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When marriage fizzles out

When marriage fizzles out

Not all divorces start with one pivotal event, or any wrongdoing.

True, some relationships do arrive at a sudden end, or breakdown for apparent reasons. Maybe because of infidelity or desertion, abuse, ongoing conflict, or differences that can’t be overcome. Fuelled by anger and hurt, these unforeseen circumstances unexpectedly take life off course.

For others, divorce doesn’t come out of the blue. It arrives slowly, maybe even inevitably. When a marriage fizzles out, it can be hard to identify the root cause. Small, repeated frustrations that seem trivial in isolation chip away over time, destabilising the marriage. Things may have gradually snowballed for years, drifting until the point where one partner realises that the relationship has no future.

It can be hard to end a marriage that’s fizzled out. How do you explain it to your partner, especially if they’re not on the same page, or might feel the reasons aren’t meaningful enough to justify separation. You may even worry that others won’t understand. Here are some common, but less obvious reasons relationships can struggle.

You have less in common than you used to

When the common ground that bonded you in the early stages of your relationship disappears, it can be difficult to restore, leaving you with little to talk about or enjoy together. Realising that you and your partner have nothing in common now can be unsettling. Change is natural, but if things have changed so much that you no longer recognise the relationship you have with the person you were once closest to, it can be incredibly difficult.

Inertia has set in

Relationship inertia refers to a couple’s tendency to stay on a particular path, even if that path is no longer fulfilling, or healthy. Like being stuck in a rut, you might feel unfulfilled by with your relationship, but never stop to ask yourself why, or if your partner feels the same. For some, especially couples in long-term marriages, it might be difficult to remember what life was before they met. Other factors play a part like:

  • An aversion to change or uncertainty
  • Wanting to avoid conflict or upset
  • A sense of obligation towards their partner or children
  • Avoidance of difficult conversations or expressing emotions
  • Lack of self-reflection
  • They can’t imagine an alternative future without their partner.

You still love each other, but

You don’t have to hate each other to want to separate. Just because your relationship has run it’s course, doesn’t mean you no longer like, or love, each other. Many couples who divorce continue to be close after separation when the relationship evolves and becomes something different. The absence of a definitive incident to bring the relationship to an end means that often there’s still good-feeling and cooperation between couples. Put simply, you still love each other, but aren’t ’in love’ any longer.

Life is getting in the way

The demands of life can be all-consuming and leave little time or energy for connecting with your partner. When we’re busy fulfilling our personal and professional responsibilities it’s easy to understand how we can fall into the habit of devoting little or no time to relationships.

Among parents, this is especially common. While parenting can be a life-affirming experience, the reality is it can also put an incredible strain on a marriage. While you’re busy juggling the day-to-day grind, and prioritising the needs of your children, the focus shifts further away from your relationship with your partner. Parenting is both physically and emotionally exhausting, leaving your reserves of energy and patience depleted which can make it harder to keep your relationship on an even keel.

What do to if your marriage has fizzled out

If, over time, you’ve reached the decision that your marriage has no future, and you’ve begun to explore divorce or separation, what where do you start?

“Being the decision maker in this situation can feel difficult and often carries feelings of guilt for ending a marriage when nothing dramatic has happened to bring it to an end. It’s important to take your time and not take hasty action.” says Divorce Consultant Rhiannon Ford.

“Be considerate of your spouse’s feelings. Once you have made the decision, you will have started to emotionally move on from the marriage but bear in mind that your spouse may need time and space to process your decision and catch up with where you are.”

Rhiannon continues “When there is no definitive cause to the breakdown of the marriage, it can be challenging to explain your decision to friends and family. But this is your life and your marriage. Don’t over-explain or feel like you need to justify your decision to them. No one else is walking in your shoes.”

When divorcing couples are on good terms, the process of divorce is typically smoother. The lack of conflict means that you can resolve financial matters and child arrangements amicably, agreeing your plans through direct negotiation with each other. Any sticking points can be ironed out with the help of your family lawyer, or via divorce mediation, avoiding lengthy or costly disputes and laying the foundations for a redefined relationship and the future that you want.

Useful Links

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce

Stowe talks podcast – Where do I start? A beginners guide to divorce

My spouse wants to divorce – what should I do?

9 divorce myths debunked by a divorce lawyer


Rhiannon Ford is a UK-based Divorce Consultant, offering guides, phone clinics, and 1:1 work to support people through the emotional and practical aspects of divorce, whether they’re at the start, in the middle, or at the end of their divorce journey.


The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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