What to Do About a Loveless Marriage
What it Takes to Save a Loveless Marriage, Even if Only One of You is willing to try.
by Roy Milam MA, President, Cornerstone Marriage & Family Ministries
Early in our marriage counseling ministry, several Pastors in the area began referring couples to us who were facing various marital crises. After counseling with couples awhile, we noticed a pattern in their relationships. We referred to this pattern as a “loveless” marriage. One or sometimes both of them would tell us, “I just don’t love her anymore. Later I’ll talk in more detail about what we meant when we refer to it as a loveless marriage. With many of these couples we utilized an approach referred to as “Cognitive/Behavioral” counseling.
Cognitive Behavioral Counseling is an approach which helps individuals understand how their thinking patterns affect their behavioral issues. It helps a person identify self-defeating thoughts and perceptions that motivate their dysfunctional behaviors and interactions. It can help couples understand their irrational thoughts and unrealistic expectations can affect communication, conflict and problem solving.
Like most marriage counselors, I thought that if we could help couples improve their irrational thinking that their marriages would improve dramatically. I soon came to realize this approach only worked with some couples- to a limited degree. We saw that the success rate was questionable. Although most counselors would consider a 30% success rate to be good. In our estimation it was unsatisfactory. This is when we begin to take a closer look at what it takes to rekindle love. How we were doing with couples where one or both of them told us; I don’t love my spouse spouse anymore,” or “I feel like our marriage is loveless.”
Over the next five years of counseling marriages in crisis, most of them on the brink of divorce, we made several crucial discoveries. We listened to couple after couple, and looking closely at the history of their relationships, what we concluded was that they didn’t marry each other because they had good relationship skills. Neither , because they could communicate well, nor adept at resolving their conflicts and solving their problems. They said that that the one main reason that they married each other was because they were “in love.” We discovered a very important, yet simple and often overlooked reality. That because they were “in love” with each other they had a compelling desire to be together, and to spend their lives together.eventually. We’ll talk later about what is meant by being “in love.” with each other.
Falling Out of Love
Somehow, somewhere along the way, they had lost that feeling of love, and I’m not talking just about that “honeymooners” kind of love. I’m talking about when the honeymoon is over there is a genuine abiding affection and enjoyment of being together, even amidst the conflicts and adjustments that come along with living under the same roof together.
We discovered they had lost that enjoyment of being together, some, not even wanting near each other. and in so doing we observed that they had lost their sense of “emotional connection” to each other. Many, we discovered had actually come to the point where they not only had lost all feelings of love, but along with it had lost the desire to be close to each other or to spend time together. In fact, what we began to see was that one of the main reasons they were having so much trouble communicating with each other; the very reason they were having so many conflicts and arguments, and were unable to solve their problems was the very answer to so many of their problems.
They had come to a point in their marriage where they had lost the feeling of love they once had for each other. They felt their marriage was loveless and hence terminal. Having lost the feeling of love for each other, and with that, their emotional connection; heir motivation and desire to be close, and even spend time together.
We found in many cases that couples had fallen into an emotional state of tension and resistance that was causing them to distance themselves from each other. In many instances they had become entirely alienated from each other. In other words we discovered that in order to save a marriage and turn it around, the focus needed to be not on developing relational skills (at least not initially), but rather to help them deal with the emotional aspect of their relationships which were interfering with the feelings of love they once had for each other.
We also came to discover through God’s Word the vital, timeless principles of this working dynamic in God’s design for marriage. In other words, saving a marriage and developing an intimate marriage goes beyond just understanding each other, communicating effectively, and learning better ways to solve problems. In order to turn a marriage around love must be restored, and to keep the marriage strong there must be a sustained vibrant, feeling of love.
And so to make a long story short, we made some crucial discoveries regarding the key dynamics of love in marital relationships – the nuts and bolts of how love works, how it is created, how it is destroyed, and how love and intimacy can be restored and sustained throughout a lifetime. It was through these years of study and trial and error that we discovered the truth about how to restore a marriage by restoring love and how to make a marriage last, by making love last for a lifetime.
So we began to deal with the emotional and bonding aspects of a couples’ relationship rather than just the skills and cognitive aspects. Our focus upon working with couples in distressed marriages changed from helping couples communicate effectively, reduce conflict, and solve problems, to first facilitating a process of healing, restoring their love and emotional connection, and most importantly, equipping them with the tools, skills and know-how to create and sustain that love and an intimate relationship in their marriage.
Marriage is a high-skilled endeavor. Learning how to save a loveless marriage takes time patience and practice. Fortunately, because rekindling love and re-creating the experience of love in a marriage is a set of learnable skills. That means anyone who applies themselves can learn how to rekindle love in a marriage!
First, Instead of focusing on ways in which your partner could change, more importantly is that you begin focusing on your own learning and loving journey and of developing certain relational skills and attitude that will lead your spouse to begin to change. When one person makes certain changes,the partner will also begin to change. You taking the lead would likely be quicker and perhaps better. Soon love can be rekindled and the results be even better when you are learning together— and yet at the same time, even just one of you is learning and practicing, that can have a huge impact on your marriage. Spouses react to and bounce of each other’s habits and energies. As you learn and apply more healthy marriage skills, your spouse will begin to mirror the positive changes.
We began to help couples understand the dynamics of love; when it wanes- as it does in every marriage, or even when it totally disappears as it does in many, how to heal, restore and re-create it. And once restored, what it is that husbands and wives need from each other to keep that feeling of love burning, so that closeness and intimacy can become almost a day-by-day reality in their relationship.
We first began helping couples to heal hearts, remove barriers, put the past behind, and deal with emotional issues that were hindering love. We’ll talk more about later so that their love and their emotional connection could be restored. We started showing them how to intentionally care for their spouse by meeting their spouse’s most important emotional needs—even when at first they didn’t feel like doing it.
That’s when a turn-around came in our work as we began to see couples heal, restore and renew the love they once had for each other. That’s when we began to see a huge shift in the impact of our work and experience the joy of seeing literally thousands of couples experience restoration in their marriages that they thought and told us could never be possible. That’s when we began to see unbelievable breakthroughs and countless marriages literally turned around.
Approximately Five years later a study was done of 293 couples who had been through our program. That’s when we saw our success rate of working with couples to restore love, and their relationships. Our our success rate of restoring “loveless marriages” had gone from a mere 30% to 87.3%. It was absolutely amazing for us to see it, and it still is as we see couples in boring, lackluster marriages, rediscover their love, and their relationships revitalized. And that’s how we believe this breakthrough program, with God’s help and your commitment can help you rekindle the love in your marriage, even if it only you who is willing to work on it.- to see barriers removed that are hindering your love and intimacy, put the past behind, meet your partner’s most important needs, so that you can once again, really connect with each other and be able to sustain your love and emotional connection. When you do that, like hundreds of other couples we have worked with, you will find yourselves in love again and growing toward a happier and more fulfilling marriage than you ever imagined possible.
In order to do that we must first understand God’s design for marriage and the principal dynamics of love and intimacy that make marriages work successfully. It’s like flying an airplane. Before a pilot can fly a plane properly, have a great flight and avoid a crash, he must first understand basic principles of aerodynamics and the airplanes’ design. Similarly, we’re going to see that without understanding God and without understanding and applying His design for marriage ,we cannot properly navigate our relationship, restore and experience an ongoing feeling of love, have a strong marriage and be able to avoid a crash. The principles , dynamics and practical tools for a successful marriage. God gave them to Adam and Eve in the beginning and they still work today. We’ve .found that these rare gems are learnable. We learned to practice them. We’ve used and taught them to thousands of other couples and we have seen them turn their marriages around and start experiencing the experience of love in their marriage.We soon began to realize that our process could be quicker and more natural Through experiencing our “New Beginning ,” Marriage Counseling Intensive Weekend, you can too. You can restore your marriage and experience a life of fulfilling love, friendship and intimacy too.
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