loveless marriage

Loveless Marriage: A Return Journey to Union

What if you could do more than just learn to cope with a loveless marriage? What if you had brighter options? The truth is navigating a loveless marriage can feel heartbreaking initially. For many, over time, numbness arises  and it no longer hurts because the pain retreats into hiding. Simply existing takes over and emptiness becomes the norm. Too many people who don’t know how to navigate the innate and inevitable challenges of a long-term relationship find themselves wondering, often helplessly, “what happened to the love?” We’re not taught how to relate and we’re conditioned to stuff our feelings and problems. That leaves men and women alike suffering as they surrender any hope of loving connection. But, the truth is, it’s not hopeless. Lovelessness is not a foregone conclusion. 

Although you might be in a loveless marriage, if the marriage structure remains intact, the seeds for reunion actually exist, even if they feel invisible and impossible. Something has kept the two of you connected to this point and that shared “something” may just have enough power and influence to start a return to love. 

You’ll find no guarantees, yet silent suffering alone in a relationship can cost both people so much.  

Let’s go deeper…  

What is a loveless marriage?

Before we can consider how to fix a loveless marriage and begin the journey to reunion, we have to understand what a loveless marriage really is as well as what caused it. With that wisdom you’ll start to see a roadmap to repair.

While loveless marriages have some common characteristics, the behaviors of the two partners and the situations they face can vary greatly. If you’re trying to understand the absence of love in your relationship, you are encouraged to look beyond the surface circumstances and truly consider the feelings that lie underneath. First and foremost, in a loveless marriage both partners have lost access to the love they once felt for their beloved. (With that being said, if you never felt love for your spouse before you married them, then a reunion may be difficult because there was no loving union to begin with, and therefore can’t be returned to.)

What does a loveless marriage look like? To recognize that, we need to put love and lovelessness on a spectrum. At one end, ideally you were truly in love, or you at least deeply loved each other, when you got engaged. On the other end of the spectrum in a completely loveless marriage, the two will have moved so far away from love that they find their feelings completely the opposite of love, such as contempt and disdain. The more contempt and disdain that either partner holds, the more loveless the marriage. In that, the return journey to love will be harder and take more time. Sometimes a marriage can recover from that profound gap in love and sometimes both partners may be better off moving on. Either way – reuniting or separating – each of you gets the chance to return to love. 

Using this spectrum as a guide, you can begin to evaluate te scale and scope of lovelessness in your relationship. We’ll add more perspective to that in a moment. 

With that being said, we have to remember that it’s normal to lose touch with love at times. A marriage that seems loveless, may not actually be loveless. When love for a partner truly dissolves – when love is genuinely absent – then all care, attentiveness, affection, concern, generosity, compassion, kindness, and trust disappear along with it. If you can find any of these expressions within you or your spouse, you may not have a truly loveless marriage. It may be a marriage with great strain, stress, and suffering, but if you can find any of these loving sentiments in either of you, that’s good news for the marriage. 

Yet, if that’s the case, what happened? How did you lose so much love? 

How does a loveless marriage happen?

Many factors lead to a lack of love and most have to do with a lack of experience and education in relationship dynamics and how to maintain love. The better news is that just because you didn’t have that wisdom and consciousness when you met, you can create it now. That then means there’s hope for your hearts. 

As you explore what happened in your marriage that had the love dissipate or even disappear, don’t look for one answer. Most loveless marriages happen as a result of a convergence of many challenging factors and dynamics. If you truly want to restore your relationship and reunite, then you want to have the courage and the patience to consider and resolve all the contributing factors. What actually caused the issues in your marriage may not be at all what you expect. 

Here we’ll explore the top five causes of a loveless marriage. We’ll start with how a couple deals with conflict because it’s not the fact that two people have conflict that damages a relationship, it’s the fact that they don’t know how to deal with it. When conflict or hurt remains unresolved, love gets buried under the piles of pain. Couples who don’t handle conflict consciously, and completely, don’t stay married. Or if they do, that marriage will often feel loveless. 

  1. Unresolved arguments and hurt. Conflict happens in every marriage, including soulmate marriages. No two humans are completely the same and will never see eye to eye all the time. If couples don’t acknowledge those different perspectives… if either person isn’t willing to admit when they’re hurt or mad… if either partner avoids conflict or even uncomfortable conversations.. if you don’t validate and honor each others hurt feelings… if you don’t stick with each other through the upsets until you both feel reconnected – even if that takes a few hours, days, or weeks – eventually the love will erode. As we know, uncontrolled erosion takes out roads, hillsides, and even dissolves rocks over time. Erosion will certainly also damage and destroy marriages. Couples who have learned how to handle and resolve challenges, and honor hurt feelings, not only have the strongest relationships, they share the deepest love and respect.  
  1. Not understanding and honoring your differences (aka expectations). We mentioned differences above, yet it goes deeper. Romantic relationships are founded on differences. Sexual polarity and romantic attraction depends on the opposite nature of people. In most romantic relationships those differences, quite often rooted in masculine-feminine energy dynamics, create and sustain the spark of attraction, both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, most don’t understand that masculine and feminine beings have different needs, and use different languages. Masculine and feminine have different turn-ons and turn-offs. In fact, sometimes they’re exactly opposite. What turns on one could turn off the other. Additionally, the masculine and feminine have very different pathways to physical pleasure and significantly different ways out of upsets and conflict. If we don’t understand, honor, and support those differences, if we expect our partner to behave like we do, to need what we need, and to feel what we feel, we will absolutely experience disappointment and frustration in the relationship. These unrealistic expectations in relationships devastate connection. 
  1. Not keeping the relationship a priority. Love is sustained through connection and intimacy. That requires spending time together. That requires caring for each other, communicating, and even making love. If you don’t tend to the connection, it will not survive. With that being said, it’s easy in today’s world to think and feel that the kids’ needs are more important… that making money matters more than making love… that solving problems matters more than the feelings (in ourselves or our partner) that arise when problems happen. In a marriage, everything else gets better or worse depending on the quality of the connection between the partners. You will parent better when you’re in love. You will attract more prosperity when you are happy. You will spend less time healing from illness – physical or mental – when you feel cared for. In truth, everything is easier in love. Yet too often we don’t realize that until we’ve lost it. If you put your relationship at the bottom of the priority list, if you put your needs, or your partner’s needs beneath all the other demands of life, love cannot survive. The marriage will turn loveless and the problems greater.  
  1. Self abandonment and the resultant resentment. Contrary to popular belief, the more we put our partner’s needs, wants, and desires ahead of our own, the more likely we are to end up in a loveless marriage. Yes. That’s true. Many believe that if they do the right thing, be the right thing, and love enough then the relationship will last. They falsely believe that if they are a good partner, they’ll be loved in return. Yet those excessive attempts at love, typically stemming from underlying insecurities, always end up backfiring. When we give too much we become resentful and feeling resentment is the biggest killer of love. When we understand the insidious ways self abandonment harms relationships, we’ll realize that one of the ways to recreate union with another starts with recreating union with oneself. Again, that may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll see in a moment that it’s part of an effection solution. The absence of authenticity inherent in self abandonment lays a guaranteed path to at best, a failed, or at a worst, a loveless marriage. 
  1. Lack of emotional and physical intimacy. We can’t say it enough, intimacy matters. Broken down into its simplest form, intimacy means in-to-me-you-see. Love thrives on seeing and being seen. In romantic relationships it also thrives on touch, both sexual and non-sexual. Yet, many people today carry wounds and traumas from past experiences into a marriage. These unresolved emotions and experiences often cause people to build walls of protection and actually try to limit intimacy. Those with avoidant attachment styles know this all too well. When it feels like closeness develops, they typically want to pull away and create distance. No matter the attachment style, repeated experiences of pulling away and withdrawing will again erode love. Additionally, masculine and feminine beings gravitate toward different types of intimacy and that also puts many couples at odds over time. The feminine tends to crave emotional intimacy and affection first while the masculine often craves physical intimacy first. If this fact of sexual polarity isn’t honored, then both people can dig in their heels wanting it their way. In that, the connection ruptures and the love dissolves along with it. 

How to fix a loveless marriage in 7 steps 

As we said above, many seemingly loveless marriages actually contain the seeds and capacity to return to love. You don’t have to learn to live with lovelessness. You can choose something more. This, you’ll see in a moment, begins the first of the 7 steps to bring a couple back together. Before we get into the steps, let’s define the circumstances where reunion has the greatest possibility. The greatest potential for reunion exists in marriages where there is… 

  1. An absence of abuse
  2. More respect than disdain 
  3. More care than contempt
  4. A willingness in at least one partner to reconsider love

Let’s also mention here that even if hate exists, love can still return. You see, hatred is simply love in pain. We simply won’t spend the energy it takes to feel hate for something that doesn’t have value for us. If there’s hate, it’s not a problem, and it might even be a positive sign.

Fixing a loveless marriage relies on resolving the wounds that exist within us and between us. So, Let’s explore the steps that allow that resolving, and hence reunion, to happen.

Step 1: Make a Decision 

Even before you can decide to take the journey to fixing your marriage, you have to figure out if you’re willing to put in some effort. Changing a loveless marriage will absolutely take effort. On the other hand, surviving and tolerating this kind of marriage also takes great effort. If you want to reunite, you have to begin by getting clear where you want to put your energy.

At this point it’s also important to note that your willingness, and eventual decision, to move toward reunion cannot depend on your partner’s willingness or choice. To be effective, it must be wholly your choice. Otherwise, if you put your dependence on your partner to do, be, feel, or choose something, you’ll be defeated before you start. As you sit with the possibility of embarking on this journey, tell the truth to yourself. Ask yourself, do you want this marriage? Do you want love in this marriage? If so, make a decision.

Two people sitting in indecision will keep you in many more years of pain. Waiting for both people to align will leave you in an eternity of heartache. So first consider your willingness. Then, if you find yourself willing, next you’ll want to make a decision to work on your marriage no matter what your partner does or doesn’t do. 

The word decision, at its root, means to cut off all other options. So this first step also invites you to commit to the journey of healing, beginning within yourself and then within your relationship.

Step 2: Enlist Support 

The second step on the journey to fixing a loveless marriage invites you to enlist support. Tell at least one friend or family member your decision. Ask them to support you during this time. Then be sure to share with them as you practice and progress. If you truly take the steps toward reunion you will need to face some things you haven’t wanted to face. You will need to feel things you haven’t wanted to feel. Support matters. 

Therefore, it is also strongly recommended that you get support from a professional. This may be a therapist or a marriage counselor. This could also come in the form of a relationship coach or within a structured program that walks you through key processes that help identify exactly what you and your partner need in order to release the walls built between you. Additionally, you’ll absolutely need to learn the relationship tools and skills that allow you to repair the past damage and disconnect and, equally importantly, ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 

Step 3: Build a relationship with you

In any struggling or failing marriage the love becomes obscured through the lack of communication combined with the inability to understand one another. One of the biggest contributing factors in the communication breakdown happens because we actually don’t know how to express ourselves. In today’s world so focused on what other people think about us, we spend too much time paying attention to others and not enough time paying attention to ourselves. 

This lack of conscious self-awareness and self-knowledge means that we often fail to clearly express our own needs, wants, and desires. It often also means that we have difficulty setting healthy boundaries and saying no when that’s how we truly feel. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “go along to get along”. That approach always fails. 

As you reflect, it may seem that you’ve been trying to express yourself and that your partner simply doesn’t hear you. Unfortunately, we can’t blame the other for not hearing us. The speaker has to own the responsibility for the communication. While it is possible that they may not hear you clearly, you will be empowered when you, as the speaker, take the lead on effective communication. 

So, before you can work through what’s happening between you and your partner, you first have to get to know yourself. You need to rebuild the relationship with you first because the strength of the relationship with you determines or limits the strength of the relationship you can have with another.  

When you have a deep relationship with you and you know you have your own back, then you will have more space and capacity to listen to, and actually hear, what your partner wants to communicate. When you have you, your partner doesn’t have the same power to impact you. The less dependent you are on your partner for your happiness, the more you can actually contribute to your own and theirs. 

In this step toward fixing a loveless marriage, you make a commitment to you. It might seem counterproductive. Yet, it’s the only way a true authentic reunion can happen. Otherwise there is no space for love. 

Steps 4-6 to reunite a loveless marriage

Next, as you continue down this journey for repair and reunion, you will want to drop all expectations of results. The truth is, you can’t guarantee any result in this process. That’s why it requires choice, commitment, and trust. The only way to allow the full potential and possibility of renewed love, is to enter this process willingly, without attachment to an outcome. If you attach to an outcome, your partner will feel the pressure – even if you never say anything. And, as you know, we all pull away from and resist pressure put onto us. So, in step 4, drop your expectations and take the journey realizing you don’t know how it will end, yet you want to take it anyway.

Then, in step 5, you’re invited to reconsider your perspectives, hidden expectations, and definitions of love. Understanding the answer to the question, “what is true love?” starts with you, as we said above, and it’s not what most people imagine it to be. It’s generous, courageous and it’s not possessive. Your journey into really understanding the meaning of love, beyond the great misunderstandings, will allow you to re-establish a solid foundation that your relationship and your union can rest on and be supported by. 

As you come to understand the truth of love and you rebuild your relationship with yourself, then, and only then, will you have the capacity to create a safe space for your spouse to join you. As we said, you can’t force your partner to reconcile a loveless marriage. Yet if you bring love without expectation, you might just be shocked to realize that your partner’s hard shells might begin to soften over time. They might notice your shift in energy and approach. 

Your capacity to listen deeper and honor more can create a space where your spouse may feel open to joining you. At this point you’ll need to listen, heal, forgive, and rebuild trust, but you need a safe space in which to do that. So, in step 6, create a safe space for you and your partner to communicate.

Resolving the pain of a loveless marriage 

Finally, in this last step, you have to learn to resolve your upsets and allow the necessary healing to happen. This is where the real work occurs. All the prior steps prepared you for this pivotal point where you have the opportunity to release the past, reopen your hearts, and find something even more extraordinary than you had before. Yes, that is possible. 

Here you must learn the art of conscious conflict resolution. With that, once again, you are encouraged to reach out for help and support. We are not taught how to fight fairly, cleanly, or consciously. We don’t understand that men and women argue differently and need different things to resolve their hurts. 

Learning how to forgive and how two people can be different yet partnered takes time. Be patient. Your mastery at embracing and resolving hurts and upsets – past or present –  and consciously cleaning up any remaining residue will take effort and time, but in the end it will save months, years, and even decades of unhappiness for both of.

You didn’t get here overnight and you won’t resolve it overnight. 

Get Support. Go Slow. Don’t push. Be patient. 

The journey back from a loveless marriage takes time, patience, and immense courage. No matter the end result, if you truly choose a return to love and union, you will at some point find deep deep gratitude for the journey you chose and committed to. Rest assured, we are not meant to live without love and choosing to find it again will be the greatest gift of love you could ever give yourself or your spouse. 

*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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