We are used to hear all the time about marriages being torn apart by infidelity. Our imagination swirls with stories where a jilted lover dragged their spouse into court ready to strip them of every penny, and screaming from the rooftops to shatter their good name. That is no longer the case. According to a leading group of family lawyers in the UK, today most couples are splitting up due to a lack of love in their marriage. Long-term partners are falling out of love, and unable to recoup it, so they decide to go their separate ways. On the other side of the ledger, the number of pre-nuptial agreements has also risen dramatically, according to this same group. Moreover, lots of couples are staving off divorce for when their financial situation improves. Salaries have stagnated on both sides of the pond, while the cost of living has gone up. This survey which polled 100 such lawyers from across the UK also found that these lawyers themselves believe about one-third of husbands hide assets when fearing divorce. In most of these cases the husband was the higher earner, and had more wealth to conceal.
So which situation would you rather be in, your spouse cheated on you or has fallen out of love with you? It is a sadistic choice, to be sure. How can you tell if love is exiting your marriage? There are lots of signs. You show less affection to one another. You pay less attention when the other person is not there, or even when they are, and vice-versa. The lunchtime phone calls and random texts taper off. There is little nurturing in this kind of relationship. Blame, passive-aggression, nagging, and angry fights take its place. Your priorities change and so do theirs, and the marriage is not necessarily the first on the list. If you have no energy to deal with one another, or don’t want to bother going out of your way for each other, chances are love has bid you farewell. Here, conflicts don’t get resolved. They get swept under the rug. Each person tries to control more and more things or situations. Passion drops off and you become completely disconnected from one another. If one person is a narcissist, now is the time when it surfaces full force. You feel as though you diminish yourself, or go along a fog. You lose who you really are, blurred by this overbearing relationship.
Lots of couples chug along for years this way. But being in that kind of marriage eats away at you, until you can’t even recognize yourself anymore. Is there a way back? The first step is to find out how you feel and where your feelings come from. Own those feelings and use them to fuel inner healing. Practice self-compassion. Forgive your spouse for the transgressions and pain they have caused you, not for their sake but for yours. No one should abandon themselves to a loveless relationship. Instead, in a loveless relationship it is the responsibility of both people to look for places where they can reconnect. Talk for a long time and really come to understand one another. After you have done this, see if this relationship can be resurrected. If it cannot, the tendency is to feel shame or point fingers. Instead, find some closure. Remember the good times. Reminisce and come to understand how things changed. But don’t be afraid to move on. If it is time to reinvest in this relationship, communicate long and often. Find the energy to tackle problems, or even consider couples counseling. Infidelity may not be the biggest reason for splitting up, but falling out of love is no less painful. All each person has to do is to decide if the relationship is right for them, and if they have the energy to invest in it.
For those in a loveless relationship in the here and now try reading, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope by Leslie Vernick.