Surviving a loveless marriage is perhaps one of the toughest challenges some couples face. From cheating and lying to working sixteen hours a day and spending too little time doing the things that bring you closer, there are numerous reasons why the love that brought you together can run thin.
In fact, there are times when you can’t even put your finger on a specific reason why you no longer feel physically or emotionally attracted to your partner.
And the worst part is that many couples don’t even realize that the small day-to-day arguments and criticism are the tinder that will eventually cause their marriage to crash and burn.
Before you can bring your loveless marriage back to life, sit down with your significant other and have an honest conversation about how things have been between you lately.
Are You in a Loveless Marriage?
A marriage doesn’t turn sour overnight. When two people who love each other so much that they’ve decided to spend the rest of their life together begin to feel like strangers, there’s always a history of arguing, criticism, and other dysfunctional attitudes; kind of like a prologue to disaster.
If you learn to spot these signs, you can avoid reaching the point where your relationship is beyond repair. Let’s look at six telltale signs of a loveless marriage:
At some point, we’ve all experienced the detestable sensation that occurs when someone criticizes us or makes an offensive remark.
Criticism is among the most common toxic behaviors that can ruin a healthy and fulfilling relationship. It’s hard to keep love alive when you and your partner are constantly pointing out each other’s flaws and mistakes.
In a way, criticism is like rust; it slowly erodes your marriage until the last shred of love turns to dust. And the worst part is that most of us tend to criticize the person, not the behavior or decision. For example, instead of saying “You should have paid the bills. Please be more careful next time” we make our significant other feel miserable by saying “Why didn’t you pay the bills!? You’re such an irresponsible person.”
Challenge the behavior, not the person!
In broad lines, contempt is a feeling of disregard for someone or something; a lack of consideration or respect for other people’s feelings, actions, opinions, preferences, and decisions. It’s the exact opposite of admiration, adoration, honor, esteem, and sympathy.
Constant criticism paves the way for contempt. When your partner disregards everything you say, and you criticize everything he or she does, you eventually end up hating each other.
Contempt can affect your relationship to the point where you avoid each other’s company because you know that everything you say or do can result in emotional pain or spark a heated argument.
In theory, we can all agree that humans are flawed and imperfect. There are times when we make mistakes, hurt other people’s feelings, and show zero consideration for our partner’s needs and desires.
But the worst part is that when someone points out our flaws, we instinctively get defensive. We find excuses, blame others, and minimize the consequences of our actions. We do everything we can to avoid the unpleasant feeling associated with facing our shortcomings.
In a marriage, this attitude will block any attempt to fix the relationship and restore the love that brought you together.
Along with criticism, contempt, and defensiveness, stonewalling is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which symbolize the four negative behaviors that John Gottman believe can predict the end of a relationship or marriage.
Just like defensiveness, stonewalling kills any attempt to heal a broken marriage. It’s impossible to overcome relationship stumbles when one partner tries to open a conversation, and the other would do anything but reply.
In time, this attitude will generate a toxic relationship climate in which problems are swept under the rug, and silence replaces uncomfortable (but potentially healing) conversations.
5. Lack of Intimacy
A healthy relationship means more than just the absence of conflicts. Lasting marriages include both constructive disputes and frequent moments of intimacy that strengthen the bond between partners.
Intimacy is a critical aspect of every relationship. Couples need intimacy to share meaningful experiences and cultivate passion.
And it’s not just about sex. Intimacy creates a safe environment where the two of you can nurture positive emotions and discuss ideas freely.
The absence of intimacy will almost always lead to break up, divorce, or separation.
6. Time Spent Apart
When heated arguments are a constant part of a couple’s daily interactions, love and intimacy begin to fade. The two partners will avoid each other’s company and seek comfort in solitude.
I’m sure each of us has heard about couples who decide to take a break, hoping to sort things out. Sadly, this approach rarely leads to reconciliation. In fact, spending too much time apart will most likely result in divorce.
When struggling to survive a loveless marriage, the best thing you can do is have an honest conversation and try to fix the cracks in your marriage before it falls apart completely.
How You Can Start Working on Your Unhappy Marriage
Fixing a loveless marriage is never easy. Both you and your significant other need to be 100% honest about your flaws and fully committed to making significant changes that will spark the passion and strengthen your union.
Here are a few steps that will help you turn an unhappy marriage into a strong and lasting relationship:
1. Evaluate Your Priorities
The first step in fixing a loveless marriage is setting your priorities straight. In other words, you need to sit down with your significant other and work on a clear action plan.
Since each of you probably has their priorities, putting them down on paper will help you understand each other’s needs and desires.
This is the step where you renegotiate the terms of your relationship and plan a better future for your marriage.
Put aside pride, selfishness, and criticism for a moment and focus on fixing your loveless marriage.
2. Get Specific on Your Needs and Desires
One of the reasons why good marriages go bad is because partners fail to resonate with each other’s needs and desires. In fact, there are times when we’re so self-centered that we don’t even know what our partner wants and needs.
If that’s the case, ask your partner to list his/her specific needs and desires.
Being mindful of your partner’s needs and desires is a sign of appreciation and respect. In other words, you show your significant other that you love and care about them enough to put yourself second.
Such gestures of altruism cultivate love and set the foundation for a lasting and fulfilling marriage. However, this strategy works only if your partner returns the gesture. Otherwise, the marriage becomes unbalanced.
3. Get Specific on How You May Be Contributing to the Problem
Aside from understanding and resonating with each other’s needs, another crucial step in healing your broken marriage is having an open conversation about how each of you is contributing to the problem.
This is the part where criticism and defensiveness might spark some heated arguments. In general, people are reluctant to admit their mistakes and change their dysfunctional attitudes.
But without honesty, mutual understanding, and personal growth the chances of fixing your loveless marriage are slim to none.
Look deep within yourself, shed light on how you may be contributing to the problems that affect your marriage, and take the necessary steps to overcome them.
4. Have a Blame-Free Conversation on Neutral Ground
When two life partners discuss the less pleasant aspects of their marriage, there’s always the chance that one might blame the other.
Unfortunately, the minute you start blaming each other for the poor condition of your marriage, any attempt to rekindle the love and passion in your relationship goes down the drain.
A counselor’s office might be the ideal place to have a blame-free conversation under the careful guidance of a licensed professional who can spot and eliminate any trace of blame and criticism from the conversation.
5. Start Small
When working on bringing back the love in your marriage, baby steps the way to go. Considering the vulnerable place you’re in, significant changes might be hard to achieve, and another failure is definitely something you want to avoid.
Start small and work together toward a lasting marriage. There will be times when progress is slow, times when you might fall back into your old habits. However, with enough patience, you will eventually rebuild your broken relationship.
Celebrate each victory your achieve and each milestone you overcome as it brings you closer to the fulfilling marriage you once enjoyed.
6. Give It Time
They say time heals all wounds, time and the active involvement of both partners.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. When working to heal your loveless marriage, patience is one of the critical elements.
If you pressure your life partner and make hasty decisions, chances are you might repeat the same mistakes that crippled your relationship in the first place.
Give it time, and you will be amazed at the positive changes that come with patience.
7. Seek Outside Help
No matter how determined you are to fix your broken marriage, motivation alone rarely leads to significant changes.
Most couples fail to bring passion back into their loveless marriage because they’re trapped in the same vicious circle of blame, criticism, and defensiveness.
The best way to approach this problem is by addressing a marriage counselor who can provide an unbiased opinion and help you design an intervention plan based on your needs, desired, and priorities.
According to a 2017 article, group counseling based on the Acceptance and Commitment approach could increase marital adjustment of couples.
Seeking outside help is not a sign of weakness, but an authentic attempt to pick up the broken pieces of your marriage and restore the love that brought you together.
Should You Stay or Leave?
No matter how hard we struggle to save a loveless marriage, there are times when divorce seems like the only option left.
When progress is slow, and motivation hangs by a thread, putting time and effort into healing the relationship might prove to be a bad investment.
Reasons People Stay
There are countless reasons why partners choose to stay in a loveless marriage. Maybe they do it for the sake of the children (parenting marriage), or perhaps they think it’s too late to start over.
If you choose to stay, dig deep within yourself and discover the exact reason why you want to continue a relationship that no longer fulfills your needs.
Is it because you still hope your partner will agree to work on fixing the cracks in your relationship? (good reason)
Is it because you think you won’t be able to survive on your own? (bad reason)
Is it because you believe a divorce will have a profound and irreparable impact on your children? (bad reason)
Is it because, despite constant conflicts, there’s still a shred of love keeping you together? (good reason)
If you choose to stay, make sure you stay for the right reasons.
Reasons People Split
According to an article written by Fredric Neuman M.D. for Psychology Today, there are countless reasons why couples choose to split. From infidelity, bad temper, or selfishness to violent behavior, alcoholism, or drug use, the list of reasons can go on for hours.
When a marriage is beyond repair, divorce – no matter how unpleasant, painful, or time-consuming might be – is a viable option.
But before you get to that point, make sure to sit down with your significant other and go through all other alternatives.
What to Decide
In the end, no one can decide for you.
Whether you choose to split and go on separate roads or stay and heal your loveless marriage, the only person who can make this decision is you.
A friend, family member, or marriage counselor can only lend an empathetic ear and provide an outside opinion – the rest is up to you.