What To Do If You Are Living In A Loveless Marriage


    6 Min Read


    Do you know someone living in a loveless marriage? I do.

    I dropped by a friend’s house the other night for a quick visit. She was there alone. When I casually asked where her husband was she said she had no idea. My quizzical look caused her to expand.

    I have no idea where he is, and I really don’t care. Frankly, it’s easier when he’s not here. He just makes a mess and riles up the kids. I assume he will be home at some point tonight.”

    I knew things between she and her husband were off, I just had no idea the extent to which they were living in a loveless marriage.


    How People End Up In A Loveless Marriage

    People give many different reasons for staying in a loveless marriage. Most often they are related to children and/or finances.

    But is staying in a marriage when you have fallen out of love really the right thing to do under any circumstances?

    The answer is - it depends.

    There’s nothing happy or satisfying about a loveless marriage.

    Most people don’t want to think when they say their “I do’s” that marriage will at some point become hard. They can only see the moment they’re in. Imagining the day when kids have worn you down, there’s too much stress at work, and your spouse is more frustrating than helpful is too far off, or they assume “It will never happen to me.” (It will).

    Of course, it’s not just stressful times that can cause your marriage to feel loveless. Whether your love is strong or not, all relationships go through ups and downs.


    Those sweeping emotions that you feel at the beginning of your marriage can and do change over time – for all relationships.

    It doesn’t have to mean the love is gone, but it does mean you need to make additional effort and potentially redefine what you want and need from your spouse.

    For some, unfortunately, life’s circumstances and the natural changes to feelings can be too much and they can find themselves living in a loveless marriage and see no viable options.

    Whether you stay in a marriage or leave is a very personal decision that requires a lot of soul searching and practical considerations. No one can make that decision for you, but there are some things that you should think about.

    Expectations For Love And Marriage

    Before you declare the love is gone from your marriage and there is nothing that can be done, take some time to consider why it is gone and when it faded (if you can).

    In my friend’s case there was a distinct break down in the “fun” they used to have together.

    When they got married they both enjoyed being adventurous and doing things outdoors, but when they had children she no longer wanted to do those things. As a result, resentment built up between them and they drifted apart.

    Marriage requires give and take, and life demands you to make changes and modify expectations in order to make progress.

    If you feel like you’re living in a loveless marriage is it possible that you and your spouse need to reconsider what you want and need from each other and your relationship?

    Ask yourself the following questions.
    • What did you love about your spouse?

    • Are those qualities still there?

    • What do you want from your spouse?

    • What do you expect from your spouse? (Yes, wants and expectations are different)

    • Have you accounted for the changes in your life and how they affect what you want and expect?

    • What about your own behavior? Do you think you are measuring up?

    Once you’re satisfied with your answers to these questions, consider having your spouse answer them as well. Then take time to discuss your answers.


    Can A Loveless Marriage Become Love-Full Again?

    Yes, it absolutely can.

    As I discussed with my friend, there are ways to fall in love with your husband all over again. It’s a process, however, and doesn’t happen overnight.

    Many times, the love isn’t really gone, it’s just buried under life. Uncovering and reviving it will involve creating a new normal and rediscovering what was once there. It can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

    And if you can see there is hope but don’t know how to make it a reality, you should strongly consider marriage counseling. Finding your way back to each other and a healthy relationship can require an experienced guide.

    Unfortunately, for some, the path to bringing the love back may be completely gone and they truly are living in a marriage without love. If that is the case the decisions become more difficult.

    Types Of Functional, But Loveless Marriages

    If you have determined that you are truly living in a loveless marriage, but are staying together because of children or financial reasons there are several things to take into account.

    • Your children. You are your children’s ultimate teacher. What they grow up with is what they will consider normal and therefore expect and accept as normal for their own relationships.

    So, consider what you want for them. Do you want them to have the same type of relationship that you have?

    If you are staying in a loveless marriage for the children, happiness and compatibility between you and your partner is key. Doing things poorly or allowing the children to see you constantly unhappy and arguing can cause more damage to your children than staying together is preventing.

    Creating a happy family life when the love between parents is gone requires the cooperation, structure, and the agreement of both parents in order to be possible.

    • Your Spouse. There may not be any love left between you, but hopefully there is still some respect and caring.

    Have you considered what your spouse may want? Making a determination about the way your relationship operates without the buy-in of your partner is unfair and will likely breed resentment and arguments.

    • You. As they say, life is short. Is this really the way you want to live? For some the answer is, yes.

    The life they have created together works and fulfills most of the things they need and want. The key to that statement is most.

    Living in a loveless marriage means you’re sacrificing, well, love. Quite possibly your intimate life as well. Is that really something you are willing to give up forever?

    The bottom line is that living in a loveless marriage for functional or parenting reasons requires thought and conversation.

    It’s not easy to do for most and needs to be carefully considered and agreed upon by both partners.


    There should be discussion about the structure of the relationship and parameters. And, especially when children are involved, agreements on how to be the best family possible as you raise them.

    A word of warning, however.

    Determining a marriage is ‘loveless’ does not make cheating or having an affair okay. If the choice is to remain in the marriage the vows you took still apply unless as a couple you’ve agreed otherwise. Some, for instance, try an open marriage in hopes that it will make things better. Spoiler alert – it won’t.

    Staying In A Loveless Marriage Out Of Fear

    If your reason for living in a loveless marriage is based on fear you’re in a bad situation.

    Fear is powerful and can paralyze the best of us. In a relationship, it’s not a reason to stay, however.

    In fact, it is the opposite – it’s a strong reason to leave.

    And fear can come in various forms, the most common being the fear of change.

    Being afraid to be on your own or disrupt the status quo is not a good reason to stay in a marriage. If you feel strongly that you would be happier in a different circumstance, but you don’t know how to do it, it’s time to consider counseling.

    A counselor should not tell you to end your marriage, but divorce counseling can assist you in navigating your current path. A counselor can also help you determine what really scares you and help you find your self-confidence.

    These things can give you clarity when making big decisions about your life and relationships.


    Dr. Kurt deals with this subject quite a bit in his practice. According to him,

    Fear is probably the biggest reason people stay in marriages without any love. And while there can be many things to fear, change is usually the biggest. The majority of people, women and men, who've I counseled over the years that have been able to muster the courage and strength to push through their fears have found amazing discoveries on the other side. You won't know what those rewards will be ahead of time though, so it takes a step of faith, but facing our fears is one of the ways we can best love ourselves when our partners won't."

    If you're scared for your safety or the safety of your children, getting help and staying safe is imperative.

    Relationship abuse can have different appearances. There’s nothing that makes a relationship with physical or emotional abuse acceptable. If you’re suffering in this way, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 and get help.

    Recovering from an abusive relationship can be difficult. Support and assistance is crucial.

    What To Take Away

    If you’re in a loveless marriage there are some key things to consider in order to make the changes that are appropriate for you.

    • Many loveless marriages are really just at a low point where communication has failed, and stress is high. If this is the case the love can come back.

    • Determining if there’s hope requires careful and deep evaluation of your own feelings.

    • Staying in a loveless marriage needs to be a choice with boundaries and expectations set by both partners.

    • Staying in a loveless marriage out of fear is a poor choice and will lead to greater heartache and unhappiness.

    • If you’re afraid to leave your relationship because it’s abusive, and you fear for your safety, you need to get help immediately.

    Living in a loveless marriage is not something that anyone wants or plans for. Sadly, the fairytale of love everlasting is not true for many, as in the case of my friend.

    Deciding what’s right for you is a very personal decision that no one can make but you. So, if you find yourself living in a loveless marriage consider very carefully what you really want and need. Ultimately your happiness is yours to control and define.

    Unfortunately, that does not mean the road to getting there will be easy – just worth it.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published January 11, 2018 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


    Looking for More? Check Out These Articles

    Read Comments from Others with Similar Experiences Below

    Like what you read?

    Guy Stuff's Counseling Men Blog shares real stories from our counseling sessions, giving practical solutions and answers to the challenges men and women face.

    Use your email to subscribe below.

    Subscribe to get in-depth articles, right in your inbox: