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12 Painful Stages of a Dying Marriage: What to Do and Why It Happens

Steffo Shambo

Updated on Oct 12, 2023
stages of a dying marraige

Isn’t life after marriage supposed to be happily ever after? If so, why is marriage so lifeless compared to the early days?

Most marriages begin in bliss. However, that can easily change. 

Every day might start to feel like walking on eggshells. Your partner once made you the happiest person, but something’s changed.

It’s not just a rough patch because you’re starting to feel suffocated.  

The constant arguments, confusion, and frustration… It’s a never-ending cycle of disappointment.

If you’re reading this with a heavy heart, the answers you’re looking for are here.

In this article, I’ll clarify the stages of a dying marriage.

I’ll also explain why it happens, what you can do to stop it from crumbling, and how you can make the marriage better than it ever was before.

What are the stages of a dying marriage?

Here are the stages of a dying relationship:

  • Poor communication
  • Turning a blind eye to unmet needs
  • Awareness of unresolved problems
  • Loneliness
  • Bringing up past events and mistakes
  • Escalating conflict
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • No more effort
  • Deep contemplation of the situation
  • Final attempts
  • Hopelessness
  • Divorce

1. Poor communication

The first stage of a marriage breakdown is poor communication.

Bad communication leads to misunderstandings. Then, it leads to a spiral of disconnect and emotional distance between partners.

Open dialogue is the foundation of any healthy relationship.

However, you should be able to pick up on nonverbal communication cues.

Honest conversations are a good place to start. This type of conversation is ideal when both parties are relaxed and in a positive frame of mind.

In other words, good timing is key. Don’t bring it up when she’s already had a rough day at work.

2. Turning a blind eye to unmet needs

The second stage of a failing marital relationship is when either partner doesn’t address their needs.

Without letting out your feelings, you bottle it up with small seeds of resentment and dissatisfaction.

I get it. You might think keeping things to yourself as they are is the better option because you’re afraid to lose your partner.

But the reality is that ignoring your own needs is the same as poor communication.

It’s bliss, so everything seems perfectly fine. But believe me, it will all come back to bite you in the future.

Ultimately, you’ll begin creating distance in the relationship even if your intentions are good.

3. Awareness of unresolved problems

Now, there’s a small crack.

Since you have needs that aren’t met, you begin to reflect on why they’re not being met.

This leads to reflecting on what you believe are unresolved issues in the marriage. At first, it’s not that bad.

But over time, the frustration will start to grow.

The cracks get bigger every time you acknowledge the problems in your relationship without addressing them.

Getting support from an intimacy coach or couples therapy before this stage would be ideal.

after ignoring marriage issues the realization will hit

4.  Loneliness

One partner starts to feel emotionally distant.

They might feel isolated from their significant other because the small things bothering them are now a daily reminder of why they feel so unsatisfied in the relationship.

And you know what those small things become?

They manifest into feelings of alienation. You start to feel misunderstood or even undervalued.

Any type of loneliness in a marriage is severe. It’s the beginning of hopelessness, anxiety, or depression. It’s common to seek support from a friend or family member to cope.

Still, not everyone at this stage explains how they feel because they don’t want their partner to worry about them.

Again, I daresay that the intention is noble. But the reality is that it does more harm than good.

5. Bringing up past events and mistakes

A few weeks or months go by.

Now, you decide to bring up past events into the conversation out of nowhere because you feel like your partner needs to hear what you have to say.

Unsurprisingly, they’re shocked. They react, but you’re not completely satisfied with their response.

And that small dissatisfaction will plant a seed of mistrust. You’ve now entered a cycle of blame, guilt, and resentment.

Since the door to past incidents has been opened, your partner might do the same thing: bring up past mistakes.

The more disputes that happen, the more disconnected the marriage becomes.

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6. Escalating conflict

The conflict escalates by throwing personal criticisms into the mix. Your partner starts playing the blame game whenever you make a small mistake or inconvenience.

They point out their partner’s flaws and say something along the lines of

“Why can’t you just be like this?”

Hearing those words from a significant other hurts. No doubt.

What hurts even more is that personal criticism becomes a relationship dynamic. That’s a clear indicator of a toxic and unhealthy marriage.

A few common signs of a dying marriage in this stage include:

  • An unwillingness to forgive
  • Always pointing fingers at your partner’s shortcomings
  • Making snide remarks

The relationship’s trust, love, and respect plummet as this continues.

7. Emotional withdrawal & lack of intimacy

At this point, there’s a significant emotional gap in the marriage. Couples cease to open up to their partner about their feelings because they feel no point.

It’s almost like they’re not in a romantic relationship anymore.

The ramifications of emotional withdrawal are severe. This is where the gap widens drastically, resulting in a deterioration of love.

Whatever affection is left is hanging on a thread.

A married couple experiencing emotional withdrawal is likely just doing their own thing.

They don’t say much about what they’re up to, much less catch up with each other on how their day’s been. The conversations are shallow and don’t go into anything meaningful.

That said, intimacy is likely nonexistent in a marriage where the emotional connection is frail. In other words, a sexless marriage.

emotional withdrawal can lead to a sexless marriage for years

8. No more effort

No one’s putting in the effort to reach the other person. They’re close yet so far.

The couple is almost numb, and the distance between them is considerable. Deep inside, both partners are hurting.

No one is willing to invest in spending quality time together to build a relationship.

There’s a lack of intimacy and communication. All that happens is that the couple will get by with their daily lives almost as if they’re alone. The marriage has grown stale.

9. Deep contemplation of the situation

You have to keep moving forward somehow. Therefore, a decision must be made. More specifically, a decision regarding the current state of the marriage.

Couples will find themselves assessing their relationship.

The pros, the cons, everything. Whether all of it is worth saving or would be better if they were to go their own separate ways.

The contemplation stage is pivotal. It’s where a realization will come on what changes are needed to salvage the relationship.

There is still hope that the relationship can be restored should the couple be honest with themselves and the issues they’re facing.  

10. Final attempts

It’s now or never the last resort.

You’ll do what you can to change yourself and your partner’s behavior. This is the time to make the final attempts to pick the relationship back up.

However, it must be approached carefully because of the tension and bitterness built over time.  

Listening to yourself and your partner is paramount to revive the marriage. Still, couples at this stage may throw out harsh criticism without considering the weight of their words. And those very words could be the push to end the marriage.

11. It all feels hopeless, so you give up

You’ve tried to fix things, but you’re back to square one. It feels like no real progress has been made because you’re still going through the same issues.

Now, you’re left feeling hopeless and on the brink of despair. They feel trapped, stuck in a spiral that only continues to go downhill.

To save themselves from further disappointment and hurt, the couple decide to give up since it seems there is no viable solution.

12. Divorce and move on

Remember a few stages ago when you had to contemplate that a decision must be made?

Well, this is the decision at the last stage of a dying marriage: divorce.

Splitting up feels like the right choice for the couple because nothing is working. All attempts to reconcile were unsuccessful.

Therefore, divorce is the most logical choice. In a legal separation, a divorce attorney or lawyer gets involved.

Shocking statistic: Almost half of all couples in the US who get married for the first time will divorce, according to NCBI.

50 percent couples who marry for the first time will divorce

The 7 biggest signs of a dead marriage

The following section discusses the 7 most prominent signs of a dead marriage:

  • Almost all conversations turn into a fight
  • No physical intimacy
  • No emotional intimacy
  • You’re more like roommates
  • You feel alone when you’re together
  • No mutual respect
  • Reluctance to open up

While every marriage is unique, there are common signs that indicate a dead marriage.

These signs can serve as a red flag to help couples recognize whether the marriage is heading toward failure.

Almost all conversations turn into a fight

One sign of a dead marriage is when almost all partner conversations are negative.

Frequent arguments, criticism, and blaming form a toxic relationship. The result? It erodes the foundations of a healthy relationship.

Negativity arises when one partner is unsatisfied. If they carry the feeling of dissatisfaction over a period of time, the negative energy will be released through regular conversations.

And if it’s at a point where all small talk becomes an argument, it’s a clear sign that the marriage is dying.

No physical intimacy

Physical intimacy is an essential component of a healthy marriage. It fosters trust, understanding, and emotional closeness between partners.

When physical intimacy is absent, it simply feels like there isn’t a marriage anymore.

A lack of physical intimacy can result in emotional distance, resentment, and frustration.

Rekindling physical intimacy requires couples to invest effort in re-establishing their emotional connection and, if necessary, seek professional help.

No emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy means sharing inner thoughts and feelings with their significant other. If this is missing, couples will feel disconnected and misunderstood.

Restoring emotional intimacy requires open and honest communication, addressing unresolved conflicts, and dedicating time to reconnect.

You’re more like roommates

You each lead separate lives. Even though you may share the same space, there’s little to no compassion for one another.

This can result from a lack of communication, unresolved issues, and not being bothered enough to maintain the relationship.

Overcoming this stage involves couples rekindling their emotional connection and participating in activities that foster closeness.

You feel alone when you’re together

Do you feel alone in a room full of people?

Worse, do you feel more alone when you’re together with your partner? Ask yourself where the loneliness comes from.

This loneliness can stem from a lack of passion, empathy,  and understanding.

If feelings of isolation persist, it’s a sign the marriage is going downhill.

being alone and feeling alone are two different things

No mutual respect

There’s no respect or appreciation. You or your partner may even throw small insults at each other’s faults, no matter how small they seem.

A common example is when your wife constantly challenges your masculinity.

Without mutual respect and appreciation, the longevity of a marriage is compromised. It changes the dynamic of the relationship, and the romance fades.

Reluctance to open up

Don’t want to open up and share your real feelings?

When partners no longer feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions, it leads to a breakdown of trust and intimacy in the relationship.

Eventually, you’ll struggle with holding a conversation. One or both partners may start to feel that they’d rather not talk than talk at all.

What is a dying marriage?

A dying marriage is a relationship that’s creeping its way into a divorce. This happens for various reasons:

  • Bad communication
  • Unresolved conflicts
  • Lack of effort from both partners
  • Physical abuse
  • And more…

Sometimes, the root problem could be related to childhood or sexual trauma. This hinders a marriage from reaching its full potential.

When is it too late to save a dying marriage between one or both partners?

It’s important to remember that not all marriages are the same, and it is never too late to attempt to salvage it.

However, there is a point where it becomes a lot more difficult to save a dying marriage: when both partners have committed to filing a divorce.

When you’ve both decided to fully give up on the marriage and commit to making that decision, it’s difficult to turn back around.

Not that it’s impossible to repair, but it’s more challenging since there’s an unwillingness to fix the relationship. And in such a scenario, you must ask yourself if it’s worth fighting for.

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So you can reignite the passion in your relationship or attract your perfect woman.

The next steps: save the marriage

Only one of you has to be determined enough to save the marriage.

You read that right, only one of you. The commitment of both parents isn’t necessary because the reality is that when one of you starts to put the right work in, the other will respond with his or her natural essence.

And that’s what I teach using the art of Tantra.

No matter how deep the marriage has sunk, you can still save it and restore the love.

Not through manipulative techniques or shady psychology but by transforming yourself to transform the relationship.

If that’s you, watch my free relationship training video to bring back the spark in your marriage.

Being in any of the late or early stages of a dying marriage is a painful experience.

Recognizing them helps you take the next step to rebuilding the lost spark.

FAQs

How do you know when a marriage is coming to an end?

When chronic conflict, emotional disconnection, and abuse are always present. Personal growth between a couple is stagnant.

These are the key indicators that a marriage is making its way to an end.

What are the stages of a failing marriage?

The main stages include escalating conflict, emotional withdrawal, and giving up on each other by putting in no more effort.

What is the misery stage of marriage?

The misery stage is a difficult stage of marriage. It’s painful because it marks a widening separation, emotional distance, and vented anger.

The constant conflict leads to one or both partners feeling miserable.

What is silent divorce?

Silent divorce is when there is little interaction or communication in the marriage, even though everything looks okay from the surface.

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Steffo Shambo

Steffo Shambo

Men's Tantric Relationship Coach

I am the founder of The Tantric Man Experience™, a pioneering transformational coaching program for men. With over 1500 hours of certified tantra training in India and Thailand and 7 years of experience helping hundreds of men worldwide save their marriages and reignite passion in their love lives.

I have over 8 million views on YouTube and have been featured on VICE and Newstalk Radio for my life’s work - helping men unleash their full masculine potential.

My holistic FLT method seamlessly integrates ancient tantric philosophy with my modern expertise in relationships, sexuality, dating, and men’s health.

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