It’s no secret that the perception of love changes over the course of a marriage. The intensity and excitement of early romance gradually give way to a subtle yet enduring bond.
But in some instances, love vanishes altogether. Couples become distant. They stop talking and dread being together. Bitter arguments break out over pointless issues. Sex becomes a distant memory.
Sometimes spouses can pinpoint a specific incident that lead to their rift. For instance, “My wife started sleeping in my son’s room after he was born.” Or, “I pulled away completely when he insulted me about my weight.”
At other times, the process is barely noticeable and may take decades to evolve. Husbands and wives spend ever more time watching television or working at their computers in the evenings. They no longer participate in activities they once enjoyed. They’re too busy to chat about each other’s days.
Partners frequently have vastly different emotional skills and requirements. Certain spouses may be verbally expressive and enjoy discussing their feelings. Other folks are more aloof, distracted, tight-lipped. They become uncomfortable when a conversation enters the realm of touchy-feely. Unfortunately, such emotional opposites often find their way to the altar and, if unable to resolve their inherent differences, set the stage for years of marital isolation.
Too often marriages move to the backseat of people’s lives. Partners stop doing nice things for each other. Their priorities are directed away from their relationships.
Even aging plays a role. Some partners become more rigid, angry, depressed, distracted, critical, agitated or bitter over the years and are less emotionally available to their mates.
Whatever the cause, the result is sadly similar. The relationship becomes a vast emotional wasteland. Couples are unable to turn to each other for succor or support. They feel lonelier when they are together than when they are apart.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for those who find themselves in loveless unions. Some people decide to call it quits in search of the love they feel they deserve. Others have minor-age children at home and opt to stay put until the kids are grown. Still others focus on the benefits of their marriages and downplay any perceived lacks.
Of course, the best advice is to prevent the love from draining out of the relationship in the first place. But that’s easier said than done.
Linda Lewis Griffith’s column is special to the Tribune. She is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.
If you’re in a loveless union
- Discuss your concerns with your partner. Avoid assigning blame or scolding. Instead, look for ways that the two of you can improve the situation.
- Give your relationship the attention it deserves. Spend time together. Go on regular date nights. Develop a joint hobby.
- Be emotionally available. Listen to your partner’s concerns. Avoid being judgmental or trying to step in and solve things.
- Make intimacy a priority. If possible, sleep in the same bed. Have sex often. Hold hands when you walk together. Kiss each other frequently.
- Be pleasant. The simple act of being nice, agreeable and kind has a profound impact on your marriage.
- Know when to call it quits. Not every relationship can be salvaged. If you’ve done your best and your marriage continues to flounder, talk to an attorney and a financial adviser to determine the best way to proceed.