I heard from a wife who was seemingly at the end of her rope. She described her marriage as "unloving" and said that very recently, there had begun to be a lot of tension in their home. When the affection started to wane, she didn't worry too much about it because she knew that it could be normal for the passion to wane once people had been together for a while. And, at that point, she and her husband were still cordial and kind to one another.

However, recently, she had started to notice that her husband had begun to make sarcastic and somewhat critical comments about her and their relationship. The cordial atmosphere was changing and, more and more, she felt herself being tense and somewhat defensive in the presence of her husband. This was affecting her level of happiness and satisfaction in other areas of her life and she was very concerned.

She said, in part: "I'm not sure how much longer I can take or survive my unloving marriage. I know the spark is gone, but we're at a point that is beyond even that. We don't seem to like each other much and I haven't thought of him in the same context as "love" in quite a long time. He's sarcastic, critical, and nasty. I don't want to break up our family. I don't want my children to not have their father around. He's a good man and a good father. He's just not that great of a husband lately. Is it wrong for me to want more and to wish I felt loved or had a loving marriage? Because lately I just find myself wondering if this is all I have to look forward to. How do I survive a marriage as unloving as this one?"

Comments like this are so common. And no, it's not asking too much to feel loved, appreciated, and desired. If there's any silver lining here, it's that I know that it's possible to turn an unloving marriage around or at the very least make it more tolerable and even fulfilling. (I know because I have done it. More on that here.) I will discuss this more in the following article.

If You Can, Try To Determine When Your Marriage Became Unloving. This Information Holds Vitals Clues About What To Do Next: In situations like this, I find that there are typically two courses that might have gotten you to this point. Sometimes, there's an event in the marriage that proceeds it becoming "unloving." Sometimes there is a stressor that is never quite worked through. Examples are things like infidelity, resentment, a break down in communication, personal struggles that people project onto the marriage, or severe and stressful situations.

If you can pinpoint when and how the breakdown started, this will often give you clues about what you must work past now before your marriage is likely to become loving again. I realize that many people will resist this suggestion. Sometimes, couples don't attempt to solve problems and instead just try to gloss over them - either because they don't know how, or because addressing it is just too painful or awkward. Nonetheless, doesn't your happiness make the effort with it?

Sometimes, there is no precursor to the change in the marriage. Over time, the relationship cooled naturally even though both people still loved one another and were invested in the marriage. There is no "smoking gun" in this situation.  In my opinion, these types of scenarios are often caused by unresolved resentment because needs have gone unmet. The spouses aren't angry with one another as no one has done anything malicious or awful. But everyone is sad and a bit disappointed that they are no longer part of a loving marriage where they feel appreciated and desired. And this is usually when you begin to see that anger seeping out.

Turning Your Unloving Marriage Around So That You're Thriving Rather Than Just Surviving: I believe that couples like this still have a chance. It was obvious that the wife was totally fed up and was thinking about exploring a break because she was tired of being unfulfilled. At the same time, she was clear that her husband was a good man and father, and she didn't really dislike him. She just disliked the state of her marriage and how that made her feel.

When I asked her to pinpoint when things she changed, she admitted she noticed a difference when she got a very demanding promotion at work. The resulting disconnect was very gradual, but the two of them didn't have as much time to connect and she was exhausted a lot of the time. So the dinners out and the weekends away dried up. No one made any huge mistake or was unfaithful or unkind. But they drifted apart anyway.

A Changing Focus: If this couple focused on putting more time and effort into their relationship and in connecting, they could see some positive changes in the feelings that were coming out of the marriage. The truth was, I didn't think it was that they didn't love each other anymore, it was that they didn't necessarily love how the marriage made them feel anymore and this manifested itself in the disconnect they were seeing now.

But, if they could set it up where the relationship was satisfying rather than draining them, the resentment, the sarcasm, and criticism would likely disappear and be replaced by the loving relationship they once had.

How Do You Even Begin? Start Small: A concern of many wives in this situation is how do you even start? In this case, things were truly so far gone that she had no idea how to take the first step. My best advice is to start small. You can't overhaul your marriage in a day. But in a small amount of time, you can change what you put out there. You can focus on how you respond and what you are projecting back to your spouse. I often tell people to just start by listening and showing more interest. This creates empathy, which in turn leaves you feeling connected.

I felt strongly that once this wife noticed even small efforts by her husband, her outlook was going to change. And when that happened, the dynamics in the marriage were going to shift.

Strategies To Take Away: I know this is a lot to digest, but if I had to pick what I wanted this woman to take away from this article, it would be these things:

1. Stop Labeling The Marriage. Calling the marriage unloving over and over is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, it was struggling. But this wife did love her husband and he likely loved her. She was placing most of her focus on the fact that she wasn't sure she could survive another day of this. This was influencing her mindset. You can't help but be pessimistic when you think you must "survive" something.

2. Try Not To Always Dwell On What's Going Wrong. But If You Need To, Address The Problems That Bother You The Most: This husband's sarcasm really bothered his wife. And the more she thought about this, the nastier she was to him in return. Rather than let the resentment fester, she might say something like, "It hurts me when you make comments like that. Can you try to include more positive topics so that we can both enjoy our conversations more? I think this will make both of us happier and I'll try to do better also."

3. Think About What You Are Contributing To The Marriage. Are You Strengthening It Or Weakening It?: The wife eventually admitted to me that she was sometimes cold and distant to her husband also, but only when reacting to his undesirable attitude. This was a natural reaction, but if she really wanted change, she too had to make an effort to repeatedly put positive emotions and actions out there. You can't expect real change if you don't make the effort.

4. Believe That Your Marriage Can Become Loving Again: There's no doubt that this couple was in a rut. And sometimes, the culture of the marriage becomes so stagnant no one believes it can change. But you must believe that this can turn around to give your best effort.

It was my husband, not me, who felt that our marriage was "unloving," and he became quite unhappy. I knew I had to change this, but for a long time, I drew on negative emotions rather than positive ones. This seriously backfired. Thankfully, I was able to change the dynamics of our marriage and save it. You can read that story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/.

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