Picture yourself reaching out to your partner only to feel rejected or dismissed. Imagine that continues for years. Do you continue or give up? Many spouses give up, and that is what is known as marriage burnout.
Marriage burnout is a prolonged state of emotional and physical exhaustion and depletion experienced by spouses about the state of their marriage. It’s as if you and your marriage are running on empty with no end in sight. With this burnout come feelings of pain, loneliness, and hopelessness. These negative, painful emotions usually arise after multiple unsuccessful attempts at connection from one or both spouses.
The pattern frequently looks something like this:
One partner makes an attempt, is rejected by the other partner, and recoils as a result. This leads to the other spouse feeling rejected, pulling back, and the cycle goes on and on, leading to marriage burnout, putting the relationship at great risk.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome marriage burnout and even make your relationship stronger than it has been for a while.
2 Reasons For The Negative Cycle
The 2 main reasons for this negative cycle which leads to marriage burnout are internal and external.
Internal: This consists of a spouse’s emotional landscape which can include insecurity, past trauma, depression or anxiety, and a slew of other factors.
External: This includes all the distractions of life like work, kids, and other responsibilities which may cause spouses to forget to prioritize their marriage.
Insecurities, anxiety, and low self esteem may cause a spouse to withdraw emotionally from their partner. Meanwhile, daily stresses and responsibilities easily shift attention away from the marriage itself, limiting the couples opportunities for rebuilding and maintaining connection.
Marriage burnout can also be the result of a mismatch in love languages. One partner may attempt to connect by using words of affirmation, assuming that approach will resonate with their spouse. However, the other partner tends to reach out with physical touch instead of with words. In this case, neither partner is filling the other’s bucket because the methods they’re choosing are not well-suited for each other. This type of mismatch often leads to marriage burnout despite each partner’s best intentions and genuine attempts to heal.
Is Marriage Burnout Normal?
Well, yes and no. Marriage burnout is normal in that it’s fairly common especially with the busy, hectic lives many of us lead these days. Yet marriage burnout is a significant indicator that your relationship is in trouble and requires immediate attention.
It’s normal for the tides of marriage to ebb and flow. All marriages hit some bumps along the road. But your relationship won’t bounce back and flow until you and your partner put in the work to reclaim it. As I like to remind my clients, it takes two to nurture and maintain a strong relationship. Each partner must be willing to make an effort to work on themselves and on the marriage.
Think of it as strength training for your relationship. Without a consistent regimen of weight lifting, you will not build up and maintain muscle. But a steady practice of exercise will keep you toned, strong, and healthy, and you’ll be better able to recover from injury or illness.
The same applies to marriage. Strong marriages, ones that are tended to and nurtured, can withstand inevitable rough patches. Relationship muscles are developed with good communication and professional support, as needed.
How To Fix Marriage Burnout
There are 5 corrective steps for marriage burnout. You’ll need to spend some time understanding the internal and external factors which may have contributed to the specific circumstances,and then implement needed changes which will help strengthen and grow your relationship. This will take some time, but the benefits will sustain your marriage for years to come.
Even if you think your marriage has reached its end and you’re considering divorce, it is possible to get unstuck and fix your relationship.
1. Increase Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of your feelings, and express and control them judiciously. High emotional intelligence allows you to better manage communication and relate to others with more empathy and understanding. Getting in touch with your feelings, whether positive or negative will enable you to relate more with your spouse.
Notice what types of interactions with your partner make you feel good, and what tends to set you off in anger, sadness or frustration. People who have a strong emotional foundation, will likely brush off and work through relationship difficulties more easily than people who are less in touch with their emotional center. Identify your feelings so you can better process and share them with your spouse.
2. Resolve Past Traumas
Past traumas have a tendency to not stay in the past if left unresolved. If you experienced emotional difficulties or abuse earlier in life, it’s likely that they will continue popping up in the present directly or indirectly. Healing can take time, so be patient with yourself while also acknowledging how this may affect your spouse. It’s important to heal yourself first, before you can heal your marriage.
The reason you have a strong emotional reaction to experiences in your marriage is 90% historical and 10% current. Historical factors such as past trauma contribute to how we react in the moment. If you experienced abandonment and rejection as a child, and your spouse constantly makes you feel rejected, it will lead to burnout because all your old memories and responses to the rejection come flooding back. It’ll be that much harder to tackle rejection within your marriage unless you first do the work of resolving your history with abandonment.
3. Manage Emotional Triggers
It’s perfectly normal to experience big feelings that come with emotional triggers. But how you react to these triggers makes all the difference, both to you personally and for how it affects your relationship. Emotional triggers are typically negative emotions which are set off by specific circumstances and fire off uncontrollably. So the trick is to get them under control and diffuse the tension before sparks really start to fly.
Identify one emotional trigger that seems to be wreaking havoc and see how you can lessen its impact or get yourself to react differently. For example, when you feel your anger rising in response to something your spouse says, can you take a few minutes in another room to calm down before engaging in a conversation and thereby avoiding an escalation?
4. Prioritize Time With Your Spouse
It’s tough to carve out time for just the two of you when the demands of family and work just won’t let up. However, investing time and energy into your marriage is just as important and should be prioritized accordingly. Yet it’s all too easy to let relationship maintenance slide when there are so many seemingly more urgent matters to deal with.
It’s essential to continue making an effort and sustaining your relationship in order to keep your marriage strong and healthy. That means allocating time on your calendar for date nights and doing activities which continuously reinforce your emotional connection. It can be as simple as sending flirty texts or taking a walk together. When you make time with your spouse a priority, you’ll significantly lower your risk of marriage burnout.
5. Get professional support
Doing the heavy lifting of relationship rebuilding can be more effective and faster with couples therapy. Even if your marriage is at risk of breaking up, an experienced marriage counselor will guide you through the recovery process and equip you with practical tools and strategies. There is an inverse relationship between logic and emotions, and this holds for marriage burnout.
When a marriage is in crisis, emotions are high, and therefore logic and rationality tends to be diminished. That’s when a therapist can help the couple regain equilibrium and make real progress.
If you’re overwhelmed by marriage burnout, know that divorce is not the only way out. Whether you choose traditional couples therapy or an intensive marriage retreat, an objective third party can help you overcome marriage burnout and get your relationship back on track.