20 tips to survive a bad marriage without divorce

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Say you’re stuck in a *pretty* bad marriage – but you can’t divorce your spouse (which is the case in most countries.)

Then again, you may be reluctant to divorce them, for you still might be able to work things out.  

The good news is that you can get through this. It’s just a matter of following these 20 tips on surviving a lousy union – sans divorce. 

Let’s get started.

1) Let go of your expectations…

When you married your spouse, you probably expected them to be this or that. Sadly, it’s one of the reasons why you’re going through a rough marriage patch right now

As therapist John A. Johnson, Ph.D., puts it: “Expectations are premeditated resentments (for) human beings have a natural tendency to pin their hopes for happiness on fulfilled expectations.”

In his article entitled ‘Psychology of Expectations,’ Johnson was keen to remind his readers that “merely expecting something to happen will not make it happen.”

True enough, this applies perfectly to your marriage issues. 

Expecting your spouse to do something (and finding out they didn’t) will make you feel resentful (if you’re not resentful already.) 

See, if you want to survive your bad marriage, you need to let go of the expectations that cloud your mind.

As with everything, acceptance is key. 

2) …But try your hardest to mend the marriage 

When it comes to surviving a bad marriage, you will need a lot of external guidance to help get things back on track.

The best example of this is Mend the Marriage, which was created by relationship expert Brad Browning. It’s a course that has helped thousands of married couples reconcile their differences. 

In this free video, you’ll learn some of the biggest marriage mistakes people make without realizing it. 

And crucially – you’ll pick up some excellent tips on rectifying things with your partner. 

So rather than let things run their course and potentially lead to divorce, take back control and decide the outcome of your love life. 

The great thing about Brad’s advice is that you can use it even if your spouse isn’t as enthusiastic about repairing your marriage as you are. 

All you have to do is check out this quick video

It could be the difference between growing old together or calling it quits ahead of time. 

3) Try to forgive – and forget

I know it’s hard to forgive your spouse, especially if they cheated on you. But if you want to heal yourself and survive your bad marriage, it’s essential that you do it. 

Not only is it good for your mental health, but it’s also beneficial for your physical health! After all, experts say that forgiveness can help: 

  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Minimize pain
  • Improve sleep 
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and subsequently, the risk of heart attack 

And should you find it hard to forgive, Dr. Karen Swartz of Johns Hopkins Medicine has these tips for you: 

  • Reflect and remember. 
  • Empathize with the other person (in this case, your spouse.)
  • Let go of expectations. 

Doing these will help you decide to forgive your spouse – sincerely.

Swartz explains: “People whose forgiveness came partly from understanding that no one is perfect were able to resume a normal relationship with the other person, even if that person never apologized.” 

And most importantly, don’t forget to forgive yourself. 

Remember: “If your spouse had an affair, recognize that the affair is not a reflection of your worth,” discusses Swartz. 

4) Don’t stop communicating with your spouse

Even though you’re in a bad marriage, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop communicating with your partner.

If any, it’s a sign for you to reach out more. 

For starters, it can help rebuild the trust that you both may have broken along the way.

“When you truly communicate with your partner, it shows that you feel safe enough to express your concerns, needs, and fears. As a result, it builds trust and fosters memorable moments in your relationship.”

5) Avoid bringing up the past!

Say you decided to have the ‘talk.’ No matter how heated the discussion may be, try your hardest not to bring up the past. 

I know it’s an excellent diversionary tactic, but if you want to survive your marriage, you should avoid it at all costs. 

Why? Well, according to experts, doing so will just result in the following: 

  • Prevent the issues in the here and now from being resolved
  • Bring more negative emotions
  • Escalate small fights into bigger ones
  • Add more resentment 

Instead of talking about the past, focus more on the future. You can’t change the past – but you and your spouse can always do something about the future. 

6) Tackle one issue at a time

Maybe you’re in a toxic type of relationship, and you’re dealing with countless issues. While it could be tempting to lay them all on the table when you communicate, don’t.

Instead, discuss one issue at a time. 

Just think of it: if you go ahead and throw out the 30 problems you have with your husband, there’s a big chance that you won’t be able to resolve any of them!

“It’s almost impossible to deal with numerous old problems for recollections may differ,” explains a University of Texas at Austin report.

To make matters worse, discussing multiple things at once can lead to the ‘kitchen sink’ effect. It’s “where people throw in all their complaints while not allowing anything to be resolved.”

At the end of the day, it’s vital to deal with only one issue at a time, especially if you want to address every one of them. 

Simply put, “don’t introduce other topics until each is fully discussed.”

7) Seek the help of a relationship coach

Do you find it hard to communicate? Or maybe you can’t help but bring up the past?

Well then, it may be best to speak to a relationship coach about your situation.

With a professional relationship coach, you can get advice tailored to your unique situation…

Relationship Hero is a popular site where highly trained relationship coaches help people work through complex relationship issues. Their popularity boils down to how skilled their coaches are. 

Why am I so confident that they can help you?

After recently experiencing a tough patch in my relationship, I reached out to them for help. From the moment I got in touch, I was given genuine, helpful advice, and was finally able to see my relationship issues with absolute clarity.

I was blown away by how kind and empathetic my coach was. 

Within minutes, you could be receiving life-changing advice on how to navigate and repair the issues you’re facing in your relationship.

Click here to get started.

8) Always be calm

Maybe you’re the type of person who can’t sleep after a big fight. But if you keep pushing the issue – when neither of you has calmed down – chances are it’ll only lead to a bigger conflict.

So before you communicate with your partner, ensure you’re the calmest you can be. If you’re not, you’ll just end up dredging the past.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s counterproductive, for it will just bring more negative emotions into the mix.  

So if you find yourself harboring animosity before (or during) your conversation, psychologist Sarah Rozenhuler recommends “Taking a couple of deep breaths, counting to ten or getting a glass of water.” 

Doing so “generates a ‘moment of choice’ [that] enables us to consciously choose what to do or say next.”

9) Be polite

You’re probably *this* close to losing your patience. But if you want to survive your marriage for another day (and, of course, the several days ahead), make sure to remain civil and polite.

That means saying ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ or not going crazy about how they’re handling things (or your kids.) 

See, if you explode every time you interact, your spouse will end up harboring resentment towards you. 

With the resentment on a full tank, things are sure to get quite heated quickly – which is not good if you’re living under the same roof. 

Being polite towards your spouse also sets an excellent example for your kids (if you have any.) You don’t want them to see their parents at each other’s throats every damn time! 

10) Try to detach yourself emotionally

Detaching yourself from your spouse may sound alarming, but it’s necessary if you want to survive a bad marriage and not resort to divorce. 

“Emotional detachment in relationships is a process through which you disconnect yourself from a romantic partner on an emotional level,” explains a Marriage.com report.

“Usually, this is carried out as an act of self-defense, especially when you begin to notice a downward spiral in the relationship.” 

Needless to say, a bad marriage is a solid example of a ‘downward spiral in the relationship.’ 

Even with detachment’s lousy rap, practicing this in your marriage can help you “begin your journey toward self-love and improved esteem.” 

And according to experts, it can help you “make clear-headed decisions about exactly where you’re headed.”

On top of that, detachment can also teach you to become more independent. This skill will surely come in handy when dealing with a needy and codependent partner.

11) Keep your physical distance

If your spouse’s mere presence often sparks up a fight, then the best thing you both could do is to keep your distance. 

I know this can be hard to achieve in a small apartment or a cramped condo. But as they always say, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

For example, you could stay in the bedroom while your spouse lingers in the common room. 

And, if you have the finances to live in separate places, that will indeed work. 

That said, you can choose not to let things get to this point. You can still take action before it’s too late to save your marriage. 

I mentioned Brad Browning earlier – he’s widely regarded as one of the top experts in saving marriages. 

In this simple yet genuine video, you’ll learn some valuable tips on what to do to improve your relationship and salvage the love and commitment you once shared.

12) …But do spend some time with each other (for the children, of course)

While keeping your distance works, you can’t always stay far apart, especially if you have kids. So, for their sake, try to spend time with your spouse, especially during shared activities, such as eating or going out to the movies. 

And, even if you’re already living in different homes, it’s still good to spend considerable time with them. 

“Adult children who went on to have the best relationships with their parents were the ones who spent equal time at both their mother’s home and their father’s home when they were very young,” explains a LiveScience report.  

This is not the only benefit of shared parenting, though. As reported by the Business Insider:

“Children who spend at least 35 percent time with each parent, rather than live with one and visit the other…do better academically, socially, and psychologically.” 

So as you see, what you and your spouse do will all be for the kids’ sake! 

13) Explore something new with your spouse

If you’ve been with your partner for a while, you may find that everything else is routine or habitual.

There’s no longer a spark of excitement, which may be why you’ve lost your feelings for them

So, if you’re looking to survive – and perhaps, rekindle the fire in your marriage, Joree Rose, LMFT, recommends doing something new.

“Make it fun, be creative, get out of your comfort zone — do new things together and you’ll find new and wonderful aspects to your relationship,” explained Rose in her NBC News Better interview.

Add to that, doing something new will help you and your spouse enter a beginner’s mind, which makes you both “open-minded, flexible and creative.” 

According to Kara Lissy, LCSW: 

“The positive attributes of Beginner’s Mind can extend into our relationship and lead us to be more curious, less judgmental and more willing to learn about one another… The novelty of an unknown situation allows for a renewed, refreshed perspective that can extend to the way the couple views one another.”

14) Go to a couple’s retreat

Keeping your distance from your spouse is one thing. But if that doesn’t work, you can do a seemingly contradictory thing – and spend more time together (and closer) in a couple’s retreat. 

Explains Rose: 

“When you intentionally take the time to step out of your routine and give yourself the space to delve into deeper aspects of yourself or your relationship, it guides you towards your growth and healing; it’s amazing what can transpire and transform.”

15) Join relationship support groups

You’re not alone. 

There are other people in bad marriages, and you’ll benefit greatly from interacting with them.

That’s the beauty of support groups. They “bring together people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences.”

They’ve been there, and they’ve done that. That’s why they’re the best people to ask, especially when it comes to coping strategies and whatnot. 

Simply put, joining a relationship support group may help you: 

  • Gain a sense of hope and/or empowerment
  • Stay motivated throughout your marriage issues
  • Talk more honestly about your feelings
  • Feel less lonely, isolated, or anxious

You can try to find a relationship/marriage support group in your area here

16) Don’t dismiss therapy

If the tips mentioned above don’t seem to work – or if you think you’re at your breaking point – know that it wouldn’t hurt to seek marriage counseling or couples therapy.

“Marriage counseling affords you and your spouse numerous ways to bring about change that you would not normally know how to accomplish on your own. It provides a safe and supportive environment for you to identify and communicate the issues, feelings and behaviors that are bothering you, to facilitate understanding and positive change,” explains Dartmouth College’s Healthy Exchange. 

Simply put, therapy can teach you techniques and strategies that’ll help you survive (or even reinvigorate) your marriage. 

Remember: “Divorcing couples who never attempt to solve their problems by seeking the help of counseling, are throwing their marriages away without even trying.”

17) Do some self-reflection

What is it that led to your marital problems? While it may be your spouse who contributed to the bulk of the problem, there’s a chance that you might have done something as well.

That’s why it’s essential to do some self-reflection, which allows you to look neutrally at your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions.

You see, self-reflection is “an essential skill for personal growth. Without it, we walk around unconscious and often reactive to others and even our own selves.”

Most importantly, it “might assist you in choosing more healthy responses and changing behaviors (even thoughts) that aren’t working well for you.”

Who knows? Reflecting on your thoughts and emotions may just be the nudge you need to fix your marriage for good. 

18) Go ahead and rediscover yourself

Your bad marriage may have led you to lose your thoughts, interests, and yourself. So, if you want to get through this, you need to do yourself a favor.

You need to reflect on yourself – and even detach yourself – to rediscover yourself. According to Kurt Smith, Psy.D. of PsychCentral, you can do this by: 

  • becoming the best parent possible
  • developing closer friendships
  • performing well at work

Remember: rediscovering yourself also means taking better care (and loving yourself), which is something I’ll discuss in detail later. 

19) Heal yourself

If you’re deeply wounded by your bad marriage, you’ll need to heal yourself to survive it.

In other words, you need to stop with your reckless optimism – e.g., thinking that tomorrow will always be a better day for your relationship.

Newsflash: more often than not, it won’t. 

And, if you’re trapped in a vicious marriage cycle, you can expect the toxicity to continue. 

That said, the key to survival is moving forward and healing your emotional scars and wounds. And to do this, author Diana Raab, Ph.D. recommends doing (or some) of the following:

  • Grounding meditation, where you take deep breaths and release the negative energy. 
  • Resonant breathing, where you change your breathing patterns to attain a ‘consciousness shift.’
  • Journaling, which helps increase “self-awareness while also allowing you to tap into your subconscious mind.” 
  • Inner visualization, where you radiate the energy of a troubled area (your marriage) outwards and pull the universe’s positive energy in. 

20) Most importantly, love yourself

Unsurprisingly, your bad marriage has gotten (and kept you) down. 

Most days, “You talk negatively about yourself and things that happened in your life.” Worse, you may have a lot of “self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-dislike.”

Unfortunately, these are signs that you no longer love yourself. But if you want to get through your lousy marriage sans the divorce, then you must learn to love yourself. 

For one, a report has shown, “Having more self-compassion builds resilience in the face of adversity, helping people to recover more quickly from romantic separation.”

See, it’s the very thing you need if you want to get through your union whole – and unscathed. 

And, if you’re finding it hard to love yourself more, experts recommend doing any (or a combination) of the following:

  • Loving-kindness meditation or affectionate breathing
  • Practices such as ‘soothing touch’ or ‘self-compassionate’ letter writing
  • Yoga 

Reading through these 100 inspirational self-esteem quotes will also help! 

Bottom line

By now, you should have a better understanding of how to survive a bad marriage without divorce. 

The truth is, being married is hard. 

There are plenty of reasons to call it quits and give up, but only you know for sure if your marriage is worth fighting for. 

And if it is, if you want to get back the love and commitment you once shared with your spouse, don’t give up just yet. 

I mentioned Brad Browning earlier. His Mend the Marriage course offers practical, real-life advice that could help you revive your marriage. 

Here’s a link to his video once again

Before writing your marriage off, it’s well worth watching the video and learning where you went wrong and how to rectify it. 

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Click here to get started.

The above link will give you $50 off your first session - an exclusive offer for Love Connection readers.

Did you like our article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.