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Feeling Trapped in a Relationship: Why You Feel Stuck & What You MUST Do

When things aren’t going well, it’s possible to feel trapped in a relationship. At this point, you need to think carefully and decide on your next move. 

feeling trapped in a relationship stuck

Not all relationships move smoothly. Some people start feeling trapped in a relationship and can’t see a way to move forward. Needless to say, it’s a frustrating experience but it can also be a very painful one.

Sometimes, you love a person completely yet the relationship just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. No matter what you do, nothing changes. In that situation, you need to think carefully about how the future is going to look.

In many cases, the two people just need to communicate better and start making changes. However, other times, nothing can be done to salvage the relationship. [Read: How to be comfortable in your own skin – 20 ways to love being you]

Why are you feeling stuck in a relationship?

Before you can fix a problem, you have to know what caused it. When you are feeling stuck in a relationship, there are a lot of possible reasons for it. Knowing which one is at play for you is key to fixing it.

Maybe things aren’t progressing. Perhaps you want something more serious and things seem stagnant. Whether you want to move in together, have a family, or get married, if you feel like things are static, you’ll likely feel stuck in a relationship that is going nowhere. [Read: Is your relationship of convenience masquerading as love?]

Maybe things are fine but just fine. You can get along and not fight, but it isn’t much if that’s all you have.

As humans, we crave companionship and fulfillment. If your relationship is just there without adding to your life in any way, it is natural to feel stuck.

Feeling stuck in a relationship could also be due to long-distance, manipulation, guilt, or stress. If your relationship is unbalanced, you could feel exhausted for always giving or feel taken for granted because you’re never a priority. [Read: How to know if you should stay or break free when you feel trapped in a relationship]

You may care deeply about your partner, so even though you feel the relationship has run its course, you don’t want to hurt them. You could feel controlled by your partner. Perhaps they are jealous or suffocating. This can leave you feeling stuck in a relationship too. 

Being verbally abused, physically abused, and manipulated can also leave you in a cycle of feeling stuck. You know you want to escape but situations like this are not as easy to leave as some may imagine.

Consider what makes you feel stuck. Is it something you can work on or something that is a reason to end things? [Read: These signs of a bad relationship should never, ever be tolerated]

What to do if you’re feeling trapped in a relationship

Now that we’ve got the basic principle out of the way, here are some points to consider if you’re feeling trapped.

1. Consider the power rule

Here’s a perhaps uncomfortable but very real truth about power dynamics within relationships:

The person who is more willing to leave always has the most power.

Simply knowing that this rule of power exists allows you to assess whether power is unevenly balanced.

For example, your partner constantly threatens to leave if you don’t do what they say. An even more subtle power-play is when someone has a habit of walking out of a room during conversations at the very moment you’re trying to communicate an important point. [Read: Dating rules – unfair but relevant rules we all have to live by]

2. Why do you value this person?

Most people don’t want to be plan B – so if you’re keeping someone dangling on the hook of expectation while you have bigger and better plans, this may slowly eat away at your sense of freedom. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and even the most seasoned player can get it.

Try to consider your values, your partner’s values, your life vision *and how they match it*, and whether you’re being honest about it. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

3. Look out for the drama triangle

An infant needs to be looked after, but a partner who cannot get their own life in order is not your responsibility.

Sometimes, people will use emotional manipulation consciously or subconsciously to keep you in a relationship with them.

Think of the drama triangle: each of the triangle’s 3 points is a different word – victim, rescuer, and persecutor. The moment you adopt one of these roles, you take away your self-empowerment and make others responsible for what you do or don’t do.

The drama triangle creates many tangled vines and can easily lead to you feeling stuck in a relationship. [Read: Attention seeking behavior – why some people go looking for drama]

4. Ask yourself if you’re scared of physical or vindictive consequences

It’s possible to both love and fear a partner, and it can lead to overlooking obvious signs of manipulation and/or abuse.

Perhaps a partner has a bad temper, is physically bullish, or has emotional or financial leverage. Finding others who have been through the same situation can probably help to put this type of situation into context and aid decision-making. [Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

5. Are you scared of what others will say or do?

Sometimes your social circle, religion, or culture can cause you to feel like you have limited options or no choice at all. That can often lead to you feeling trapped in a relationship.

This can be tough, but you can find support from people in the same situation as you. Head online or look for support groups. When you find people who are dealing with similar situations, you’ll also find information to understand the worst-case scenario and balance it against your goals in life. [Read: How to be fearless – 18 ways to set aside fear and live like a champion]

6. Is it your fears talking?

There is a phrase called “the edge” and it is mentioned in a book called The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida. Few people really internalize the edge as a life philosophy.

Think of the edge as a literal edge beyond which is a steep fall to where your fears lie. It’s important to confront this edge to keep growing as a person. For example, you might feel that when you’re not pursuing challenging and exciting goals, you’re not really living.

When you feel like a prisoner in a relationship that doesn’t serve you, always ask yourself whether you’re not just a prisoner to your own fears. [Read: How to focus on yourself – 17 ways to make your own sunshine]

7. Talk to someone close

There’s a huge amount of clarity to be found when talking to someone you trust. This can be family members or a friend, but either way, you’ll get a totally different perspective on your issue.

You might also find that while you’re feeling stuck in a relationship, it’s because of something you’re doing and not something your partner is doing. That type of revelation can turn the entire situation around for the better. [Read: Good friends are like stars]

8. Look at your social life

We love the principle of “start with yourself.” It’s unhealthy to not have a wider network of contacts. We’re designed to seek diversity, and this variation helps us to align and realign our beliefs and patterns of behaviors so that we don’t fall into neurotic habits.

It’s hard to not feel depressed or trapped when you don’t have friends. The world seems more scary and judgmental. which can lead you to take out this fear on those closest to you.

Psychologists will tell you that having a good social life, two or more close friends, and also family is a key part of emotional health for most people. [Read: How to be more social – 19 ways to genuinely connect with others]

9. Ask yourself if you would miss them

When you’re feeling trapped in a relationship, ask yourself this question. If the answer’s a hard no, then you have some telling data.

It’s easy to overreact in the moment or when things don’t seem to be going well, but asking yourself honestly whether you like spending time around someone lets you know whether or not you would benefit from leaving.

Ask yourself if you’re always left with more energy after interacting with a particular person or less. [Read: Creepy signs your friend is secretly an energy vampire]

10. Are you scared of commitment/responsibilities?

We live in a time when the easiest routes and meteoric rises are worshiped in the media. They become part of social norms that are the path of diligent practice and slow growth.

With more responsibilities comes richer meaning and fulfillment in life. The opposite path is one where you take no responsibility and always chase the new thing – trying in vain to ignore the emptiness as it widens inside.

Ask yourself honestly whether it’s the commitment and responsibilities that are causing you to feel this way. It might not be the person that’s the problem. [Read: Fear of commitment – 47 signs, whys, and ways to get over your phobia]

11. Don’t allow comfort to cloud your judgment

We’re all for you working this out, but in some cases, it just won’t be the right route. Sometimes we get so comfortable that we can’t see how our life will be without a particular person or thing. But that’s a mistake.

If you truly feel That leaving this person is the right thing, you shouldn’t stay just because you’ve allowed yourself to feel comfortable. You should only stay because you feel you can work things out.

12. Say what’s on your mind

When you’re feeling stuck in a relationship, sometimes all you need to do is talk to your partner. Yes, it’s that simple! Maybe they’re feeling the same and you can come to some solution together.

They’re not a mind reader and neither are you. If you want to sort through a problem, be brave and talk about it. Just remember to avoid blame-like language, such as “you always…” and instead use things like “I feel like…”. [Read: How to express your feelings – 16 must-know ideas to speak your mind]

How to get out of a relationship

But of course, feeling stuck in a relationship can’t always be fixed with open communication and effort. Sometimes, things are lost or broken beyond repair. 

And that is okay, so learn to come to terms with it. Often, by the time you realize you feel stuck in a relationship things can be so far gone, it is nearly impossible to work your way back together.

We know letting a relationship end feels like failure. No matter how long you’ve been together, it can feel like with enough focus you can recover, but it isn’t always true. A relationship doesn’t have to be over for it to fail, it just has to be bad.

We often convince ourselves to stay in an unhappy relationship because it is safer and more comfortable than going off on our own and venturing into the unknown. But, the fear of being alone is not worth being stuck in a relationship that is draining us. Feeling trapped in a relationship can often feel like being imprisoned. [Read: My 9 year love and the pain of ending a long term relationship]

When you want to escape feeling stuck in a relationship, don’t consider the what-ifs. Don’t think about how you’ll be single. Don’t think about how you’d rather be hurt by who you’re with because you’re numb to it rather than someone new.

Think about your happiness. Think about all the times you expected a change. And think about all the effort you’ve put in and how miserable you are. [Read: Why does love hurt when it goes bad? The truth you need to hear]

Feeling stuck in a relationship does not mean you are stuck in life. 

If you let your partner down, it can be the best thing you’ve ever done. In many cases, they may fight back, they may beg, threaten, or continue to reach out. But, you should put your happiness and mental health first.

[Read: Are you experiencing any of these signs of disrespect in your relationship? It can reveal a lack of love]

When you’re feeling trapped in a relationship, it can be confusing. However, it’s a feeling that beckons deep and committed introspection and honest assessment in order to grow through it, or past it.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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