You can reduce marital distress by improving emotional connection.

How to Save an Emotionally Dysfunctional Marriage

by Melody Causewell

Emotional disconnection can lead to major issues for couples as they try to improve their relationship. Luckily, there are many paths to reconciliation. You can improve your marriage by examining personal stress, increasing your emotional communication, decreasing blame and embracing sexual intimacy.

Check Your Stress Levels

Stress from external sources such as work or finances may impact marital satisfaction. In a 2012 article in the "Journal of Family Psychology," researchers reported that individuals who experienced higher levels of stress tended to respond more negatively to their partners, leading to increased negativity in the relationship, decreased relationship assessment and decreased relationship satisfaction. The article concludes that, due to this "spillover" effect, couples may have difficulty maintaining positive or adaptive relationship patterns when under outside pressure. Finding ways to reduce overall stress, or effectively managing the stress you do have, may affect your marital standing.


A 2004 article in the "Journal of Family Psychology" notes that emotional expression is directly related to marital satisfaction, marriage quality assessments and separation. Researchers found that the ability to express feelings was predictive of the type of marriage enjoyed by couples, and those with less ability to discuss their emotions had more complications in marital adjustment and other satisfaction measures. Sharing feelings effectively may have a pronounced effect on marital function.

Avoid Blame

Attributions for behaviors, or blaming activities, lead to decreases in marital satisfaction, just as marital satisfaction may affect the blaming behaviors themselves, found research published in 2000 in the "Journal of Family Psychology." The State University of New York investigated relationships between marital satisfaction and attribution for negative behaviors. Researchers found that fewer blaming activities were found in relationships that had higher levels of satisfaction. Although each individual may need to take responsibility for certain issues, the act of forcing blame may lead to a downward spiral that causes decreased marital satisfaction in both parties.

Have More Sex

In a study published in 2010 in the "Personality and Psychology Bulletin," University of Tennessee researchers reported that issues in attachment between partners may be mediated by sexual activity. Partners who enjoyed more frequent bouts of intercourse had more emotional attachment and security within their relationship than those who had sex less often. Regardless of marital satisfaction in other areas, this research suggests that increasing connection though physical means may have a dramatic impact on feelings of connectedness, which can improve the relationship overall.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images