Relationships Spouses & Partners Marital Problems Saving Your Relationship When Your Marriage Hurts By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 09, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Causes of Emotional Pain Factors of Divorce Impact of Emotional Hurts Importance of Communicating Emotions Tips for Saving Your Relationship Advice From Relationship Experts Seeking Professional Help This article is not about hurts caused by physical or emotional abuse. If you are in a marriage that includes domestic abuse, please seek professional and legal help. For some people, their marriage is a source of joy and happiness. For others, the relationship they have with their spouse brings about feelings of emotional hurt and pain. If your marriage hurts you emotionally and you want to save it, it can be helpful to understand what's behind the hurt and how it impacts your life. Communicating how you feel can make your relationship better. In some cases, a professional may be needed to assist with this process. Causes of Emotional Pain in a Marriage Emotional pain in a marriage relationship can be unintentional or it may be a direct result of a partner's intentional actions. Unintentional Hurts What hurts one person emotionally won't necessarily hurt another. However, here are some ways that marriage partners might hurt one another without meaning to cause emotional pain: Apathy or a lack of interest Being thoughtless Controlling actions or behaviors Forgetfulness Hurtful teasing Ignoring their spouse Insensitivity Selfishness Silent treatment Unkindness Intentional Hurts Intentional hurts are when you hurt your spouse, you know you are doing it, and you continue to do it. These hurts might be inflicted in the midst of an argument, during a clash with each other, or as a result of a misunderstanding. An example of intentional hurt is if you decide to watch porn even though you know it causes your spouse distress. Other ways that one might intentionally damage their marriage include: Spending too much time on computer games, social media, volunteer tasks, or work Lying about your finances or having an affair Not helping with household chores or not being willing to take care of the children Avoiding talking about sex problems, in-law matters, friendship concerns, personal differences, or other unresolved issues Showing a lack of respect for your spouse Sabotaging your marriage Being irresponsible Not keeping your promises Most Common Factors of Divorce The divorce rate has been declining since 2012 in the U.S., with a 10% reduction in divorces between 2019 and 2020 alone. This is good news if you're intent on saving your marriage as this trend shows that it is increasingly possible. Still, some partners do decide to call it quits. Some of the most common reasons cited for pursuing a divorce include: Conflict or arguing Infidelity Lack of commitment The way you communicate during conflict can predict your likelihood of divorce. The four communication styles often leading to a relationship's demise—referred to as the Four Horsemen—are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. For many, divorce is a result of issues that build up over time. Then, something happens that pushes them to decide that the marriage is over. There is a "final straw" that breaks the relationship, with some of the most common "final straws" being: Domestic violence Infidelity Substance abuse Impact of Emotional Hurts on a Marriage Emotional hurt can show up in a relationship in a variety of ways. When these hurts (and their subsequent impacts) are not addressed, it can lead to divorce. If a hurt occurs in a person's marriage, they might: Allow bitterness to build Clam up Dig in their heels on the issue Dwell on the hurt Hold onto a grudge Walk on eggshells around the other person Withdraw from the relationship Does Marriage Counseling Work? Importance of Communicating Your Emotions With Your Spouse One study found that more than half of the couples deciding to divorce reported not being able to talk to one another as one of the major contributing reasons. So, if you feel hurt by your spouse's words or actions, talking about the situation may help you save your relationship. In Courage to Love...When Your Marriage Hurts, author Gerald Foley explains that communication is important for each of the marriage partners. Foley states, in part, "The one who is hurt and the one who did the hurting both need healing." When you don't express your feelings, the hurt can continue to grow. Yet, being able to express negative emotions is associated with better relationship outcomes. Specifically, it is linked to eliciting more support and a heightened sense of closeness and intimacy. Tips for Communicating/Resolving Conflict in Your Marriage If you feel hurt in your marriage, the first step is to discover the cause. What is your partner doing (or not doing) that is hurting you emotionally? Once you identify the reasons behind your hurt, talk about them with your partner. If you don't, it can lead to emotional withdrawal, causing you and your spouse to drift apart. During this conversation, hold each other's hands. Research has found that this one simple action can help increase a person's feelings of comfort, also reducing the emotional pain felt when recalling the experience at a later point in time. If you're having a difficult time putting your hurt into words, here is a list of feeling words to help you get started in sharing how you feel: AngryAttackedBeaten downBrokenDefeatedDiscouragedDisrespectedEmptyLonelyLostRejectedResentfulTiredTornUsedWounded Additional Advice From Relationship Experts Some relationship experts offer helpful advice for saving your relationship when your marriage hurts. For instance, in Strengthening Your Marriage, H. Wallace Goddard and Kathleen Rodgers suggest that you: Decide to let certain things go Focus more on finding solutions than on assigning blame Be specific with what you want or need from your partner Allow your spouse a few faults or imperfections Recognize which values you have in common Try to understand your partner versus judging them Engage in regular experiences together to help your relationship grow In The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage, author Gary Chapman shares a few more strategies for enhancing your marriage. They are: Deal with your previous failures Keep a winning attitude Learn your spouse's love language Develop your empathetic listening skills Find joy in helping your partner succeed Maximize the ways in which you're different Become a positive influence Seeking Professional Help If you're unable to resolve your emotional hurt on your own, find a professional to help. Couples therapy can help you address and solve the issues that are causing hurt within your marriage relationship. Several types of couples therapy exist, ranging from emotionally focused therapy (EFT), which seeks to understand and change the things that make you feel disconnected, to psychodynamic couple's therapy, which strives to help you better understand each other through exploring your hopes and fears. The type of therapy that offers the best results can vary depending on the issues at hand. If infertility is an issue, for instance, research has found that EFT can help improve marital commitment while decreasing couple burnout. A therapist can help determine the best therapeutic approach for you. A Word From Verywell Emotional hurt sometimes occurs in a marriage. But if this hurt occurs on a regular basis or is intentional, it can damage the relationship, sometimes even leading to divorce. One way to avoid divorce and save your marriage is to learn how to communicate your emotions to your spouse. If you find communicating with your spouse difficult, or you struggle to resolve your conflicts, a therapist can help. Several types of couples therapy exist, enabling you to find the one that is best suited for your situation and needs. The 6 Best Online Marriage Counseling Programs 11 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Ross JM, Karney BR, Nguyen TP, Bradbury TN. Communication that is maladaptive for middle-class couples is adaptive for socioeconomically disadvantaged couples. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2019;116(4):582-597. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000158 Marino FA. Divorce rate in the U.S.: Geographic variation, 2021. Scott SB, Rhoades GK, Stanly SM, Allen ES, Markman HJ. 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Strengthening Your Marriage. Chapman G. The Four Seasons of Marriage. Sayadi M, Tazik SS, Madani Y, Lavasani MG. Effectiveness of emotionally focused couple therapy on marital commitment and couple burnout in infertile couples. J Educ Community Health. 2017;4(3):26-37. doi:10.21859/jech.4.3.26 By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.