It’s normal for any marriage to go through a rough patch from time to time. When a couple feels that they’re having more rough patches than good times, though, they may start to question if they are in a loveless marriage.
For those who are struggling with an unhappy marriage or unhealthy relationship, the answers to the following questions may shed light on the issue. After they find more information, it’ll be easier to identify specific issues and decide how to proceed.
Table of Contents
(click on a question to be directed quickly)
What are the signs of a loveless marriage?
Why have I fallen out of love with my spouse?
Why do people stay in a loveless marriage?
Should I leave a loveless marriage?
Can you learn to love someone again?
What Are the Signs of a Loveless Marriage?
If someone is struggling with a loveless marriage, they will likely notice at least one of the following red flags:
Being in a loveless marriage causes a great deal of stress. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress can cause a variety of physical health problems, including these:
- Chronic muscle tension
- Breathing difficulties
- Elevated blood pressure
- Hormonal imbalances
- Gastrointestinal disorders
If someone is struggling with any of these physical symptoms and their doctor can’t find anything wrong internally, stress from their relationship might be the culprit.
Frequent Negative Interactions
According to famed relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman, couples with healthy relationships will ideally have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. In other words, they will have five good interactions with one another for every one bad interaction.
If a couple’s interaction ratio seems skewed in the opposite direction, that might be a sign that they’re moving toward (or are already in) a loveless marriage.
Constant Criticism and Contempt
Dr. Gottman also warns against criticism and contempt, which are two of the 4 Horsemen that can predict the end of a relationship. If two partners are constantly criticizing each other, or if they have strong feelings of contempt for one another, those can be red flags that their marriage is not as healthy or happy as it could be.
Withdrawal and Avoidance
Another warning sign of a loveless marriage is an increase in withdrawal and avoidance from one or both partners.
It may seem as though two partners are living separate lives, or they may come and go at opposite hours (by choice, not because of uncontrollable factors like different work schedules) to avoid each other. They may even stay in a room with the door closed when they know the other person is around.
Withdrawal and avoidance are not indicators of a healthy relationship, and they’re issues worth taking seriously, especially if a person is already asking if they’re in a loveless marriage.
Lack of Intimacy
Every couple must decide for themselves what a healthy amount of intimacy looks like.
Some may be perfectly satisfied having sex once a month, while others prefer several times per week. However, the key is that both partners agree that this is a good frequency.
If there is a lack of intimacy in the relationship and one or both partners are feeling dissatisfied, that can be a warning sign of worse things to come.
Lack of Arguing
Constant fighting isn’t a sign of a positive relationship. However, a complete lack of arguing also isn’t a good sign.
If both partners have given up and are no longer fighting, this can signal a lack of passion and a lack of care one way or the other. They’ve stopped trying to find solutions or make the relationship work, which may mean that they’re getting closer to walking away altogether.
Why Have I Fallen Out of Love with My Spouse?
Unhappy marriages, like happy marriages, are created and maintained by a wide range of factors.
If a partner feels that they’ve fallen out of love with their spouse, it might be because their needs (including needs for intimacy, connection, conversation, etc.) are not being met. They may also be missing the novelty they experienced at the beginning of the marriage (the “honeymoon stage”).
Dishonesty and infidelity can cause one partner to fall out of love with the other, too, and can signal the end of the marriage.
Why Do People Stay in Loveless Marriages?
In the same way that there are lots of issues that contribute to a loveless marriage, there are also lots of reasons why people choose to stay in these relationships.
For example, two parents may agree to stay together just for the kids because they don’t want them to have to experience the challenges that come with a divorce. A couple may also choose to stay together for financial reasons so they can continue enjoying the same lifestyle they’ve had up to this point.
Fear can also cause two people to stay together even if they’re no longer in love. They may be afraid of change and what the future holds, so they continue with the marriage as-is even though it’s not ideal.
Some people may stay in loveless marriages because they expect the relationship to improve at some point, too. They may assume that they’re going through a temporary rough patch and that it’ll eventually correct itself.
Sometimes, this may be the case. However, it can also cause couples to avoid taking responsibility for their relationship and working to make positive changes.
Should I Leave a Loveless Marriage?
Many people feel that love is the primary purpose for marriage. A person may decide that they want to work with their partner to save their marriage, but they also may decide that their problems are too big to solve.
Everyone has a different idea of what’s considered a deal-breaker. However, the following are some of the most common reasons why people decide to end their marriages:
- A lack of trust due to frequent dishonesty
- A lack of intimacy
- A lack of effort (if one partner is putting in work but the other refuses, the other person may decide that they should leave the marriage instead of continuing to try)
Can You Learn to Love Someone Again?
For couples who decide to stick their marriage out, it’s important to truly work together to make the relationship better.
Both partners need to want to fall back in love, and they will likely need outside help to see genuine improvements. In most cases, making this happen involves going to couples therapy and working with a qualified counselor or therapist.
Couples therapy has a success rate of 70 percent. A therapist can help both partners to learn how to pay attention to one another and change their behavior to better suit the other person’s needs and expectations.
Therapists can also recommend tips, such as spending time together and scheduling regular date night opportunities, to help partners rekindle their relationship, improve their sex life, and become close like they were at the beginning of their marriage.
American Psychological Association. (November 1, 2018). Stress effects on the body.
Cohn, D. (2013). Love and marriage. Pew Research Center.
Lebow, J. L., Chambers, A. L., Christensen, A., & Johnson, S. M. (2012). Research on the treatment of couple distress. Journal of Marital and Family therapy, 38(1), 145-168.
Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.