We are discussing how to survive an unhappy marriage . Marriage was never meant to be survived. It was meant to be enjoyed, cherished and exciting even with its here and there challenges.

As a much younger therapist i would not have attempted a write-up with this title but with age comes new realities. Living in a happy marriage means that you and your partner are going through the experiences of marriage as a team. This definition by itself sheds light on what an unhappy marriage is. It is hell on earth and leaves you with feelings of shame, regret depression worthlessness and more.

I see many advisors on social media and their various advice on how to leave an unhappy marriage. Despite this advice, i have also noticed that these advisors are the ones who will never let anyone know once their marriages begin to struggle.  – Temple Obike

People who take pride in their ability to walk away are usually the ones who try everything to privately fix a marriage that isn’t working. I may not be 100% correct but i believe this unwillingness to open up is tied into a certain pride in their ability to make good decisions.

This article is for anyone who is currently struggling and trying to at least make an unhappy marriage work.

Just before we proceed, I’d like to mention some tell-tale signs you may be in an unhappy marriage. If there is;

– A persistent issue with communication
– Physical emotional or verbal abuse
– Exclusion of respect for each other or by one party
– A lack of alignment in family priorities
– Pending and unhealed issues due to death, infidelity, financial concerns etc
– Struggle with Intimacy

It could be more than these points above but these are the constants in most unhappy marriages I have seen. At this point it is important to mention that 40% of the marriages around you today are unhappy. The divorce rates around you would attest to this fact. The other 60% comprise of both couples who are happy and those who despite being unhappy decide to keep going. This willingness to keep trying sometimes ends in unhappiness but at other times could also record improvements.

I liken this stage of marriage to the last few miles of a long-distance race. The athlete is metering out little spurts of oxygen. tired yet going the long distance. If you are in an unhappy marriage you must;

  • Emotionally detach
  • Begin a Self-healing Journey/ Re-discover Yourself
  • Get Professional Help
  • The List

You may shrug off the idea of staying in an unhappy marriage but if your partner has not become abusive and still accords you some respect you may not have a strong reason for leaving that marriage. Reasons such as not having enough finances saved, children, dreading loneliness etc. could keep people in an unhappy marriage. Some couples have gotten to that point where they manage to make this arrangement (though not ideal) work. On the other hand if your unhappiness has abuse as part of it, survival for you could mean a separation from that partner.

Coping with that marriage means that you need to;

Emotionally Detach

Living with a roommate in university describes this mode. Both of you have some form of understanding that allows you get through the days. Unfortunately an unhappy marriage requires that you withdraw emotions and stopping any expectations that things might change. At this point you and your spouse will cater to the finances, children, family and other routine issues in marriage. despite these activities you must not  allow yourself get drawn into emotional arguments.

I know this advice may trouble some of my dear readers but did you know that this is the point most marriages end in even without trying. The emotional turmoil, pain anxiety and trauma can be avoided with just this one step.

Begin a Self-healing Journey/Re-discover  Yourself

Once you stop focusing on the emotional aspect of your marriage, you begin to actually look for other ways to make yourself happy. For many clients, they start to notice aspects of their life that has been neglected for a long while. The top areas of rediscovery were in self-care, career improvement, rebuilding valuable friendships, discovering a hobby/sport/craft and improving their parenting skills.

While all these activities may just represent a distraction to most, it would be amazing for you to remind yourself that your marriage is simply one important facet of your life. these other activities are also equally important. succeeding in one of the facets could also teach you resilience while attempting to succeed in the marital aspects of your life.

Get Professional Help

Being in a marriage over a long period has a way of unifying thought patterns. Two individuals suddenly become one and each spouse suddenly make up half of that unit. In some marriages where the marriage becomes dysfunctional you have also become a contributing agent to dysfunction. This is the point you need objectivity more than anything else.

A professional marriage therapist will provide you with this in couples therapy. At this point, you partner may not be willing to come along with you but dont let it dissuade you. going in for therapy to help yourself gives you perspective and depth on the issues at hand. If you discover you have contributed greatly towards driving your marriage to this point swallow your pride and start making amends with tools acquired in-therapy.  at the end of this process you may just re-discover the better version of yourself formerly lost.

The List

Now you have detached Emotionally, ee-duscovered yourself and gotten professional help. Your mind is as objective as you can be. This is my favourite part of the entire process only to be embarked upon once you’ve gotten clarity and objectivity.

Step 1: Get out a piece of paper and write out everything about your partner that you complain about

Step 2: Attach a timeline of how long you think it could take them to change this habit if they worked on it. Then double that timeline. Can you wait that long?

Step 3: Write out every negative about yourself that you discovered in therapy. The ones you have succeed in changing write it out but for the ones you still struggle with write out how long you think it may take you to change. Then double it.

Step 4: Request for a conversation with your spouse in a civil and respectful manner. Depending on what both of you enjoy, you can have it in a relaxed atmosphere or without the kids there.

Step 5: Discuss these points as candidly as you can with each other. Do not get drawn into an emotional exchange because you have dealt with this in point 1(Emotionally detach).

After these conversations, the next steps for your marriage would be crystal clear.

Most times we are very quick to apportion blame to a spouse without really looking at the real concerns in the marriage. A spouse seeing themselves as having failed, money worries, self-identity, unrealized expectations in a spouse, transitions, feelings of being overburdened amongst many other things can contribute immensely to creating an unhappy environment.

I am only mentioning this aspects because it would only be fair on your part to consider the role these other factors may have played in bringing your marriage to this point. This is not a time to wiggle out by saying that if it affected your marriage that was simply because your partner allowed it happen. If this was so, you could have also been strong enough to handle the adverse effects this had on your marriage by staying strong for the both of you until your partner came around. Afterall you don’t allow situations affect you. This objective approach to assessment would help both of you.


Deciding to stay in an unhappy marriage rather than getting a divorce will test you in unprecedented ways. However for couples who learn to navigate this with the points mentioned, most end up finding their way back and reconnecting emotionally.  your ability to exude confidence and stand alone when absolutely necessary is an attractive trait.

Deciding to stay in an unhappy marriage does not make you weak contrary to what popular opinions out there tout rather it takes strength to do this (as long as it’s not for the sole focus of still answering Mr. or Mrs./Pretending all is still well). I truly hope this deciscion would turn out for the best for you and your partner. if you would like us to also assist your marriage, do not fail to reach out to us.

The Damage Predictor Test

This exercise is for every couple who truly need to know if their marriage is in any form of crisis. after taking the test you can score it yourselves. send the part B to anyone who you trust to tell you the whole truth about yourself.


This may not have been the most exciting of articles especially if you are caught up in a situation-ship as they call it at you workplace. However i just told you everything you need to help you navigate this affair and come out clean without losing your job or your home. If you’d like to let us know how this went for you, feel free to contact us via email.

Written by Obike Temple.
Temple Obike is a licensed marriage and family therapist, speaker, author and psychotherapist who has counseled over one thousand, two hundred clients comprising of couples, individuals, abuse victims (substance, physical, emotional and sexual) and grief-stricken clients. With over 100,000 in-counseling minutes accrued in practice.
He runs his private psychotherapy & counseling practice out of Lagos, Nigeria and has counseling centers in Abuja and Port-Harcourt. His practice also provides options for both online and on-site services.His private practice has positively empowered lives through his online counseling, podcasts, free advisory services and free online materials.  
Readership of his articles also receive a growing number of visitors alongside subscriptions to his email newsletter at templescounsel.com. His passion for empowering and uncovering the secrets to lifelong marriages and personal development led to his new book titled “Soul Bodega” available on amazon and across other online and traditional stores.Never give up on yourself! You are a journey happening through various destinations.Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit our website for more info!