What to do About a Mediocre Marriage

“If he would just hit me or cheat on me, I’d know what to do.” 

I’ve heard this statement more times than I can count in my two-plus decades as a licensed marriage and family therapist.  Why would someone fantasize about having a violent marriage? Or about infidelity? Because both situations afford the decision-making clarity that a mediocre marriage does not. 

Why is it so hard to know what to do about a mediocre marriage? Because a mediocre marriage is typically defined by what it IS NOT. A mediocre marriage is not interesting. It’s not vital. It’s not stimulating. It’s not romantic. It’s not emotionally or physically intimate. It’s not FUN.

Living in a mediocre marriage is like having a roommate — except that you can’t just leave and get your own place or get yourself another roommate.  Especially if there are kids, friends, families, and mutual financial obligations involved. People in mediocre marriages often feel trapped and lonely. They exist in a state of boredom and resentment, smothered by the stench of obligation.

WHY is a mediocre marriage so miserable? Here’s a quick lesson in the three phases of relationship dynamics.

Stage One -  Engagement

Engagement is that “click” you feel when you meet someone you just can’t stop talking to. Engagement feels like connection, but it’s shallow and can dissipate quickly. Couples engage through conversation, through sex, through physical touch, through common concerns and goals, and sometimes through conflict.  Engagement is what keeps things interesting.

Stage Two -  Connection

Connection is the hard part. Connection involves mutual vulnerability over time. It requires creating space and closeness — at the same time. It involves taking a hard conversation from beginning to middle to end, without collateral damage. It requires an honest reckoning with all the squishy feelings, like fear, shame, guilt and loneliness. Connection is the juicy part. But it’s difficult to achieve and can be almost impossible to maintain.

Stage Three - Attachment

Attachment is the part where we sign up. Attachment takes many forms. It  can involve living together, having children together, getting a pet together, even getting married.  Attachment can also look like glomming on or stalking. Attachment is the Gorilla glue of relationships.  

So here’s my pro tip: in a mediocre marriage, couples are typically DISENGAGED, DISCONNECTED, but still ATTACHED.  Ugh. Worst case scenario. 

What to do? 


Take the risk of connecting. 

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Reengaging can involve something a simple as spending half an hour daily together, with no cell phones and no interruptions, talking about anything BUT what you usually talk about. Tricky but do-able. 

Reconnecting is harder. It involves risk, self-exposure, and deliberate goodwill. Reconnecting requires that both members of the couple can be trusted with the other’s vulnerability. No withholding and no weaponizing.  Ouch.  

Re-energizing a mediocre marriage can be a completely solvable problem. If you’re wiling to take the risk to solve it.

Or you could just stick around and wait for something horrible to happen. 

The right couple’s counselor can help you navigate your way out of a mediocre marriage and back into one that’s vital and interesting. You deserve more than mediocrity, don’t you? Do yourself a favor and make the call.

Contact Lifeologie Dallas today!

About Melanie Wells

Melanie Wells founded Lifeologie Institute (previously The LifeWorks Group) in 1999 to offer clients a fresh, innovative approach to the everyday problems of life. Since that inauspicious beginning (we had two pleather chairs, a broken copier and about $7 in the bank) she and her collaborative team have trained hundreds of interns and helped tens of thousands of families in the DFW area and across the US.

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