Virtually all relationships begin with both partners feeling in love. However, over time when needs go unmet and conflicts build, many couples fall out of love. Suddenly, you wake up and realize you're in a loveless marriage.
What is a loveless marriage?
A loveless marriage is a relationship where one or both partners do not feel in love. Instead of being romantic lovers, they often feel more like roommates or siblings. Being in a loveless marriage often breeds isolation, resentment, and hopelessness.
However, despair not, the rest of the article will cover four ways to bring love back to your marriage!
Loveless Marriage - 4 Steps To Reverse It
1-Understanding the Love Bucket Model
All spouses have various needs in marriage, and we can either meet those needs or neglect them. I think of it as a love bucket. We all have a love bucket inside of us, and our spouse is like a faucet filling it up. When we are first dating, our partner excels at filling it up. Before long, our love bucket is full, and that makes us fall in love with them. However, through the years, whether intentionally or unintentionally, our spouse turns down the faucet and only drips water into our love bucket. Simultaneously, they begin doing behaviors we dislike, which creates a hole in the bottom of our bucket and water starts leaking out. With less water going in and more water going out, our bucket gets lower and lower until finally it’s dry, which makes us fall out of love with them. Therefore, one of the most important things I help partners discern in couples counseling is what the top things are that fill up their love bucket and the top things that drain it. If we can determine those items and implement it, love buckets can once again get filled, and couples can fall back in love and stay in love.
The list of fillers below are common ones I’ve seen partners desire in marriage. Fillers are all the behaviors you desire to feel loved and satisfied. Fillers can be things your partner did in the beginning when you were dating, but they stopped through the years. They can be things they still do, and you want them to continue. Or they can be things they’ve never done, and you gave up on it. Bring that item back. The sky is the limit. What are the top three fillers you need to feel loved and satisfied in your marriage? What are the top three behaviors below that would make you feel like you're not in a loveless marriage?
Quality Time- This person feels loved and close when receiving your undivided attention.
Affection- This person feels loved and close from non-sexual touch.
Adoration- This person feels loved and close from appreciation and hearing why you love them.
Emotional Intimacy- This person feels loved and close from sharing and hearing inner thoughts and feelings.
Recreational- This person feels loved and close from physical activity together, such as hiking, biking, swimming, etc.
Sex- This person feels loved and close from sexual activity together.
Support My Interests- This person feels loved and close from questions about important things in their life.
Physical Attraction- This person feels loved and close when you optimize your appearance.
Thoughtful Gestures- This person feels loved and close when you provide acts of kindness.
Write down the top three fillers you desire from your spouse then give them a number on how well they’ve filled up your love bucket on each item over the past seven days, with zero being the worst and ten being the best. For example, if one of your fillers is affection and you feel your partner did okay on meeting that need over the past week, you’d give them a five. If they were amazing providing affection, you’d give them a ten. If they provided no affection, you’d give them a zero. Keep in mind you’re only evaluating what was within their control. For example, if your partner was in bed with a bad cold part of the week, they wouldn’t have been able to provide affection, and it was out of their control, so you wouldn’t dock points for that.
Fillers fill up our love bucket, and drainers drain it. A drainer is anything your spouse does that makes you feel negative toward them. Drainers create a hole in the bottom of your love bucket, allowing water to leak out. Therefore, if your partner is doing an amazing job filling your love bucket but simultaneously doing a lot of drainers, water won’t stay in your bucket. The drainers will cancel out the fillers. Consequently, it’s not effective to just track fillers. We must track both fillers and drainers to successfully fill one another’s love bucket.
Here's a list of common drainers and their explanations.
Parenting- This person dislikes their partner’s parenting style.
Defensive- This person dislikes how their partner does not take ownership for their part in conflicts.
Finances- This person dislikes how their partner handles money.
Harsh Anger- This person dislikes how their partner gets harsh with their anger.
Passive- This person dislikes how their partner is passive in certain areas of life.
Controlling- This person dislikes how their partner doesn’t share power on decision-making.
Addictions- This person dislikes how their partner’s addiction interferes with their relationship.
Uneven Workload- This person dislikes how they work more overall than their partner.
Sloppy- This person dislikes how their partner leaves their belongings all over the house.
Write down the top three drainers your partner does that makes you feel negative toward them then give them a number on each one; however, the scoring is opposite. For the drainers, zero is the best and negative ten is the worst. Zero means your partner didn’t do the drainer behavior at all, so no water was drained out of your bucket. Negative ten means they did the drainer behavior a lot over the past seven days, so a lot of water was drained out of your bucket.
Download KTG to enter your fillers and drainers!
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4- Love Bucket Goal
The goal on the love buckets is for you to eventually get eight to ten on each filler and zero to negative two on each drainer. When you do so consistently, you’ll become irresistible to your partner and your loveless marriage will turn into a loving one! Your current behaviors in your marriage are burned into your brain. Therefore, it will take time to develop new neuronal pathways, similar to a hiking trail. The dominant trail is well worn, and you follow it without thinking, which is your current marital behavior. However, creating a new trail takes time to wear down the grass before it become the new dominant path, which is your new marital behavior. Normally, when couples first create their list and receive numbers, they are doing drainer behaviors much more than filler behaviors. From my experience working with couples, if they are both putting forth sincere effort on filling up their partner’s love bucket, it typically takes six to twelve weeks before filler behaviors become frequent and drainer behaviors become infrequent.
Maximizing your partner’s fillers they desire while minimizing the drainers they dislike is the fastest way to have them fall back in love with you. It’s the path to filling up their love bucket and keeping it full. When both partners commit to doing this, it becomes the answer to reversing a loveless marriage.
How long does it take to fall in love
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What else would you recommend to reverse a loveless marriage?
You’re welcome Carrie! Hope this model brings back love to your relationship. It’s certainly tough to turn off the analyzing at home!
Thank you for sharing this. I am a counselor who had also recently slipped into a loveless marriage
We both want to try to work on it, and I think this is a great place to start. I am also a fixer and he does not like when I “analyze” him.
Thanks for the message Steven. It depends on your experience and previous connection with her. If you feel there’s potential for a great relationship with the right tools and focus then stick it out. However, if you feel it’s a broader incompatibility issue then ending things before marriage would be best.
Thanks for the article. I’m currently in a relationship where I’m not in love with my partner. She believes she loves me, but I don’t feel much from her, certainly not what I need to feel appreciated and valued. complicating things, her work is demanding and drains her. Chronically tired, I feel guilt when needed her to show up more fully in our personal life.
She wants to get married and start a family. It’s certainly that time, and given her age it may be a critical time. But I feel like I simply cannot move forward with marrying her. I don’t feel a resonant connection, I don’t feel like we are aligned in our vision for life or even what our relationship is. I’ve felt like we were not a good match for at least a year, but tried to address the issues head on and make things work. I still don’t feel genuine love with her or from her. (And I have felt it before, with others.)
Ending things would be potentially devastating, since she may never have her own children as a result. Should I continue to try to make things work, or is this a recognizable pattern whereby I should step up and end things for greater good?
Sorry to hear it Ava. It certainly takes two willing partners to resuscitate a loveless marriage.
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