Feeling trapped in a loveless marriage is emotionally exhausting. It’s a burden that you experience every moment of every day – wanting to connect or feel loved, even simply wanting to be noticed and acknowledged by your spouse – and not having those desires met leaves an empty feeling. This deep sense of not being fulfilled can keep people waiting and wanting, hoping that their partner will start to care…
Unfortunately, this is something many couples struggle with in varying degrees. For some, it’s anger and aggression. For others, one spouse simply ignores the other, and this kind of emotional neglect can be just as painful.
But however the problems manifest themselves, one thing is very clear: longstanding relationship problems (and maybe personal issues) have caused communication to come to a standstill, and neither of you are happy with the relationship.
Really, that’s the first step to understanding how to resolve these types of issues.
Even if the hostility or lack of affection seems to be coming from one side, the problems involve you both. A “loveless” marriage is an indicator that neither of you are having your needs met.
In a marriage, you both are essentially after the same things: you want to feel appreciated, connected, important, and loved. The problems arise because, well, we don’t all experience those feelings in the same way, and the ways we have those needs met vary from person to person. A loveless marriage is the ultimate imbalance – where needs aren’t being met for either party, and because of it, each person may be holding back from providing that emotional sustenance for their partner.
It happens in a cycle. When someone isn’t happy, they may point their anger and disappointment at their spouse and behave cruelly, or they simply clam up and withhold the very things they feel they are being denied.
But since marriages are a two-way street, this reaction to unmet needs (whether real or perceived) makes the other person do the same thing! Less satisfaction leads to more unsatisfying behavior, and both members of the marriage can continue to do this until no one even knows what the initial issue may have been…
This process of reacting to unmet needs cycles on itself over and over, moving the marriage further and further from a place of mutual satisfaction.
So, what steps can you take to break the cycle?
1. Speak Up
The first step is to put the brakes on the whole thing. Stop the cycle by speaking up about your dissatisfaction, but not just the symptoms. Admit to your spouse that you are feeling unsatisfied, and let them know that it’s okay if they feel the same way. You can’t begin to solve the problems until you get them out on the table.
2. Make The First Move
This part can be difficult, but to get things back on track, someone has to get things started. Instead of perpetuating the cycle, focus on being kind, on providing your spouse with those elements that lead to emotional fulfillment, and try not be resentful if they aren’t reciprocating right away. You HAVE to break the behavioral cycle before you can move forward.
Set the example of how to treat each other, and set the tone for the relationship you want to have.
3. Get Honest, Get Connected
If you can break through some of those barriers of tension and resentment, you’e set the stage for an opportunity to truly reconnect. It’s important that you try to rediscover why you got married in the first place. You don’t have to dive right into solving the issues in your marriage – start with just talking to each other.
Rekindle your friendship first, and get to the point where you can comfortably communicate without that weight of resentment bearing down on you. Open up about the way you feel without blaming the other person.
4. Tackle The Tough Stuff
In this fairly gradual process, it’s a good idea to get beyond some of the initial pain before you dig into the deep-seated problems in the marriage. However, once you are on more civil speaking terms, have started to come back together as friends, and have begun to understand your mutual responsibility for the state of the relationship – it’s time to tackle the big issues.
As you may know from some of our other tips on effective communication, you can talk about faults without finger pointing, you can talk about your own mistakes without being defensive, and you can both admit to being part of the problem.
It doesn’t have to be anger-driven or only consist of pointing out each other’s flaws and shortcomings. It does, however, have to get to the core of why you aren’t feeling satisfied – and what needs to change to get back on track toward a strong, healthy marriage that you both are proud to be part of.