My Husband is Miserable in Our Marriage: What You Can and Can’t Do

my husband is miserable in our marriage

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

From a reader: My husband is miserable in our marriage. We have been together for over 20 years. Things started getting really bad when he became very unhappy with this job (and life in general it seemed) about 5 years ago. We seem to have very different ideas about how to approach life’s challenges. I just take things as they come and understand that it’s life and it gets better. When something isn’t working out for him, he becomes very depressed and impulsive and has fits of rage directed toward me.


Things have never gotten physical, but I find myself increasingly frightened when these episodes happen. He yells and slams doors, throws and destroys things. He also makes threatening statements. Eventually it passes, things calm down and we go back to normal.


He is currently unemployed after leaving his job without a new one lined up (this is an example of the impulsiveness). He didn’t consult me or make a real plan. That was a year and half ago. We also moved to a new city, which he hates, of course.


We have not explored couples therapy, as I know he would not go. I don’t want a divorce. There are hopeful moments when I think we can get back on track. I love him very much and want him to be happy. I worry constantly about his job situation, as does he. This, along with not liking where we live, just adds so much stress to our relationship. I am not sure how much more our relationship can endure.


Emily Rozwadowski, Estate Planning Attorney


My advice for: My Husband is Miserable in Our Marriage:

You can shower your spouse with love. You can give him or her gifts, you can cook him gourmet meals every night. You can buy sexy lingerie and seduce him every night. You can take her on extravagant trips. You can tell her jokes to make her laugh. You can hug and kiss him every minute, making him feel cherished and adored.

You can give him or her the best advice you know how. And you can be his or her best friend by supporting them in good times and in bad. But here is where the relationship advice comes in:

But, there is one thing I cannot put on the above list because it is impossible for you to give this to your spouse: happiness.


You cannot give your husband happiness, or the drive to make himself or herself happier. You can make suggestions on how you think he can become happier, but you can’t do it for him. You cannot make someone a happy person if he or she isn’t. What I am saying is, if your husband is miserable in your marriage, is unhappy, and you are doing everything you can to try to make him or happy, I hate to say this, but you are wasting your time.


Karen Covy - Live the life you truly want to live.


Whether it’s because of an unfulfilling career, the inability to deal with past trauma, addiction, physical appearance or any other source of unhappiness, if someone is unhappy, it puts a huge strain on the relationship for this reason.

The miserable, unhappy person will lash out at the happy one, possibly blame him or her for the unhappiness, pick fights, and just not be pleasant or enjoyable to be around. The happy person, on the other hand will continue to try and try and try to make the unhappy person happy, and it won’t work. So, that person will either give up, and the couple will live like strangers, or the happy person will feel frustrated and hopeless and maybe even like a failure (like it’s their fault.)


Vestor Capital


I cannot express how badly I feel for this woman. First of all, it seems she is walking on eggshells, which is the worst way to live. She seems afraid of her husband, who seems extremely mentally abusive and self-absorbed. I also wonder if he is jealous of her happiness.


What this woman does not realize is that his happiness is completely out of her control. She tried moving to a new city for him and that didn’t even work! I realize he is her husband, and I very much respect her effort to help her husband, but what she needs to come to grips with is, he has to help himself.


The Center for Divorce Recovery



I am not telling this woman she should leave her husband, but his eyes need opening. He sounds very very angry and bitter. The couple very much needs therapy—him for obvious reasons, her for being the victim in an abusive relationship.


I hate to say this, but things will continue to get worse if something doesn’t change. Plus, are there children involved here? If so, I am cringing that they are witnessing this kind of behavior, along with a very unhappy parent.


Cherie Morris, J.D. - Divorce Coach and
Founder, Dear Divorce Coach


I wish I had some better advice for this woman, but the only advice I can give her for “my husband is miserable in our marriage” is that her husband needs to get help. She cannot control him, fix him, or make him happier. She can try to help him by explaining that she is here to listen, and she can also help him find resources to get help: (career counselor, therapist, etc.) but that’s as far as it goes.

I will tell her that life is very short, and that no one deserves to live with fear or on eggshells. It is the hardest life there is, in my opinion.


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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    6 Responses to “My Husband is Miserable in Our Marriage: What You Can and Can’t Do”

    1. Amanda Alamprese

      I find myself in a very similar situation as the woman who sent you that message. I am not married but have been with my partner for over three years now. I realize not being married makes the committal aspect more diminished, but my partner and I both have similar sentiments about the legal binding of marriage and are not in a position where being married would help either of us (both of us are still financially dependent on our parents because of schooling, and I am physically dependent due to disability). But we have both made a serious commitment to one another as partners in a relationship.
      We both have major codependency issues (he’ll disagree with that statement despite the evidence of it) and a fear of being alone, which adds stress to our relationship because of our current long-distance situation. He currently attends a university about six hours away from our home (well we both do but I am on a personal hiatus to get myself back on my feet). While at first the distance seemed daunting, I have actually found it to be a huge relief to get that physical space. We were almost always by each other’s side 100% of the time during this past school year 2015-16, so naturally all the little irritations and annoyances with one another we held inside eventually built up into resentment and bitterness and we found ourselves both walking on eggshells around the other for our own reasons: he was preoccupied with not upsetting or offending me (because my clinical depression had made me prone to such reactions), and I was afraid of his angry outbursts and ever-shortening fuse and I perpetuated my approval-seeking behavior in response, which fed his paranoia that I was upset with him and would anger him, and the cycle continued. You know the cycle I’m sure. It fed into the tension between us. Honestly the only thing saving us right now is this current physical distance between us now. It is requiring us to connect emotionally and be vocal with our feelings as we are not physically there for one another to attempt to do it non-verbally with our usual go-to actions (which is often what starts our cycle of arguments and outbursts). Being at home without him is requiring me to focus on myself and be responsible for my own happiness. With the help of my therapist and a book he suggested titled Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer I’m learning to not depend on the approval of others (my partner especially) and to battle the cognitive distortion in my brain and the negative thoughts and feelings that come from it.
      I wish the woman who sent that message is in a position where she can get some time and space to herself… even if it’s just to get a mani-pedi done every other week or a spa day to be able to rejuvenate after having her energy sucked away by her husband’s unhappiness… It took me almost leaving my partner for him to realize that I was serious about changes needing to be made with BOTH of us, so maybe she needs to do something similar to show that there are indeed consequences to treating your wife this way (which is the way my therapist phrased it when I told him about a time that my partner locked me out of the apt after an argument and told me he would come let me in “when he felt like it”.) Over the phone I made it clear to my partner that I didn’t need to take that behavior from him anymore and unless he made an effort to correct his behavior then I am gone–he had an outburst, and he tried to call my bluff by telling me “don’t call me. don’t text me” and hanging up, but when he realized I wasn’t bluffing and that I didn’t in fact call him or text him after that (because really how much more obvious can that bait be) and that this isn’t coming out of a vacuum, he eased up, and we were able to have an actual discussion the following day about the both of us, what we each have problems with, and what we each need to focus on. It’s an ever-constant discussion that needs to take place in order for us to BOTH become better people and better partners.

    2. Drophammer77

      I’ve noticed so many people going through divorce or their spouse is having an affair are to too quickly to claim their spouse is a narcissist. Anyone showing selfish behavior are showing traits but it is only a fresh layer of snow over an iceberg of what a real narcissist hides from everyone. Majority of betrayed spouses will defend their narcissist spouse even through the most vicious divorces. When your alienated from family, friends, everyone you have been in contact with (Through the narcissist) you are blamed for their behavior because your conditioned to believe (You are the problem). Kids involved? My God… I am truly sorry for you and kids for what your going through. I understand, believe me I do and two years of a vicious divorce all I did was defend myself. Accusation after accusations and some of them are so disturbing but I proved every single one was lied about. Do NOT over estimate a true narcissist. When your told your their soul mate, that your the greatest husband/wife they could ever of hoped for… When a real narcissist knows they have conditioned you to be %100 dependent on them & they have set up a knew lover/victim you will (Like a 2×4 to the face) you will be gaslighted, pushed, pulled. No matter what you do. I thought (I knew) I carried enough love for the both of us. My wife and kids (Family my life) I believed in my marriage. Matter of morning to evening I found out I was the cause of her unhappiness.. I knew the blaming game was not the way to reconciliation so I willingly accepted all blame. Even for her affair with another married (Family man). I forgave her and all it did was make her resent me more. I lost the weight like you. I got the disgusted look. (It hurts) Told I was boring & when everyone thought she was nuts for doing what she was to me when I proved with my actions I loved her she found new “Friends”. Show your kids what morals are. Show them what the right thing is so they don’t follow in your spouses footsteps destroying their kids and another family. Why would anyone want a spell on their spouse. I was very close to calling but it is wrong. You would be manipulating them like they are you and then you would be no different. It is wrong. One thing my ex hated is through all her manipulation I was able to have inward peace. Happiness comes from inside ourselves. It is a choice . To be selflessly for others. Our thoughts are so powerful that we can destroy our marriage by doubts. Everyone has same mundane problems behind closed doors, it is a vow, a commitment to stand by your spouse through thick but with a narcissist. … I’m still shaking my head. You will Never give them happiness. You will never make them see your love. They don’t want to see. They know what is right and wrong but the bottom fact is they don’t care because their unhappiness is your fault. If anyone (Family or friend says otherwise they will too be discarded from them and their family) My Ex Mother N Law is a full fledge narcissist who raised a daughter to be just like her making same choices that she did to her first husband. Knowing the effects it had on her kids she enabled her daughters affair knowing what future consequences lay ahead. Difference is…. I am still here. I hope she reads this. They destroyed, ripped apart everything I believed in and manipulated me and Court so my ex would look like a victim. They failed. I have always known where happiness comes from. Comes by selfless loving actions unto other’s. Their bitter and miserable still blaming me for their unhappiness. It is SO hard not to become bitter. Don’t let them have that satisfaction. Forgive them then Enforce No contact. You will NEVER get a real Narcissist to say their sorry for their behavior let alone acknowledged what they did was wrong. They don’t care if what they do upsets you. They don’t want you having closure because their mindset is only about control, period. No Contact, It is Only way to heal and live your life. Be accountable to your children so hopefully they don’t follow in their footsteps. Forgive them so You can move forward. (Like the Narcissist told you to accept their blame in the beginning and they wanted you to move forward.) In reality they want you to move forward in a way accepting what they did was okay and that they still control you being controlling your emotions. It’s all about their Outward appearance of divorce being mutual. Don’t lie to your kids. Ever. You will only hurt them in future. They need your love and depend on your honesty. Have integrity. Forgiveness does Not mean reconciliation. Cannot ever Co-parent with a narcissist. Their is a saying. Different house different rules. When exchanging of kids takes place I pretend the ex is not their. I have to. I gave everything to that woman and her family. Gave my heart and Soul and I was/am despised for it. Because I would not yell back during her raging episoepisoI would not go out to bars without her because she did. I would not flirt with other women in front or behind her back. Why? Because I knew deep down it is wrong. How could I face my grown up kids in future and explain that? Thank God I don’t have to. As it’s only been under a year since divorce was finalized and I can put my head on pillow and sleep with clean conscious. Boring I might be to her but I don’t care anymore. I’m what I have always been, happy. Also if I could give one advice, don’t let the Past hurt block you from giving love or receiving love from another.

    3. Mu Origin

      I am also an Introvert and that was the #1 reason why my ex wanted a Divorce. I agree with everything Phil wrote. Especially “Introversion is not something that we can just switch off. It is a fundamental part of who we are.” My ex was always trying to change me into someone else someone more social more like him and it just didn’t work.

    4. Brandon Honey

      I went through a divorce about 3 years ago and I think in some ways it was that me and my wife were TOO similar. We both had selfish tendencies, but also insecurities, we had the same and I think the same destructive nature at times. But don’t get me wrong there was also a lot of love there, it was really tough, but I think in the end it was for the best.

      Great post – thanks for sharing. I guess everyone is different.

    5. James Love

      I think the worst is when your partner is in pain and you can’t do anything to help.

      My best friend has a girlfriend that suffers from dry eyes, and she is constantly in pain due to hear tear film (the film covering the eye) not working properly. From my understanding, the eye secrets both watery and oily tears to help lubricate our eyes, both of which serve different functions and she lacks the oily tears, otherwise known as meibomian gland dysfunction. She’s left with chronically tired, burning and irritated eyes. It’s awful.

      The point is, it doesn’t matter how much he loves his partner or understands her disease, there is nothing he can to help her him. Which is debilitating in itself on his side, seeing her in pain all the time.

      Anyway, enough of this negative chat, this was a great read. Thank you x

    6. Chloe

      This sounds exactly like what I just went through. I still haven’t recovered from living with an unhappy spouse for so long, and am currently trying to heal from divorce, which taking care of 2 kids. It’s a nightmare.

      Thank you for your lovely website. Coming on here every day is helping me feel less alone.


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