Many men and women are in unhappy, sexless marriages. Some decide to divorce, but others resolve to stay and hopefully work things out. Unfortunately, those who remain may find themselves seemingly stuck in an unhappy marriage, which, in turn, negatively affects other parts of their lives. What can you do if you have been in an unhappy marriage for years and things don’t seem to be getting better?
You can do three things if you decide to remain in an unhappy marriage. You should do the first two, whether you include the third or not.
- Emotionally detach from your spouse.
- Work on improving yourself and prioritizing creating your own happiness.
- Work to make the marriage better.
Let’s discuss these now.
The Bible states hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). The Buddhists believe that our attachment to desires causes suffering. Suppose a man desires to be emotionally connected to his wife (through sex) but is consistently rejected; his desire becomes a significant source of emotional pain.
Unfortunately, he continues to try to improve things but receives rejection (or vice versa). That rejection adversely affects his life in several ways (e.g., depression, resentment, etc.). However, he remains in a sexless and unhappy marriage.
Eventually, he will emotionally detach himself from his wife, transforming their relationship into being roommates. However, his wife may be oblivious to what he is going through. She may even think things are ok. She goes to him for a kiss or hug regularly. She says he loves him regularly, but he continues to feel rejected and in emotional agony.
He tries to consent to her emotional needs. At the same time, he is neglected. He eventually decides to separate himself from the desire for a happy marriage and instead relegate his expectations to a functional marriage, i.e., becoming roommates or co-workers in Household, Inc.
He no longer readily provides the kisses and hugs she desires. He spends more time away from his wife. He resists her prompts for affection because he knows it will lead to more disappointment, frustration, and pain. However, he needs to separate himself emotionally from his wife to allow himself to be happy and stop the pain.
The roommate marriage is not what he expected from his wife at the beginning, but at least now it will help him feel much less pain because detaching lowers his desires for sex and intimacy. He can’t be disappointed if he doesn’t expect or desire it in the first place.
Of course, you and I know that he will want sex, and there will always be a residual desire for it, which is why a sexless marriage is so dangerous for him. He may find another woman to emotionally connect to or have sex with. However, at least he doesn’t hurt as much because he doesn’t desire or expect it as much.
A husband may force himself to not respond to his wife sexually. For example, he may walk past her in the bedroom when she only wears underwear, especially at bedtime. Why open himself to more disappointment and frustration? Nothing will happen if he does respond sexually. So, it is best to emotionally detach himself and not allow himself to expect what he probably won’t get.
The Consequence of Emotional Detachment
There is a significant consequence to detaching from one’s spouse. A man will begin to see his wife as a burden instead of the love of his life. His emotional detachment causes him to see his wife as an object of responsibility. Caring for her well-being is another item on the list of things he is responsible for. It is in his head, not his heart.
Some would argue that a marriage is a contractual agreement and there is no need for the heart to be involved. I recognize that there may be cultures or beliefs where that is totally true. However, studies have shown that most people in America marry because of love, i.e., how they feel about the person. You don’t need love if the relationship is merely contractual. A married couple expects intimacy and an emotional connection.
Consider that a marriage without an emotional connection between the husband and wife is on shaky ground. It is easy to cheat on someone you don’t have feelings for. Neglecting someone you don’t have an emotional connection with is easier than if you did. There is the temptation that an emotional connection might be made with someone else, leading to infidelity.
I think that it is best if the husband and wife work to have an emotional connection. Therefore, if you detach from your spouse to reduce pain in the relationship, periodically assess the condition of the relationship, your feelings, and where you think the relationship might be going.
Work on Yourself
You should not let an unhappy marriage keep you from being happy. There is so much more life has to offer, and it is up to you to pursue it and your happiness. Improve yourself by learning a new skill, doing something you would enjoy, etc. The point is for you to make your life happy and fulfilling.
Perhaps in the past, you would try to include your spouse in things you wanted to do so that you would work together. However, now you have decided to go alone since you already feel alone.
If you have already emotionally detached yourself from your spouse, you can fill some of the void by establishing your own happiness and enjoyment of life. What do you like to do? What gives you fulfillment? Begin a personal crusade to pursue those things and become fulfilled and happy. If your spouse responds to it and joins you, great. If not, know at least you are happy.
Now, this does not mean neglecting your spouse. For example, husbands would continue to care for their wives, help them when needed, and do those things necessary for the family, home, etc. The difference is he does not expect romance or intimacy from his wife.
Work to Make the Marriage Better
You may emotionally detach from your spouse and work on yourself. However, be aware of opportunities that may arise to make the relationship better. I know that after many years of rejection, a man who distances himself from his wife may not desire to be with her intimately. He sees her only as a roommate. However, there may be opportunities where a spark might ignite, or an epiphany might occur that could change the relationship’s course. Be on the lookout for those moments.
You may find that you must do what you don’t feel like doing. For example, a husband who has detached himself emotionally from his wife may decide to respond to seductive actions from his wife, who typically rejects him. He might not feel like being intimate at that moment because of past experiences with her. He knows these moments usually don’t lead to anything fulfilling. However, instead of outright refusing her, he decides to follow through. Perhaps they will have an intimate encounter this time.
Expectations will still be low even when moments like the ones I described above happen. For example, the husband doesn’t allow himself to be hopeful that the intimate encounter is a sign of things to come. Instead, he considers it an anomaly in the relationship. It will take some time before he expects intimacy from his wife as a typical context of their relationship.
However, taking advantage of those moments can help bring the two closer together. Perhaps hidden emotions will arise for both of them. Remember, having an emotional connection between husband and wife is better. A detached relationship is not ideal for a marriage. Always have at the back of your mind that any event or situation could be the force necessary to move the relationship to a more intimate bond instead of being mere roommates.
Many people end their marriages, but others decide to stay. However, those who stay in unhappy marriages tend to suffer silently. Their health and well-being are adversely affected by their unhappy marriages. There is something they can do about that to help themselves.
I presented three things that you can do if you are in an unhappy, sexless marriage. Detach yourself from your spouse to reduce the pain caused by your spouse’s interactions with you and lack of intimacy. Work to make yourself a better person. Do things you like and that make you happy. At the same time, be alert for opportunities to make the relationship better.
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