What to do if you feel trapped in an unhappy marriage

With The Crown back on our screens from today, themes surrounding unhappy marriages will be on our minds as we watch the action unfold.

Princess Diana and King Charles certainly weren’t in a happy marriage by the end of their relationship – what with the former’s groundbreaking ‘three of us in this marriage’ comment, alluding to Camilla, something Season 5 of The Crown delves into.

But what should you actually do if you’re in an unhappy marriage?

Relate counsellor, Gurpreet Singh, says it’s important to distinguish if you’re going through an unhappy patch or if you actually feel stuck.

He says: ‘Most relationships go through rough patches from time to time. They are usually triggered when something changes in the relationship or in one partner’s life.

‘This could be losing a job, getting a new job, the death of a parent, or something else entirely.

‘They come and go and don’t tend to stick around. Unhappiness on the other hand runs deeper, and it may develop over a longer period.

‘An unresolved rough patch or recurring rough patches can lead to unhappiness.’

Should you end the marriage or try to work on it?

Gurpreet says: ‘Knowing what’s right isn’t easy when you’re experiencing a range of emotions.

‘There might be guilt and sadness wrapped up with frustration, and a desire for happiness.

He suggests, though not easy, to try and separate the person from the circumstances and decide if you would want to be in a relationship with the same person if the circumstances were different.

‘Counselling – either for the individual to figure out what they want or together to see if the relationship issues can be resolved – can be immensely helpful,’ he adds.

If you want to end it, how should you go about it?

Ending a relationship is never easy and it can be particularly difficult when children are involved.

‘You may have to separate physically, financially, and emotionally,’ he says.

‘It’s best to be open and honest with your partner about your intentions and agree a plan with them.

‘It can be done in stages – but that can also draw out the hurt and pain for everyone involved. Taking time also allows you to think things through before committing to anything.

‘To avoid carrying regret in the future, take important decisions with careful consideration and not in haste.

‘You may even consider a trial separation before ending the relationship.

‘Individual counselling to understand what you’re going through and to get some perspective is a great idea. You can also seek couple’s counselling to understand the ending and process your feelings around it together.’

It’s vital to do what feels best for you and your partner to minimise the emotional damage between you.

If you want to work on it, what should your next steps be?

Rough patches can make you lose sight of the person and the things that work in the relationship – driving a wedge between you.

Gurpreet says: ‘Make the time to talk, communicate, and connect with each other. Try and work things out with your partner.

‘Aim to understand what triggered the rough patch, to talk about how it made you both feel and ultimately to realign the relationship to accommodate the change that triggered it.

‘Arguments by themselves are not a bad thing and perhaps even necessary to express frustrations that build up in relationships.

‘If you can figure out how to resolve your arguments, either on your own or with the help of a counsellor, then that can hugely improve the quality of your relationship.

‘You can also figure out how to have healthier arguments. This in turn makes rough patches seem not so rough.’

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