college student full time and can’t study because I am distracted by her yelling. I can’t go golfing with my only friend I’ve had since kindergarten. She says she wants to be happy and for me to leave.

  7. Hi, I need someone to talk to. My husband was diagnosed with Asperger’s a year ago. I hoped once we had a reason for his behaviors that he would least try to control them. Instead it’s his go-to “excuse” and that’s it. I’m tired of walking on eggshells to keep him happy. Trying to talk about it just makes it much worse. I’ve learned to just keep my mouth shut & scream into a pillow later. He’s never hit me. Instead, he yells, throws things, slams doors. He used to punch holes in the walls but stopped once I bought a house. I can’t stand my life anymore but what kind of person am I to want to leave a disabled person?!?!

  8. I’m having a hard time separating myself from my husband. He’s an alcoholic and can be very verbally abusive. Lately he’s been destroying doors in our home that have acted as a barrier between us. We have 2 children and they are starting to witness these volatile fights. The next day he always apologizes and proclaims his love to us. I don’t know why I can’t just leave. Our family lives in a different state so I can’t just go to family. I feel very alone.

    • Go to Al Anon & speak with a councillor about how to protect your children from being exposed to this psychological trauma. Alcoholism is a family disease and the behaviour of the alcoholic affects ALL family members. Seek help for yourself & your children a.s.a.p. Also, stop covering for your husband e.g. excusing his behaviour or drinking to others; phoning work or seeking medical attention for him if he requires it. A practicing alcoholic is a self centred manipulator and is in denial of his/ her problem. Their promises are worthless. I know because I am one. Have been sober for 38 years. Take care of yourself & you children.

  9. Help! I feel so trapped. I am with a man who I never should have had kids with. we were fighting a lot..and the as if kids would make things better. they didn’t the only thing is that maybe I dont react to his incessant yelling and nagging by screaming back anymore. I just cant do that to my children. but even so they still hear how he raises his voice at me and they start screaming my one and two year olds..and everytime..i die a little more inside. part of me wants to fight. but after so many years . my self esteem is completely ablated. i no longer think i could find a better person whod want me?especially with 2 so depressed.

    • Get some therapy for yourself, and learn to set boundaries to STOP the abuse. He’s not passive; he’s aggressive! Go to CoDA meetings and read and do the exercises in my books on codependency and assertiveness.

    • This sound like my situation,after getting together from age 18,we now have a mortgage,2 kids and it will be 10yrs at the end of the month,I’m can now admit that i have fell out of love:( but often think will I just be lonely and tired all the time,feeling totally trapped,any advice would be very helpful.

    • im with my common law father of our two kids for over 10 years. i tried to leave him 3 times with kids but forced to come back to him every time. Im afraid to try again, i have no family or friends to turn to. its toxic, unhealthy, he depletes me

  10. Hi, I’m desperate and miserable. I have packed my bags and feel I need to leaved but I’m also devastated. She is the sweetest and most caring person I have met, but.. I feel drained and exhausted. I can’t do anything or go anywhere by myself and if I demand to, I get heavily interrogated afterwards. Everytime I get a phone call or message she needs to know about it. She makes me promise to tell her if I talk to another girl at work. She has completely isolated me from my friends and if they try to make contact she goes mental and says no one cares about her. She blamed all this and much more on not feeling loved by me but I’ve done all I can.

    • She has some major abandonment issues that predate your relationship. You can go to counseling together or insist she does. You appear to still love her, but may have to decide whether to leave to end the pain, or stay and have never ending pain.

  11. I am so empty inside right now and completely shut down. Every time I do something that is outside of what she considers right in her eyes I am greeted with an extreme outburst of anger. I can’t even explain myself before it starts only after I come out of my depressive periods. I have started shutting down and feeling empty and each time it lasts longer. I love her, but right now I do not feel anything, love, hate, anger, happiness, sadness, just emptiness. I have a 13yr old step daughter and she is being used to make me feel even guiltier for shutting down. I was told to leave and now she is telling me to stay and get help for them.

  12. We have a 3 y/o child between and live together. I’m the primary breadwinner and she does some part time work. We live comfortably, but she has an extremely troubling anger management issues. The smallest incident will become an explosive situation. It reminds a lot of my father. I’m mostly concerned for my little daughter as she is exposed to this toxic environment. I don’t know what to do. I can’t leave her as she has vowed to take my child and she has very little means to care fo herself or our daughter. I’m also in a 2-year lease. I’m so lost and desperate that I feel like I’m drowning. Please help me

  13. hi, i don’t know how to start it, am crying for help!!! I’m married since five months, i hate my husband totally. i am very loyal, honest and straight forward person. he broke his promises which he made before our marriage. i didn’t ask for much, i wish to pursue my higher education- he said okay. he is telling me that its not that important than family to educated urself, and he is letting me to be myself, he says that he hate my individual indifferences , he is not allowing me dress the way i want, and he always coming up with entirely a different idea for whatever i talk to him. am not happy. the worst part is am pregnant now. 🙁

    • He is very abusive and controlling, but you do not have to be controlled by him! Dress how you want and continue your education. Do the exercises in Codependency for Dummiesand in my ebooks How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and the companion webinar, How to Be Assertive. Get the support from friends and family to possibly leave him because of the abuse. Read my blogs on abuse, and attend CoDA meetings. There are also phone and Internet meetings.

      • i am very happy, at least you could get my situation , but i need a better advice now….bcause am often controlled by suicidal thoughts nowadays, i just got married to make my parents happy, but the problem is i couldn’t be here anymore, i could clearly get one thing that is, “this is not my place and this is not the life i deserve” .am running mad, please help me.

        • Hi wish I could help you. Find people where you are who are sympathetic who can. Tell you parents how unhappy you are and why. See a psychologist or doctor if necessary for your depression. Meanwhile, get an education above all.

    • Get out now because if you let him take care of you after you have the baby. Your going to feel like you have to have to be with him you can’t live without him. For the first year. And if he doesn’t care about you now having a baby will make him happy because it’s his kid. But in the end he’ll lose interest in you. And blame you for everything. And least that’s what I’m feeling after having a baby. Baby’s are really sweet but super needy trust me the baby will be the best thing in your life. But the hardest thing as well.

  14. I have been married for 18 years and have five children. Our relationship is very unhealthy, he is narcissistic and very abusive, he has an extreme anger problem. I’m a homemaker and I know he is very revengeful and won’t take my leaving nicely. He will make sure I suffer in every way. He is dangerously jealous also. I feel so lost, have no support, no where to go. I’m 43 now and don’t want to wait till I’m too old and sick to leave. This is affecting my health and kids tremendously. I feel very depressed and desperate…

    • You need a good support system and knowledgeable lawyer to file, if necessary restraining orders and also get you alimnony and child support. Before you attempt to leave, go to CoDA meetings and learn to set boundaries with your husband. Start going to counseling and if necessary, get medication for depression; but when you start making changes and setting boundaries, you should feel less depressed. I urge you to do the exercises in my books on codependency and How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and the companion webinar, How to Be Assertive. There are specific techniques when it comes to narcissists, as explained in Dealing with a Narcissist:8 Steps to Raise Self Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People. It should help.

  15. I have been in a 10 year relationship and want a break. My partner has broken my heart several times and I stopped fighting for him about a year ago. Everytime he tried to leave I never let him, telling him we would work things out. I now have had enough and want to leave him, I want to re-evaluate what I want from life and be independant, we are very dependent on one another. He now wont let me. He wants to work at the relationship but I dont have the strength or belief. He has realised that I am now worth figting for – why it took him 10 years I dont know. We have started Couselling but i just cant see the point.

    • Trust is fragile, easily broken and hard to repair. See my blog “Rebuilding Trust. “You write he won’t let you leave, but no one can stop you. If you don’t think you can leave, this is your codependency you need to change, and perhaps why you stayed so long not getting what you deserve – believing you’re worth it. Start working on yourself!

  16. I have been married for 25 years…….the last 14 or so of which have been technically sexless (10 times or less per year), and the last 8 of which have been totally without intimacy. I have tried several times to tell her how this is tearing me down, but she won’t hear any of it – not her problem – “I’m not responsible for your happiness.” Marital vows, perhaps? I’ve been suicidal (not now because I have found a burning reason to live – to GET OUT!)

    • Your wife appears to have issues around sexuality, maybe from her past, but they seem to dovetail with your own feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem. Go to therapy yourself, and seek marital counseling. ALso, attend CoDA meetings and do the exercises in my books to build your self-esteem and be assertive.

  17. Hello, About a year ago I found out my husband had been lying to me about the people he was spending time with and what they were doing. He broke my heart. To this day have never lied to him and I still have issues trusting him as he promises over and over again he will change, yet after a few weeks is right back to where we were a year ago. He has some health issues as well so I am the only income. I am unable to pay the bills on my own anymore. He knows this and yet still does not try to get a job. I no longer see a future with him but don’t know where to go from here.

  18. I have been with my fiancé for 4 years now. We have a three year old daughter together as well. For the past year I have been feeling like maybe getting married is a bad idea. I’m not sure if he is what I want for my future. He is negative and manipulative as well as selfish and confrontational. I feel like I need to leave him but the idea of all of the work and leaving my comfort zone scares the crap out of me. We have a home (we rent and he is the only one on the lease), a joint bank account and a child. I wouldn’t even know where to start. And I’m to the point where I feel guilty for even thinking about leaving because of my daughter.

    • You’ll need support to make such a decision. Get counseling and attend meetings. Learn to be assertive and set boundaries to prepare and protect you and your daughter, and build a life beyond this relationship, should you decide to leave or marry. Get Codependency for Dummies and my ebook and webinar on assertiveness.

    • HI, I been with my boyfriend for 11 years and I am in the same situation, he is sick and a alcoholic but he can work but he wont. I am so tired and so sad that I put my children through this. I am ready to leave but don’t know how either?

  19. Married for 13 years and have 2 great boys. 2 years ago I split from my wife. On the outside everything looked great. A nice home, nice cars and holidays. We split because we had grown apart. During the split I fell in love with another. However I kept going back to my wife to talk things through as she took it hard and I felt responsible. I told her about this new woman, but my wife wanted us to work things out. My boys were not talking to me as they were hurt. Eventually I broke down and decided to give things another go. We had counselling 2 years on im still not happy although family think I am but i am to scared to hurt them again.

    • Well done for having another go, just reading these and came through this. The hardest thing for a woman and the most terrifying is the person you have grown with to fall in love with another,whether it’s when your together or have just split. Only you know what you have to do you must love her unconditionaly to have given it another go.

    • Im in a very similar situation brother .. so difficult…any updates on yours you can share w me.. I’d like to chat if possible..

  20. After 3 years living with him I can say that things were normal but from time to time I get these doubts of whether he is the right for me or not. I have had in the past anxiety and problem with panic attacks. These days after returning from vacation I am really freaked out and stressed because I am thinking that it’s time to get serious and get married. I feel so trapped that i left home for a while to find some relief. Before i moved with him i lived with my family. I am so confused because we are getting along well when Im not worrying, no Big problems between us, but sometimes i feel suffocating and the only solution i see is to her out..

    • You need to be in treatment for your anxiety disorder and understand what is causing your worry and doubt, particularly since you say that your worry leads to more problems. If it’s because you’re not getting the marital commitment you seek, then you need to make the difficult choice of leaving if he is unable to do that. Meanwhile, learn some stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, and seek counseling.

  21. HI, I have a partner been staying together for 6 years and have a four year old. I pay for most of the bills in the house and assist him with finances every now and then. he has a disability. I am scared to leave him because I am scared he might not have enough to survive on and he has threatened suicide before. I know I don’t love him as much as he loves me. I always have the guilt when I want to leave him.

  22. I’m sure Lancer’s books are helpful for many but some people just need an expert like her to encourage them to escape. How they do this is their problem. I am English, 70, “suffering” from hypomania (enjoy it) married to a highly-educated Chilean woman (68) who is incurably domineering, argumentative, becoming paranoid. No children. I have one cat (19). Should I wait for cat to die before I go back to UK? Wife and I can’t stand each other. We like being alone. Many thanks.

  23. hello mam. me and my boyfriend are in a relationship from last 6 years. we love each other a lot. but our families are problematic. now situation is very confusing. should we go with each other???? but when ever we came across each other. our desires reaches to peak. We still not stop caring for each other.

  24. I have read the article and I have finally found something I can relate to.
    I met my wife 24 years ago, we were very young.
    2 years later, we bought a house together, then 2 years after that, we were married.
    Children never came and we have been through many emotional episodes.
    9 years ago, I met someone else, but was afraid to leave. I guess I am conditioned.
    Now, I feel it’s too late and I regret not doing something earlier.
    I want my life to change. I would love to be a father, but I feel that this is now too far gone.
    I don’t know what to do.
    Our marriage is not normal. We are best friends living with each other.
    What can I do?

    • Many couples over time put up walls to intimacy and their marriage becomes dead and routine. (See Ch. 6 of Conquering Shame and Codependency. You and your wife should have marital therapy and begin talking openly with each other.

  25. Hi Darlene Lancer,

    I married on very small age now I am 28 year and from starting I dont like that girl but my family and her family forcing me too much accept her and live together,
    All are very emotionally telling me for future and family relationship and reputation.
    I am on very emotional stage now.
    I tried many time for accept that girl I cant I am completely not feeling with her and i feel like when I will leave this place.
    now I told already both family’s people but no body ready for understand.

    Kindly please guide what i do now that girl is not educated also please advise.

  26. i am 34 married for 9 yrs, was an arranged marriage have 7yr old daughter; but now i have fallen in love with another unmarried women she is 31 we both are in a deep passionate love we r sure its not a simple infatuation; i want to divorce my wife but she does nt agree n threatens suicide n emotionally blackmails me talking about our daughters future; am stuck i feel so much guilt to leave she is a homemaker with no income am ready to support her financially but she doest agree n says her life is finished without me pls help am so depressed n dont know what to do i love only this another women n want to live my life with her pls help

    • Divorce and marriage have long term consequences, which you should consider. When you do something in conflict with your values or that harms others, you naturally will feel guilt. No one can make the decision for you, but you and your girlfriend will have to be ready to live with the consequences, some perhaps unforeseen, to your self-esteem and to others,. I suggest you do the exercises in my book, Freedom from Guilt.

  27. i am in a relationship for last 6 years. now at the time of marriage his family has many they want a car, they will never met my parents, i have to leave my carrier. he i not supporting me at all. we really love each other. he said if i really love then these conditions are nothing. i m moving towards self harm plz guide me…..

    • It sounds as if you are experiencing pressure based on your cultural norms. I cannot comment on that, but in any relationship asserting your own needs doesn’t contradict love. In fact, honoring your needs and self-esteem are prerequisite for love, so don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by those statements. We can love ourselves AND love someone else. The former supports the latter. Self-love isn’t selfishness. It allows us to love more. See my blog, on self-love.

  28. My fiancé behaves like possesed. We r 2 years together, 1.5 years he used to sexchat n flirt online with bitches, everytime i was find out of course. He stopped doin it but his rude behavior towards me continued by now. Hes not emotional, if i am or i cry because of him doin something stupid he wont care n says u can cry the whole year if u want. Once i slapped him for lyin the whole day about online cheatin n i had evidences but he slaped me back. Hes too independent, he doesnt care to have conversation, always on internet, ignorin me, he dont like many emotional things, tha last 2 days we fight cuz he ignore me n tomorrow am leavin, am hurt

  29. Thank you so much for the information, it helped me know I’m not crazy, just a little bit. I want to be on my own so bad, I know in my gut that I need to be done with this relationship. However, my spouse does not want me leave her because of the ‘karmic’ debt I supposedly have with her. How can I get myself seperated and divorced so that we can both move on in our lives?

    • What your spouse wants isn’t the issue. What you want is. You won’t be on your “own” until you can trust and act on your gut. You’ve given away all your power and seem to be acting on guilt, or at least being manipulated by it, due to your own guilt and shame. You have a lot of a work to do before you can leave this relationship or make it into one you want to keep. You can’t physically be separate until your mind is. You’ll need outside support to clear up your thinking.

    • What your spouse wants isn’t the issue. What you want is. You won’t be on your “own” until you can trust and act on your own gut. You’ve given away all your power and seem to be acting on guilt, or at least being manipulated by it, due to your own guilt and shame. You have a lot of a work to do before you can leave this relationship or make it into one you want to keep. You can’t physically be separate until your mind is. You’ll need outside support to clear up your thinking.

  30. Feelings are met to be express anywhere because of human differences. My life is a good example of it. I have been in love with Justin for the past 2 years but i was a shame and afraid to express my feelings to him cos he was my boss at work. It comes to a time when he notice my behavior and he approach me telling me that he has longed had same feelings for me and we where together happily. The bad side of it is that his parents does not want us to come together as we are of different classes. He was forced to marry another girl of same classes and i was sacked my his mum.

  31. I will like to share my testimony to you all. I just got married to my husband about a year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side. I have never love any man in my life except him.he is the father of my children and I don’t want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today.few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid, being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.

  32. I have a history of coodependant relationships. since i was little. after several hurtful outcomes i decided to keep people at arms length.
    i can only do intimacy for a small amount of time.
    i got married to a very loving man 2 years ago and in that time i havent been able to be myself. i have been cylcing between: really wantin to give him love, trying too hard, forcing myself, feeling stifled, hating myself, using masks, putting up barriers and feeling anxious and wanting to run. Its getting worse ive tried to become more independant, journal, understand but the erge to run is very great. i dont want to keep hurting myself and him

  33. I’ve been in a relationship with a man for 5 years now & there hasn’t been any “spark” for a long time. On top of this, he has been out of work for 4 of those year (but still receives pay). My career is demanding & although I don’t make much I could sneak by barely w/ my income. He’s angry a lot and is the type of person that it “always someone else’s fault” to why he can’t get ahead, etc. So many more issues to list but I’ll stop there, I struggle to find a positive other than the convenience of the financial side to splitting everything. Do I stick it out for finances or strike out on my own & bare the issues that come w/ living alone?

    • No one can make that decision for you, but you can insist on couples counseling, change your interactions with your partner, and build a happier life for yourself, which will all help you take action. Get counseling if he refuses and attend CoDA meetings, and learn to communicate better and set boundaries with my books.

  34. I’ve told my mom that I need to come home and stay with her until I get back on my feet, she said that I’m welcome anytime but always talks me out of leaving him. I quit my job because I’m so depressed, I’m consumed by it. He controls me to the point where he dictates where I can and can’t go. I’ve made no friends here because I’m too busy catering to him. I walk on eggshells fearing that I’ll upset him or trigger an argument. I’m so lost.

  35. Well I have been with my partner for 18 yrs. I am now 34 yrs old with 5 children. I am one who is scared to leave. I don’t have anyone to fall back on. I do have my own income, but I dont have anyone to watch my babies when they get out of school. Since he works nights its convenient. I am tired of begging for affection and don’t get any from him any way. I’m tired of being invisible. I need someone who is going to appreciate what I do for them and show me what I mean to them. Even a kiss without me having to ask for one is all I need. I don’t feel desirable or sexy. I feel empty and useless. I am scared to leave, but I want to so bad.

    • While I do not have any advice for you that may assist in resolving your dilemma, I do understand. I’m in a similar situation. The pain, embarrassment, and lack of self – worth are very familiar to me. I’m stuck financially as well unfortunately. Adding fuel to the fire of resentment and grief. Just know you are not alone . That’s all I can give you. But at least I’m sincere. My best wishes for future. May you and your children find happiness in your near future.

  36. Please tell me what can I do to be happy and positive about my relationship (LDR). Slowly I began to just feel unhappy and lonely. Lately my partner has been so busy that I just feel so alone. We do chat or talk over the phone when he’s not too busy at work. But the conversations just feels like it’s not enough. I also have no one to speak with other then just my family, his sibling, and him. I also tried to leave him and he doesn’t allow me to at all. My partner always tells me he loves me so much that he doesn’t want to ever lose me. I also love my partner and I miss him when he’s busy. But I’m just tired of feeling lonely without him……

  37. I’ve been in this relationship for 9mos now, and I wanted to stop bcoz i’m not happy anymore. He’s so clingy and wanted to be with me always, and restricting me to be with my friends. I’m so feed up , i tried breaking up with him but every time I do, he’ll try to commit suicide and put the blame on me.. I felt like i’m stuck up. I don’t know what to do, ;(..

  38. So as we become adults does this somehow magically change. No it does not. Most of us can have some codependent issues at times, and some all the time but if we are not responsible to how we effect and treat other people knowing that we can damage them emotionally or otherwise is a breeding ground for persistent narcissism. And how can we not take things personally. Autonomy is not becoming an automaton. Relationships do suffer primarily due to selfishness amongst other issues and circumstances. Society is very different than even two generations ago, as social isolation has increased and subsequently shallowness and selfishness.

  39. I too moved out of home w/ my bf 4 yrs ago & have always been with him We have been living on our own together for the last 2 yrs & honestly I have been wantin to leave for the past 1.5 yr It’s very hard bcos I’m scared about how I’m going to survive living alone He always tells me I’m going to fail but I think I’ll be fine it’s just a matter of actually getting up & leaving It’s very hard. I crave independence & I know I will live a better life & finally learn to love myself again start my healing journey. But I still don’t know whether to leave or stay. I don’t want to make the wrong decision & go through the hardships of moving on from ex

  40. I have been married for 26 years. No abuse, alcohol or anything like that. I have just fallen out of love with my wife. We have children who are adults. I tried leaving – told her I wanted to separate because I needed some space to sort things out. Left overnight-guilt brought me right back. Wife told me how selfish I was, etc. Was going to still support her as best I could.

  41. I became chronically ill at the age of 20 and started my first proper relationship at the age of 23. I was too ill to work and so fell immediately into a state of dependence upon her: financially, emotionally, and socially. After 4 years we got married and had two gorgeous children whom we both adore and value above all else. At the age of 35, my illness began to improve. I began to work, make my own friends, and for the first time in fifteen years I had a social life. As I became more independent and autonomous, it began to put pressure on the marriage. I realised suddenly that I had been unhappy with the relationship since day 1.

  42. I am trapped – I CAN NOT leave my partner of two years, because he will literally be homeless without me. Not because he doesn’t have an income – he does and he works hard for his money – but because his junkie ex-wife was smarter than him when they got married, and she now owns 50% of what he makes. What he makes is barely enough to scrape along on as it is. If that wasn’t enough, he also has two kids to support. Without me, he’s fucked – he knows it, I know it, and it’s killing our relationship, and his lack of money and the fact that I have support him is draining my finances, and all my long-term dreams are going down the drain. Yay…

    • Your situation is frustrating, indeed, and you’d be understandably angry enabling his junkie ex, which is what you’re doing. If he doesn’t make enough to live on, they he should revise his support order. But if you love him, you don’t have to leave, just separate your income. Go to Al-Anon and read Codependency for Dummies to let go of his problems and set boundaries.

  43. This is all true! I’m a homemaker with 4 children under 10. I’m 27 years old. I do not have my own income and depend on my husband for everything. I’ve been really unhappy for a few years now. He has a drinking problem. I am at a loss what to do.

  44. About 3 yrs ago my wife more or less gave up on the things that made our sex life incredibly exciting saying it was just too much trouble. Some sex continued so OK, I still love her. Since then she has undergone bypass surgery, MRSA, pneumonia, and suffers heavily from a COPD condition which may require lung transplant. We are both in our 60’s, I am healthy and active. But frustrated to say the least. Zero love or affection, paying ALL bills (including hers), and in my wee brain the only return is….well…she lives here. I love her deeply but I also feel I want to move on. And I honestly feel very guilty about that. But…

    • I feel for you Rich.

      We come to sites like this for answers. Often the answers don’t satisfy. The despair doesn’t come through. We’re looking for solutions. Working through a book can gelp. I’m disappointed that therapy has so far not really addressed my concerns and anxiety. It’s just not taken quite seriously enough to me. I know why people kill themselves.

      • Websites aren’t designed to provide answers to individual problems, but to educate. Therapy can take time and expertise to address deep issues of trauma, depression, codependency, and ambivalence. The goal is to help people find their own answers. When it’s a sexual or marital problem, marriage counseling is appropriate.

    • I totally understand what you are saying my husband was diagnosed with a terminal condition over 23 years ago yet he is still alive. I was only 30 a young woman. He a young man also thirty. I grieved for the live we once had and stayed out of duty pity and for my kids. I honestly think he will out live me. He is extremely needy selfish and argumentative . Nothing like he was before all his health problems . I am miserable kids now grown . I could leave but I I feel bad for him . He will have to go to an assisted living if I leave. I am lonely he is no companion at all to me. Torn between going and staying.

  45. Also i would love if you would address the ambivalence issue. For me i keep saying things aren’t so bad. I have a nice home etc but no passion. I can’t bear to see passionate scenes on tv even… its so painful. My husband has been mostly impotent since prostate surgery over 25 yrs ago. I realize i was too young to realize the implications of cthis to our marriage. It has been gard i fantasize about a passionate relationship where sex is common & nornal. It’s depressing sometimes if I think about it.. best not to think about it 🙂

    • Do the exercises in my books and attend CoDA meetings. You don’t have to feel trapped, but you’re not honoring your feelings. You need support to start living your life. Passion includes more than sex. You sound depressed.

  46. I found your site one day and kept reading and realized that i fit the description of codependent. My upbringing was one of a shaming father.

    I have been married over 25 years & have been in marriage therapy twice, this most recenr for a year & a half. I’m realizing i need to change the way i respond. I can’t change someone else.

    I am unhappy in the marriage but don’t feel i could leave. I long for my independence
    I married someone 23 yrs my senior so now im married to a parent. I want to be on my own so much some days that it hurts. I feel I’m missing out
    I feel i have to wait until he’s dead. We have no sex life. Very sad.

  47. Leaving sometimes is not that simple. There could be money issues as well as issues of the heart. If I leave, I go back to a country in deep trouble with no savings, no income and no prospects. If I stay, I will study, I will work, I will build a life. I love this man, but we simply do not get along. It is not one persons fault, we do not fit.

  48. I have been married for 17 years, shortly after we had our son and than she was diagnosed with a chronic disease. This particular disease comes with chronic pain which in turns into pain management and pain killers. Shortly after that, regressed memories about abusive past. What was a confident, trusting, loving relationship has deteriorated. When we talk, her passion and works do not match her actions. The deep love is there but what has emerged for her is fear, distrust and anxiety. I have never been unfaithful or give her any reason for doubt and go the extra mile to assure her.
    I am so lost, sad, frustrated and feeling trapped

  49. Firstly, amazing article! Thank you for writing this. I just left an emotionally abusive marriage and although some days are better than some, for the most part I’m doing really well. My husband however is having a harder time. The funny thing though is that I wanted to break up with him even before we got married but he spoke me out of it. It’s just like you said though, I left a stressful home environment with my parents and moved into my husband’s home. Before marrying him I wanted an opportunity to live on my own but he convinced me that would not have been a smart thing to do. Well now I’m finally living that chapter and its fantastic!

  50. Hello. I just got 21 years old. Studying my first year. I have been in a relationship since I was 16 and I was madly in love and could not even think of losing her. The last 1-2 years I have more and more thought of other girls and all my possibilities. Together with my gf I have evolved with better clothing and I am not at all afraid of talking to girls anymore: I do also know much of girls try to flirt with me and find me desirable.

    At the same time I know that my gf is still madly in love with me, she sees a future with me. I feel like the only way I could have the power to brake up with her would be if she cheated on me.

    What to do?

    • You are too young to make a life commitment, and doing so would be unfair to your girlfriend, because you would come to resent her. If you separate and date others and both finish college, then you can decide whether you’re meant to spend your lives together. Breaking up with love and kindness spares you both guilt and pain. Meanwhile study my books on assertiveness and codependency.

      • Hello again. I am now 22 years old. Almost 1 month ago I broke up with my gf. It took 1 year after my comment here until I finally managed to have the strength to break up with her. It was hard and perhaps the hardest decision I have ever done in my life. But i don’t regret it one second!

        Life as a singel is good, especially at my age. The freedom is just what I wanted. I am living my life the way I want to live it. I can finally experience new things and see other girls.

        Thank you Lancer, for those wise words. I hope others find the courage to do the same as me.

  51. I got married young. I had/have personality flaws that made me think I couldn’t find someone to care about me. So when she came along and proved me wrong I latched on as hard as I could. She couldn’t be more in love but I now have grown and realized that I am desirable. Now I am stuck with the awful curiosity of wondering if the grass is greener as a bachelor and what that may entail, simply because I have not experienced it as a functional adult. I have two step kids I love, but still feel like I was never ready to help raise. The thought of leaving and damaging them and her makes me sick.

    • My husband’s single friends admit its because there are more times when it gets really lonely than not. Think about your relationship. Do you love her? What does she do for you that you wont have anymore? Cleaning cooking someone to always talk to, friendship, loyalty, someone in your bed always. you wont have that. My father was a shitty husband and father always feeling trapped. & is now a great husband and step father to a local bar tending tramp. He knows what he lost when he lost his family and works twice as hard to have it with the 2nd wife, its not the same. tho & he knows it. he found out single sucks

      • I only say this because you didn’t seem to post about any real, relationship problems. just you having a wondering mind and the fact of the matter is if you are happy with your partner why are you worrying about, if you could be happy with someone else. once its gone it will never be the same. please don’t stay in an unhappy relationship, but that doesn’t sound like the case with you.

  52. I have been married for 21 years and have thought about leaving my husband for the last 11. I tried twice to move in with my parents, but the guilt of leaving my girls with him was overwhelming. I have been in a long-term affair which has made me aware of the co-dependent state of my marriage as well as the fact that I have been mentally abused and manipulated during my marriage. Although my daughters are older teenagers, I feel guilt for letting them down and ‘leaving’. I think the guilt I feel for having a relationship outside of my marriage makes me stay. We have slept apart for yrs. How do I move beyond guilt and get strength to leave?

    • You need to do therapy to heal the past trauma and begin to forgive yourself with learning self-compassion. You also need support if you plan to leave and learn to stand up to abuse. Join a CoDA group in addiction to individual counseling. Do the exercises in my books, Codependency for Dummies, 2nd Ed. and 10 Steps to Self-Esteem and How to Speak Your Mind-Become Assertive and Set Limits.

  53. Hi I am 21 and my boyfriend is 28. This would be our 5th year together. I deeply loved him and we made a promise we won’t bale on echother. I see pass the years gotten we did increase arguments and feel hate. But on the other hand we feel like were in love. Last week I laft out with some friends an came home the next day and he busted out with anger. I didn’t cheat or do nothing. And now seance then were fighting my heart is scared and he don’t talk to me no more and we live together. I asked him to do stuff he dose it but barley. I’m scard if are relationship is over or what. I don’t know what to do. My heart is with fear every moment.

    • You’re allowed to change your mind. Moreover, I doubt you made those promises when he was verbally abusive. That’s a game changer and why you feel as you do. Insist on couples counseling, or get it yourself, and learn to set boundaries in >How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits.”

  54. I am 24 years old.. i have been married for 4 years.. for the past two years i saw changes from my wife, she became a nagging frog and she always wanted to make me look bad or wrong. i always end up whispering to my self “Ill just shut up to save the relationship” but for the past week i feel like there is really something wrong like i am already like a dog

  55. I want desperately to leave my husband. However I have no job, I have been a stay at home mom for 15+ years. 2 school age children, no family or friends I can stay with. Will social service grant immediate help? Don’t feel I will qualify for anything because his income is more than adequate. There is no reasonable solution with him, very vindicitive he knows he holds all the cards($$$) what and where do I start?

    • I don’t know the rules for social services in your state. However, you’re entitled to alimony and child support. See a Family Law specialist attorney and there may also be a family law clinic that’s low fee in your area to get advice. You also have codependency issues because you’re living in fear and under the control of your husband. Attend CoDA meetings. There are also some online. Do the exercises in my book, Codependency for Dummies, and start to take your power back.

  56. I have been married for 16 years. We have 3 children ages 10, 8, and 4. My husband cheated on me twice that I know of. I found out by a private investigator coming to my door, someone who I still don’t know, hired him and came to me and his boss with the results. Needless to say its been a difficult time for me. I am desperately afraid to divorce him because I am from a divorced family and I know how it is, I swore id never put my kids through that. I feel trapped. I feel that my decision to have children trumps my happiness in that I am responsible for their well being, if I choose to leave I jeapordize their childhood. Idk what to do.

  57. I’m 40. My partner was abused as a child and would often freeze me out if we argued and she’s been distant too. She got pregnant very soon after we met 10 years ago. She is emotionally detached and I started an affair last year. Since she found out about the affair she wants us to work on the marriage. We did counseling together and separately. We both suffer depression as well but I’m worried that we might try and fail and I will lose my girlfriend who I’ve really fallen for. She wants me to leave my partner to be with her. My partner is threatening to take our child to her home country where I can’t speak the language if I leave her.

    • It seems your choices are clear. You need to decide if your priority is your child or your girlfriend. I’d also get legal advice about your partner’s threats. Apparently, you’re not married, so your rights may be more limited. Consider also working on your issues of depression, commitment and intimacy. The self-healing exercises in Conquering Shame and Codependency would be helpful and see my blog on Rebuilding Trust. You can’t work on your the relationship with your first partner while seeing the second.

  58. Hi Darlene, I am not in love with husband of 10 years. We don’t have much in common. We separated 2 years due to his drug addiction & in month we were apart he sought company of ex lover. I found out 8 months ago and was suicidal – I have mood disorder. I am on road to recovery and becoming independent but still with him. he has trouble telling the truth. I fear he may married me for parents money. I want out but am scared of finances. Thanks for support

  59. I was with my bf for 9yrs. He’s a good guy, but arguing pushed me away. I’m not in love with him anymore. Seeing him or talking to him annoys me. He has an illness and he’s been in and out of hospitals lately, but I feel he was slightly using it to lore me , but I know his is sick. We’re best friends before lovers, and I don’t want to leave him hanging. So, if he is dying I can say I was there for him without his death on my conscious. I just feel like I can’t live my life of freedom, be with friends, have some happiness and move on without something popping up with him. I cant sleep etc and It truly depresses me and I don’t know what to do.

  60. My name is shivanie jinny from USA My husband and I were happy as far as I could tell and I never thought that we would have a divorce. When his cousin died in a tragic car accident he went back to Philippine for a week to be with his family at home. I could not go because I was in the middle of entertaining out of town clients for work. He did not seem to be upset that I could not go so I let him be. The next thing that I know, he reconnected with an old friend from high school that he had a crush on years ago and they started to have an affair! I had no clue what was going on until a month after he came back from Philippine.

  61. I’ve been with my husband 27 years. I had to convince him to marry me after 7 if he and his sons were to live with me. I used to be a free spirit but now I am isolated, have no friends and am at odds with my family. These are not his fault but mine. I am disabled and he is the payee for my money. I want to leave but have no one. The only way out that I can see is when I die. He hardly works and is home constantly, which is stressful and brings money trouble. I know I’m codependent and need help. Any Suggestions?

    • Still here in the land of misery. Verbal abuse has started and so has bullying me into doing things I don’t want to. I am living away from my family where I didn’t want to move, but again he forced me to with promises of better days. I know I must get out, and I’ve started on a plan. He won’t go to counseling as I have asked multiple times. It is all just me and my fault. Am I wrong to cut my losses and get back to my family that love me? I can’t do this anymore. Feedback welcome! Thanks for listening.

  62. Hi, I am 28 years old & working as a Computer Engineer ,i am married before 4 years very soon when i was on 24 due to my parents force to marry. and have a son 3 wife always point finger that i have an affair from day 1 of marriage.i tried to understand her like an child but she is not getting.we always fight by mouth i am unhappy with her.No one is in my life after marriage but she is not getting.due to this i am not able to concentrate on my future.i am very upset.
    i am always worry about my son.but now feel to stay alone or i should take divorce ? give me suggestion what i need to do.?

      • Thanks for your prompt reply.But we are in india and belong to middle class family here marriage is most important once i trapped so I have to survive till last. Problem is i am moderate and she belongs to village family,Whenever we go to party or get together with family or relatives and when she saw me to talk with any other girls definite she will fight me that day why i talked with any othergirl or women.pls suggest me full solution i am very upset with her.

        • One more thingh i would lik to tell you i talked these all to my family and her family also.but her parents are not getting ready to understand they are also thinking that i am wrong and pointing on me for my character there are too much disturbance in both family.her parents abuse me also that i may be characterless according to them. it is complete problem….Waiting for your reply or best suggestion.

          • The only way around this is to turn the table around accuse your wife of looking at other men . She is making you look small and feel small 🙁 we are all the same not one above the other . Treat her how she treats you . You are very spiritual 😉

        • I know there are marriage counselors in India. There is not a simple solution and I cannot give you advice on that. Please read the introduction to my blog and my page about marriage counseling. Counselors do not tell you what to do. They help you get clarity and courage to do what you want. IT’s a process. I recommend getting Codependency for Dummies; also at Flipkart and at Junglee here: and doing the exercises there. Go to some online meetings.

  63. I will be 32 this year and my fiancé just turned 28 we both met in a country we aren’t from I kind of felt obligated or forced into being with him, sympathy? settling? not too sure y. I agreed to marry him (still engaged been 3 years almost now). I feel unhappy most of the time and ask myself y I have done this to myself. I feel like no getting out as he is becoming a resident of my country. I feel ive led him on in the wrong ways and shouldn’t leave him im not happy with myself and go to the internet for advice as I am too scared to talk to ppl i know about this im embarrassed, confused, like something is wrong with me i need some kindofhelp

  64. Been married for 35 years, I’m 56. He had a long term affair. Was caught in 2003, but he continued. He told me in 2012 that he wanted out. The problem, his 86 year old mother lives with us and he really thought he was going to divorce me and have me stay at the house and take care of his mom, while he ran off with gf. Found out 2014 that he was still seeing her…she called me. I love him. I’m afraid to be alone. We have 3 grown children and have created a life. I can’t live without him but I’m afraid if his mom passes that he will walk out. Things have been good so he’s probably not seeing her anymore. I don’t know what to think

  65. My name’s Dominique. My female & I got off on the wrong foot. A one night stand turned into 9 months which is now an 8 month old bby. Being a deadbeat or “Baby daddy” just isn’t me. I’d much be a father to a family as I’m trying, but she makes it difficult because of her brat, every time I tell her no she’s pissed & doesn’t talk to me for hours attitude. She’s broken up with me & kicked me out of her moms house numerous times but due to my love for her & the fear of being a “Baby daddy” i have yet to leave. The feeling I get from this relationship is, I care 100 times more than she does, but she denies that. Why can’t I leave?

  66. My parents have been married over 40 years. They have been and are still fighting. They keep involving us adult children and now that they are old and in poor health, my mother wants to leave my dad but won’t until he changes. The problem is that they have fights that are 40 years old. There is no way to go back and change things were said and done then. They are both angry. My mom won’t leave because she says if something happens to my dad she will want to come back and take care of him. Neither wants to change or will at this point, they are in their 60s. We as their children cannot just walk away but need some solutions.

  67. Hi everyone
    Just wanting a bit of advice. I am 22 and have been with my boyfriend for 5 years, but sadly I have fallen out of love with him. He has anger issues and deals with anger by smashing things and shouting and screaming, although he has never been violent to me, I am scared to try and stop him or even defend myself in an argument because he ends up ruining our things. I have wanted to leave him so many times but he currently lives with me and my mum and has refused to go. The main reason I daren’t leave him is down to pity, he hasn’t got many friends and relies on me for absolutely everything. I don’t know where to go from here.

    • Sounds like codependence – caring more about his problems than yours and living with intimidation. Throwing things IS violence. Go to CoDA meeting, read Codependency for Dummies and How to Speak Your Mind and start setting boundaries.

  68. This was very interesting, as I have felt trapped and unable to leave relationships and I wondered what was behind it. However, I seem to meet all the criteria in your list for self-autonomy. I left home when I was 18, choose to live alone (or with non-intrusive people) and have never given up any part of my life while in a relationship. But I definitely seem to have something that keeps me in relationships I don’t enjoy. I must be scared of something – perhaps you’re right about loneliness? – but then you’d think I’d be unhappy single if I were lonely. Food for thought – seems I still need to work it out! Thanks!

      • Thank you for your reply. I actually continued thinking about it and realised that I believe that I will never be in a good relationship (which also explains my lack of interest in dating). Although I know this is irrational, and it’s not like I have had experiences of dramatic relationships – they have all been stable but unfulfilling – and that I would be happier if I just believed I would meet someone I actually have feelings for and with whom I would feel fulfilled, it doesn’t ‘feel’ likely. In fact, it feels an impossibility. I am in therapy and will bring this up. Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

      • To clarify: that is not to say ‘I will meet someone who will fill me’, my opinion is that if I believed there existed someone I would enjoy being in a relationship with, then I would feel more fulfilled single as well. I had not put my lack of fulfillment down to anything to do with relationships, believing it was down to being held back in my career, as I did not believe relatinoships to be important. But now I think about it, just about everybody wants to be in a relationship at some point in their lives and assuming I won’t be may be making me unhappy at some level.

        • Yes, and most importantly, your relationship with yourself. If you don’t find a better relationship, you can still find fulfillment in your life. OR, go to couples counseling and revitalize your current relationship.

  69. Hello, I am writing because I am at a loss. I am 32 years old and have two children. My wife is the same age as I am. We have been married for six years. To start I love my wife. I have a deep sense of desire for her and would do just about anything to make her happy.
    My wife has this guy she has known since she was in her early 20’s. In the beginning of our relationship before we were serious she sent a few pictures to him when she was drunk. I found out and she said she would stop. A few years later after we got married she sent a fully closed picture to the guy when she was drunk again. We were having some issues.

  70. Hi, I’m almost 48yo and have been seeing someone for 4months now. It’s been great for most of it. We’ve had our ups and down but lately my feelings have changed towards her. I’ve been seeing things that have made distant towards her, mainly some mood issues and also money issues. On the weekend I went away on a workshop on my own know that I would be busy. Because I did not contact her for 5hrs, she got upset, which basically ruined the rest of the weekend for me. From then on I have been very unhappy and actually been thinking of ending it. And to add to that she wants to move in with to help her with money issues…. so now I feel trapped

    • You need to learn to set boundaries or you’ll feel more trapped the longer the relationship continues. Do the exercises in >Codependency for Dummies and practice assertiveness with >How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits.

  71. I guess i am in deep emotion as brought by my pregnancy right now. I feel sad and stuck in my marriage for 11 yrs now. It’s eversince. I am married to a man whom did not become even a boyfriend. He is a textmate for a week,slept together on the first night and announced we’re gonna marry soon. I don’t know what controlled me but i was like hypnotized and did nothing to oppose. Since then, we stayed together and never parted ever there was physical violence happening to me.It was wrong and loveless relationship, so i have no love story to tell. I guess it’s my job security he is after of, not love.I sustained our unhappy marriage for kids.

  72. Hello, I’m Delmar and I am in need of some advice. It’s a bit complex. I have been married for 12 years and during that 12 years we have had two kids. A couple of years ago wife and I split up as we had just moved to a new state NC from MI. Nothing to do with infidelity mainly because I hated all the responsibilities. She went back to MI with our two kids and I stayed in NC. During that time of split I found and fell in love with someone else. But because my wife has a disability and can not work and could not afford to take care of the kids on her own I had no choice but to accept her back. I believe married for the wrong reasons anyway from the beginning maybe because I just didn’t want to be alone at that time. But now that she is back and besides the kids, I am not happy as all I can think about is the other person, and the other lady does think about and love me also.Has had a child with someone she no longer with. We both hate that we can’t be together like how we want but trying do the right thing. My wife isn’t bad I can’t do anything because of the kids and don’t want to be separated from them again. The thing is what are benefits of marriage? Why is it so monotonous now?

    • You don’t say how old you are, but to leave your wife and children because you hated the responsibility sounds like you have some maturing to do. We all make choices and then are responsible for them. Nor do you take responsibility for the consequences of starting a new relationship and its effects upon you and others. So now you have to live with the consequences of your actions, which cause you a conflict between your love for your children and your lover. Marriage and relationships can get humdrum when compared to an impossible distant love affair that’s always exciting, secret, and lacks everyday problems of raising a family and making ends meet. Sounds like your lady friend is of similar mind. I suggest you get counseling to heal your marriage and learn to build empathy and intimacy with each other. That’s what makes a marriage always new and exciting. See my blog, Your Intimacy Index and Chapter 16 of Codependency for Dummies and Chapter 6 of Conquering Shame.

    • You don’t say how old you are, but to leave your wife and children because you hated the responsibility sounds like you have some maturing to do. We all make choices and then are responsible for them. Nor do you take responsibility for the consequences of starting a new relationship and its effects upon you and others. So now you have to live with the consequences of your actions, which cause you a conflict between your love for your children and your lover. Marriage and relationships can get humdrum when compared to an impossible distant love affair that’s always exciting, secret, and lacks everyday problems of raising a family and making ends meet. Sounds like your lady friend is of similar mind. I suggest you get counseling to heal your marriage and learn to build empathy and intimacy with each other. That’s what makes a marriage always new and exciting. You’re trying to “do the right thing,” but remember that it is giving you what you want most – your kids. See my blog, Your Intimacy Index and Chapter 16 of Codependency for Dummies and Chapter 6 of Conquering Shame.

  73. He makes me feel like I have no back bone, like I’m a coward. I can’t leave him, I want to every today but I suck it up and stay. He has been abusive here and there from choking me to back handing me in the mouth. It’s his tempter and it’s also me not wanting to be alone and take care of our children by myself. Though I do that anyways. I work, he doesn’t. I basically do everything.. I am happy with him sometimes, I love him too, but I know that he’s toxic for my life and will only bring me down. I don’t know how to get out of it. I don’t know how to stand on my own two feet without feeling miserable and lonely ALL THE TIME when he’s not ther

      • I’m kinda in the same situation. He blames me about everything, and I often feel like I’m worth nothing. I recently found out that he was cheating on me and I really do t know how to respond to that. I tried telling him I saw those messages and he didn’t say anything. I told him I would forgive him if he stopped talking to that lady, and he said ok. I’m just crushed that he accepted that he was sending msgs to another woman. I don’t know how to get out of this. I’m very thankful he works everyday (10-9pm)exempt Tuesday.

  74. I’ve been with this girl for around 2 months and now that I got to know her more and she’s a little abusive towards me, and this isn’t a really good relationship, I feel like I’m trapped here, she likes to cut herself and scared for her, that’s why I i went in the relationship anyway, but now I feel no love for her anymore and scared she will do something to herself if I leave her, what would you do ? This is a unhappy relationship and there’s this other girl I like, and I’ve known her for a longer time than the current girl, what would you suggest ?

  75. I’m unhappy trapped relationship. I want to leave him but I can’t. He wants to watch porn, see women’s, and he says notice everything. Then I just showed him a pic of a male artist that could be good as an actor. He said I was disrespecting him. So we started arguing. So I asked him u cheating on me. Said yes. I try to confront him he hangs up the phone like a little bitch. I’m the sphycopath that took that another level. I was right to get mad. He always throws me out., that he don’t love me, tired of me blah blah but yet next morning his telling me I love u. Why don’t I love him. Blah blah. How can I be happy with that.

  76. Hello, I’m a 42yo gay man, I met my partner when I was 26 and have lived with him for the last 16 years. Two years ago he admitted cheating on me I believe because he contracted an STD and was obligated to tell me (I don’t think he would have told me if he had not contracted anything). For the record I have never cheated on him. Anyways, for the last year or so I don’t know if I am still in love with him, he is a good partner to me, but I am having trust issues with him. In addition to this I just caught him peeping into his 20 year old relative’s window that is living with us temporarily for a few months. He apologized and said he didn’t know what got over him, I reprimanded him, but instead of feeling mad or sad I just felt distraught that he would do something like that (desiring his own relative who he has a close relationship with, this young man is a good kid and has no idea). I am now all confused because it turns out that after 16 years of living together, he is not the man I thought he was. But I feel trapped, a long time ago I left my job and now work with him in his small business. We have a comfortable life moneywise, but the grand majority is in his name, it was always OK with me because he works a lot more than me and he is a good man, so I always thought he would take care of me. I still love him, I just think that I am not in love anymore and the financial situation worries me. I don’t know what to do… help!!

    • Your partner may be a sex addict. Regardless, you can get help at Codependency Anonymous and/or counseling to get your power and autonomy back so you don’t feel trapped. It may be your feelings that are trapped inside. Read Codependency for Dummies and do the exercises, as well, and consider couples counseling to get back the love and damaged trust. Seem my blog on Rebuilding Trust.

      • Sounds similar to my ordeal. I’m still with the partner that cheated, and the longer I stay, the more I think I should leave. It’s very hard to keep my mouth shut, because inside I feel that it’s over, but with my recent medical problems and my wife giving my kids a bad desease, in on no position to walk out right now. If you decide to. Get all of your things in order. I was mentally and physically abused for the last 11 years, now I’m finally standing my ground and my self esteem is returning. As it increases, I keep telling myself, I deserve better, I need to go.

        • Good for you that you’re working on your self-esteem. There are ways to rebuild trust if that’s something your partner wants to work on and you ask for it. (See my blog, Rebuilding Trust). When you start changing, the entire relationship will change. My books and ebooks are all designed to help people increase their self-esteem and heal from shame and trauma.

  77. hello,i am a 23 year old female.i am currently pursuig my studies ia m having a very very tough time with my relationship and it is affecting my self and other factors of life.i have been very indepedet person with own choices and values after coming into this relationship which is not stable throughout with the lack of understanding and differences.he have always manipulated me for my opinions and decisions without thinking it would hamper myself in negative back then I was so mad in love that I trusted too much and listened everything of him but now I am finding his values and thinking’s are not suitable for me it has hampered myself too much lost my confidence and I am starting to hate him I want to leave the relationship in the beginning I tried to make him understand but he then manipulated emotionally blackmailed I survived and didn’t break off but now when I get the feeling to break up I again strike with that feeling of survival and I do not listen to my heart and do what he wants.he had cheated me a lot.and I have cheated him too.please help me.please.please.

  78. To the girl unhappy with her Fiance, DONT DO IT! I’m trapped in a loveless marriage. I’m not in love with my husband we have two children 1 from previous marriage, one together. My husband has mental health problems, and is cruel, bitter, angry, nasty, mean,jealous, has given me nothing but heartache, the pain I feel inside is horrendous, he has abused mentally for years. I probably thought I was so lucky to meet someone who was willing to take me on with a child and I thought care and nuture would change, him, it doesnt work. Why am I still Married?. He has metastic Cancer and I was putting the motion in place to get a Divorce before diagnosis. He knows I don’t want him and knows that i will bend over backwards because of his health, It was the worst mistake I have ever made and has/is causes extreme anxiety and depression. I flinch when he touches me as I no longer want him to touch me as I hate him. My life has simply passed me by and I am riddled with guilt as he is basically fighting for his life and dont wish Cancer on any-one. I dont speak to any-one as there are not options. I do try surround myself with friends,work, going out, but when you are constantly moaned it daily, it really is hard. I dont think i will ever live with someone again as I’m liked a caged factory hen for the last 7 years.

  79. Hi, I am Neha from India. India as you all might know is a country rich in culture and tradition. Arranged marriages happens to be a very integral part of this culture.

    I am 27 years old and got married in January this year. Like many other marriages mine is also an arranged one. I was working in Mumbai until November 2013. But I had to leave my work because I was getting married. OK so let me start from the start.
    August 2013, my parents arranged for me to meet this man, who I am now married to. After meeting him I did not feel even one bit of tingling inside me. I had always known I would have an arranged marriage, and had met a few men earlier too, for this purpose. Anyway, there was no one on one talking between him and me. Everyone talked and had snacks and tea. Then they left. next day I too left for Mumbai, where I was working at that time.
    This guy called me a day later to talk a little more, I told him on his face that I don’t feel any connection with him but I cannot say a no to this marriage due to the pressure I have from my parents to get married. He said he cannot say no as he didn’t want to hurt his family, although being the guy he had an upper hand in everything. I tried to convince my parents that I wasn’t ready for this marriage but they didn’t listen to me. There was so much on emotional blackmailing that happened that I finally had to give in. I got married on 27th January 2014. In between this time I used to talk to my husband. I wasn’t surprised to find out how different we were. We didn’t match on any level. He is an IAS (India Administrative Services ) officer, which was the sole reason for my parents to force me for this marriage, as for them this assured a safe and secure future for me. He wanted me to leave my job. I did. We think very differently. I was never attracted to him. Although he feels attracted to me. I don’t want to sound harsh or mean but I am a good looking person and he isn’t. We have different interests etc. Even our social background are very different.
    Now, after 10 months of marriage, I feel so trapped in my marriage that I feel like killing myself at times. He wants to have sex all the time while I dont. I am absolutely not attracted to him in anyway. Plus the city we live in is really small and I have absolutely nothing to do here. I feel lost and lonely.
    I can’t even talk about with my parents since I know they will never support me. I at times feel like just running away. I have lost about 6kgs ever since I got married. Its taking a toll on me and I have no idea what to do. Or how to confront my parents.
    I feel like crying all the time. Its emotionally so stressful that I dont even know how to put it in words. I feel no emotions for him. None at all. I even found him sex chatting with another woman once. Although he said its just a friends and there is nothing to it.
    I feel so LOST.

  80. Well here is goes i met a wonderful man after being single for 10 years, well i thought, he has a handicap young adult son witch i help take of. But he show no love or affection toward me. and his son come first at all times i am very unhappy what should i do.

  81. I have been married for almost 6 years. When we got married Her mother was living with her but had not planned on staying and, unfortunately got sick with bone cancer. So, we bought a house together and moved her and her then 29 year old son in with us. Trouble started soon after as I didn’t realize what an addict and thief her son was. He was rude, disrespectful and quite frankly not someone I would’ve ever had any association with had it not been for his mother.
    Finally after about a year and a half I threw him out. I got nothing but grief from both my wife and her mother for throwing out “king nothing” and I decided to relent and let him move back in when her mothers health started really going down. Partly because I wanted him to have time with his grandmother and partly because I wanted his grandmother to not have to deal with any more negativity in her fragile state. We went to marriage counseling during this time however my wife decided she didn’t “like” the sessions and she stopped going. After her mother passed a few months later my wife told me that if I threw her son out again she would leave me and started the whole crying pleading thing so I relented. I once again threw him out last week because, despite having gotten himself a job he was going back to coming home at 3 am after 4 days and exhibiting clear “meth / heroin” addiction behavior. The last straw was one day last week I came home and the gas had all been siphoned out of my truck. (I have thrown away multiple siphons I have found he has made from hose laying around) He had ran out of gas in our driveway just a few days before and we’d lent him some gas but….I think you get the picture.
    I was short and to the point and told him he had to leave. Of course he denied stealing the gas however someone forced the locking gas cap while parked in our carport and I have already dealt with his thieving ways so I was having none of his excuses. Now his mother is telling me I have to “apologize” to him because he “said” he didn’t do it and she believes him. WHAT?!?!?! I told her that after we had caught him stealing and lying before he had never apologized for anything he’d done and, hell would freeze over before I would apologize to the likes of him. Since then she has been taking money out of out accounts ( about $25,000) and said she lost it at the casino. I am about to hire a lawyer and prepare to divorce her even though I love her and I know that if it weren’t for her extremely manipulative son we would be fine together. I also know that if I leave her he will drive her into the ground and then abandon her because he only cares about himself.
    Should I talk with her and tell her I am going to leave if she doesn’t change gears now? Or should I just start getting things ready through an attorney?
    If I have to deal with her son anymore the way he is than I am not going to be able to continue. I just can’t understand how she can be so blind to what is so obvious.

  82. What a helpful article and comments! I’ve been married two years, together for three. It was a quick courting time (two months) before being asked to marry. After saying yes, I moved in three months later, given the ring two months after that, married six months after that.

    The entire experience was terrifying as the emotional/verbal abuse began at the three month mark of the relationship. I was so perplexed, scared, confused, and lost that I somewhat froze. I left twice and at both times came back after he had a revelation and changed. He did change and he continues to change for the better.

    My problem is that I made a mistake in marrying him, I don’t feel that I love him, and I want out so badly. I told him (again) about my thinking/feeling I made a mistake in marrying him earlier this month as a final confession to clear my conscience once and for all. I also told him that I would put in an honest effort to make it us work. He says he loves me and that our marriage is not a mistake and I believe he means it.

    I feel neglected, emotionally unconnected, physically unconnected, and generally trapped and bored. I am a codependent, attending CoDA meetings which also began at the beginning of this month.

    I’m not positive if I will eventually stay or leave or what I’ll do. Some friends say, “You’ll just know if/when to leave.” Would you say that is generally a true statement? Would you say to keep doing what I’m doing, try and take care of myself, try to put an effort in the marriage and at some point I’ll just know if/when to leave or stay?

    Thank you.

    • You might gain insight into why you married him and the reason you’re bored and feel unconnected. Therapy can help with your understanding and couples counseling can help bring you together since you both want to make an effort. Individual or conjoint therapy can also help you gain clarity about leaving or staying. Keep setting boundaries when he’s abusive, but also ask for your emotional needs.

      • Thank you for your answer. There are many reasons why I married him but I think the main one is because my parents approved. I wasn’t sure about it and my gut was screaming either ‘no’ or ‘slow down’ or something…I did it to get it over with in hopes of feeling better about it all.

        I will give the boredom and unconnected feeling some more thought. For now, the boredom is on me and it’s my job to ‘get a life’. Unconnected feeling is still confusing.

        I plan on getting your ebook to help with assertiveness and will continue to read your blog/articles.

        Thank you.

  83. Why do so many of these articles start off great and then veer into, “You don’t have to end your relationship! That’s right! Keep beating your head against a wall, even if there is abuse! Even if you would rather swerve into oncoming traffic than go home some nights! Especially if watching you and your spouse tear each other apart is ruining your children’s lives! There’s hope!” Eff hope!

    • They’re a system, and they can improve when even one person changes. Relationships have a dynamic. This article wasn’t meant to address very abusive or violent relationships, which are covered elsewhere on my blog. However, I have counseled people in verbally abusive relationships and by setting effective and consistent boundaries the verbal abuse substantially diminishes or stops.

      • I found this article helpful. My wife cheated several times with men this past summer. I know some of her emotional needs weren’t being met and I feel horrible about it, but it didn’t have to come to this. I was missing the same things in the relationship. I found her unapproachable about anything. The good from the infidelity was we finally knew what each other was missing. We still love each other, but I’m haunted by what she had done. Now after the confrontation, I’m thinking about setting up a support network and leaving. She’s the one that committed the adultery but has dropped out of therapy and does have a lot of narcissistic tendencies. I fear if I leave she will retaliate. She has an anger issue so I’m thinking if I do go it would have to be out of state but then I wouldn’t have access to my kids. Not sure what to do. I just had surgery so I have to pretend till I heal to get out of here if that’s what I decide. I’m in a very bad spot. She is very self centered, Im beginning to think she wants or relationship to continue so her friends and work don’t find out about it. Most everything she does has an underlying agenda. She continued the affairs even after I told her I knew she was up to something twice. I had to dog for evidence and what I found was disturbing beyond belief.

  84. We have been together for 7yrs we have a 4 year old and 2year old. I’m a stay at homeom and a student. I try to be the best mom girlfriend I can be. I try not to let little things bother me but everything builds up and I explode. He is so selfish, he doesn’t help me with absolutly anything except for watching the kids while I’m at school. And whenever I try to talk to hI’m abou t anything, neededing more affection, spending time with the kids and I, he just starts yelling a tme when I’m not at school and he’s not working he can never stay home or go somewhere with me and the kids, and if he to he’s aggitated. he has to be out drinking and or gambling. I don’t need just sex and that’s what he thinks as long as we still have sex are relationship is fine. I need to connect with someone I need to talk to someone.. sex isn’t the only thing I need in a relationship. I want to leave but I have a year left in school so ivfeel stuck.. I have no one.. I cut off ties with pretty much everyone bcuz it caused problems in my relationship it just gave him one more to yell at me wen I hung with friends or family soo I pushed everyone away which I know I should have never done.. to late now.. now I’m alone with no support In a emotionless loveless relationship.. with nowhere to turn

    • There is help! Run to an Al-Anon meeting and start building a support group. You will need that if and when you decide to leave. Terrific that you’re finishing school. Assume your decision to stay now is just tactical in your long term strategy, and stop looking to him for emotional support. Get it at meetings!

  85. Some people may read my story and not think much of it, however this experience has really struck me and I have found myself emotionally destroyed. I have left the guy because I realised I was involved in a vicious cycle which was ruining every other aspect of my life; however it does not make it any easier.

    I’m a 24 year old woman who has had several relationships and have managed to recover from each one just fine. This one however, is really burdening me and making me withdrawn and distraught. My ex from the very first beginning was doing so many wrongs e.g. kissed another girl whilst being overseas and I excused him because I thought it was honourable at how honest he was being with me. Also, lied to me about his age, thought that i was constantly faking my pleasure during sex, didn’t want me coming to visit him at work because he was embarrassed that I was already in my profession while he worked at a cafe, spat at me once during an argument, compared me to my girlfriends by saying that they were better looking than me, pushed me when we were in bed and was verbally abusive. In terms of my behaviour, I was obsessed with him from the very beginning and kept on excusing his poor attitude. He was switching from two extremes, he either loved me immensely or lost his temper and did something silly, which I did pull him up on every single time. I broke up with him the first time because he spat on my feet at a public place, however i took him back months later. I was confused because at the same time my family was giving me grief because he was younger than me and I kept excusing his anger attack on the fact that he was stressed because he wasn’t being accepted by my family. I finally left him for the reason that I felt flat and lost faith in our future. I was ready to fight the whole world for us two, even my family; however over time his behaviour made me lost that faith, and i felt safer at home, than I did moving in with him, which he was planning for us.

    I knew it would be hard leaving him, but this is merely impossible. I have seen him about 3 times since our break up where he randomly would come to my house as he knew i was living alone as my family went overseas. The last time we organised a dinner to properly say goodbye and still then, he kept contacting me afterwards and at one point send me 70 messages within an hr which i was not responding to. He has organised coffees with my friends to discuss us and has tried to contact me more and has even used the whole “i will be leaving the country to see my family overseas” (he isn’t a permanent resident here yet). I consider myself very good at analysing people and everything he did, I felt like I was aware of; however he completely grabbed me emotionally and I have found myself in a complete rut. It has only been 2 months since our break up, but I am constantly experiencing ups and downs and will break down crying about 4/5 times a week. I refuse to date anyone else and am sympathising myself at a point that I have never ever before. I only dated him for 9 months, but i feel as though our connection was something unreal and we called ourselves ‘soul mates’. I do not know what it is that I am experiencing. He has been dealing with his mistakes in the right way and has been fighting his own devils and I am very proud of him. But I felt like it was time to prioritise myself and not keep excusing him for his bad behaviour. I wanted something serious and he made so many errors along the way and hurt me a lot. I feel like my mind is made up, but my heart is wondering off in all sorts of directions and I am just in a bad place. I have never ever had anyone in my life who effects me and has that much impact on me. It has captured me and I am lost. He claims that I have the same effect on him, so I am not sure what to say. Please help..

    • Congratulations on not wanting to continue abuse. You can easily block his number on your phone. Attend CoDA and SLA – Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous. Read my books on shame and codependency and get some counseling. You’re reacting to unmet needs in your childhood outlined in Ch. 13 of Codependency for Dummies and in more detail in Chapter 2 in Conquering Shame that require healing. Best wishes.

  86. I have been in a relationship for 7 years and we have a 6 year old son. the past 2 years feel kind of empty. i love her im just not sure if im in love with her anymore. I have thoughts of straying i can say for myself i have been faithful but cant say so for her we have had issues in the past. Basically i feel trapped in a dead relationship and dont want to hurt her feelings, we dont argue or fight. It is kind of like we are friends with accational benifits.(sex). I do not know how to approch this or where to start. any advice would be appriciated thanks.

  87. I’ve been with my (ex) husband for 14 years (since I was 19). I divorced him back in 2007 because of drug use and anger issues on his part, and the year and a half we were apart was really great for me. We have 4 kids-2 before the split and 2 after. We got back together because it was just easier that way. I wish I’d never let him come back. He has destroyed me financially. I am currently in the middle of a bankruptcy. I have been the main breadwinner since he moved back in. He has worked full time except for the year he stayed home with our third child, but when he works he takes care of his needs first and might help with some bills if he has any left over. Mainly, it falls on me. I helped him open a business a couple years ago with my tax return as capital, and since then it has operated at a loss and he refuses to take any of my suggestions as far as pricing and business strategy goes even though I am highly educated and have a business degree and he has a GED. What do I know, right? So again it falls on me. We are currently living off my student loans (which he cosigns-a reason why I have been keeping his business going-I need his good credit to get through school) and food stamps. I have a year left in my masters program, and I plan to leave at that time. I am sick of making the rounds at the food pantries and begging for food stamps while he takes any profit he makes and buys things for himself and the business rather than paying our electric bill. We’ve almost been shut off several times. He works 15-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, comes home, complains about dinner and goes to bed. Unless his friends come over then he gets drunk and throws beer cans in the yard and drives up and down the road drunk. All those hours at work and no profit. He has this homeless girl living in our camper trailer we have at the shop, and this isn’t the first one. I don’t really suspect him of cheating, but I really don’t care either. We never take time for ourselves. Its not that we can’t, it’s that he doesn’t think it is important. We have had 2 “date nights” in the past 4 years, so a total of about 4 hours mostly filled with uncomfortable silence because we have nothing to say to each other. I didn’t realize how codependent I’d become til I read this article. When I was working, I didn’t form friendships or join in on plans with coworkers because I was not allowed to go out while he was “babysitting.” Yesterday I made a suggestion of a new place to go over Labor Day weekend and I was told that it wasn’t what he wanted to do, so we are not doing it. I can’t wait to tell him to go eff himself. We have totally different goals, values, and ideals in life. And his feet smell, he is a slob who expects me to clean up after him, and I go between hating him and feeling totally ambivalent towards him. I hate to take the kids away from him, but I really hope I can move away from here and get a great job somewhere when I am done with school and move on with my life. Just had to get that out!

    • It is always amazing to me how intelligence and outward success can have little to do with how codependent we are. Now that you know the problem, there’s lots you can do toward the solution, such as joining a 12-Step program, counseling (there are low-fee clinics), and doing the exercises in my books. Best wishes to you.

  88. I’ve never felt so much shame as when my husband of 31 years told me he’d “fallen out of love” with me and left. I often felt uncomfortable during our marriage with his too-close relationships with coworkers, but nothing I said ever made him to stop these behaviors. After he left I discovered a letter he’d written that proved he was in love with a married coworker. Although I’m doing better a couple of years out from the divorce, I still carry shame over not “being good enough” to keep him from leaving. When he did leave, it was like I’d been waiting 31 years for the shoe to drop, and it finally did. Sometimes I think my fear of him betraying and abandoning me actually caused it to happen. How do I get rid of the shame? Accepting that I failed is very hard for me, even though I know I couldn’t control his decisions. I still feel like we had a lot of good things going for us, and it wouldn’t have taken that much effort on his part for things to get better. I just keep thinking if he could have ever opened up and talked about his feelings that we could have worked things out. Most of the time I feel like I’m moving towards a more positive future, but I still have times where I feel haunted by the past and my failures in my marriage. Women are supposed to be the heart of our families, and it just kills me that mine fell apart. My mother came from a broken family and that is the last thing in the world I would have wanted for my children.

    • There were intimacy issues in your marriage, and shame contributes to them. Bottom line is that you can’t control someone’s feeling or make them love you. You can begin to heal your shame by doing the steps suggested in Conquering Shame and Codependency.

  89. I’ve been in my relationship for 15 years and we have 4 kids.

    12 months ago I found out I had an STI and when I confronted him, he denied it and to this day has not admitted. Over the last 12 months there has been turmoil and the relationship suffered. I also fell pregnant with our 4th child who has since been born.

    I decided to forgive him BUT, since it is now the anniversary of finding out about the STI all the memories are flooding in and I’m not coping. In fact, I’m in pain every day but it’s hitting me hard right now.

    I have my own interests and friends but am heavily dependant on him financially and as a co-parent. He literally bends over backwards for me and if I get upset or get mad, he packs his bags and leaves – but ends up back home sometimes within just a few minutes.

    I feel trapped because we have small children and I don’t want to be a single mum.

    I can’t talk to him about how I feel because he will dismiss it and most likely pack his bags and leave again.

    Please offer any readings you can recommend.

    Thank you.

    • First, get treatment for your STI’s. You don’t need to be in pain. You can learn to ask for what you want assertively with consequences to get him to be tested for STI’s. When he makes threats, don’t react. You can tell him you don’t want a divorce, but that it’s up to him. That you “fell” pregnant, may be a sign that you are unable to be assertive and sabotage yourself and independence, since there are responsible ways to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I suggest that you read Codependency for Dummies and my ebook, How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits. Also, see my blog, “24 Tips for Conflict Resolution.” Finally, you can insist on couples counseling to work through your communication problems.

      • Sorry I should have said he has not admitted to the cheating but understood he too had an STI and we both took appropriate steps to get treated. However, his denial of the cheating is what is playing on my mind. He says Ive had it for years, and I know this is a lie and I understand that he can’t admit his adultery despite the STI being the evidence. Hope that’s clearer now.

    • Maybe don’t breakup then but! Tell him maybe the truth – that your truly not willing to take the relationship between you to not serious anymore. That you can understand him or trust his words anymore! & that you just wanna be friends… But start off before you even talk about anything you come up to him & huge him & kiss him to show your love you have now. After you say you just want to be friends really…. The next few days or week he will probably be saying & doing anything to only get what he wants back! “Sex” & you not having it with no one else but him maybe! Only saying if he’s not acting committed & not being emotionally & verbally intimate with you!….

      P.s. A person that lives with no forgiveness in heart for a day – lives in pushing peace & happiness away from themselves for a day! Forgive & then learn what’s wrong! “don’t hold”.

      Don’t be weak in life!!
      Be strong & nice at same time… It’s called being classy & respectful… Just be a nice person “don’t get involved” & leave to the extent you can get away from the fighting…

  90. Hi there,
    My common law husband and I have lived together for 5 years. we were both married and had children with other people before. I am frustrated and angry, depressed and afraid. This relationship has been so hard. A lot of stress and difficulties. He has an anger problem and I’m always trying to just be happy in spite of it. I’m going crazy. I’ve lost my joy and spark for life. My son’s grew up and moved away about the time we got together and I am having trouble finding me. Who am I now. What do I want? This relationship has been so emotional and stressful Ive lost my ability to make decisions and enjoy life. I am also menopausal. He recently told me he feels trapped in this relationship and all the ones he’s had. *smack* that hurt! So, I pulled away. It’s what I do. I back off and take time to think about what to do. I tried the No Contact Rule for 3 days now but it’s kind of inappropriate because we haven’t technically “broken up” and we are still in the same house.
    I don’t know what to do.

  91. my boyfriend I love him, i wish to marry im but i’m not happy with him. I can’t bear the state he will be in if i leave him. We argue almost everyday. I cry at night sometimes while his sound asleep. we are two very different people. i had hope it would work out but it didn’t. I dont want to leave him but im not happy in this relationship, we have rare happy moments. he doesn’t see that im upset. i have tried to talk to him and tell him, he just thinks im going through mood swings and i’ll be fine after a while. But I love him. I don’t know what to do

    • Your feelings are what I describe in Codependency for Dummies in that you feel responsible for his feelings. You’re not. If you feel trapped and unhappy now, you won’t do him or yourself any favor in getting married, since it will be even worse. Do some work on yourself. That’s who you’re responsible for, not him.

  92. This article and the 14 tips for letting go have both been very helpful. I am married to a man who has been diagnosed with “sex addiction” by a certified sex addiction therapist. My sister who is also a therapist disagrees with the diagnosis and says that he has BPD and NPD. He has had more affairs than he can count. Once I found out he started drinking and is now a functioning alcoholic. He has wrecked two cars and has had one DUI. I am beyond miserable because he has become so severely depressed. He says that he just can’t live without his family and won’t live if I leave him. So, the fear of what he might do to himself leaves me feeling trapped. I want out so badly, but I simply don’t know how. I have a great job and I am financially able to provide for myself and my children. I could take care of them without any support from him at all. So, why can’t I do it? He grew up in a terrible home, suffered several types of abuse, and has no family to speak of. How do I move forward? I want to be happy. The whole autonomy thing makes perfect sense. I lived at home until I was 26 years old and moved in with him. Any suggestions on books that might help me? Thank you.

    • What I hear is that you’re putting your husband’s needs and feelings ahead of your own, which you’ve likely done throughout your marriage. (Narcissists expect this – and the two diagnoses don’t conflict, but nicely dovetail). Where’s your empathy for yourself? He’s broken your trust and doesn’t deserve more sacrifice from you. Moreover, you cannot help him. There is help for depression: medication; help for drinking; A.A.; help for sex addiction: S.A, and help for him in therapy. None of this is your role. You’ve become an enabler by not asserting yourself. If you haven’t already, start Al-Anon meetings, find some therapy for yourself to help you become more autonomous. Read my Codependency book and ebooks on 10 Steps to Self-Esteem and How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Limits. Start setting clear boundaries with him and see how serious he is about changing and getting help. His decision not to is his own and not your responsibility.

  93. I am in one of those unfortunate situations that many people are in. I am 50 years old and stuck in a marriage because house is upside down. Husband has been sober for 3 years now and unfortunately there’s still nothing there. I do not live him and want out. I am intrigued by the concept of autonomy and continuing to detach myself from his behaviors that repulse me still. I am going to try and wait a few years until my son finishes school. Don’t want to ruin my credit at this age with foreclosures or bankruptcies. Any recommendations?

  94. I’m husband 28. my husband and I have a 5 year old daughter. we’ve been married since I was 19. together since I was 16. He was my first real boyfriend and I feel like I’ve invested so much of my life into this relationship and horrified at the thought that a divorce could have on my daughter.

    When I met my husband, I was in a very vulnerable state. I was being abused by my father, I was depressed and suicidal and he was there for me. At the beginning, he was or seemed like a very caring and compassionate person. But over the years he has grown to be very controlling, verbally and emotionally abusive. He has never hit me and I don’t think he would. But I am not happy.

    I feel trapped. I’m constantly walking on eggshells at home worried about what he thinks or feels about whatever I’m doing. I feel like I have to have his approval for everything. I’ve been going to therapy, trying to improve myself, and am in college. But I feel like whenever I start growing or flourishing he gets upset and starts to treat me harshly. I don’t feel like I am in a loving relationship. I feel trapped like a caged bird. I love my daughter and want whats best for her but fear I will lose her if I leave. Confused and getting more and more depressed when I’m around him.

    • There isn’t any reason why you should lose your daughter if you divorce. Courts want to protect what’s in her best interest. He’s escalating his anger and control, because he fears losing control. See my blog posts and for some ideas of how to talk to him. If you need help setting boundaries with him, get my ebook, How to Speak Your Mind. Couples counseling would be helpful, too. (See my blog, “Do We Need Couples Counseling?”) You can get additional support in CoDA.

  95. I’m feeling the same. Been married for almost 25 years and dated for 7 before that. I feel like we’ve grown apart. He is complacent in the marriage. I’ve told him I’m unhappy and then he tries for a bit and then nothing. I feel he is not engaged in the relationship or the family. Our interests have also changed. I love young people and love to go dancing. He has joined the legion and is on a committee there. If I don’t plan something we never do anything. I went for counselling and he reluctantly agreed to come once and then said we don’t need it any more so I also haven’t gone. I just don’t see us together for the next 30 years and me being happy but I worry what family and friends will say if I leave. I just want to be alone for a while to see if I truly love him and want to stay…..

    • Your complaint is common. I hear a few themes – one that you feel the need to be alone, which is a natural reaction to the ongoing rejection you feel, and that you fear what others will say if you leave, which is shame. It doesn’t sound like you’re ready to leave, and when you are, the second issue may slip away. I sense a great sadness, too, in the loss of your partner, marriage, and parts of yourself. Taking some time for yourself is always a good idea, whether or not you want to leave. It can further your autonomy, which I think is somewhat limited because you believe your happiness is tied to him and you’re dependent on others’ imagined judgments. Do whatever you enjoy and accept him as he is. Acceptance is the basis of a good marriage. People can be different and still love each other. Stop trying to change him and change yourself. Get therapy or other support for yourself. The marriage will either improve or you will have laid the groundwork for a new single life for yourself. Best wishes to you.

  96. My Fiance and I are having trouble getting along. We just recently moved in together and cant stop fighting over the littlest things it seems we’re not as compatible as we thought we were. We just bought a house together so breaking up is out of the question but we’re both so unhappy.

    Due to get married in April, I’m seriously having second thoughts about this relationship but love him to death. I cried when I went for my dress fitting because we had a fight prior to the meeting. I cried my first night in my new house because he yelled at me about something I can’t even remember what.

    I have a 2 year old daughter from a previous relationship who calls him ‘dadda’, they’re very close, and I also don’t want to break them up – I’ll rather work my butt off for this relationship to work as it once had.

    What can we do? Finances are tight (because of the house etc.) but we can’t go on like this.

    • Hi Lynette,
      You don’t say how long you’ve dated, so I don’t know how well you know each other. True love takes time and is a process of accepting differences. On the other hand, you or he may be experiencing the issues of lost autonomy that are raised in this post. It often happens when couples move in together. Suddenly, one partner feel encroached or trapped, and arguments ensue. It’s a good time to work out these issues and talk openly about mutual needs for space and closeness. (See my article “The Relationship Duet” aka “The Dance of Intimacy). If you love each other, counseling can really help and is worth the investment – rather than take a financial hit on the house. Best wishes. Darlene

      • I am 23years old,going through mental trauma due to my step-mother and my abusive biological father.My dad was good to me at the beginning but as the days goes things started to become worse.Dad is not there to listen to me.I am not financially independent,so i have to depend on him.I want to do PHD by staying at hostel,so now am preparing but my mental emotional condition doesn’t allow to concentrate on study.I tried all to get rid of this trauma.I have been struggling for 14years but now its become pathetic.She tries to hamper my study by giving me lots of work,saying bad things against me to dad.I have no freedom.

  97. This article completely captures where I am at right now in my life. I am a codependent who has been living my life for my husband of 11 years and now I have a 2 year old son as well. My husband is a recovering addict and chronic pain patient. I’ve detached from his issues, maybe too well? All I know is I am unhappy and feel suffocated by him now that he is fully, if not overly involved in the relationship. We are losing our house and money is a nightmare with just my income. I feel empty in the relationship and lack desire. I am ambivalent about leaving though for so many codependent reasons, yet I feel compelled for us to separate with a move coming up anyway. How do you know when it’s time to leave that relationship?

    • I hope you’re in Al-Anon. Talking with a sponsor and therapist can be a big support and help in making life changing decisions. It doesn’t sound like you’re ready to leave. Examine your fears one by one, grieve the death of your relationship and hopes and dreams, and that may help you. A relationship should be supportive. Sounds like yours is draining. Create a happy life for yourself, just as you would have to do if you were single. Have a life to go toward if you decide to leave.
      Best of luck to you.

      • I’ve been with my husband for 19 years & we have a child. I’m dependant because I’m agoraphobic with panic disorder. I’m 41 & have had only 1 job, for a few months, when I was 17. I have lived in this city for 23 yrs & don’t have any friends here. Just my parents & 2 grandparents, who are all ill/disabled. No siblings to turn to. My man is lazy, complacent, & awful w finances. We’re always struggling financially. I want to leave him but have nowhere to go & NO MONEY. I’m also in chronic back pain, so can’t move anything by myself. My family can’t help me. I can’t afford therapy. Where do I even start with getting out of this mess? I hate it!

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