Yes, you’ve been stuck in a rut – but you’re already starting to get out. No, it won’t be as easy as eating popcorn and watching Netflix while surfing Facebook…but it will be worth it. Imagine how amazing you’ll feel when you discover that getting out of a rut isn’t as hard as you think!
“I’ve been married for 45 years, my husband cheated with the same woman for 16 years,” says Marie on Start Fresh or Say Goodbye? 7 Signs Your Marriage is Over. “We’ve been to counseling, we’re still together, but a lot of joy has gone out of my life. He is still working long hours, working overnight two nights a week. I am home, with arthritis, dwelling sometimes on the deceit and lies I have encountered over the years. I have lovely vacations, a beautiful home, possessions, jewellery etc and I still have this terrible emptiness inside me. We are together because deep down we still love one another and have 50 years together. Sometimes I feel trapped because I couldn’t leave him and be happy at the expense of his unhappiness. Any advice for getting out when you’re stuck in a rut?”
I don’t give advice for many reasons – mostly because most of us already know what we need to do. We all have access to the still small voice inside that tells us everything we need to know.
The key is taking time to listen to the story we’re telling ourselves. Then we need to examine it carefully. Is it true? For instance, is it true that Marie can’t leave her husband and be happy because it would make him unhappy? No, of course that’s not true. It’s just what she is choosing to believe.
I can’t change what you believe about yourself. Only you can do that. Your first step is to identify what you believe, and then ask yourself if it’s true.
That’s how you get out when you’re stuck in a rut.
But wait, there’s more!
4 Ways to Get Out When You’re Stuck in a Rut
“There are four different options for handling a dissatisfying situation,” writes Grant in Originals. “Whether you’re unhappy with your job, your marriage, your government – decades of research show that you have a choice between exit, voice, persistence, and neglect.”
Here’s how simple yet brilliant this is…
1. Exit – get yourself up and out of your rut
I’ll follow up on Marie’s story – but you can apply these ideas to your own life.
I don’t think she needs marriage advice or even tips on how to stop feeling hurt and stuck in the past. Rather, I think she needs encouragement to get out of her own head and create new habits in her life. Her thoughts are causing her pain; her reality is painfree and actually quite comfortable, as she herself said.
This is for you, too! Your first option is to simply leave. Exit the situation altogether: walk away from an unhealthy relationship, quit your job, leave an oppressive country. Yes, every one of those is hard and painful. Yes, you’ll have to do the work and make the sacrifices.
And yes, your exit may hurt people you’ve loved for 50 years. Who said that getting out when you’re stuck in a rut would be easy? Certainly not I.
2. Voice – speak up
Hello!! Anybody out there? “Voice involves actively trying to improve the situation,” writes Grant. “Approaching your boss with ideas for enriching your job, encouraging your spouse to seek counseling, or becoming a political activist to elect a less corrupt government.”
How you use your voice to get out of a rut is up to you. You need to own your power, to take the amazing freedom God gave you, and take responsibility to figure out what to do with your life. You can’t expect other people to speak up for you or tell you what to do! If you don’t know how to live your life, how can you expect others to know?
It’s time to start acting like a grown up. Stop sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, and start using the resources you have to get out of whatever rut you’ve stuck yourself in.
Of course, there is no guarantee that using your voice will be the magic elixir that leads to getting out. The beauty is that it doesn’t matter if it works or not because you will have taken action. Detach from the results or outcomes of using your voice, and celebrate the fact that you spoke up and told somebody what you need or want to see happen.
3. Persist – float down the river
“Persistence is gritting your teeth and bearing it,” writes Grant. “Working hard even though your job is stifling, sticking by your spouse, or supporting your government even though you disagree with it.”
Marie is persisting in her marriage. She’s comfortable; there is no driving force that will make her change her life. Getting out when you’re stuck in a rut is hard if you have no reason to change. Getting out is hard even when you do have a good reason, actually.
Will you continue to float down the river of your life? Aimless, passive, bored? Marie, you’re not actually unhappy in your marriage. You want to be there, else you would’ve left your husband years ago. Decades ago. I think you’re stuck in a rut of boredom, comfort, and aimlessness. Getting out of a soft, fluffy, deep sofa is awfully hard…but boy does it feel good to stand up and stretch.
4. Neglect – bury your head in the sand and stick your butt in the air
“Neglect entails staying in the current situation but reducing your effort,” says Grant. “Doing just enough at work not to get fired, choosing new hobbies that keep you away from your spouse, refusing to vote.”
If you believe you can’t make a change in your life – and if you don’t care that much – then you’ll neglect your situation. I believe many millions of people live this way. Henry David Thoreau called it “living lives of quiet desperation.”
Marie and her husband didn’t neglect their marriage; they went to counseling and decided to stay together. They both chose “stuck in a rut” over making dramatic changes in their lives. Getting out is always an option, but they may choose to see their options differently.
What to Do Next
Read 5 Ideas for Creating a Better Life. Know that you CAN make changes in your life – and that getting out of a rut may be as simple as making one small change in your life.
Take responsibility for your own life. Has the joy gone out of your life? Have you lost all ambition and hope for getting out when you’re stuck in a rut? Yikes. If that’s what you’re telling yourself, then you might find it more difficult – if not impossible – to get out of the rut.
Connect with God. O, the joy of true connection with the Source of all joy, peace, and freedom! Have you felt it? Maybe when you hiked up a mountain and saw a magnificent vista of mountains and ocean, or when you held your baby for the first time. Maybe when you sing How Great Thou Art, or when you reach down and hug your dog or pick up your kitty cat.
Take a small step of faith. Spiritual freedom brings emotional strength, resilience, and peace that surpasses all understanding. The truth is that no matter what human efforts you make to get out when you’re stuck in a rut, God is the only way out. Then why did I wait until the end of this 1,500 word blog post to tell you the truth about getting out of a rut? Because I just realized it myself! I am deeply devoted to Jesus, yet I forget. I spend time with Him every morning, yet I neglect to spread the news. Forgive me.
1) a comment from a reader who has been married for 45 years; and
2) a short passage in a book called Originals: How Nonconformists Change the World by Adam Grant.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of getting out when you’re stuck in a rut. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you figure out what you really think and feel.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.