An unhappy marriage is typically defined when one or both people feel mostly negative feelings toward each other, such as bitterness and resentment.

A person may frequently argue with their spouse and experience feelings of despair about their marriage. Staying in an unhappy marriage can have an impact on both the mental and physical health of a person.

This article discusses some of the consequences of staying in an unhappy marriage and what a person can do.

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An unhappy marriage can involve a lack of connection, arguments, and negative feelings toward the other person. Living in a constant state of uncertainty and emotional distress can cause an increase in stress levels.

A prolonged increase in stress levels can have a negative impact on the mental and physical health of a person, including:

  • changes in brain function, such as memory, learning, decision-making, and attention
  • an impact on the nervous system
  • a weakening of the immune system
  • an increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • an increase in the risk of a heart attack
  • change of appetite
  • digestive issues, such as constipation
  • changes in hormone levels

Learn more about the effects of stress on the body.

Self-esteem describes the sense of self-worth that a person has in themselves. A 5-year study suggests that there are significant links between being in an unhappy marriage and decreased self-esteem.

Staying in an unhappy marriage may involve frequent arguments, and a person may experience feelings of rejection. Studies show that self-esteem is lower when a person experiences rejection.

Having low self-esteem can have a detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of a person. 2019 research suggests that there is a link between low self-esteem and mental health conditions, such as:

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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A 2019 study shows that conflict can be particularly destructive to a marriage and can be damaging to the well-being of each person.

Over time, a person in an unhappy marriage may start to harbor negative feelings toward their partner such as resentment, irritation, and disappointment. If each person does not address these feelings, they may start to emerge in frequent arguments and conflict.

Staying in an unhappy marriage could prevent a person from meeting another person who may be more suited to them.

Staying in an unhappy marriage could also restrict a person from pursuing a lifestyle that makes them happy. It may stop them from following their passions and broadening their horizons.

Staying in an unhappy marriage can have a negative impact on children in the relationship.

A 2018 review of research suggests that a child witnessing frequent conflict at home can negatively affect them emotionally, socially, academically, and behaviorally.

It can even have a negative impact on their future relationships.

If a person chooses to stay in an unhappy marriage, there are several things they can do to try and repair the marriage or reduce conflict.

Highlight positives

A person should try and share the positive attributes they like about their partner and what they like about the marriage.

When speaking about the aspects of the marriage that they dislike, a person can try and frame it in a positive way. A person can focus on the desire to make positive changes, rather than the negative place things may be at presently.

Talk openly and honestly

It is important that each person speaks honestly and openly about how they are feeling within the marriage.

When the other person is sharing their feelings, a person should try and listen actively. Listening actively involves:

  • not interrupting
  • trying to listen from the perspective of the other person
  • staying calm
  • having empathy for how the person may be feeling

Make a commitment

If a person is going to stay in a marriage that may be unhappy at the time, they can make a commitment with their partner to try and work on the marriage as best as they can. Making small commitments to each other can help manage the situation. Some of these commitments can include:

  • spending quality time together
  • each having a certain amount of alone time at the home
  • equally sharing household responsibilities
  • trying to avoid conflict by remaining calm and empathetic when negative situations arise

Know when to move on

If a person feels they have tried everything to repair their marriage and they are still unhappy, then it may be time to move on.

A person may also decide it is time to move on if they are experiencing abuse in the marriage or for other personal reasons.

A person may want to seek professional support if they feel that they are struggling to overcome issues in the relationship, or if they no longer know how to try and repair the marriage.

A person may also want to seek professional support if they feel they are unable to speak to their partner without it resulting in conflict.

Read about online couples counseling.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about marriage.

What are the psychological effects of a loveless marriage?

An unhappy marriage can lead to mental health conditions such as depression. It may also have a detrimental effect on how a person sleeps.

What are the consequences of an unhealthy marriage?

An unhealthy marriage can affect the physical and mental health of a person including how the body functions, heart problems, and a low immune system.

Mental health resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.

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Staying in an unhappy marriage can result in harboring negative feelings toward the other person, frequent arguments, and conflict.

A person may experience increased stress levels which may negatively impact their physical and mental health.

If a person chooses to stay in a marriage that may be unhappy at the time, they may be able to reduce conflict by speaking openly and honestly, listening with empathy, and seeking professional support.

A person may also decide that they no longer want to remain in an unhappy marriage and that it is time to move on.