How to stay happy in a loveless marriage? In this article, you will understand your options when facing a fractured relationship and learn five things you can do to reclaim your life.
This is part of our Unloved Series. Plus, check out the infographic below that outlines the 5 practical things you can do to stay happy.
Dr. Karen Finn says about saving an unhappy marriage:
Most couples, however, commit during the romantic stage of love when they are marinating in matchmaking brain chemicals and hormones. They see all that is perfect and possible, and brush off the negatives like dandruff off a shoulder. Give them a couple years, however, and that chemistry starts to wane. Suddenly reality sets in, and, even if the spouses aren’t incompatible, they don’t “recognize” their relationship. It doesn’t look or feel as it did early in their relationship.Karen Finn
Her advice? It takes commitment to make a marriage work.
What happens when you feel trapped in a marriage that lacks love, commitment and devotion? What are your options? How can you be happy in a marriage that has lost it’s love?
Before we dig deeper into the five things you can do to create a happy life for yourself, let’s look at your options concerning your marriage.
Understanding Your Options In A Loveless Relationship
Disclaimer: We rarely recommend divorce or separation. There is usually hope for every marriage. Before you consider ending the relationship (or even taking a break), make sure you have done everything possible to revive your relationship. We offer the options below to help you see clearly the path you are on. Only then can you make a wise decision about what to do.
Emotions get in the way of logic at times. Especially when dealing with relationship issues. Our feelings are wounded so we respond with a heightened sense of raw emotions. This seldom produces the right decisions.
Below we break down your options if you are in a loveless marriage. Our hope is you will choose the path of restoration, recovery, and reconciliation. We know this is not always possible, but it should be the primary direction.
There are two basic options if you are in a broken marriage. The image below paints a picture of these options. We will discuss them in detail below.
Option #1: Stay in the Marriage
This is our recommendation for most marital problems. The exception would be abuse or extreme neglect. Most problems do not fall in that category. Therefore, we believe there is hope for a troubled relationship.
What does staying in the marriage mean? What do you do IF you choose to stay?
There are two basic approaches if you stay in the marriage:
1. Stay and Continue to Work on the Relationship.
This should be the first option if you are in a bad marriage. After all, how can a marriage be reconciled and restored if both partners abandon the process?
2. Stay but Live a Separate Life
This is the alternative people make when divorce or separation is not a viable option. They simply decide to live as if single.
Is this a good alternative? It depends.
I do not believe it is a good alternative if you plan to date other people, engage in sexual activity outside of your marriage, or publicly pretend you are not married.
Many people have strong religious convictions about divorce. They do not believe it is an option (outside of infidelity), so they refuse to leave their spouse.
This can be a very touchy subject for many people. I’ve witnessed it play out with some couples in the following manner:
The couple chooses to stay together but they live as if they are single. They date other people. Sleep in separate beds. Have a completely different circle of friends. They often even decide it’s okay to engage in sexual activity with someone else.
The irony is, they often ‘leave’ emotionally or sexually. They abandon any hope of rekindling a true relationship with their spouse. They live as if single by having sexual relationships outside of marriage.
In trying to maintain one religious conviction, they violate others. In my opinion, this does not make sense. It usually adds more internal conflict than it seeks to resolve.
In this case, it is probably better to simply leave the marriage. After all, is divorce a worse sin than adultery or fornication?
That’s just one example. I’m sure there are many others. The point is, if you are living as single (in the manner described above), ask yourself if this will maintain your dignity and integrity in the long run. Will this make you feel better about yourself over time? Or will it further violate your religious and spiritual convictions?
As a Christian, I believe this option is the worst decision. There are ways you can stay in the relationship AND maintain your spiritual convictions in a healthy way. We talk about these things below.
If you stay together but choose to live separate, at a minimum try to find out why things went wrong and work on how to regain and restore trust in your marriage.
Distance can be helpful IF your intention and focus is on making your marriage work. When you lose that, you stop working on your relationship. The outcome should be obvious.
Option #2: Leave the Relationship
You also have alternatives in this decision as well.
1. Separate and Give Yourself Space and Time
We’ve talked about the pros and cons of separation AND provided a practical guide for making sure your time apart is productive and healing instead of further damaging your marriage.
If you choose to separate, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Get a game plan for moving your relationship forward, and set a time to come back together to discuss what’s next in your marriage.
Before taking this step, read our article on how separation affects your marriage.
Also, make sure you continue to make deposits into your spouses’ emotional bank account. This should not end simply because you are not living in the household. It will ensure you keep the door open for reconciliation.
2. Divorce and Move On with Your Life
This is the last resort. Do what you can to try and make your marriage work. Before you take this step, make sure you have identified the right stage of your marriage conflict, and taken the appropriate measures to communicate at that level. This is vital.
Too often couples end their marriage prematurely. Or they leave for all the wrong reasons. Only to regret it later. The way to guard against this is to make sure you have given your best to make the marriage work.
It should be obvious the best option is #1 with the first approach – stay and work on your marriage. Here is a list of books that will help you when you feel alone in your marriage.Too often couples end their marriage prematurely. Or they leave for all the wrong reasons. Only to regret it later. The way to guard against this is to make sure you have given your best to make the marriage work. Click To Tweet
5 Practical Things You Can Do To Stay Happy In An Unhappy Marriage
What happens when you have done all you know to do but you feel stuck in an unhappy relationship? How can you build a life where you can experience joy, peace, and love?
We offer these five practical steps you can take to create a life worth living even if you are in a loveless marriage.
Consider these tools to help you manage your personal happiness.
1) Build a Life for Yourself
We talked about the dangers of living separate lives above. Building a life for yourself doesn’t mean you cut out your partner. It DOES mean you do not allow their failure to determine your success in life.
Some people refer to this as ‘solo activities.’ They are hobbies or relaxing activities that give you pleasure.
Having things you do that give you joy keeps you from fixating on what’s wrong with your marriage. It’s healthy (and necessary) to get a clear picture of what’s happening in your relationship, but it can be counter-productive to focus solely on what is wrong.
Hobbies and extra-curricular activities shift your focus and gives you and emotional break from the inner conflict marital dysfunction causes.Having things you do that give you joy keeps you from fixating on what's wrong with your marriage. It's healthy (and necessary) to get a clear picture of what's happening in your relationship, but it can be counter-productive to… Click To Tweet
The goal is to avoid letting your marriage problems become the center-piece of your life. Buidling a life for yourself is about finding things you enjoy outside of your marriage. It doesn’t mean you avoid your partner; you avoid letting their lack of love for you dictate your overall well-being.
It’s a tricky path, but it’s possible to create a meaningful life outside of an unloving spouse.
Find a hobby that allows you to divert your attention to something productive and positive.
2) Be Grateful for What You Have
This doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand (escapism) or pretending everything is fine. It does not mean you ignore problems in your relationship. It does, however, mean that you shift your focus to what you do have, not what you don’t’ have.
One way to do this is to think about the alternatives to staying in your marriage. What would happen IF you decided to end it? What would your life look like?
It’s important to not romanticize and fantasize about how great things would be. Trust me, it’s never that simple. There is pain in ending a relationship. Your external circle of friends changes. The family dynamic is different. Things. Change. You need to know that.
This doesn’t mean you should stay no matter what. The point I want to make is to focus on gratitude. You will always find better solutions if you focus on positive things rather than negative ones.
You will always find better solutions if you focus on positive things rather than negative ones. Click To Tweet
Far too often, we find ourselves focusing on what we don’t have, what our lives are lacking, and what we want more of. The problem with that is there is always something more to want. It’s an eternal treadmill and we have to make the conscious choice to step off it if we’re to find some inner peace and happiness.(aconsciousrethink.com)
3) Connect Spiritually to God
A recent study from Harvard University measured the health and well-being to religious and spiritual beliefs (prayer, church attendance, meditation, etc). They found people with strong religious connections were less likely to be depressed, have STD’s, or abuse drugs and alcohol.
These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.Author Ying Chen
What’s the take-away? Keep a strong spiritual connection to God. Study after study validates that a connection to God helps you maintain perspective and a positive mental and emotional well-being.
We are spiritual beings. Not biological balls of energy. I believe that since we were created in the image of God, we are never more alive than when we are connecting to God through prayer, and connecting with our spouse on a spiritual level.Article: 8 Things You Can Do For Your Marriage
Connecting to God is more than daily bible study, prayer, or meditation. Those things are vehicles to help you connect with God. They are not the goal. The real goal is knowing God as your source and finding your identity in the fact that you were created in His image and therefore have value.
How does this help if you feel unloved by your spouse?
Knowing you are loved by God is the ultimate experience of being loved. It is where our true identity is formed. When you know you are loved by God you have a sense of security, acceptance and value that anchors your life to something immoveable.
4) Grow Your Friendships
Living in an unhappy marriage doesn’t mean you can’t have friends. Even healthy relationships need friends.
There are many women (and men) who have meaningful friendship even though their spouse doesn’t desire to meet their needs. While a healthy marriage should be the place where most of our emotional, spiritual, and physical needs are met, there are man people who manage to have their relationship needs met out of their bad marriage.
It is not ideal, but it is possible to have fulfilling relationships with friends even when your spouse chooses to disconnect.
We are made for connection with others. So, grow your friendships. Refuse to allow your spouse to control your emotional state; take responsibility for your life by building connections with others who add value and meaning to your life.
There is one caveat to this: Avoid the potential pitfalls of moving too far in the opposite direction.
Don’t allow yourself to abandon your marriage by shifting your heart to others. The goal is to build a life for yourself where you can find healthy, meaningful relationships even if your spouse is detached.
Remember, it is not about withholding love from your spouse, or getting even. It is about your personal well-being. Don’t use it as a means to hurt your spouse.
5) Invest in Others
Friendships help YOU find fulfilling and meaningful connections in life. Investing in others helps you focus outward. Friendships are for you. Investing in others is for…others.
There is a difference worth noting.
By investing in others we are getting out of our own problems by helping others with theirs. This does four things:
- It helps you stop over-focusing on your own issues.
- It helps you make a difference in someone else’s life.
- We feel better about ourselves when we invest in others.
- Helping others reduces stress.
Investing in others allows you to reclaim your life.
All of this has to be connected to continuing to invest and work on your marriage. These things do not replace your marriage, they supplement it. This is a critical distinction to keep in mind.
Your marriage usually only improves based on the investment you make in it. It’s the ‘sowing and reaping’ aspect of life. You get what you sow.
Does this always work on an even level? No. Sometimes your spouse will not respond to your offer of love. But the principle is true and will generally work. So, keep giving.Your marriage usually only improves based on the investment you make in it. It's the 'sowing and reaping' aspect of life. You get what you sow. Click To Tweet
Can a Loveless Marriage Be Saved?
Yes. The real question is, ‘Will YOUR loveless marriage be saved?‘ The answer depends on what you do, AND how your partner responds.
There are two things you can do immediately to move you in the right direction.
1) Get a gameplan on what you need to do.
While there are no easy answers or simple steps, you can begin by focusing on the 10 practical guidelines to use as a blueprint to help you get started.
These are not ‘one and done’ things. They are more like a checklist to keep you moving the right direction.
2) Get professional help
This doesn’t just mean ‘see a counselor.’ That may be necessary, but that is not the only way to get professional help. The key is to get your answers from certified people who have experience in working with troubled couples.
In a nutshell, stop finding your answer on Reddit, Quora, or Yahoo Answers. Forums are not the best place to get good advice. Most of the time you find angry people who are responding out of their own sense of betrayal and rejection. This is not a good combination.
We recommend starting with a program called, ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Dr. lee Baucom. He will help you identify where you are in your crisis and give practical guidance on what to do at each stage. This is invaluable.
Don’t ‘go it alone.’
Final Thoughts How to Stay Happy in a Loveless Marriage
If you are in a broken relationship that is characterized by dis-connection rather than intimacy, knowing how to stay happey in a loveless marriage is a major priority.
In this article we began by laying out your options – stay or leave – along with the various aspects of those two choices. Next, we discussed five practical things you can do to maintain a positive perspective and create a happy, meaningful life.
Recap of the key points in this article:
- Understanding Your Options In A Loveless Relationship
- 5 Practical Things You Can Do To Stay Happy In An Unhappy Marriage
- Can a Loveless Marriage Be Saved?
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