I Feel Trapped In My Marriage - What Can I Do?


    6 Min Read


    Here are just a few adjectives used by people who say they feel trapped in their marriage:

    • Suffocating

    • Claustrophobic

    • Hopeless

    • Resigned

    • Stuck

    • Scared

    Feeling trapped in your marriage isn’t uncommon. Many (maybe most) people feel this way at some point. Thankfully for most, this feeling is temporary.

    Marriage should be a happy and comforting partnership. Unfortunately, under certain circumstances, for some, it can feel like being trapped, choking off your freedom and options for your future.


    If you’re perusing local “for rent” listings (just out of curiosity, of course) or wondering what life would be like without your spouse, you’re probably among the many people who’ve experienced feeling trapped in your marriage.

    There are several reasons for this, and there can be several sad outcomes if these feelings aren’t resolved.

    But feeling trapped doesn’t have to be permanent. You can take steps to make positive changes that reset your relationship and eliminate those suffocating feelings.

    What Does Feeling Trapped In Your Marriage Really Mean?

    When someone says they feel trapped in their marriage, it’s generally a way of saying they either feel controlled by their partner or ruled by their marriage. Typically, they feel like they’ve lost their identity and sense of individuality, which are the things that make us feel in control of ourselves and our lives.

    A variety of circumstances can cause feelings of being trapped.


    For some, it comes from guilt and obligation. For others, financial dependence and lack of options. And in some unfortunate situations, feeling trapped can result from verbal or emotional abuse.

    Feeling trapped in a marriage is described in similar terms regardless of the reasons behind it. Among the descriptions given by those feeling this way are,

    • “I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to.”
    • "I don’t know who I am anymore.”
    • “I don’t know who I’d be if I weren’t in this relationship.”
    • “I don’t have any options.”
    • “Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe.”
    • “I daydream about what could have been and then cry because those things aren’t possible anymore.”
    • “I feel like my future is literally hopeless, that there’s no hope for anything better than what I have now.”

    Clearly, none of these sentiments are hallmarks of someone in a happy relationship.

    Why Do I Feel Trapped In My Marriage?

    Just because a feeling is common doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Often these feelings come when there’s conflict and a breakdown in communication, and then resolve themselves as things improve.

    But that’s not always the case.

    Persistently feeling trapped in your marriage is a sign of more significant issues. The most common reasons for this feeling include,

    • Boredom and monotony. Most people appreciate a daily routine. It can bellows us to anticipate and plan effectively. But too much routine in a marriage can be the enemy of a healthy romantic relationship.

    When boredom and monotony take over, a need for excitement can arise. It can become stifling if this need isn’t being met within the marriage.

    • Personal growth and growing apart. Personal growth is a good thing. We all should strive to develop and improve ourselves. But in a marriage, you will grow apart if you don’t make a point to grow together through these personal advancements.

    How often have you heard someone in a relationship say, “We’re just not the same people anymore” or “We’ve grown apart”?


    Love bombing can make you feel trapped by making you feel both flattered and guilty simultaneously, creating a sense of obligation.

    • Fear. We all know how fear can be paralyzing. It can also produce a trapped feeling by creating the sense that you can’t leave or wouldn’t survive leaving. These fears may be of change, failure, or just being alone.

    • A controlling partner. While love bombing is one form of control, there are many others. Placing rules on you, being overly jealous, or financially manipulative are all controlling behaviors.

    • Obligation. There are many ways to feel obligated. Guilt or misperceived responsibility for your partner’s happiness can be created through love bombing, but others include obligation inspired by having a family, a sick or depressed spouse, or because you’re the primary breadwinner in the relationship.

    But perhaps the biggest contributor to feeling trapped in your marriage is,

    • Lack of communication. Good communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Without it, there are many repercussions, and feeling trapped is one of them (the rest are no better). And if we really break it down, several of the reasons above could be avoided by maintaining good communication.

    How To Stop Feeling Trapped

    One of the biggest frustrations when your marriage makes you feel trapped is feeling powerless. You don’t know how to fix your marriage, and you don’t feel you can end it. It’s a recipe for unhappiness and possibly depression.

    The good news is you can make changes to stop feeling trapped.

    • Take a look at yourself. Are there reasons coming from within you that are making you feel trapped?

    Sometimes feeling uncomfortable with yourself can create a stifling feeling within you that you then project onto your relationship. The need to escape may be more about your self-esteem and not wanting to feel like you do, rather than dissatisfaction with your spouse.

    It's easier to blame external factors than internal ones, and feeling like your marriage is trapping you is a common response.


    • Take a look at your spouse. Are they doing anything specific that’s holding you back? Most often, the answer is no.

    • Consider your feelings. If feeling trapped in your relationship is because you’ve fallen out of love, you’ll need to work on those feelings. Most often, the love is just buried under the busyness of life and the lack of communication and attention to one another. But sometimes, it's more than that.

    • Talk. Never underestimate the power of a conversation. Whether you feel like you love your spouse but are stuck, or you’re feeling like the love is gone and you’re stuck, talking is necessary.

    Most of us can agree that what we want is a happy relationship. But you can’t have a happy relationship with an unhappy partner.

    My point?

    It’s likely that your spouse wants you to be happy and doesn't want you to feel trapped by them. So, a conversation about how you’re feeling and what’s contributing to those feelings can be a catalyst toward the right changes.

    • Become more autonomous. There’s nothing more freeing than taking charge of things. This doesn’t mean you should behave like you aren’t married, but respectfully becoming more independent can make a difference.

    So, take a solo weekend away, change your look, or open a bank account to save for something special. These are just a few ways you can take charge and shake the trapped feeling.

    If you’re still feeling trapped in your marriage after trying to make positive changes, counseling is a good next step. A professional marriage counselor can help you understand where these feelings come from and what the best next steps are.

    Dr. Kurt works with people on a weekly basis who feel trapped in their marriage. According to him,

    It's common to know how we feel, but not know why. For example, 'I know I'm unhappy, but I can't figure out why.' Seeking answers to questions like this that you can't find yourself is one of the primary drivers for getting counseling. As a result, I have people tell me regularly in counseling sessions that they feel trapped in their marriage. Because of my psychology training and years of counseling experience I have the ability to see things that they cannot see themselves. And contrary to their assumption, the answer to 'why' is usually not simple either, but typically complicated and multi-faceted."

    A Note About Being Trapped In A Marriage That’s Abusive

    Feeling trapped in a marriage that’s become abusive is a different circumstance. Nothing about physical, verbal, or emotional abuse is okay or should be tolerated.


    Unfortunately, it’s extremely common to feel trapped when you’re in an abusive marriage. If this is the case, the first priority is your physical and mental safety, and your family's. This may mean leaving an unsafe situation and will certainly require professional help.

    An abusive relationship doesn’t just get better by itself. And hoping an abusive partner will change on their own is more fantasy than reality.

    If you feel trapped in a marriage that’s become abusive, there’s help available. If family or friends aren’t an option, the national abuse hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.

    What To Take Away

    Feeling trapped in any way is uncomfortable and feeling trapped in your marriage is particularly so.


    The good news is that this feeling usually doesn’t need to become the status quo.

    If it feels like your marriage is stifling you, remember the following things:

    • You’re not alone. Feeling trapped in your marriage is not an uncommon experience.

    • It’s possible for the trapped feeling to pass, but you can’t count on that. Just waiting for change isn’t a wise plan.

    • Once you identify why you’re feeling trapped, there are changes you can make. If these efforts don’t work, consider seeking the help of a professional counselor.

    Marriage should be a balanced partnership between two people. Feeling trapped in your marriage means the balance is off, and change is needed. With some effort toward making these changes, it’s likely you’ll see things from a new perspective.


    Looking for More? Check Out These Articles

    Read Comments from Others with Similar Experiences Below

    Like what you read?

    Guy Stuff's Counseling Men Blog shares real stories from our counseling sessions, giving practical solutions and answers to the challenges men and women face.

    Use your email to subscribe below.

    Subscribe to get in-depth articles, right in your inbox: