When These 21 Tiny Things Start Happening, You're Heading Toward A Loveless Marriage

Your marriage might be too far gone to fix.

Couple in an unhappy marriage SHOTPRIME, tlds | Canva

If you're in an unhappy marriage, you're probably wondering if there's a chance to save it and fix your relationship. It’s normal to wonder about the viability of your marriage when you’re not as happy as you’d like. And the wondering can be both frightening and confusing. "Are we really that unhappy? What does an unhappy marriage look like? Is this salvageable? Is it me? Is it him? Is it her? Maybe all marriages get to be ho-hum. We can’t expect to be truly happy forever, right?"


It’s not unusual for couples to spend years married and lonely before it dawns on them to ask what an unhappy marriage looks like. Yes, there are the obvious betrayals — infidelity, abuse, addiction — but symptomatically, even these don’t guarantee divorce. The truth is, there is never just one reason or one symptom that causes a person to choose divorce. Unhappy marriages grow insidiously from a lack of correction of harmful — even if subtle — behaviors and choices. And happy marriages taken for granted and left undernourished can render their partners asking, “Why am I unhappy? How did we get here?”


The very thing that makes romantic love so exclusive and unique is the same thing that can be its undoing. Intimacy involves vulnerability and that kind of exposure means that another person has the power to both heal...and hurt. That is an awesome gift of trust...and a great responsibility. So what does an unhappy and loveless marriage look like? Are there specific qualities that are always present? Every marriage, happy or unhappy, is unique.

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When these 21 things start happening, you're heading toward a loveless marriage:

1. You’re not intimate anymore

When you first get married, affection is overflowing. Now, there is a lack of visible affection in your marriage. Remember, intimacy, both physical and emotional, is what separates romantic love relationships from all other relationships.

2. You have nothing meaningful to say to one another

Your conversations revolve around the pragmatics of running a home, taking care of kids, going to work, and paying the bills. Married life no longer has substance.


3. One or both of you are having an emotional affair

Your spouse should be your primary confidante for communication about both happy and difficult matters. If you are reaching out first to a friend — especially of your spouse’s gender — you may be emotionally detaching from your marriage.

4. You are playing the blame game

Arguments should be about communication and improvement of the relationship. They should never be about inflicting pain. Use of blaming language — "You always," "You make me feel," or "It’s your fault" — inevitably incites counter-blame and hurt feelings.

5. You are physically in one another’s presence, but there is no real engagement

You have essentially disconnected and become roommates who simply accept the fact that you live together.


6. You distract from your own feelings by focusing on others

You put other's needs and problems before your own. And most commonly the "others" are your children. Yes, your children do deserve to have your attention and love, but not to the exclusion of spending time with your spouse and fixing what’s wrong in your marriage.

7. You are delaying or avoiding getting help to fix things in your marriage

You know things aren’t right, but you continue sweeping the marriage problems under the rug and won’t examine your relationship in the context of the question, "What does an unhappy marriage look like?" The result is that you don’t get the timely help you need to turn things around.

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8. You fantasize about a life without your spouse

Your daydreams of happiness don’t include your spouse. This psychological detachment is a way of convincing yourself you really don’t care so that there is less pain when the final separation happens.


9. Your lives have different directions

If you are not communicating, you can’t align your goals. If you aren’t regularly communicating about the things that are most important to each of you, you’ll eventually begin noticing conflicting differences in your perspectives toward life and your goals. Your faith and politics may suddenly be starkly misaligned. Your ideas for the future of your marriage and family may not resemble anything you co-created in the early days of your marriage. And differences like these can be at the root of a miserable marriage.

10. You have separate lives

Even couples with children and heavy workloads can create and maintain intimacy with healthy, ongoing communication. If you and your spouse aren’t making the effort to understand each other’s work and interests, the intimacy required for a happy marriage will quickly erode.

11. You have needs not satisfied by your partner

These needs could be intimate, emotional, physical, or spiritual. And when they go unmet you look for ways to satisfy them. You could address them all yourself or you could look to someone else. And if you look to someone else to address your unmet needs, you’re definitely dealing with an unhappy marriage and could even be on the slippery slope toward divorce.

12. You have unreasonable expectations and/or make unrealistic comparisons

Does either of you have unreasonable expectations that the other simply can’t meet? Do either of you make comparisons to "happy couples" and other marriages to apply pressure or guilt?


13. You have stopped fighting

There is a fine line between healthy fighting and fighting all the time. But, in a good marriage, fights have the potential to lead to greater intimacy if they are processed and repaired with commitment and compassion. If you have stopped fighting, it is often a sign you’ve stopped caring about any of your marriage problems.

14. You don’t feel heard, respected, or valued

Listening — true listening — is the greatest tool in building intimacy. When couples truly care about one another, it shows through how they communicate and how they listen. Conversations, even arguments, have little to do with the topics themselves, and everything to do with listening for the underlying emotions and feelings.

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15. You feel controlled by your spouse or your spouse feels controlled by you

For example, one spouse may impose financial control over the other, limiting that person’s freedom and inclusion in decision-making regarding money.


16. You both have ego and superiority issues

These leave one or both spouses feeling disrespected instead of part of a team. If you truly believe you are better than your spouse, then you aren’t in a happy marriage.

17. You have no interest in spending quality time together

Date nights have gone by the wayside. There is no interest in creating opportunities for connection, much less romance.

18. There is infidelity

Many marriages survive infidelity, but their success comes from an uncompromising commitment to repair the marriage and the issues that led to the infidelity. If you or your spouse is unfaithful, and you want to fix the unhappiness in your marriage you’re both looking at a lot of work to save your marriage from infidelity.

19. There is abuse

Abuse in a relationship involves deeper issues and requires specialized professional help for both the victim and perpetrator. There can never be true intimacy when one person lords over another through abuse, intimidation, or control. And abuse is one of the issues that often make divorce necessary.


20. One or both of you have addictions

As with abuse, addictions involve deeper issues and require specialized professional help. Addictions require an enabling environment to survive, and both the addiction and enabling are blocks to intimacy. Yes, addictions that remain untreated despite requests to do so are another issue that often necessitates divorce.

21. Your relationship is filled with negative behavior

This includes criticism, blame, defensiveness, contempt, sarcasm, and/or emotional shut-down. If these behaviors are the norm in your marriage, you have reached a critical point. Behaviors like these are definitely at the root of many unhappy marriages. And if left unchecked, they can lead to the annihilation of your marriage.

Are these signs your marriage is over? Not exactly. And there are certainly other signs you can identify but that aren't on this list. But, they mean that it's time for you to learn how to fix a broken marriage. The question for you to consider now is this: What would your marriage look like and feel like if it were happy? And if it doesn’t look and feel that way, what are you going to do to address the problems and choose a direction for your life?


If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.

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Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.