I often receive emails from folks (usually from wives) who describe their marriages as “loveless.” Even though this may have been going on for a while, most of the time, people haven’t really come to accept this. Although most of those who write me don’t want to end their marriages, most want to change it. Most know that they deserve better and that living this way is lonely, potentially unhappy, and not optimal.
Along those same lines, many begin to wonder if things can ever change. Living and relating this way has become a habit and since, at least right now, no one has been willing to attempt lasting change, many people doubt that the “loveless” state of the marriage can ever turn around. Many people feel that things are as good as they are going to get and they just have to effectively learn to live with this as best they can.
Well, I actually do believe that loveless marriages can turn around because I’ve seen it happen numerous times. What’s often required is that only one party is willing to attempt change and is also willing to accept gradual victories that lead to a whole new marriage over time. I will discuss this more in the following article.
Has Your Marriage Always Been Loveless?: Often, when I ask this question, people pause before they answer. It may be a long way back until they are able to remember that things were different. But, they often have to concede that once upon a time, things were. Usually, there is a very distinct and strong contrast between the way that things were then and the way that they are now. Most people will look back at the loving times full of excuses. They will say things like “yes, but that’s when we were young and stupid and had no idea about priorities or the real world where people have responsibilities.”
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This is a sound argument. If you met your spouse when you were much younger, it only makes sense that neither of you had the responsibilities and pressures that you have now. But, it’s also likely that you didn’t have the defense mechanisms that you’ve built up either. It’s likely that you approached things with a free heart and with less reservations and weariness. And, it’s also likely that you found a way to invest more time and effort.
This was all shiny and new and you were likely quite enjoying the pay off that you were getting and were willing to give quite a bit to make sure that this continued. The result of course was a relationship that grew to be so strong and lasting that you wanted to make it permanent. Of course, once this happens, it seems that there’s no longer a need to have to put in the time and effort. You’re married after all. Your spouse knows that you’re committed and you expect that things will continue right on as they have been. It’s very common to make these types of assumptions. But doing so is often the beginning of a shift in your marriage that only intensifies over time.
The Phrase “Loveless Marriage” Often Has More To Do With Effort And Habits Than It Has To Do With Feelings: I know that people often doubt me when I say this, but I firmly believe it to be true. People will often assume that they’ve fallen out of love because of a shift in feelings or because of a change in chemistry or in the people involved. I strongly disagree with this based on experience, observations, and research.
In fact, the shifts that people describe are often directly related to a shift in behaviors, efforts, and habits. It’s completely human nature to begin to get comfortable, complacent and to take things for granted when given enough time to do so. Add this inclination onto the huge amount of responsibilities that most of us have today, and you have a recipe for complacency that derails many marriages.
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Once real life and children or aging parents begin to demand our attention, a natural and inevitable shift takes place. We don’t mean to change our priorities and short of demote our spouse. This shift isn’t even a conscious one. It’s a logical reaction to the new demands of our life. But, it does have consequences. And one of these is that your marriage suffers. Resentment and apathy will very often follow. Eventually, the connection begins to wane and the efforts become less and less as the result. Down the road, the feelings follow and change. And people mistake this for thinking that they are no longer in love or are living in a loveless marriage.
Bringing Back The Effort Will Often Bring Back The Feelings: I really dislike the term “loveless marriage.” I think that most times, this is an unfair and inaccurate term. Usually, the two people still feel a good deal of affection for one another. But what has happened is that priorities have shifted, neglect has taken place, this has become a habit, and people make the assumption that the feelings are gone.
Very often, I see that if people bring their focus back on their marriage, they will come to realize that the love wasn’t gone. It was just missing because the effort was also missing. They have gotten into the habit of sort of ignoring the needs of the marriage and their spouse and so they are just coexisting. But, if they can change this, they will often see that the feelings change also.
Many people are willing to do this but they just don’t know where to start, Old habits are hard to break and that’s why it’s advisable to start slowly. Just begin trying to bring some of your focus on relating in a positive way each day. Remember the things that used to bring you together and incorporate them into your life. This doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Remember when you were dating and a walk in the park seemed like the most romantic thing? Just bringing your focus back to each other in scenarios that are low pressure and enjoyable will often set a stage onto which you can continue to build a new foundation.
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