Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Sexless Marriage? Got Kids? Why Not Try a Parenting Marriage

Six tips for introducing this concept to your spouse

Does any of this sound familiar?

You and your spouse have grown quite distant emotionally, physically and perhaps even socially.

You’ve either stopped having intimate relations or stopped having the desire to have sex with your partner.

Rather than spending time in the evening catching up and sharing about your day, you find yourself going into your respective corners of the house.

When you are in the same room together, the only thing you have to talk about is the children.

Perhaps a festering resentment that you’ve had has grown into a gaping wound and you can no longer pretend isn’t there.

There isn’t much holding you in the marriage and if it weren’t for your children, you would leave.

You worry about what you're modeling for your children regarding healthy relationships.

You feel like an imposter and think to yourself, “if anyone knew we actually lived this distance existence, they would accuse us of being phony.”

You want out of your marriage but the thought of divorce sends you into a depression or a panic.

You can’t fathom not seeing your kids every day so you stay and suffer.

Help Is Here

Even if just a few of these descriptors apply to you, you may be a good candidate to try this new alternative: the Parenting Marriage.

For those of you who don’t know, a parenting marriage is one in which you and your spouse decide (or, in some cases, accept) that the romantic aspect of your relationship is over. However, because you are parents, you agree that putting the needs of the children first and foremost is paramount.

That means, choosing not to divorce and break up the family. But it also means that you don’t have to maintain the status quo and stay trapped in a sexless or loveless marriage.

Quite frankly, a Parenting Marriage is a compromise between staying and going and people often feel they are getting the best of both.

If this concept sounds interesting to you, I recommend that you read my article Give Your Spouse A Gift of a Parenting Marriage. By reading that article, you will know whether it can work for you (it isn’t the right solution for every couple).

Here, however, I’m going to give you 6 tips on how to introduce the idea of a Parenting Marriage to your spouse.

1. Learn as Much as You Can. Learn about what is out there already and do some thinking internally about what you would like to create so that you have a clear picture of what you’d like to present to your spouse.

2. Start SLowly. Unless it's clear that you both are done with the marriage, don’t start at the end. Start at the beginning: Let your spouse know that you are not feeling great in the marriage the way things are. Tell him or her that you’d like to go talk to a professional (although the majority of those who consider this option already have loads of counseling under their belt). Ask him or her to read articles on the concept.

3. Be Honest. Be as open as you can be in telling your spouse that the concept is of interest to you. Trying to sugarcoat or soften your request can serve to annoy your spouse, rather than compel him or her.

4. Expect Resistance. For some of you, your mate will recoil as if insulted and say, "Absolutely not! I won’t even entertain it!" If this happens, you can ask your spouse why they had the reaction they did. Some may say that it sounds strange or it’s not right or something along those lines. You can then ask, "if every other couple on your street were doing it, would it still sound strange?" Finally, when you point out that you are already doing it by default rather than by design, that can be helpful.

As with any new idea, there is often resistance and the reflexive response is to point out why it wouldn’t work. To understand more about why we resist, this article, Ten Reasons People Resist Change, is helpful. It addresses change in business but I think almost all of it applies here as well. If you push too hard when there’s resistance, you’re liable to create a power struggle. Most of us don’t like to be pushed into or sold on, anything. We want to come to our own decision about it in our own time. Allow that to unfold.

5. Remain a Team Player. You won’t easily be able to implement a parenting marriage if you don’t have a good foundation in working as a co-parenting team. Highlighting to your spouse how well you work together in this one area is compelling.

6. Give it Time. One definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. What I have seen play out with couples is that when one spouse wants a Parenting Marriage and the other spouse either doesn’t want it or is highly resistant to it, letting more time pass can help the reluctance wane. Seeing that things are not changing, and coming to terms with the fact that keeping the status quo isn’t likely to bring change is often what brings the other spouse around to try the Parenting Marriage.

What Do You Have to Lose?

When your marriage reaches this juncture, there is no path without pain. The question is, is there one pain that is better than another? When it comes to staying in an unhappy marriage or divorcing, both paths offer fairly extensive levels of pain.

In the first scenario, you and your spouse carry the bulk of the pain burden, and in the case of divorce, your children often carry the majority.

What a parenting marriage does is it allows you both to maintain the family and keep the family intact while also allowing you to have more separation from your spouse. (I won’t address the issue of dating in this article but suffice it to say that it can eventually be an option for those couples who choose to go that route.)

If, after 6 months of trying this new way of being a couple, it doesn’t feel like it’s working, you will always have the option to go back to the status quo or divorce. You will feel better for having tried one more way so you can truly look back and say you did everything you could to keep your marriage together.

I recommend that you do more reading on this topic. You can go to the website, you can go to the Oprah Magazine March 2019 issue to read on alternatives to traditional marriage and family And you can research any number of articles and websites that address the issue of alternative lifestyles.

Marriage and family are changing rapidly and more and more couples are realizing that they don’t have to be confined by the traditional marriage paradigm any longer. If your marriage isn't working, you may have more options available to you as well.

No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author. Failure to comply with these terms may expose you to legal action and damages for copyright infringement.