February 21

Loveless Marriage v. Divorce: Which Do You Have and What Do You Do?

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Tags

deciding to divorce, divorce and emotional health, divorce blog, forgiveness


Black and white photo of an unhappy couple in a loveless marriage.

You don’t talk anymore – not about anything real, anyway. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter. Or, you convince yourself that you’re just tired. But somewhere, deep down, your heart knows the truth. You’re in a loveless marriage.

What is a Loveless Marriage?

A loveless marriage, by definition, is one where there is no love between spouses. Loveless marriages also suffer from a lack of intimacy and connection between spouses.

While most loveless marriages are also sexless marriages, loveless marriages and sexless marriages are not necessarily the same thing.

Some couples who can’t stand each other have sex out of fear or obligation. Other couples may not have sex for physical reasons (e.g. one partner is ill or paralyzed) but they still love each other very much.

In short, while love and sex generally go hand in hand, they can also be separate.

In today’s world, even those who are in loveless marriages now, loved each other once upon a time. Years ago, that wasn’t necessarily true.

When marriages were arranged, and divorce was less common, lots of people found themselves in loveless marriages. Back then, being in love had nothing to do with being married. As a matter of fact, the two rarely went together.

Marriages were economic unions. They were a way to provide financial security and, in richer families, to secure a family’s wealth and social position. They were also vehicles for raising children.

Today, marriage is much, much more.

In the modern world, we assume that being in love is a natural part of marriage. We expect our spouses to be our partners, our lovers, and our best friends. When they’re not, we start wondering what went wrong.

Are You in a Loveless Marriage?

While you might think that everyone in a loveless marriage knows it, that’s not necessarily true.

Like a slow-growing cancer, disrespect and disconnection can grow for years in a marriage before they take over the entire organism.

It usually starts with small things.

Your work demands grow and so you start spending less time together. The kids keep you so busy that you’re too exhausted to talk. You’re so sick of fighting about the same thing all the time that you just avoid your spouse altogether.

Little by little the distance between you grows.

At first you don’t notice too much. Or, you think that feeling mildly upset or vaguely distant from each other is just the way marriage is. It’s normal … isn’t it?

Every now and then you’ll reach out and ask your spouse if everything is okay.

But talking about what’s not okay is hard. So, most of the time, you both just shrug the question off and soldier on.

Human beings are amazingly good at avoiding what they don’t want to see. Denial is devastatingly powerful.

Can’t decide whether to stay or go? Get your FREE E-BOOK: Should You Stay or Should You Go? today.

Beautiful woman in a bad marriage staring out through a rainy window

10 Signs You Are in a Loveless Marriage

If you’re wondering whether your less-than-perfect marriage is just going through a normal slump, or is suffering from something more serious, here are some signs you should look for.

When one or two of these signs exist, your marriage is in trouble.

If more than two of these telltale signs exist, chances are your marriage is already on life support.

1. You’re not having sex.

It’s true that you can have a loving marriage without having sex – but for most people it’s rare!

If you and your spouse aren’t having sex, and you’re also not kissing, hugging or sharing any kind of physical affection, that’s definitely a bad sign. Physical intimacy is what separates spouses from those who are “just friends.”  

If you and your spouse no longer touch each other, sleep together, or have sex, you’ve likely crossed the line from spouses to roommates.

2. These four destructive behaviors have taken up permanent residence in your marriage.

Acclaimed marriage and family therapists Drs. John and Julie Gottman have identified four behaviors that will sound the death knell for any marriage. These four deadly behaviors are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

If your spouse is always attacking you with criticism (or vice versa) your marriage is in trouble. If you regularly mock your partner, roll your eyes in disgust, or put your partner down, your marriage is in trouble.

The same is true if one of you constantly avoids responsibility by being defensive or if one of you gives the other the silent treatment for days on end. All of these behaviors are signs that your marriage is in serious trouble.

3. You actively avoid spending time with your spouse.

We’re all busy these days. But if you find yourself making excuses NOT to spend time with your spouse, something deeper is going on in your relationship.

When you’re more comfortable spending time alone or with friends than you are spending time with your spouse, that doesn’t bode well for your relationship.

It’s also not a good sign if you and your spouse are physically in the same room, but mentally miles apart. If you’re on the phone and s/he is watching TV, you may be “together” but you’re not engaging with each other. For all practical purposes, then, you’re not really spending that time together.

Woman screaming at husband. How to deal with high conflict people?

4. Your spouse never seems to want to spend time with you.

You may still enjoy spending time with your spouse, but if s/he doesn’t ever seem to be around to spend time with you, that’s also a bad sign.

If your spouse has no interest in going out on dates or being alone with you, chances are, something is up. The same thing is true if your spouse no longer talks to you about anything other than the kids or the house.

When you’re in love with someone, you want to share your life with them. If your spouse no longer tells you anything that’s important to him/her, that’s another form of avoidance.

5. You are either fighting more than ever, or you’ve stopped fighting altogether.

If the way you fight with your spouse, or the amount you fight with your spouse, has changed, that’s a sign that your relationship has taken a turn.

If you never used to fight, and now you fight all the time, something is obviously bothering one (or both) of you. Or, if you find that you no longer have the energy or the will to bring up subjects you know you and your spouse disagree on, that’s also a bad sign.

Open and positive communication holds a marriage together. If you don’t have that with your spouse, your marriage is headed for trouble.

6. You fantasize about life without your spouse.

So, everyone fantasizes about what life would be like without their spouse every now and then. But if you find yourself dreaming of having an amazing life alone a lot, that tells you something.

Psychologically, you’re starting to detach yourself from your spouse. If you’ve started to act on your fantasies – say by browsing your local apartment listings – your detachment is going yet another step further!

Happily married people do not dream of living without their spouse.

7. Either you or your spouse has developed a wandering eye.

When you’re not being fulfilled inside your marriage, it’s natural to start looking for fulfillment outside of it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you are looking to have an affair. (Although, it could!) Emotional fulfillment can be as big of a draw as physical fulfillment.

If you find yourself wanting to share news of your promotion, or your kids’ amazing performance at school, or any other happy news, with someone other than your spouse, that’s a sign that your spouse is no longer meeting your emotional needs. While you may believe that developing a platonic “friendship” doesn’t threaten your marriage, emotional affairs can be just as devastating to a marriage as physical ones.

8. You’re feeling ignored or controlled … a lot!

Theoretically at least, marriage should be a two-way street.

If you’re feeling like your needs are not getting met, or you feel invisible in your own marriage, that will erode your connection to your spouse. The same thing is true if you feel like your spouse is purposely trying to control you or is keeping you in the dark about important family issues – like your finances!

It’s even worse if you’ve tried to talk to your spouse about how you feel, and your spouse either doesn’t listen or doesn’t think his/her behavior is a problem.

9. Your spouse doesn’t want to work on your marriage.

There are very few problems in any relationship that can’t be fixed if both people are willing to work at it. But, it’s hard to work on relationship issues alone.

Sure, you can always work on yourself. As you grow and change, the way that you show up in your marriage will change. So, to a certain extent, your relationship will change when you change. But, for your relationship to grow, both you and your spouse need to nurture it.

Plus, if your spouse doesn’t care enough about you and your marriage to work on whatever issues arise, that says a lot about how important your marriage is to your spouse. (HINT: If you’re at the point where your marriage has been floundering for years, going to marriage counseling may be your best way to turn things around.)

Young, handsome man depressed about being divorced

10. Your gut is screaming at you.

Your body will often tell you what your brain doesn’t want to admit.

If you’re constantly sick or irritated, or you just always feel “off” (especially when you’re around your spouse), your body is telling you something. Most of the time, we don’t want to listen to what our bodies are saying. We don’t want to admit the truth of what, deep down, we already know.

If you’re not sure whether your chronic stomach aches are a sign of food allergies or marital problems, get quiet. Take a walk alone. Meditate. Listen to that small still voice inside of you. Pay attention to how you feel. When you do, you’ll get your answer.

Being in a loveless marriage sucks … but so does divorce! How do you decide what to do? This FREE E-BOOK: Should You Stay or Should You Go? can help!

Why Would Anyone Stay in a Loveless Marriage?

In today’s world, when virtually anyone who wants a divorce can get one, you may wonder why anyone would ever stay in a loveless marriage.

There are more reasons than you may think.

Parenting Marriages

Some people stay married for the sake of their kids. Why most people who “stay married for the kids” do it unconciously, there are people who acknowledge that their marriage is broken, but that they want to stay together until the kids are grown.  Those people create what is known as a “parenting marriage.”

This kind of a marriage can take many forms. But, at its core, a parenting marriage is a non-romantic union where a couple focuses all of their joint time and energy on raising their kids. What makes a parenting marriage different from your run of the mill marriage where the two adults are horrible spouses but great parents is the fact that the couple openly discusses the change in their relationship. It’s also a change that both parents choose.

In a parenting marriage, both spouses agree that their original marriage is over. (Although they don’t legally divorce.)

They both agree on the terms of their new marriage – where they will sleep, who they will sleep with, how they will manage joint finances, and what they can each do in their free time.

Religious Marriages

Other people stay married for religious reasons. If their religion doesn’t accept or recognize divorce, they may choose to stay in a loveless marriage rather than violate the tenets of their faith.

While staying married for religious reasons is relatively rare in the United States these days, in other parts of the world it can still be common.

Financial Marriages

Still, other people stay married for financial reasons. While that may sound horribly cold, it can also be extremely practical.

If you and your spouse are older and you don’t have enough money to ever live separately, staying in a loveless marriage may be more appealing than eating cat food for the rest of your life. Or, if staying married allows you to enjoy a lifestyle that you could never afford as a single person, you may choose to stay, even if you’re in a loveless marriage.

While most people today would frown on that kind of arrangement, the truth is that married couples have been living that way for centuries.

When divorce wasn’t an option, people didn’t stay married because they were in love and their marriages were blissful. They stayed married because they had no choice.

Even though today we all have a choice, that doesn’t mean that choosing to stay married for financial reasons makes you a bad person. It is simply a choice that you can make.

Like every other choice, however, choosing to stay in a loveless marriage has consequences.

Lonely woman facing divorce sitting on aluminum bench outside against a blue background.

The Price of Staying in a Loveless Marriage

When you’re in a loveless marriage, you die a little more every day.

Even though you’re married, you often feel lonelier and more alone than any single person ever. You don’t have the love you want, but you’re not free to go look for it elsewhere.

You don’t have the emotional connection that you expected to have with your spouse. When you see happy couples your stomach clenches. All you can think is, “I will never have that.”

That hurts like hell.

You feel like your life is over. Motivating yourself to do anything gets harder with each passing day. It’s hard to get excited, even by the good things that happen to you because you have no one to share those things with.

If you have re-negotiated your loveless marriage into a parenting marriage, you may have different feelings. At least when you’re in that situation, you’ve made an active choice to create a different kind of marriage.

Unlike others who are trapped in loveless marriages they didn’t want, you and your spouse may have agreed that you can have relationships with others. You might be in a very non-traditional marriage – one you never would have chosen from the start. But you’re doing it for a reason – it’s for your kids.

At least that makes you feel a little bit better about your situation.

What to Do If You’re In A Loveless Marriage

If you’re in a parenting marriage, or any other type of non-traditional marriage arrangement, you’re probably in it by choice. You and your spouse each have reasons for staying married that have nothing to do with each other.

While your situation may not be ideal, at least you know why you’re in it. You made a conscious decision to stay in a loveless marriage for a reason.

If you didn’t choose to stay in a loveless marriage for a specific reason, however, then you’re in an entirely different position. Dealing with your situation requires two things:

  1. Recognizing the situation that you’re in; and
  2. Deciding what you want to do about it.
Sign with black arrows pointing in 2 different directions. Which way to go?

We’ve already talked about how you can figure out whether you’re in a loveless marriage or not. Assuming that you are, your next step is to decide what you want to do about it. You can either work on your marriage, get a divorce, or decide to live with the status quo.

Choosing Your Path

Loveless marriages can be pulled from the brink of divorce if both partners agree that they want to try to do that. If both partners make their marriage a priority, and work on it, they can often begin to rekindle the love that they lost.

Of course, doing that takes an enormous amount of emotional honesty – both with yourself and with your partner. You’ve got to be willing to have the difficult conversations that you have been skirting (sometimes for years!). You’ve got to be willing to own your part of the marriage’s problems.

You’ve also got to be willing to get help. Once your marriage has deteriorated to the point of being totally loveless, you and your spouse probably can’t communicate effectively either. If you want to try to save your marriage, getting professional help is key.

Most of all, you’ve got to be willing to forgive yourself and your spouse for whatever happened in the past. You also have to be willing to work harder on your marriage than on anything else in your life.

That’s not easy.

On the other hand, if one person doesn’t want to work on the marriage, or if the marriage is so far gone that there is nothing left to save, then it may be time to consider getting a divorce.

That doesn’t mean that you have to rush into divorce the first moment you realize that your failing marriage has passed the point of no return. Taking the time to figure out a game plan before you dive headfirst into divorce will always make your divorce go better.

Your last choice is to do nothing.

Of all of your choices, that one is the hardest one to make.  Not only will you likely pay the price involved in staying in a loveless marriage, but, in today’s world, you will get little sympathy for your plight.

Most people believe that if you’re unhappily married you should just get a divorce. The fact that, for you, it’s not that simple, makes little difference.

Loveless Marriage v Divorce: Which One Is Better? Which One is Worse?

If you suspect that you’re in a loveless marriage and you don’t know what to do about it, you face a dilemma.

Getting a divorce may be terrifying, for a multitude of reasons. It’s expensive, disruptive and can be financially devastating.

Yet, staying married is likely killing your soul.

Because of that, your choice is highly personal. Even though it might feel like there are “right” and “wrong” answers, really, there is only one answer: yours. It’s neither right nor wrong. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both.

As long as you make a choice, though, you will be making progress. That’s because just making this choice is incredibly difficult. That’s why people stay stuck in loveless marriages for so long.

On the other hand, if you make no choice, or you deny that your marriage has a problem, you will be making the worst choice of all. Remember, not to decide IS to decide.

___________

Having trouble deciding whether to work on your marriage or get a divorce? My Free E-Book: Should You Stay or Should You Go? can help.

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  • Karen,
    The information here is so helpful! I truly appreciate what you are sharing! So much of it sounds like my marriage, I just didn’t know how to define it. I think for a long time we were in a unconscous parenting marriage, but now the kids are almost all gone and there is really nothing that we have in common anymore. There is a complicating factor, too, which is my faith. I became a Buddhist shortly after we were married and my husband was fine with that. He did not have strong faith attachments and I did not grow up in a household where we had that, either. Over time, he became critical of my practice and would give me a hard time when I would go to meetings. He would give me the silent treatment or he would make disparaging comments or shame me for my involvement. He was clearly jealous and we did go to counseling for a while, but never really helped us resolve the issue. We lived under the “agree to disagree” motto for many years except that my altar was not allowed and my open practice was not allowed in our home. The only way I survived this was because his work required him to travel and when he was gone I could be “me” and explore a life of personal growth, practicing freely and joyfully. Unfortunately, when he returned, I would revert back to my obedient “other” self. It took me many years to realize how destructive this pattern has been for me physically (your reference to stomach aches was right on!) and to gain enough courage and perspective to see that I am in a loveless marriage – one that will (likely) never allow me to pursue what is important to me, with a spouse who disrespects me and my choices. I like to remain optimistic so I insert “likely”. Just this week, I have taken the first steps toward understanding what my options are in disentangling myself from our shared life and working toward a new life and I came across your website. It has been a really big help already! (I am getting your book from my local library.) I am in the Chicago suburbs, and if I had one question for you it would be: In searching and selecting a lawyer, is it helpful to conduct an interview with potentials? What would that look like? Maybe it is in your book. Thanks again, Karen!
    Jill

    • Your article rings true for me. Loveless marriage and I check off all the boxes you mentioned. My daughters are in their 20. And out of state although there is one that probably have to move back in. I am on my 60s would love to start over and have a new life but he has been breadwinner. If I leave I probably will have to work. Fear is what keeps me here but I am totally miserable. The daughter will probably will return has Aspergers, I spent so time and effort on her since she was a baby
      In the hopes she would become totally independent. Things are not working out. So total unhappiness sucking my soul dry living with my husband and now my daughter. My husband and I never agree about my daughter I have been one pushing her all her along all these years. So its complicated being in my mid 60s and feeling like I need to escape and having the burden of my child and a loveless marriage

      • I feel your pain coming right through the words you’ve written! My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine how challenging it must be to have to deal with your adult child and a husband who doesn’t love you at the same time. I can understand why you feel stuck.

        At the same time, you may have more options than you know.

        First of all, though, you have to decide what you want. If you want to end your loveless marriage and give yourself a chance to find real love (and, yes, you can even do that in your 60s!) you may very well have to go to work again. Is that scary? Absolutely! But if you’re not willing to face your fear the price you will pay is with your soul.

        Even if you don’t leave your husband, getting yourself back in the workforce will help you meet new people. You will start to feel stronger and more independent when you don’t have to rely on anyone else for money. As scary as getting a job might be, the benefits can be enormous.

        … but you have to face your fears.

        I would also suggest that you go get a consultation with a good divorce lawyer in your area. Talk to a financial planner too. Your financial situation may not be as dire as you think. Step number one is always figuring out what the facts are. You need to know how much money you have, and what you’ll need to make in order to survive if you divorce.

        As for your daughter, I encourage you to get help. Maybe there are places she could live where she might not be totally independent, but could live with others like her and be mostly independent.

        You don’t have to do all this alone.

        Start talking to professionals so you can explore all of your options. There may be more out there for you than you know.

        Karen

  • Thank you for writing this. It’s nice to know that there are others in this situation because it feels completely alone. My marriage has been loveless almost since the beginning. I believe we married because we were both getting older and felt we needed to settle down. We definitely were not in love. After 15 years and hitting middle-age, I have started to panic thinking, “is this all there is.” We are roommates. We don’t argue or fight and we also don’t talk much. We aren’t partners, we basically share the same address. We both have great jobs. I have tried to talk with him about the issues but he’s not emotionally capable of having a conversation and we were never close enough to discuss feelings. I feel stuck. Thank you for writing this!

  • Karen,
    This was a very good read. This is me in a nutshell. My only question is, what if we want to get a divorce, but our spouse refuses? They threaten to make your life miserable and refuse to be civil for the sake of the kids? I am stuck in a situation where do I want to be miserable in a loveless marriage, or do I want to be miserable and single because I will be harassed constantly? My husband is a very large guy and a restraining order will not stop him. I have also tried to seek help and he refuses to get help.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. The truth is, a restraining order in just a piece of paper. It won’t stop your husband from being a jerk. It can be helpful to have, however. If you have a restraining order and he violates it, he can end up in jail. After that happens once or twice, your husband may be much more inclined to respect it.

      As for whether you choose to stay married and be miserable or get divorced and be miserable, that’s a tough choice. But often times in life, we are faced with tough choices – choices where we’re choosing between two bad alternatives. That sucks, but even when all of your options are bad, that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. You just don’t have any good ones.

      So, how to choose? It starts by making an informed decision. That means you have to understand how divorce works and know your options. Then you have to learn about your options for saving your marriage. (If you’re already past wanting to save it, then obviously learning your options makes no sense.) Then, once you KNOW what your options are, you KNOW how divorce is likely to work, and you KNOW what you can do to make your marriage or your divorce at least a little bit better, you decide what you want.

      I know that sounds easy.

      It’s not.

      It will take a TON of work – deep work inside yourself. You’ve got to ask yourself what you want and what you can live with. You’ve also got to know what you’re willing to do to get what you want … because nothing is for free.

      What it WON’T take is permission from your husband. You can get a divorce whether he agrees or not. He can choose to be a jerk in the divorce, and afterward. You can’t stop him. But as long as you think that you can control him by just staying married, you’re stuck. Then he’s controlling you.

      Best,

      Karen

  • This blog is amazing and quite helpful. I am single in her early 20s young woman and I’m a writer. I’m currently writing a piece on Celebrating divorce. Topics like this hit home for me because I have a best friend who is married (give or take 6 years). Her husband is a real work of art (read between the lines) and not supportive of her at all. There has been an affair in the marriage a few years after having a child-they married when she was pregnant about a year after college. So quite fast for my speed. We went from communicating every day all day to here and there now. Its been really hard to watch her suffer for the few last years and l know even when everything is fine that just her way of not dealing with anything, she just shuts up and “leaves it to god”. Shes lost her voice and is more configurable getting walked over to avoid arguments and getting the work of art husband upset. It hurts so much because in 2016 I left an abusive relationship. I moved to her home 2 hours away from my own son to be in a safe place for me. I felt guilty for years for leaving my son for 9 months. Missing prime emotional holidays spending them over SnapChat, FaceTime and USPO. His dad is in his 30s and more financially stable- I didn’t even have a job at the time. And I knew that my X only had it out for me, not my son. I knew my son would have more stability with his father. Fast forward to 2019 and my relationship with my son’s father is GREAT. I no longer live in fear of him and out communication is WAY better. We have definitely both did a lot of self-reflection and it’s benefited us both. There always work to be done, my growth is constantly evolving. What I want for my best friend is to find her voice and self-worth. She lives in a marriage where her husband sees no problem-so there is no issue to fix.

    • Congratulations on making it past the anger and misery and building a great relationship with your son’s father! I know that took work!

      As for your friend, while your heart is in the right place, you have to let your friend live her own life. When she is ready to make a change, she will. You can’t make it for her.

      I know that’s frustrating for you because you just want the best for your friend. But if you want to support your friend the best thing you can do at the moment is to be her emotional support. You can also talk about your own experiences with her. That may help too. But, other than that, unfortunately, you’ve got to let your friend live her life the way she chooses.

      Best,

      Karen

  • This is a great post. I have been married for 42 years. I have spent most of that time “chasing” after my husband. Trying to get him to talk to me, trying to get him to notice me, trying to get him to love me as I did him. Yes, I was in denial. No one in my family has ever divorced! We were married two years when we had a fight he suggested we divorce! I was shocked. I think it was indicative of his commitment. He was never “all in”. Now I see. I found out the Fall of 2017 that he misused a ton of marital assets. I trusted him to handle ALL our finances even going so far as to NOT have any joint bank accounts. OMG. What that a mistake. To sum up, I filed for divorce January 2018. Still ongoing and I doubt I’ll end up with much. I forgot to mention he’s from the Middle East and pretty sure he has money and a condo over there. Which I cannot prove, so tough luck to me.

    • I’m so sorry! If it helps, denial is a powerful force. You’re not the only one who has kept her eyes closed for too long.

      What’s positive is that you’ve opened them now!

      Good luck!

      Karen

  • 6 of 10 answered yes. 27 years and stuck. i do though care for my spouse and when i initiate leaving i never do because i feel more bad for him than me. I have to figure it out or the window on the rest of my life will close

    • I hate to agree with you, but you’re right.

      If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to check out the Decision Day Retreat. It’s a One Day Retreat specifically designed to help you see what’s blocking you and get clear about what you want so that you can move forward with your life and be happy.

      The last Decision Day Retreat for 2019 is being held on September 27. You can CHECK IT OUT HERE.

  • All 10 signs fit for me. My wife has a nasty attitude. Nags all day. I can’t stand her. We haven’t had sex in 3 years. She got super fat and I am in shape. She resents me for that because I can’t stand the fact that she’s fat and I don’t accept it. If it wasn’t for my kids that are little I would of left her a long time ago. I also can’t afford to leave either. We barely make ends meet and financailly I can’t leave.

  • I found your article helpful and informative. We have been married 18 years and the last 3 pretty much without love, on my part. We have discussed divorce but its nothing he wants, he claims hes still fully committed and in love with me. We dont have kids, but live a great lifestyle, due to his income. Its not a bad relationship, we can have fun at times, but still I feel like there could be more. So, Ive been feeling bad about myself, if I make the decision to stay based on his love for me and both of our loves for the life we live, knowing I am not in love with him (he knows this), does it make me a bad person or is it just a personal choice? Honestly, although Im not in love with him I do care for him and I dont really want to start over at this point in life. He says hes ok with me just being here and in his life, but will he reach an end to that? who knows, I guess I could say I would cross that bridge if the time comes. So if we both make the decision to stay rather than divorce, is it a bad idea or is it just a choice?

    • Everything is a choice. Your life is — and will continue to be — determined by the choices you make. The same thing is true for your husband.

      The question is: Are you MAKING a choice? Or are you letting inertia make your choice for you? (Btw, either one is okay. It’s okay to let life choose your path for you. The question is, are you doing that consciously or not? Is that the way you want to live your life? If so, then that’s fine. If not, if you want to be the driver of your life, then you may want to take a look at your life and start choosing what you want more deliberately.)

      As for whether staying in a loveless marriage is okay as long as you and your husband are both honest about what’s going on, I can’t tell you that. That’s a personal decision. Does staying make you a bad person? Again, that’s not for me to say. I personally don’t think so, but I’m not you! That’s just my personal opinion. What’s more, my personal opinion doesn’t matter! The opinion that matters most to you is YOUR opinion. The fact that you would even ask the question makes me wonder whether, on some level, you think that you’re a bad person because you’re staying.

      THAT’s what you’ve got to work out. You might want to look at what YOU believe, and what you think of yourself and your lifestyle. That’s where your answers lie.

      Best,

      Karen

      PS It may help a lot when you’re asking yourself these questions if you DON’T attach a value judgment to them. Staying or going isn’t inherently good or bad. It just IS.

  • I have waited way too long and now its “make the best” of what is left of life. My wife had an extended affair with family friend and then took our 4-year old with her as she moved in with her lover and his family for an extended period of time – I did not want our son to grow up a the child of divorced parents as I had…….. so I have poured myself into our marriage for 30 years. I have become little more than a door mat, recently found out that my wife still is in a heart felt relationship with the same guy, even thou geography and her illnesses no longer allow her to be intimate. We never talk about real things, only meals, weather and politics, no hand holding had had no sex in almost 15 years………. life sucks.

    But I want access to my /our four grandkids and I know that I will be cut off if I leave………

  • Thank you Karen, I found your article and reader’s comments comforting. Life is certainly not easy. 8/10 for me on your list. While I have been blessed with a great job 3 wonderful children, and many other wonderful things in life; my marriage of 26 years has been a disaster. At one point, I would’ve given it all up for a “great marriage”, as I’ve always believed there is nothing more important than a strong, committed, and loving marriage. Where did my marriage go wrong? Simply put, I married the wrong person, a person who couldn’t fulfill my needs for love and affection. I think we’ve held hands once or twice and hugged 3 or 4 times (when our parents passed). We’ve been practicing social distancing for two decades (separate bedrooms for 20 years), so these times during the Covid-19 outbreak are a piece of cake for us. We certainly don’t love each other, haven’t for many years, and there is absolutely no desire to love each other again. Our best days are when the other one is away from home. I am 55 now, and well beyond those years when I used to cry myself to sleep at night, because I was so miserable. The constant thoughts of leaving and rare thoughts of suicide are gone now. No more feeling sorry for myself. Every now and then, I think about leaving, but then I convince myself that I don’t have the energy or desire to start over in another relationship. The window of opportunity has closed. Choice and change are hard, and I’ve been changed by default; hardened into living selfishly…go where I want to go, do what I want to do, don’t even have to say goodbye when I leave the house. I’ve learned to accept and cherish these things, and at this stage in life, I would have a difficult time ridding myself of these learned behaviors for another woman. I am grateful for the good things I’ve been given in life, acceptant and not bitter of the things I don’t have. Life could be much worse, but there will always be a part of me that wonders what could’ve been, had I married someone else.

    • It sounds like you’ve made peace with your situation. That’s positive. Your life may not be the way you envisioned it would be. But as long as you’re okay with it, that’s fine.

      Everything is a choice. All we can do is our best.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      • I found your article rang true to me. I’ve been struggling in my marriage for the past 3-4 years. I honestly thought we had a very strong marriage and would be in love forever. After 22 years, I’m not sure how we ended up here. 6-7/10 on your list, no sex for the past 4 years. Yet no significant fighting. We just never talk, never connect, and I’m not sure why. I know I’m not innocent in this, but I’ve never been abusive nor cheated and I’ve always been supportive financially. I feel like I do a lot for her and our family while still working a lot of hours to support us. Since we’re not speaking about us anymore, I can’t find out where I went wrong. We speak about the kids, the house, and finances primarily. Never about us. If I try to say anything, she doesn’t want to talk about it. I’m not sure where I’m going with this but I did identify with your article as it reflects very accurately on my marriage. Not sure where we’ll end up, I hope to reconnect. I need to take the next step of having a difficult conversation and I hope she will talk about it this time. I need to fix my marriage or find out if it’s unfixable

        • I can hear how much you’re struggling. I also think you’re absolutely right – having that difficult conversation will help you figure out where you’re at.

          Maybe, if you try to talk about your marriage and your wife says that she doesn’t want to talk about it, you could simply ask her, “Why?” The key is to ask with genuine curiosity. You can’t ask from a place of anger or judgment or this won’t work.

          If your wife still won’t talk, try being open and honest yourself. Be vulnerable. (Yes, I know it’s scary!) But tell your wife how you really feel. Tell her that you miss her (assuming that’s true). Tell her how you really want to try to reconnect and you’re not sure where you went wrong. Ask her to tell you what you did or are doing wrong that bothers her. (Yes, this is even more scary!) Then OWN your part of the problems in your relationship and do NOT blame her for ANYTHING! (Blame won’t solve your problem here. It will only make it worse.)

          Then, once you’ve talked, LISTEN! Let her talk and talk. Do NOT get defensive. Don’t argue! Just listen. If she stops talking ask, “Is there more?” or “Tell me more.” Once she finally answers that there IS nothing more, THEN you can start talking again and TOGETHER figure out your next steps.

          Being open and honest is hard. It’s scary. It opens you up to pain. But it’s the ONLY way to stop the pain you’re already in and see if you can turn your marriage around. You can’t do it by ignoring or not talking about the real problems you’re having.

          Will it work? I wish I could give you a guarantee. But there are no guarantees in love or in life. The one thing it WILL do is let you know where you stand.

          Hope this helps!

          I wish you the best!

          Karen

  • I have been married for 5 years coming up on July 24th and we have been together for 13. I feel as though we are nothing more than roommates he has a good job but is terrible with money I am not working right now but when I was we went half on everything. In January of this year he admitted that he was cheating which makes his second affair in our short marriage. It has been a nightmare he lives his life like I don’t exist. He plays on my feelings and sends mixed signals all the time. I removed all of his things from our bedroom he sleeps in the living room but occasionally eases back in the bedroom but there is no intimacy at all. I am so lonely he barely says 20 words to me on most days and rarely says goodbye when he leaves for work. He keeps saying he doesn’t know what he wants but it’s clear it’s not the marriage. He is joined at the hip with his phone. He pays absolutely no attention to me.

    • What he wants isn’t the only question here. It seems like the question you want to ask right now is: What do you want? And, perhaps more importantly, why are you staying with someone who is treating you so badly?

      If it’s about money, then maybe you should focus on getting a job. Doing that will give you the financial ability to make a choice based on what you WANT, rather than on what you NEED to do because you can’t survive any other way.

      Will the money you make be as good as what he makes? I don’t know. But once you’re at least able to support yourself, you’ll have a choice about what kind of life you want.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

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