How to Deal With Restlessness in Marriage


If you’re feeling restless in your marriage, you may be wondering if you’re better off alone. These thoughts on dealing with restlessness in marriage are inspired by a reader who has been questioning her happiness.

marriage restlessnessIn Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, Harville Hendrix shares how to create a more loving, supportive, and deeply satisfying relationship with your spouse. If you’re feeling restless in your marriage, you may not be getting the love you need.

Here’s what one reader says: “This past year, I’ve been questioning my happiness and whether I still want to be married. I’ve been feeling trapped and unhappy and missing the exciting life I had before… I feel like he loves me more then I love him. I do love him but I wonder if I’m not IN love with him. I’ve been feeling bored and I sometimes feel like I can’t be my entire self around him… I haven’t felt completely connected with him for a good year and started thinking I wanted to leave few months before his last deployment… I don’t feel passion for him – it’s like we’re just going through the motions. I don’t look forward to sex with him…. He knows I’m not completely happy right now but I’m sure it would come as a huge shock if I told him I had thoughts of leaving him. Please help me – any advice would be very much appreciated. I feel so lost right now.”


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She’s 27, and has been married for two years. Her full comment is on my article How to Get Help for Your Marriage.

How to Deal With Restlessness in Marriage

I don’t give advice or offer relationship counseling, but I’m happy to share a few thoughts on what to do if you feel restless in your marriage. When I got married, I was 35 years old. I wrote 4 Reasons to Wait Until You’re 35 to Get Married because I think restlessness in marriage is more common if you get married in your 20s. Of course it depends on the person – some people get married at 18 and stay married for 60 years.

You’re not alone if you feel restless and unhappy, yet your spouse is supportive, kind, and loving! I wrote this article for a reader in the same boat: You’re Married to a Great Guy – Why Aren’t You Happy?

Signs of Restlessness in Marriage

  • Feeling trapped and unhappy
  • Questioning the meaning of your life
  • Having affairs
  • Taking out your frustrations and anger on your spouse
  • Boredom
  • Picking fights
  • Being irritable

These signs of restless were all mentioned in my reader’s comment. She asked if her affair (she cheated on him once when she was drunk) was a sign that she didn’t love her husband. I don’t think so. I think cheating is a bad decision and a betrayal, but not necessarily a sign of lack of love.

Sometimes an affair can save your marriage (though I am not condoning cheating!).

Is it your marriage…or is it you?

Here’s a famous quip that is much deeper than it seems: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

It actually means that you are still YOU whether you’re married, single, living in Africa, rich, poor, fat, skinny, educated, healthy, sick, etc. The essence of you – including your problems, personality, weaknesses, strengths, memories, habits, genes – will be with you no matter where you go in the world or in your life.

The key is to figure out if your current restlessness and unhappiness is because of your marriage, or because of the existential angst we all face in life. Some of us struggle with the meaning of life more than others. And we get easily distracted by the frivolous parts of life, such as dating, traveling, sex, job jumping, drinking with friends, etc.

If your romantic life is settled – you are married and thus aren’t distracted by dating, meeting guys, sex, etc – then the more deeper, scary parts of life may be creeping in. Maybe you’re restless not because of your marriage, but because you’re questioning your life.

“Is this all there is?”

marriage restless

How to Deal With Restlessness in Marriage

Maybe what you’re really facing is the meaning of your life. Maybe it’s not your marriage that is making you unhappy and restless…maybe it’s existential angst about the meaning and purpose of your life.

See why I don’t give advice to readers? Because there aren’t any easy answers. I don’t know you, your marriage, your past, your future…I can’t tell you if you’re wondering if you should still be married because your relationship isn’t worth saving.

Practical tips for restless marriages

I think it’s worth talking to a counselor about your marriage, your life, and your feelings. Maybe your marriage was a mistake, and you should leave. Or maybe you need to find a reason to be alive, a purpose for your existence. Your marriage is one part of your life. What about the other parts – are you connected to God, a meaningful job, people you love, animals, nature?

And, remember that marriage can be really hard. It’s a chore in many ways – it requires dedication, sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, and the ACT of love (not just sexually!). Marriage isn’t what Hollywood paints it out to be…there is no happily ever after unless you create your own.

If you’re restless and bored, read How to Know When Your Marriage is Over.

What do you think – do you still want to be married, or is your restlessness a sign of something else you need to take care of in your life? I welcome your thoughts on restless marriages below, but I can’t offer advice or counseling.


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4 thoughts on “How to Deal With Restlessness in Marriage

  • MW

    Hello, I have been feeling restless in my life and marriage and I don’t know how to get that through to my husband.

    The problem is, I know I become restless when there is something I want to reach in my life and it doesn’t come in easily. After a very long time of restlessness, I managed to achieve my dream of living and working in my favourite country on my own. The 2 years I spent there were the best in my life. Now I’m married and back in my home country but in a faraway city. I’m 32 years old and it’s been about 6 months that we’re married.

    My current situation is making restless. My husband doesn’t have a well paying job. We had plans before of him going back to school and doing this and that, but so far he hasn’t done any of it. I’m also doing a menial job. I’m having a hard time finding a full time job and the city’s unemployment rate is the highest in the country. So we’re pretty much struggling financially living paycheque to paycheque, and I’m just not used to it. The moment we got a small break he goes and buys a video game console.

    I want him to start working on getting a better paying job, do the schooling that needs to be done asap, and be ambitious. He tells me to leave his ambitions alone, that I’m unthankful for what we have. He wants to take more overtime to fix the car we have (we were cheated into buying this car, I was against it but had to give in). We bought a car recently to fixing the car isn’t a priority, it’s only because he enjoys it.

    We haven’t had the time or money to go on a honeymoon. I keep getting rejections on Job applications. I have no friends in this city. I don’t like the people here. And I feel stuck and restless. He’s not a bad man. He’s a good guy, caring, he cooks, he’s loyal. But all this just doesn’t seem to be enough for me. And the moment he shuts me out of his ambitions (you do your thing and I’ll do mine), I feel we’re not much connected and as if he’s still living a single person’s life, not a married one or that of a family. What can I do to make this life work, and not let me eat me away.

  • Laurie Post author

    Hello Portia,

    It sounds like you would benefit from an objective perspective on your marriage and life – and I can’t give that to you. You need to sit down with someone and keep talking until you and she figure out what the root of your marriage problems are.

    How would it feel to talk through your thoughts and feelings with a counselor?

    I don’t know who or what the “issue” is in your relationship, but I believe your first step is identifying that. You’re starting to reach out for help, which is great! But I’m afraid you’ll have to reach further.

    I’d love to hear what insights you gain from a counselor, and hope you come back and tell me what you learned.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • Portia

    Dear Laurie,
    My husband’s and I third wedding anniversary just passed uneventful and forgotten. He has three other kids(teenagers) and we have a three year old son and twins on the way. I am so unhappy with our marriage! I don’t know if it is just me unhappy with myself or….what? I recently decided to leave due to our lack of communication with everything and me just being tired of worrying ( it seems I’m the only one) about this relationship. Other issues are his lack of initiative in making just simple decisions for the house or kids, his slow fullness in doing what needs to be done, his disregard for my feelings when I get emotional and need to talk out the problems( he says that I disrespect him when I come at him high strung….for him to totally hear me I have to speak softly or he refuses to participate in the convo). He wants the world to think that we are okay and has said on a few occasions that it is I that need counseling not him or I’m the “issue” in this relationship.
    Enough venting but there are numerous problems and I just can’t feel like it is just me.
    So my question is: should I move on with my son and soon to be twins and just be a single mom, or should I keep pushing to try to get this relationship to work?
    P