3 Experts Reveal How To Resuscitate A Dead Marriage — Without Getting Divorced

Things went sideways. That doesn't mean it's over.

unhappy married couple PeopleImages.com - Yuri A / Shutterstock

You're not happy in your relationship. But you're not ready to call it quits. Not yet, anyway. You're married, so you made a commitment — and that still matters to you. 

The thing is, you honestly don't enjoy it. Staying together has become hard work. Neither of you seems capable of forgiveness or warmth toward the other. Arguments seem to flare up over little things. Is this just what love turns into given enough time and history together?


What happens next in this unhappy relationship? Is it down to divorce or bust? Maybe, but not necessarily.

As you know all too well, emotions can shift with time. Once you must have been crazy in love with one another, but your bond has been tested by conflict or life's uncertainty for too long. Negative emotions have begun to erode trust and self-confidence. Yet, just as love cooled and hardened into indifference or antipathy, you could very well reforge that emotional bond. Why not? You're still together, right? 

That means there's hope.

Still, you can't sit still. Something must be done. This chronic unhappiness is not healthy and, ultimately, the relationship isn't sustainable unless something changes. What can you do?


With that in mind, we asked a panel of YourTango Experts to share their insight into how you can get out of an unhappy relationship without getting a divorce. Here's what they had to say.

RELATED: How To Stay In An Unhappy Relationship — When You're Not Quite Ready To End It

RELATED: 10 Reasons I'm Completely Positive My Marriage Is Divorce-Proof


Here's how to resuscitate a dead marriage without getting divorced, according to experts:

1. Open yourself to the potential for change — and communicate freely

Divorce is not the only option for someone in an unhappy relationship. A relationship can be changed and shifted from unhappy to happy with desire, communication, and effort. Usually, if someone realizes that they are unhappy in a relationship, that unhappiness has been present for a while without being addressed. 

What we do not realize is when we are unhappy our partner is most often feeling the same way — no matter how good we think we are at hiding our thoughts and feelings. Unhappiness and discontent become the elephant in the room that keeps growing and becoming more and more uncomfortable.

Talking about your discontent, concerns, and complaints will begin the process of getting out of the unhappy relationship and into a happy one. Identify your needs and wants, forgive and choose to pursue the healthy, happy relationship that you desire with the person with whom you once fell in love. If not, you will be happy that you tried.

Dr. Susan Pazak, clinical psychologist and life coach


RELATED: 9 Signs Your Stagnant Relationship Is Quickly Dying

2. Stop casting blame and try something new in the relationship

Often when couples can't resolve marital challenges themselves, they give up and head for divorce court. But there are other paths to take before resorting to that final step. Communication is key, and active listening, not just active talking, is essential.

You may think your partner feels or thinks something, but that's often not the case once you sit down and talk. To stop the yelling and judgment, you might consult a mediator, therapist, or relationship coach with expertise in conflict resolution.

It's important to stop constant blaming and start some inner reflection.


Many couples don't do this until after they split, and that's a big mistake. If you didn't draw up an informal (or formal) marital agreement like my husband and I did when we were thinking about marriage (our dreams, our plans, and our expectations for our life together), do it now. It could be that you can find a way to resolve conflict just by knowing what matters most to the person you loved enough to say "I do" to.

Another option would be to separate physically for a period before legal separation. You can do this without consulting anyone else. This could mean using separate bedrooms, separate living quarters, or even trying a long-distance relationship, which works well if a conflict is over a job transfer.

My husband and I had a long-distance relationship while I was overseas, and it added huge sparks to our romance with each of our visits. Instead of making us separate, it drew us closer together. We had a solid marital foundation beforehand, but distance can make you realize things about your spouse you might not when every little thing they do is getting on your nerves.

One caveat: Of course, if you are a recipient of emotional or physical abuse, it's important that you leave as soon as possible.


Kathryn Brown Ramsperger, relationship coach and author

RELATED: You Don't Need Anyone's Permission To Get Divorced

3. Don't hide your emotions — and examine why you feel the way you do

It might seem inconceivable but an unhappy marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that it's over. I always encourage my clients to be honest with their partners about how they are feeling. Trying to hide your feelings, or pretending that everything is okay, will only make things worse.  

Speaking the truth can be scary but you will feel much better when you do. And you might learn that your partner is as unhappy as you are — very valuable information, indeed. 


I also encourage my clients to build themselves a life outside of their marriage. Married couples tend to always do things together, even if they don’t want to. If you can cultivate things that you can do on your own, things that make you happy, you won’t feel like your life is defined by your marriage, something that makes the future look bleak. 

I would also encourage you to get help. Not marriage counseling, but personal counseling. To get to the bottom of why you are feeling this way and what you might be able to do, with or without your partner, to make your life a better place

Mitzi Bockmann, certified life coach

RELATED: 9 Critical Questions You Must Ask Before Filing For Divorce


Carter Gaddis is the senior editor for Experts and Wellness with YourTango.