Mental Help Net
Relationship Problems
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews
Therapist Search
Find a Therapist:
 (USA/CAN only)

Use our Advanced Search to locate a therapist outside of North America.

Related Topics

Family & Relationship Issues
Homosexuality & Bisexuality

Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Unhappy Wife = Unhealthy Life?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 12th 2009


couple back to each otherCNN recently highlighted a study at the University of Utah where researchers studies 276 couples to measure the effects on marital distress on health. The couples were middle aged and were in the relationship for an average of 27 years. They found that 27 percent of women were unhappy in their marriage, while 22 percent of men were unhappy. However, it was the unhappy women, not the men who showed the adverse health effects. Why?

It's important to note that these couples were in Utah which has a heavy Mormon population with a very low divorce rate. People may stay in marriages even if very unhappy. It's stressful to be in an unhappy marriage and when stress occurs that raises blood pressure and makes the body work overtime as it is in a constant state of either fighting, fleeing, or freezing in response to the other person.  Other studies have also found that women more naturally value relationships more than men. So when a relationship is souring it would make sense that more often than not, it is affects women on a deeper level.

We need to take the results of this study with a grain of salt as it could also be that most couples in this study lived in a Patriarchal system where the man had the perceived control in the household so it was the woman who was in more of a constant state of fight or flight as she was less often the aggressor.

Even so, often in times when marriages are in trouble people tend to go to their corners, throw up their walls, and shut down. This decreases communication, but also increases stress in the body as the emotions that are there are stuck and just create tension. Imagine if you were angry or sad and you just kept it in all the time. Many of us may not need to imagine this as it has become a way of life. This suppression saps our energy and makes us tired and tense.

One way to begin to release this and connect back into the relationship is by first paying attention to ourselves. We can learn to be present to our feelings, acknowledging them as they are there. We can also learn to imagine these hurt parts of ourselves as little children who need to be taken care of.  In taking moments to hold our hurt emotions in our minds and send kind messages to them, we begin to create a state of resonance within ourselves which leads to a greater sense of self confidence and self trust. In doing this practice, we can now be able to be more present with our partners and try and understand their internal worlds of thoughts, feelings, and emotions or putting ourselves in their shoes. This may create a sense of interpersonal security with less defenses and more connection.

This will most likely lead to better physical, emotional, and relational health. May you have the courage to kindness to embrace your own difficult emotions and be healthy, happy, and free from fear?

As always, please share your thoughts and comments below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

there in body but not in spirit - Florida alone - Nov 11th 2010

this is always tough. I live in the same situation and I my wife sounds just like you in most ways. I am sure I'd live in a duplex at a minimum if not for children in house.

I am always looking for those places or events to escape to as well. She seems to just be at home always cleaning and only interests are in eating out occasionally and drives with the whole family.

I did not want to marry when I did but did so for reason of pregnacy not insatiable love. After 23 years, less than 5 have been what I would have hoped for.

I know there is a way through (Lysa TerKeurst-capture his heart) and Shaunti Feldhahn "for women only" are excellent. But we have to decide to want to make the improvement. I think sometimes we are scared of the change if he/she makes the change actually hoped for as we are so use to our misery and martyrdym.

I am there myself, I think she has been but we go through the motions. Not healthy but redeemable if 1 side takes action with no expectations in return. Try for 35 days and just see if things do not improve substantially. I will too, "though I still just want a duplex"


More Insight on Unhappy Marriges - - Jul 22nd 2010

I am in the third year of my second marriage.  Was married for several years and we had one son.  Was divorced for several years and remarried (different man).  Am dealing with multiple issues and was enlightened to read the 2 previous posts.  Many parallels with my own situation.  We have not consummated the marriage due to e.d.  Real Biggie.  There are other medical conditions, on his part, causing the e.d.; primary diagnosis is alcoholism (recovery).  In hindsight, I should have not married him.  I love being in a positive relationship and had one during my single years.  The other part of the hindsight is that I have a great relationship with my first husband and want to remarry him.  But, at any rate, I am very unhappy now and will probably divorce (again); I do not want to become comfortable in misery.

42yrs more than a life time - destiny - Jun 16th 2010

I married at 15, insane I know. Four grown children and seven grandchildern, one great grandson. My daughter married young also. I am still unhappy, and I am here because I have a medical condition and need the insurance and prescriptions monthly. I also think my stress from it, part of it, a large part is due to my it.  He is and will always be inconsiderate and self centered, controlling and demanding. I only have one way to fight back. I spend his precious money, he seldom gives me permission so I take it. I am surprised I still have a bank card, but it makes me mad that I have to buy things, clothes or the things I don't really need. I think he enjoys confronting me as he only does it when he is angry about me trying to have an opinion. I have also charged up several credit cards, now that he tries to get a hand on, It is the only way I know to hurt him, except to cheat on him and unless I just happen to bump into someone otherwise I don't plan on it. I am still attractive and other than this agrivating condition I am very healthy, all my insides are good, that is what my doctor keeps reminding me when I have flare ups. I also don't know if I could "be" with another man since he is my first and only. It would really freak out my family!! My existance is complicated, I do what I can to survive. Why does it have to be so hard to exist? I  do understand there are others so much more worse off than I am but I still feel lousy.  

Not stolen - Destiny - Apr 19th 2010

In my previous post when I use the term taken it is never meant stealing. I do mean with disregard to consulting my spouse. It is usually triggered by some emotional abuse.  

42yrs. and almost insane - Destiny - Apr 18th 2010

Married at 15. That alone is insane. I do have four beautiful children, seven gr.children and one great grandson. But that is not enough. I need to be special. I yearn to be my husband's center of attention. I have not had since I said I do. I have taken some college classes and several photography classes, but I can't seem to aquire confidence. I am never complimented, never have been since " I do" I am not overweight or unattractive. I have had and still could find another man. I just don't. It would destroy my family unit. As shaky and disfunctional as it is I can't ruin it. I carry heavy loads of unhappiness. I find it hard to make the simplest decisions. I do take medication and I know it helps.I just feel like a possesion.

If I want something I have to take it, and that does not feel good. I show interest, or I used to, in his hobbies and things he likes to watch. I learned early on sports were important to him so I also learned to like most of it.He never shows interest in anything I do or am involved in. I have asked him often, in the past, now I just try to find things to fill the void. I am a photographer. I know I am good but I neglect the ability to act on it. I am trying, again. I have purchased the necessary equipment to open a photography studio. I had to take what I needed but I have it. I did my first model shoot yesterday and the pictures were so good! The model loved the camera! And it loved her. But did I get any compliments or encouragement? No. Do I know he is insecure? But that really doesn't help. I write to him I try to talk to him, but he doesn't care. He gets what he wants and I take what I need. I may  use this as a sounding board. I usually just write my pain on paper. Maybe posting it to someone or something will help me to find courage and direction. I could write all day but will stop here for now. You probably noticed how random my thoughts are. How sad...... I know.

emotionally withdrawn woman - sheena - Mar 10th 2010

This is not a comment for the document. Obviously, this is a plea for advice. If you respond I would be grateful; if you don't respond; I understand.

After 25 years of marriage, my husband and I divorced. We re-married after 5 years of seperation. I" re-married due to my family values and painful memories of my childhood with multiple marriage partners of my mother.

Now - 4 years into this re-marriage - I survive through being emotionally withdrawn. There is no violence, etc.  I believe it is my way of saying, " I may have returned in body but I didn't return emotionally." It is a reflection of my ambivilence for feeling forced to return.  We simply don't see life the same way and being married to a man whose vocation demands a particular life-style at times makes me feel hopelessly trapped.  I did not return because of  a tremendous sense of love - I returned because it was the " right thing" to do.

However, we have such different  viewpoints. What we do have in common is our children and they are everything to me.

I cope by filling my time with my job and opportunities to gain knowledge, etc. . I did have an opportunity to teach overseas but turned down the opportunity because of my spouse's reaction . He perceived my willingness to entertain such an offer as personal rejection, abandonment and extremely detrimental to marriage.  I saw it as a way out  - a way to live out some personal dreams. Anyway - I turned it down but not without emotionally withdrawing even further from him.

His physical health makes him impotenet. Our intimacy has been nill since re-marriage.  Most of this I believe is due to my unwillingness to reach out and try to build intimacy.  It is something I have no desire to do; none. To reach out would be to become vulnerable. I don't desire to be vulnerable again nor do I have desire for him. In our previous marriage, intimacy was our weakest link and now it is just too much work - for what? 

"I see the lonliness in my mate's eyes. I see his insecurity - and his desire to have a friend. "I just can't seem to find within me the drive nor desire to re-build.

Tell me; how bad is this ? Is it hopeless?  I just keep thinking - I returned and I'm not leaving but I just find happiness in other things.

Follow us on Twitter!

Find us on Facebook!

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Powered by CenterSite.Net