Marriage is a promise of forever but sometimes, it loses it fails to deliver on the promise of happily-ever-after. Every argument seems to turn into a fight and soon enough, one of the partners leaves the bedroom to sleep on the couch. If you’re wondering about the signs of a loveless marriage, chances are that your relationship has already taken a hit. While coping with a failed relationship is not a walk in the park, acceptance is the first step to recovery.
The fact that you’re here indicates that you’re already looking for answers and that’s an encouraging sign because now you are one step ahead in the journey of mending a damaged, loveless marriage. People often fail to recognize the unhappy marriage signs because they tend to forget that like any other feeling, love is never static. It is bound to differ depending on many external factors that married couples experience in their lifetime.
Sometimes the husband checks out emotionally from the marriage or the wife starts to avoid intimacy. That’s precisely when two people are left grappling with the negative outcomes of a sexless and loveless marriage. So, how do you know if you are in a loveless marriage? Is staying in a loveless marriage for a lifetime possible? Is there any cure to turn around a cold, passionless relationship? Yes, we know you want to throw a bunch of other questions into the mix, but let’s tackle this complex issue one step at a time.
To put your mind at ease, we explore the signs of a loveless marriage and ways to cope with it in consultation with psychologist Pragati Sureka (MA in Clinical Psychology, professional credits from Harvard Medical School), who specializes in addressing issues like anger management, parenting issues, abusive and loveless marriage through emotional ability resources.
What Is A Loveless Marriage?
Let’s get down to the most pertinent question on the topic at hand – what is considered a loveless marriage? Well, one might think it’s pretty much given in that specific term in the title. But in reality, there are more layers to it than just the absence of love. When emotions are not reciprocated the way they should be, one might begin to feel lonely in a marriage. When the love and compassion seem one-sided, it might be the right time to ask yourself if you are in a loveless marriage.
In order for a healthy marriage to survive, partners must engage in open communication. If you’ve been noticing your spouse being distant while having a conversation, avoiding physical intimacy, or spending less and less time with you, probably your marriage is going through one or multiple issues that need to be addressed right away.
Pragati defines a loveless marriage as, “A frigid soulless spell in your relationship when love has evaporated and you don’t know how you ended up here from a loving, happy marriage. Every couple while getting married imagines it’s going to be a bed of roses. They expect the relationship to run smoothly and age like fine wine. But for most people, it turns out to be a utopia. Once the honeymoon phase fizzles out, the marital responsibilities seem to feel like a difficult challenge rather than giving you a sense of gratification.
“Research has shown most marriages start in very high spirits but often end up in a loveless bond. One can start observing signs of a loveless unhappy marriage when either both or one of the partners feel unhappy in the union. As the spark fades away, they feel they are not cared for or nurtured by their spouse, and surviving a loveless marriage becomes an uphill struggle.”
Related Reading: Expert Lists 13 Reasons Why Marriage Is Important In Life
Why Does A Marriage Become Loveless?
It is true that with time the definition of love in a marriage changes. The love you share becomes more mature and serene. Instead of the early stages of passion and intimacy, the relationship gets characterized by a stronger bond of care and respect. But in certain cases, love disappears forever. Here are some reasons which can turn a union into a loveless marriage:
- Lack of priority: The relationship might have taken a backseat in the couple’s lives, so they fail to give time to each other and forget to appreciate one another
- Difference of choice and opinion: The couple is not able to accept the differences they have in terms of their preferences, dreams, and personalities and end up drifting apart in the relationship
- More fights and arguments: Some specific incidents like a major fight might have triggered feelings of resentment toward each other which the couple is not able to resolve
- Infidelity: An affair could have broken the trust and partners could be grappling with the torment and guilt which is the aftermath of an affair
- Occurrence of various relationship stressors: There could be circumstances like caring for an ill parent, dealing with sudden financial stress, joblessness, or sexual inadequacy that can create havoc in a marriage
Pragati says, “When it comes to marriage, there is no handbook to guide you through the journey. It’s not taught as a life skill in any institution that you have been to. While exchanging the vows, you don’t receive a road map on how to create a happy marriage or maintain that high spirit for a long time. American psychologist Robert Sternberg talks about consummate love in his Triangular Theory of Love. Fueled by passion, intimacy, and commitment, it’s the copybook example of a romantic bond, but a high-achieving dream that most couples fail to attain in a lifetime.
“Losing feelings for a partner is not uncommon these days. People don’t focus on developing a healthy and happy marriage the way they chase other things in life, for instance, financial prospects or a perfectly shaped body. Couples often burn their time and energy focusing on kids, career, or their personal growth. They might aim to climb a mountain or become a CEO in the next five years. In the process, goals related to marriage slip too far down the ladder of priorities.
“As a result, couples rarely work on creating love in a skillful manner and eventually, two spouses learn to act being happy in a loveless marriage. You know how we all adjust according to each season of the year. The same goes for relationships too. If you don’t adjust to the other person’s dreams, goals, quirks, and other personality traits, you may end up resenting each other.”
10 signs of a loveless marriage
How do you know if you are in a loveless marriage? That won’t be so difficult to crack as you will feel it in your heart of hearts. Still, a better understanding of what characterizes a loveless marriage will give you the opportunity to make a decision about the future course of your relationship. So, we bring to you 10 tell-tale signs of a loveless marriage which will help you recognize whether you are in an unhappy marriage or not.
1. There is a huge communication gap between the two of you
You would know your marriage is about to hit the rock bottom when there is a lack of communication. Either you go through a series of spats or there is complete silence like the lull before a storm. Imagine how terrible it might get to stay under the same roof with the person who once seemed to be your soulmate and yet feel lonely as hell. You go to social gatherings together, smile for the camera, and put up a facade of being happy in a loveless marriage. But between the four walls, your words fail you!
Pragati says, “The loveless marriage effects seem to catch your eyes more vividly when you stop discussing your concerns with your spouse. Both partners talk about their spouse with their friends and family rather than directly talking to the spouse. So, in a way, you are communicating about each other but not communicating with each other.”
Related Reading: 9 Signs Of Unhealthy Compromise In A Relationship
2. You both are not physically comfortable with one another
Tony Robbins once said, “Relationships don’t die because of a lack of love. They die because of a lack of passion.” When you have passion on a physical or emotional level, you reach out to the other person. It’s only natural for the fire to dim with time. Perhaps, after five years of marriage, a nonsexual touch plays a more important role in keeping you attached than passionate lovemaking. The feel-good hormones coming with a gentle kiss or a warm hug make you happy and stay connected. But if either one or both of you keep shutting each other, staying in a loveless marriage might be a hard nut to crack.
Pragati clarifies it better, “In a romantic relationship, people find connecting with their partner deeply hard without physical intimacy. If your marriage started off on a passionate note, the lack of intimacy could be hard to accept leading you toward a loveless marriage. Usually, it happens because of a breakdown in communication or priorities. Relationship stressors like financial matters or a new baby on the way can shift your focus from your spouse.
“Sometimes organic causes such as hormonal changes, substance abuse, or a certain medication can also lower the libido wrecking your performance in bed. And this sexual incompatibility slowly withdraws you from the marriage creating a huge physical and emotional space between you and your loved one.”
3. You continuously criticize each other
You’re both constantly chiding each other. For any mistake (no matter how small), you have to bear each other’s harsh criticisms. You and your partner will make each other feel horrible by highlighting each other’s shortcomings and saying hurtful things. Instead of helping you become a better person, the continuous criticism from your spouse will demoralize you and will weaken the bond that you share with them. If you were in a happy relationship, your partner would give you constructive advice and not discourage you with negative comments.
4. You look for happiness outside the marriage
This means you either prefer spending time alone and enjoying what life has to offer you, or you find yourself getting attracted to another person. While coping with a sexless, loveless marriage you may start looking for intimacy outside it. This other person is obviously someone you are able to connect with. They seem to care about you and give you the respect that you deserve.
You might end up having an emotional affair with this person without even realizing it. An emotional affair takes place when you get overly comfortable with someone outside your marriage and start sharing intimate details about your life with this person. Effects of a loveless marriage can slowly push you on the verge of building an emotional (or physical) connection with someone other than your spouse.
5. Your loveless marriage is not worth fighting for anymore
Often, when a couple fights, it means there is a connection that they have and that they care for each other. Albeit a flawed one, fighting is a form of communication too. After the reconciliation, the couple is able to experience a brand new bonding of rejuvenated love and respect in the relationship.
But if your married life is devoid of fights, then something must be amiss. It shows that you both have stopped bothering about literally everything and you don’t intend to fight for your relationship anymore. You have subconsciously decided that your loveless marriage is not worth fighting for.
6. You both fail to appreciate each other
Playing the blame game has become a common phenomenon in your unhappy marriage. For any problem that you face, you both start blaming each other instead of finding a solution together. Nothing you do makes your spouse happy and vice versa. The mutual feelings of appreciation are long lost in the relationship and you both start taking each other for granted. Sometimes, you might feel that you’re the only one making efforts to make the relationship work. This is a sign of a loveless marriage.
7. You hardly care about your responsibilities toward your partner
There comes a point in a loveless marriage when you hardly care about your responsibilities toward your partner. You do not keep track or simply don’t care about your spouse’s preferences. What they want to eat, their likes/dislikes about movies or clothes, etc are of no concern to you. You start caring more about your own needs, likes, and dislikes and you might not even feel ashamed to avoid your responsibilities. Your spouse can exhibit this same behavior as well. In a way, you both become selfish in the relationship.
8. A future without your spouse seems more positive to you
It will become obvious that you are unhappy in your loveless marriage when you start thinking about a future without your spouse. If you start fantasizing about a life in which your husband/wife has no role to play, then it means you feel imprisoned in your relationship and you want to escape the clutches of this unhappy marriage. Your partner might also feel the same and look for an escape route.
Related Reading: Confessing Cheating To Your Partner: 11 Expert Tips
9. Spending time with your partner feels like a task to you
You dread spending time with your partner. Given a chance, you would rather spend your free time alone or with your family members or friends. Both of you even stop making efforts to plan dates or mini-vacations, because you want to avoid being alone together. One of the alarming signs of a loveless marriage is when you start detesting the company of your partner. Maybe that’s when the time is right to walk out of this dead-end relationship.
10. Deep down in your heart, you know you’re in a loveless marriage
Even though you keep telling yourself that all is well in your marriage, your heart reminds you of your true feelings. Your gut knows that you’re facing depression in marriage due to the sheer lack of love and affection. Listening to your heart is probably the best thing to do at this moment to carefully plan your next step.
How to survive a loveless marriage?
Realizing that you are in a loveless marriage is hard. The person who you thought was the love of your life is now almost a stranger to you. You can feel that your marriage is almost over. But don’t worry, you’re not out of options yet. Here are a few possibilities for you if you are in an unhappy and lackluster marriage. Before the loveless marriage effects ruin your last chance to be happy together, give your best shot to turn it around:
- Make an effort to work things out by either trying to talk about your differences on your own or with the help of a therapist. We suggest the latter
- You can continue living in a loveless marriage and live totally separate lives
- You and your partner can discuss trying out an open relationship
- Last but not least, you can try to move on and get a divorce to find happiness elsewhere
Pragati highly recommends visiting a licensed therapist. According to her, it’s the first step toward surviving a loveless marriage because therapy helps you explore the reasons why you got married in the first place and what makes you so repulsed toward the relationship now.
She suggests, “Remember there is a lot you can do to address and work out your issues on a personal level. You have to be open to the idea that the problem might lie with you too. The fault does not always lie with the other person. Delve into yourself and see if you are overstretched. And at the same time, prioritize your physical and emotional needs and see if they are fulfilled.
“Start dating your partner once a week. Understand your partner’s love language and be ready to give that. It will help you generate the long-lost passion for each other all over again. To turn a sexless marriage around, what’s really required is healthy communication. If there is no organic problem, it can be solved on a personal level or with a little help from a professional.”
The decision will ultimately depend on what you truly feel about the relationship and whether you think there is a possibility to instill love in the relationship once again. So whichever path you choose to take, make sure you tread carefully. And if it’s help you’re looking for, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel of experts are here for you.