For many, one of the most exciting milestones in life is when a couple takes their dating relationship to the next level as they commit to a lifetime of togetherness, joy, and adventure, and say their “I do’s”. But what happens when the marriage does not turn out as expected and instead of experiencing marital bliss they begin to encounter sadness, hurt, and pain? What happens when “I do” turns into “I don’t”? How can the fire be rekindled where couples can recover from a lost marriage due to emotional disconnect and pain? To gain a better understanding of why some couples feel that their loving relationships may turn into a lost cause, let’s first consider some of the top relationship emotional stressors which contribute to dissatisfaction in marriage.
In This Article
Top Relationship Emotional Stressors in Marriage
1. Poor Communication
One of the main reasons for marital discord is poor communication. When people encounter multiple unpleasant experiences in relationships, they begin avoiding conflict altogether and resort to withdrawing from truthful conversations. They begin to fear losing one another, being the object of anger or being perceived as bad (Cloude & Townsend, 2005).
Additionally, when couples lack the support, help, and respect that they need from their spouse, then the probability of them turning to someone else for the emotional support that they may be seeking becomes high. As a result, their relationship begins to shift to more of a feeling like a roommate than a spouse. Though it may happen unintentionally, a lack of communication in a marriage weakens the emotional connection, making it harder to find common ground.
Another contributing factor to troubled marriages is infidelity. Infidelity typically occurs when there is an unmet need to feel appreciated, loved, or valued, which can lead to insecurity and overall sadness in the marriage. Additionally, if one partner starts feeling like their opinion and feelings do not matter, they tend to seek out acceptance in others, which, in their minds, validates their self-respect and self-worth. Also important to note in marriages is when couples spend too much time away from each other, they no longer feel connected or emotionally attached as before. They increase their chances of resorting to outside relationships to make up for the emptiness. This lack of respect and appreciation for one another can certainly create damaging effects, which can lead to potential extra-marital relationships to fill both emotional and physical voids.
3. Lack of Intimacy
Although security, trust, and the ability to connect emotionally are some of the main foundations of marriage, physical intimacy in is also a very important component to creating connection in healthy marriages. It is the most intimate physical act a couple can experience. Orgasms release oxytocin, the feel-good bonding hormone in the body, which can help partners feel closer. However, when intimacy is lacking, couples are not able to experience this feel-good hormone, which can lead to a negative impact on their overall sense of well-being and lead to depression caused by lack of intimacy.
Additionally, when a spouse’s attempts to connect are continuously rejected or ignored, eventually doubt begins to arise in their ability to satisfy or please their spouse. This decrease in physical intimacy can lead to an emotional disconnect, causing feelings of apathy and resentment to surface. Again, this can create a type of distance in the relationship that feels more like two cohabiting individuals rather than a couple. And as distance enters into the relationship, couples may no longer be comfortable opening up to their spouse to share any kind of more intimate thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities with one another.
4.Addiction to Pornography
Lastly, a lack of intimacy in marriage, or facing constant sexual rejection, can oftentimes lead to a spouse resorting to other means of sexual gratification such as masturbation or pornography. If the need to seek gratification becomes habitual, this addiction, especially to pornography, can set in quickly. Addiction to pornography can become problematic for two reasons: (1) the addiction will start to negatively impact other parts of the couple’s lives, and (2) the increased gratification through pornography and masturbation will decrease efforts to seek gratification and connect emotionally with their spouse. “Porn’s power to produce experiences of excitement, relaxation, and escape from pain makes it highly addictive”. (Maltz & Maltz, 2009). Developing a pornography addiction can also lead to other negative effects such as porn-induced erectile dysfunction, jealousy in the marriage, betrayal trauma, detachment, loneliness, and shame.
Enduring these marital strains can leave couples feeling distressed, emotionally detached, and hopeless; even to the point where they begin to lack the energy to love. Although they have a desire to have a happy marriage, their situation may seemingly predict otherwise. Additional effects can lead to withdrawal, depression, anxiety, increased drug or alcohol use, and can have a negative impact on their physical health. The good news, though, is that overcoming marital distress is possible, and with hard work, a willing heart, and time, healing and restoration can become a reality.
5. Keep God First
The first step to rekindling a lost marriage is to make God a priority. This is key to helping couples to not only build a healthy foundation but to maintain a healthy foundation. Couples who make God a priority in their marriage can learn how to effectively use the resource of His word for guidance and instruction, as they commit to putting in the work to intentionally work on building trust, security, safety, and healthy connections from God’s perspective of marriage. As I Peter 1:22 states to “love one another deeply from the heart” (The Bible, NIV), by including daily prayer and meditation both as individuals as well as together, couples can allow God’s presence to set the tone for their heart and mindset to receive what marriage can look and feel like on a daily basis. Including daily affirmations and goals for marriage is also helpful in strengthening the heart and mind of relationship. The Bible also references how God “…calls into being things that were not.” (The Bible, Romans 4:17, NIV), which from a relationship perspective gives power to speaking over those areas in the marriage that need to be revived or restored.
Forgiveness in relationship is also beneficial in moving forward from the hurt that may have been caused as a result of marital distress. Important to note, forgiveness does not mean forgetting about the offense or dismissing the emotional distress that occurred. Rather, “moving on means working to minimize those thoughts and feelings by focusing on opportunities for pursuing a happy and productive life in the present and in the future.”(Baucom, Gordan, & Snyder, 2007). Developing a healthy heart and mind can work harmoniously to create a healthier sense of self in the relationship and for the relationship.
6. Learn to Communicate
Another helpful tool to restoring lost love in marriage is to make it a point to strengthen and improve communication skills by talking to one another and learning how to share and listen in a more productive way. “The Latin term for confrontation means ‘to turn your face towards..’; therefore when having a healthy confrontation, couples are facing the relationship and dealing with the aspect of emotional connection that needs to be addressed, with the intent of making the relationship better, to deepen the intimacy, and create more love and respect”. (Cloude & Townsend, 2005). It is so helpful when partners gain a better understanding of their spouse’s actions towards their hurt and personal distress. (Baucom, et al, 2007).) Although both understanding and being understood are important, embracing that communication is a two-way street helps couples to be more present with each other as they both work to lean in with each other and connect in a healthier manner, both verbally and emotionally.
7. Embrace Intimacy
Also important in restoration is to include both sexual and non-sexual intimacy into the relationship. This not only includes physical touch and sex but also creating date nights and purposeful, engaging conversations that allow for each other to get to know one another and have a vested interest in who they are as a person. By creating opportunities for conversation, couples allow room to connect emotionally and deeper below the surface, as they become more comfortable and find safety in sharing more intimate parts of themselves.
8. Seek Support
If couples find it difficult to build this foundation on their own, consider joining a marriage group or seeking counseling for support. Including additional support in relationships can be helpful when there is a need to deal with the roots of the challenges mentioned above, not just the symptoms. Additionally, being in a setting where you can hear from others who are also learning and growing can create a more positive awareness of what growth in relationship can look like amid relational challenges.
Marital strain is definitely something that couples do not want to negatively impact their relationship. Issues surrounding poor communication, infidelity, distressed intimacy, or addictions all have the potential to make husbands and wives feel as though one or both have failed, or that their relationship is a lost cause. However, there is hope for healing and restoration in marriage. By cultivating a positive mindset and heart to enter into such a hard place, there is an opportunity for couples to embrace hope amid relational darkness. Allowing God and His word into the relationship first gives room for forgiveness so it can be properly rooted and grounded spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Also, filling up your relational toolbox with healthier ways to communicate, explore intimacy, and implement the right kinds of supports can provide the anchor that is needed to create, build, and grow a healthy, sustainable, and fulfilled relationship. Experiencing emotional distress can cause much pain; but through prayer, persistence, and positivity healing can be attainable.
Baucom, Donald, Gordan, Kristina & Snyder, Douglas (2007). Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On—Together or Apart. The Guilford Press e-book: 1st ed.
Cloud, Henry & Townsend, John (2005). How To Have That Difficult Conversation. Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing Co.
Maltz, Larry & Maltz, Wendy (2009). The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. HarperCollins e-book: illustrated edition.