Do you ever find yourself wondering what the devil has happened in your marriage?

Are you trapped in a relationship where all the love has dissolved away?

If one was to try their hand on providing a loveless marriage definition, what might it be?

Is it when two married people who joined together to pursue a dream of living a life of happiness, raising a family, and doing those things that couples do –  discover that for any multitude of reasons that the special bond between them has been severed to such an extent that staying together seems futile?

trapped and out of love

I think that’s pretty close to capturing what happens in far too many marriages.

People who slowly fall out of love for complicated reasons (or sometimes simple, yet destructive reasons) will invariably grow apart as dissatisfaction takes root in their lives.  Why does this happen?


Perhaps the two of you were really happy at one time, but events conspired such that neither of you are all that enthused any longer; such that you find yourself thinking way to often,”why can’t I be happy.”

I was talking to a lady the other day and she wanted to explore her feelings out loud.

“Chris, why can’t I be happy with my life again.  I feel trapped in a loveless marriage.  I think he feels the same, but neither of us are ever honest about what is really going down.”

Do You Feel Your Marriage Wasting Away?

wasting away with sadness

So what should one do when you are not happy in your marriage and you know your husband is unhappy with his life?  When two people are trapped in a marriage that seems headed nowhere, shouldn’t they do something about it?

I mean let’s say you are very dissatisfied with the state of the relationship.  Let’s assume all kinds of things are going wrong.

There is way too much fussing and fighting.  You find yourself too frequently gravitating to thoughts of separation or divorce or even having an affair with this guy that fawns all over you at work.

Perhaps it also clear to both parties that all the energy and love has been sapped out of their marriage.  Feeling trapped without love and with nowhere to turn to get relief – such a predicament can be extremely disheartening and disabling.

My client kept telling me, “my husband is miserable in our marriage and so am I, but neither of us really know how to get out of this unhappy state we find ourselves in.  It is much more than a terrible bad marriage rut.  We just really don’t even like each other anymore.”

She explained how the relationship just sort of  dissolved away.  They both knew things were not jelling quite right, even before the marriage.  But she figured her husband would be more loving and she would come to draw closer to him once they vowed to be together in marriage.  But day by day, month by month, things slowly soured and it seemed that whatever they tried, it didn’t matter so much.

Then the tears flowed as she continued to struggle with “why can’t I be happy in a relationship”.

It wasn’t the first time she had gotten close to a man, only to see the relationship unravel.

Now it was all happening again and she didn’t know whether to blame herself or her husband. “I try to be happy but I can’t. It is hard to keep faking it.  We sleep together, but we are hardly a couple.  He only shows affection, if you want to call it that, when we have sex.  Then it’s like he can’t wait to get up and away from me.”

Then she tells me about desperate feelings that sometimes grips and paralyzes her with indecision in the night. It comes about with her awareness that next to her lies her sleeping husband, who she doesn’t love, and all she can think of is getting away.  But when morning arrives, it is like those empty feelings are replaced with the necessity of getting ready to go to work and do and think about those other things.


No one really wants to be alone in life.

She explained that another thing she struggles with is the idea that moving out and away from him is scary.

She will ask herself, “Is it the right solution”?

Have I done enough on my end of this marriage?”   

She explained to me that she is not good at being by herself or without someone in her life that can make her feel safe and loved.  She knew that she wasn’t getting that from her current husband.  It was truly a loveless relationship and the walls were closing in on her.

But still, she feared striking out on her own.  Starting over was scary for her.

She kept saying, “why can’t I be happy single.  I don’t need these complications that marriage brings into my life.  What if  I leave to be on my own and then get depressed?  Where would I go?  Would he cooperate and move out?

What she was experiencing was a form of Break up Chaos.  That is what I call it.

breakup chaos

She explained that after running all these confusing breakup thoughts through her mind, she usually will become mentally exhausted and eventually just ends up caving in and going right back into the same loveless situation.

It’s not a do over.  Rather, what she is describing is akin to a negative relationship feedback loop.

She related a story of how she first knew it was all going south.

She was looking for information about relationships one day and came across a “why can’t i be happy quiz”.  She obviously was in the mood of searching for answers that might help her get a better grip on why she keeps meeting and marrying men that ultimately make her unhappy.

So by taking this loveless marriage quiz, she was hopeful it might lead her to a deeper understanding of why she couldn’t seem settle into a happy and satisfying relationship.

That is all she really wanted.

She wanted to be part of a man’s life and feel loved and cared for.  But she wanted him to respect her own needs.  She was a keenly intelligent woman who enjoyed her career and had opinions and interests in many areas.  So she wanted a man who understood her on a simple emotional level, yet also appreciated the complexity of who she was and what fulfilled her.

Well, she had not found that yet.  So by taking this marriage quiz on love and love lost, a part of her was hoping it would point to something that would spark an insight.  It wasn’t like she expected this little survey to be her savior and cause her to overhaul her view of marriage.

She knew what marriages could become and when it can be good and bad.  What she was looking for had more to do with confirmation of what she already knew deep inside.

You see, in her present marriage, just as in her previous relationship, the husband she settled down with was a poor match for her in couple of important areas.

She and her husband’s values did not align which is usually a predictor of marriage friction.

On top of that, they had vastly different interests.  He was super into sports and weightlifting.  Working out was his thing.  Her husband was a doer.  His thinking was more often one-dimensional and he didn’t have much patience or curiosity for what others were up to.  He was more into himself.

She on the other hand was very active in volunteer work in her community and engaged in the local political scene.  She enjoyed that work because it gave he purpose. Her family had encouraged her when she was younger to give back.

If those relationship mismatches weren’t enough to tax the marriage, the biggest hurdle for them both was their different views on displays of affection.


She loved to hug and kiss and he was often put off by any displays of such emotion in public and seldom (in her view) did he make her feel loved behind closed doors.

To put it mildly, their emotional connection was terribly strained which led to her view that she was stuck in a marriage without love.  There was little effort on her husband’s end to make her feel valued.

Confronting Your Reasons For Staying in a Loveless Marriage

hanging around too long in marriage

So why do people stay in such marriages if the wheels have fallen off?

Well, it is often for numerous reasons.

In a lot of these cases, the marriage fuse is short with both parties sometimes stuck in reverse.  The fear of the next incident unfolding such that it causes yet another marriage blow up lies close to the surface.

Some of the reasons why unhappily married couples don’t break up for sometimes the longest of times is the insecurity of  doing something big.

Most couples don’t want to rock the marriage if it is already wobbly.

They seek to patch things up, only to later rip off the bandages and fight it all out again.  Little fixes to solve big problems get your nowhere.

Sometimes it is the idea of being alone that is more frightening to some.  So they hold back on doing what part of their mind says they need to do.

Financial reasons also contributea to why men and women stay in loveless and sexless marriages.

By the way, how do you define a sexless marriage?

Is it one in which neither the husband or wife are making love with each other?

Is it the kind of relationship in which the very thought of having sex is completely ruled out because each party hates the other and have their own rooms?

Well, if that is what you are thinking, I think we largely agree.  But I also see a sexless marriage as one in which sex may happen on occasion, but it is rare and is followed immediately by regret.

Just the inertia of being married and being somewhat of a slave to your routines,  can cause couples to keep repeating the same mistakes, hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.

I know it sounds self-destructive that unhappy couples can so easily get locked into negative and hostile patterns.  It is as if they can’t bring themselves to end things, even when one or both feel there is little hope and the love between the pair has all but vanished. But this sort of thing happens every day.

Another somewhat irrational fear that keeps the madness of a troubled marriage moving forward is the couple may be afraid of what others might think of them.

“What will my parents think if I was to divorce him? 

“How will it look to my friends that we have been lying to them all these years about the real truth of our marriage?”

So how do you survive a loveless, sexless marriage?

When you know you are both unhappily married, what can you do to bring your misery to a close.

Should you rush out to the nearest bookstore and bury yourself into a bunch of loveless marriage quotes with the hope it will lift you up and move you to do something big?

I don’t think that is going to get you very close to the happiness you seek.

The way I see it, there are three tracks you can take.

3 Paths You Can Take To Break Out of  Your Damaging Relationship Cycle

3 ways out of relationship

1. You can say enough is enough and insist that something substantial occur which will  bring about meaningful change, such that you both can actively work on your marriage.  Taking a last stand not just for yourself, but for the very survival of the marriage is a worth endeavor.  In effect, with this approach you are drawing a line in the sand, saying if we can’t make  this work in x amount of time, then let’s agree we are only further damaging ourselves. And if that is the case, why wouldn’t you go your separate ways?  It is a touch question and an important one.  When do you finally call it quits?

2. Another relationship track you can take is to accept that you have done all the things you should have done to make it work.  And if that is true and yet the two of you are still carrying on as two loveless souls living together in the same house, then you should just face the music and accept the marriage is pointless.

3. A third path is to do little to nothing about your situation and remain in a pointless and loveless marriage, marking the days as they go by.  As I mentioned before, such an approach to a “screwed up marriage” is a sad and disturbing pattern taken by far too many women and men.  Obviously, I don’t want you taking this approach as it only leads to ruin.  But it is an easy “out” and I see couples go in this direction every day.

The 5 Signs That You Are Trapped in a Miserable and Loveless Marriage

trapped in marriage chaos

  1. Your husband (or wife) screams at you far too frequently and doesn’t seem to care how it affects you.  He resorts to such bullying tactics over and over again.
  2. You get up one day and realize years have gone by and your husband (or wife) has never told you he loves you and really meant it.  It is like you are brother and sister living together.  Connected by a bond, but love has long since disappeared from you lives.
  3. Your husband (or wife) constantly picks on you and tells you that you have no backbone and should leave the marriage.  He is practically encouraging you to end the relationship.  Why?  Because he is probably to cowardly to deal with the problems head on and wants to get out or keep the status quo.  Or maybe he is angry and wants to hurt you.  Unfortunately, some men take a perverse joy out of making their wife squirm.  Either way, such actions point to a highly dysfunctional relationship.
  4. Both of you are having affairs.  Your husband may flaunt his in the open as a way to hurt you as retribution for you own the affair (or likewise).   Cheating happens more often in marriages than you probably realize.  When both the husband and wife are involved in love affairs, it spells much more than big trouble for your marriage.  It suggests the very foundation of the relationship is broken.
  5. You both recognize that the marriage is bad for each of you and both of you talk frequently about it openly.  There is an admission that the passion is gone and so too is the love. While misery may not color each of your days, when a couple can honestly tell each other they just don’t feel the same way toward each other and conflict and unhappiness follows each of you around, it may be time to go down a different path.

5 Things You Can Do To Escape an Unhappy Relationship

moving away from broken vows

  1.  Once it is clear that your marriage is failing miserably, then it’s time to meet with your husband or wife and put all your cards on the table and come up with a separation plan.  Now the trick is knowing when it’s time, right?  You sure don’t want to quit the marriage just because you both feel trapped. There may be personal problems or illness or other issues that are contributing to your misery scale.  So make sure the two of you have made good faith efforts to resolve your problems before pulling the cord.
  2.  If the environment is hostile and toxic, just leave.  If there is physical violence of any kind, then leave.  If for example, your husband is abusing you verbally, telling you how worthless you are then walk.  If the marriage is in shambles from so many unresolved fights, then walk out and leave.  There is always an opportunity to later reconcile if that turns out to be something you want.  But there come a point in every marriage where enough is enough.  If your relationship is broken in half because of a hostile husband (or wife) then don’t stay.  Develop and execute your exit plan.
  3.  Sign up for marriage counseling with a plan and scheduled date to end the relationship if meaningful progress is not made.  Sometimes it is easy for you or your partner to agree to “work on things”.  Perhaps you are both committed to seeing a marital therapist. Maybe each of you agreed to a formal list of improvement actions.  And while both of you may be well-intentioned, the gravity and weight of past routines and patterns can cause you both to resume your old, unhealthy marriage behaviors. The way to break through this troubling pattern is by agreeing on a date in which you both have to concur with whether the marriage is back on a better track.  If not, then the action should be to separate.  This approach makes what the two of you are trying to achieve very real and you are more likely to hold yourselves and each other accountable for making progress.
  4. Tell your spouse that you are miserable and unhappy because the marriage is failing.  Explain you are not quite ready to give up, but you are on the edge and for your own sanity and whatever future the marriage has, you are going to take a long break.   Arrange with your best friend to go on a long, extended vacation.  Maybe you take a 10 day river boat cruise in Europe. Or you can go rent a cabin in Yellowstone and draw closer to nature and the beautiful wide open spaces.  Whatever it is, this is YOUR time to heal and get away from the misery that defines your marriage.  At the same time, your husband (or wife) will now have an opportunity to think about how important the marriage is to them as well. They may not like what you are doing, but will likely soon realize you are very serious and this decision of yours represents an important crossroads. They too can experience some healing.
  5. Don’t get into one in the first place.  I know, that sounds a bit arrogant.  But here is my point.  If your loveless marriage is falling all to pieces and misery follows you around, then chances are good that the relationship will end.  But now you will be on a new path.  And on this new path, you will have an opportunity to meet a new man or woman who can satisfy your needs – a partner that you are more compatible with on many levels.  So take your experience and make sure this time you choose better.  And you can do this because you will have gained so much wisdom from your prior experiences.  You will know your own needs better and the chances of having a very satisfying relationship with a special person best suited for you becomes real and achievable.


How likely is your marriage to succeed?

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2 responses to “Why Can’t I Be Happy – Trapped in a Loveless Marriage

  1. My husband of 26 years has changed so much since he returned from war, and again after he retired from the military. It’s like I’m married to a spiteful, spoiled little boy some times.
    I am disabled, I just recently stopped working, after discussing in detail my medical issues and my intense daily pain with my husband (my job literally was toss away income. We are not struggling now, in fact before I stopped working I paid several large bills off.. He agreed that I should stop working, I hired an attorney to help me with SSDI, my husband now belittles me, screams into my face, accuss me of doing whatever I want. An example is: we had to shop for a mattress for our teen daughter, while shopping I mentioned that it would be nice if I hZad another dresser. We looked, but he thought they were all too expensive. I happened upon a very nice all wood d chest of drawers and a dresser for 325 I talked the lady down after taxes it was well under 300. When I got home and excitedly told him about my purchase he had a giant childish full on tantrum. Accusing me of doing whatever I want all the time (1week before he’d paid almost 300 for an office chair without discussing it with me, q just said ok when he came home with it). It’s like it’s okay if he spends money but if I spend it on anything for myself he freaks out. We are not hurting we have a very large savings and have money in bank after every check. When we first started out he’d spend our last penny on himself and I’d have to go hungry to make sure he and our daughter were feed. Now I feel more like the unpaid verbally and emotionally abused slave. I don’t have anyone I cam turn too. I’ve tried all of your tricks, I’m in so much pain physically and emotionally! Have seriously considered suicide. Help

    1. After reading your comment about the difficulty you are experiencing, including possible suicidal thoughts, you should know that I am not a licensed counselor or psychologist and therefore I don’t feel properly equipped to advise you.

      My best recommendation going forward is for you to speak to a licensed counselor, therapist or a psychologist. Given your current circumstances, I believe those mental and relationship health professionals are better able to support you during this difficult time in your life.

      Your Health and Safety is paramount.

      You matter and are very important to many people.

      If you are feeling depressed and/or suicidal, there is help for you.

      If you live in the United States, you should know that the The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis.

      So if you are at risk for suicide, homicide or other harm or injury, please call 911 or seek other help (such as a hospital emergency room or doctor’s care) immediately. If you need help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, please dial:

      1-800-273-TALK (8255)

      You will be routed to the closest possible crisis center in your area. With over 120 crisis centers across the country, their mission is to provide immediate assistance to anyone seeking mental health services. Call for yourself, or someone you care about. Your call is free and confidential.

      If you live outside of the United States, then please contact the appropriate help services such as a counselor, therapist, doctor, mental health professional or any organization chartered to help those in need.