When a marriage feels “loveless,” there’s very obviously a problem. Whether that lack of love is marked by hostility or indifference (both are common), it indicates that somewhere along the way, you and your spouse have grown apart, are no longer communicating effectively, and have let the marriage slip into a place that isn’t satisfying for either of you.
…And before we even get into how to resolve such an issue, that’s an essential point to understand: if the marriage feels loveless, it’s almost always because both people aren’t having their needs met.
That doesn’t mean that it’s your fault or your spouses – but rather that the climate of the relationship has changed, and neither of you are getting what you need. Even if your spouse isn’t expressing this sentiment directly, it’s pretty safe to assume that – even if their complaints and problems are different than yours – they aren’t feeling engaged in the relationship either.
You both ultimately want the same thing: to be loved and respected, to feel connected and supported – except you might be looking for these things in different ways, or worse, have barriers from past trouble that prevent you from connecting to your spouse in the way they want (and vice versa).
The real trouble comes when you find your marriage in this cycle of disconnection. One of you may feel dissatisfied for whatever reason, and unconsciously pull back from the other… Which in turn makes that person feel neglected. It’s easy to imagine how this can spiral out of control if the problems are never addressed, and over the course of time, you both settle into a pattern of frustration, lack of affection, lack of communication, etc.
This behavior goes on and on, reinforcing itself because you each feel dissatisfaction, which leads to withdrawal, impatience, acting annoyed with one another, indifference toward each other’s feelings, and all of those other “loveless” symptoms that make you feel like disconnected roommates at best – and definitely NOT like a married couple.
So, the important question: what can you do about it?
These tips can help you break the cycle and start moving back toward the marriage you once had – one of connection, communication, and love.
1. Talk About It
You can’t fix the problem if you don’t even bring it up. This doesn’t have to be an accusation or an attack – instead, tell your spouse how you feel, and that you know they must be feeling disconnected too. Let them know you want to work to improve the relationship, and that you’ll need their help and honesty to do it.
2. Total Honesty
This will likely make you both feel quite vulnerable, but it’s essential to breaking the cycle of lovelessness. You have to open up about what you want, what makes you feel connected and loved, and how it has been missing from the relationship. You ALSO need to be honest about how you’ve contributed to the loveless environment – even if it was reactionary or largely unconscious, you have to recognize the role you’ve played in getting the marriage to this point.
3. Try Reconnecting Naturally
This process is going to take work and honesty, and that means serious discussions, personal reflection, and likely some tumultuous emotions… But there’s also some potential for rebuilding your connection through simply spending time together! It might feel strange if you’ve gotten used to your current “loveless” situation – but go on a date!
Get away from distractions, try to put resentment and past hurt out of your mind, and just spend some time together as people. Try to have some fun, laugh together, talk about things that interest you, and think about what made you fall in love with each other in the first place.
This is not the time to dig deep into the problems. Instead, it’s a reminder that the problems are worth solving in the first place.
4. Tackle It Head On
After you’ve opened up about how you’re feeling and gotten honest about all of the factors contributing to the problems (including your own), it’s time to really get to work.
If you’ve recognized that you shut down at any hint of criticism, take steps to change your attitude about it, and talk to your spouse about ways they can offer feedback without making you feel bad about yourself.
If your spouse has trouble being affectionate because of past hurt, dig into why they’re holding a grudge, what you can do to make it up to them, and follow our process on effective apologies and forgiveness.
Whatever the root issues may be (barring some rare extremes), the two of you can take measures to resolve them – often one step at a time. It may mean adjusting your habits or attitude, compromising about things you don’t see eye to eye on, even relearning (or learning for the first time) how your spouse prefers to communicate, what their “buttons” are, and so on. They’ll need to understand that the same is required of them!
So often, “loveless” marriages are simply off course, and have been for so long that the couples don’t quite remember where they were headed in the first place. By spending time together to reconnect, and unpacking the years worth of less-than-loving behavior (and what has really been causing it), you can begin to steer back toward a loving, communicative marriage that you both desire.
Be honest, be open, and rebuild the connection you once had!