“I just don’t feel anything for her anymore. What do you do when the spark is gone from your marriage?”
Jerry had been married to Renee for 15 years and they had two kids together. Their marriage had always been challenging. They both came into it with a lot of baggage they hadn’t dealt with from their families of origin. They also struggled to see eye to eye on most issues. After years of slugging it out (metaphorically), Jerry was exhausted.
“We barely talk, and when we do, we fight,” he sighed. “I can’t tell you the last time she touched me, let alone the last time we had sex. I don’t want a divorce, but I don’t know what to do.” His situation is more common than you think. What do you do when you find yourself in a loveless marriage? Here’s how to turn it around.
1. Let go of the marriage you wish you had and deal with the one you actually have.One of the biggest threats to your actual marriage is the marriage you wish you had.
Many people pine for the dream marriage they wish they had but have never fully realized. One of the biggest threats to your actual marriage is the marriage you wish you had. When the spark is gone, stop imagining what your marriage could be like and start dealing honestly with the person you are married to.
2. Look in the mirror.
Most troubled marriages are full of finger-pointing. It takes two to tango, but you need to start with yourself. In what ways are you selfish, distracted, insecure, or inattentive? What is one area you could work on to make yourself a better person? Start there. (I strongly encourage you to see a counselor). Healthy marriages don’t develop between unhealthy people. When the spark is gone, you’re typically one of the people dumping water on it.
3. Go to marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling isn’t a silver bullet, but it can make a world of difference. For starters, the therapist probably knows some things, including really good questions to ask. But even just the act of going to counseling regularly creates a rhythm of attentiveness that likely was absent before. You are regularly giving attention to your relationship and to each other.
4. Treat your wife the way you treated her when you dated her.
Remember when you used to go out of your way to show her how special she was to you? Sure, it was easier then. Now, treating her like she’s special feels like hard work. But most valuable things take significant effort. Getting a Ph.D., running a marathon, getting your CDL—all of these things take effort and determination. You don’t just wake up and someone hands it to you. But if you’re willing to treat your wife like she’s special, you might be surprised how those actions shape your attitude toward her, not to mention her attitude toward you.
5. Invite friends into it.
Healthy marriages rarely exist in isolation. We all need people who can walk alongside us. Of course, these friends need to be the kind of people who both will listen when you’re struggling but also push you when you could be better—people you can enjoy hanging with when things are hard at home but who refuse to allow you to use them as an escape. These friends are not easy to come by, but they are a key ingredient to a healthy marriage.
When the spark is gone, the marriage doesn’t have to be. It’s not easy, but it’s possible to rejuvenate a struggling marriage and make it better than ever. I’ve seen it time and time again. In fact, Jerry and Renee are currently better than ever. It was a hard-fought course correction, but they made it. You can too. Don’t give up hope, and don’t give up on each other.
Earn some points: Share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Reasons Husbands have a Difficult Time with Emotional Connection.
Sound off: What is one step you can take to begin to work toward change in your marriage?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When you have a hard time getting along with someone, what do you do?”