I get a lot of emails from folks who describe a “loveless marriage” and ask for ways to stay in or cope with it. I find that people have different definitions and perceptions of this type of marriage and of what it lacks. By “loveless” some people actually mean “sexless,” but others mean that this type of marriage lacks intimacy and closeness. There may well be intercourse or sex, but the emotional closeness that typically exists between married couples is just not there for whatever reason on the part of at least one of the parties. Typically, one or both are just “going through the motions” without much emotion behind it.
Sometimes people chose to stay in a loveless marriage because they have children and they don’t want to put the children through a divorce. Other times, financial burdens or limitations keep you from breaking away. Still other times, you are firm in your commitment to your marriage. You believe that marriage is forever and you, quite admirably, don’t want to take the easy way out. There are ways to cope with these types of marriages, and I’ll offer some tips toward that end. But, I also firmly believe that you don’t have to live this way. You can turn a marriage without love completely around with a little bit of effort, openness, and patience. I’ll discuss this more in the following article.
Don’t Define Your Marriage Based On Others’ Expectations: First off, I hate the phrase “loveless marriage.” Because this almost implies that there never was any love between the spouses or that there never will be. This is very limiting and this perception doesn’t do anything to help your cause. It’s far more favorable to accept that your marriage is going through a rough patch right now which is manifesting itself as a lack of intimacy. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t manufacture or reignite these feelings. Don’t allow yourself to make these types of assumptions because if you do, this becomes your road map and this is a very faulty one that won’t lead you anywhere that you really want to go.
Also, don’t worry so much about what others think or expect. Your marriage isn’t really anyone’s business but your own, but the media would have us think that if we aren’t all over each other all of the time, there is something wrong with us. With that said, most married couples do have a bond and a commitment that binds them which is based on shared feelings of intimacy, closeness, and understanding. If you lack any of these components, this doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your or that you can’t get them back. It just means that you have some work to do. Vow to close out the outside world and not to worry about other’s expectations of what should make you happy in your marriage. Only you and your spouse can decide that. Don’t let others make you feel that you are lacking or that you should do something else to please anyone but yourself. Define what you and your spouse need to be happy and to feel connected and concentrate only on that.
Why You (And Your Family) Deserve So Much More Than A Loveless Marriage: Many people stay in this type of marriage because they think that it’s the best thing for the kids or because they “don’t want to hurt anyone.” But, if you think that your children or your spouse don’t catch onto the fact that something is lacking, you’re probably mistaken. Children are very perceptive, and parents who aren’t affectionate or closely bonded are modeling the type of marriage that your children may well grow up and have. Counselors are very fond of saying that the greatest gift that you can give your child (and to yourself) are two parents who are happy and who love each other. This sounds cliche, but I believe it to be completely accurate.
You and your spouse are modeling how to live, interact, and connect for your children. They will grow up and know no other way than what you are showing them. They may well sense or even witness that your household isn’t like others, but it’s more likely than not that they’ll live (at least on some levels) similarly to you. At the very least, they will have been affected by growing up in a home that lacks laughter and love.
I’m not telling you this to make you feel guilty or to insinuate that you aren’t doing the best that you can for your children. I’m telling you this hoping that you can see that although your intentions are very honorable and unselfish, they may not be as healthy for your children as you had hoped.
Turning Around A Loveless Marriage: If you’ve found this article, it’s highly likely that you and your spouse have gotten into the habit of going through the motions and forgoing intimacy. This is a habit that can be broken, just like any other. But, one of you must make the first move. Since you care enough to research this topic, let that person be you. You may feel quite vulnerable and hesitant to be the one to initiate this, but it’s better than just hoping that things will get better without being proactive.
You really have two options here. You can be honest with your spouse, sit them down, and explain that you are troubled by the lack of intimacy in your marriage and want to work with them to change things. Try to make this sound like something that is going to be mutually beneficial and fun, not something that is going to require a lot of “work.” You’re really trying to get to a place where the two of you can have fun and be upbeat together so try to keep the conversation on this same keel.
The other option that you have is to just begin by changing your own actions. Maybe you don’t want to lay your cards on the table yet, but you’d like to start to making some changes with what you can control – yourself. So, you’ll be the one to start initiating more intimate gestures. Start small at first. Shoot for loving glances, spontaneous laughter, or the brush of a hand or shoulder. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and move slowly. But, over time, your goal is to slowly improve things so that physical touch and emotional closeness don’t feel so foreign and awkward.
Finding Your Own Happiness: While your making these small changes in your marriage, it’s important to look at yourself and your own fulfillment and happiness. In short, you can’t give what you do not have. You can not be lighthearted and playful with your partner if you’re depressed or not fulfilled within your own heart. I often find that if people focus on what makes them happy as an individual (without judging if this is right or wrong), then becoming happy as a couple falls into place more easily. You’re more open to receiving pleasure and give and take because you’ve learned to take responsibility for and to participate in your own happiness. In other words, you don’t need for your spouse to provide this for you, but you want them to share this with you and you set it up to make this so.