Do you know someone living in a loveless marriage? I do.
I dropped by a friend’s house the other night to drop something off. She was there alone and 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.
There are a lot of reasons that people give 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 to that is - it depends.
Most don’t realize when they say their “I do’s” that marriage will at some point become hard. Whether your love is strong or not, all relationships go through ups and downs. And the sweeping emotions that you feel at the beginning can change over time. 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 these changes can be too much and they can find themselves feeling that they are living in a loveless marriage with 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 completely that 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 friends 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 is give and take and life requires you to make changes and modify expectations. If you feel like you are 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 are satisfied with your answers to these questions consider having your spouse answer them as well. There are many times when the love isn’t really gone, it’s just buried under life. Creating a new normal and rediscovering the love can be really difficult, but not impossible. However, as I discussed with my friend, there are ways to fall in love with your husband all over again. If you can see there is hope but don’t know how to make it a reality, you might consider marriage counseling. Finding your way can, at times, require a 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 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 for themselves. Consider what you want for them. Do you want them to have the same type of relationship that you do?
- 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 good. 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 effective.
- Your Spouse. There may not be any love left between you, but hopefully there is still 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 are 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 is 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.
Staying In A Loveless Marriage Out Of Fear
If your reason for living in a loveless marriage is based on fear you are in a bad situation. Fear is powerful and can paralyze the best of us. In a relationship, it is not a reason to stay, however. In fact, it is the opposite – it is a strong reason to leave. And it 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, you might 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 decisions about your life and relationships. Dr. Kurt deals with this subject quite a bit in his practice. According to Dr. Kurt,
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, 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 are scared for your safety or the safety of your children, getting help and staying safe is imperative. Relationship abuse can have different appearances. There is nothing that makes a relationship with physical or emotional abuse acceptable. If you are 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.
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 is right for you is a very personal decision that no one can make but you. 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.
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