Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

AdobeStock Conflict between man and woman sitting on either side of a wallWhen it comes to emotional abandonment:

“It’s a complaint I hear regularly from people looking for help for their marriages:

  • ‘I feel distant from my spouse.’
  • ‘I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.’
  • ‘My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.’
  • ‘I don’t know if I love him anymore.’

“What we’re talking about here is emotional abandonment. Instead of physically leaving the relationship, your spouse simply checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death.” (Dr Dave Currie with Glen Hoos)

Emotional abandonment might not even die quite so slowly and quietly, as the spouse who is shut out tries to grapple with what is happening. Sometimes there is a lot of screaming and finger-pointing within the home —which often seems to complicate the situation even further. And yet, what can the abandoned spouse do to turn the relationship back around in the right direction?

Honestly, it’s confusing —even to those who call themselves “experts” in marriage relationships because everyone’s situation is different. What’s especially tragic is that emotional abandonment is something that seems to be happening in epidemic proportions in marriages today, or maybe it’s just that we hear more about this in today’s world… it’s difficult to tell.

But whatever the case, this is something we need to address because of the devastation it is causing on so many levels to individuals within their marriages, families, churches, and society as a whole, as the family unit breaks down and goes in an unhealthy direction.

To give you some type of insight into what may be causing emotional shut downs and what a spouse can do to turn things around in a better direction, we have found several web site articles that we believe will help. Please click onto the links below to read:



With this next article, written by Dr Dave Currie and Glenn Hoos, posted on The Power to Change web site, not only gives you solutions to consider but also gives you the opportunity to request to talk to a Marriage Mentor over the issue, which you may want to consider:

• EMOTIONAL ABANDONMENT: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

Filed under: Communication and Conflict

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319 responses to “Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

  1. My wife and I seperated in 2011 and I initiated divorce that we agreed on, splitting our daughter 50 / 50 and agreed on a divorce between each other without Lawyers. Then one year later, as we were co-parenting, and began spending a little time together for our daughter, she suddenly was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and thyroid cancer. I immediately asked her to move in so I could care for and help her and raise our daughter. Despite her large family, nobody stepped up or in to help and I knew she’d deal with it all alone. She quickly moved in and it caused a lot of pressure on me and I suffered from a debilitating fall at work requiring several surgeries a couple years before this happened. I felt like she had abandoned me when I was hurt and sat at home for 2 years all alone and that is what in large part led to the divorce.

    So back to the cancer, I saw her through, went to appointments, chemo, surgeries, radiation, and all while trying to shelter our daughter who was very young at the time but smart and growing. I struggled going back to work for several years because she was always on my mind. She went into remission for about one year, then through close monitoring, the cancer came back in small doses, starting with nodules in her lungs, then cancer on her pelvis, then the skull in 3 spots, then a scatter of cancer on her spine.

    All the while, we had moved away to a new place and new doctors. She underwent a milder form of chemo, radiation to the brain and then suddenly a change in treatment to hormone therapy and then a constant adjustment of thyroid meds since her they’re is was removed in the beginning. All of a sudden, I watched the woman I took care of for over 4.5 years develop a severe personality mood disorder. It happened very quickly. It was scary going home. I would be greeted one day with anger for reasons I could never understand despite trying to, 3 hours later, tiredness and she would just sleep, then 3 hours later, she would want a hug, then 3 hours later she hated me. It killed me inside to live through and watch this and it began shifting and the focus targeted my daughter who is old enough now to sort of understand and I had to draw the line. I asked her for us to seperate. I did so as gently as possible, she would not talk about it. I didn’t feel right just leaving, so I pleaded with her for a month or two. Things spiraled much worse. I told her that I didn’t want to go file for divorce but I couldn’t live that way any longer. So in a span of a few weeks, she turned into the most vindictive woman I never knew.

    I went to a doctor appointment for just having had a major knee surgery only to be served with an Emergency Temporary Restraining Order against her and my daughter for alleged physical and mental abuse for the last 6 years and accused me of being a drug addict for taking prescription pain meds for my injuries and that I couldn’t even go back In my own house to get clothes, medicine, check book, nothing. Even with me calling the Police to have her let me in as was mentioned I could do to get necessary belongings until the hearing date, she refused and told the Police “NO”. She then filed for divorce one week later. I since had to hire an Attorney and I have spent so much (all) of my life savings and when my hearing date came, for the TRO, the judge just pushed it off and combined it with the Divorce giving me no contact in the interim with my daughter.

    That’s what is destroying me the most. I walked my daughter to school to drop her off one morning and haven’t seen her or talked to her since. My daughter is my best friend. I did everything with her. I never went a single day without seeing her or if I were gone for work on a couple occasions, I talked to her on the phone or FaceTime at the very least. I’m so scared, confused, hurt, feel betrayed, and I am just sitting and waiting for my date to come and I can’t make any sense of this. I had suspected that maybe her doctor wasn’t being very forthcoming with her for a while because he was treating her and all her cancer were supposedly small in size, but spread all over and he kept telling her not to be too alarmed even though she was a stage 4 cancer patient. That the cancer would be dealt with systemically and that if anything grew large, it would get addressed. Yet with that approach, she started with only small modules of beast cancer I. Her lungs, but during his course of treating her for one year, it spread to several other places but we’re all “small” and not to be too alarmed. She wouldn’t let me go with her to appointments a few months before they did the radiation on her skull and changed the treatment to hormones, etc so I had asked her if I could go talk to her doctor after one of her appointments to ask why was it spreading if it was nothing to be alarmed of? So I sit and wonder if there was more to this that I never knew, if she is terminal, what triggered this? Why would she take the father of her child away from our daughter knowing how close we are and how much we love each other.

    Why is she ruining my life and draining all the money that would go to our daughter once we pass? We are young and this started at a young age. I’m so confused. I have yet to find anyone that has heard of someone doing something so extreme. I don’t know if anyone else has been through something similar and can she light on this behavior? It’s too late to try counseling (which i asked her to and she refused, then went on her own just a few weeks prior to filing the TRO). She has always been a very stubborn person and she doesn’t see that this is just ruining our daughters life. Neither one of us makes a lot of money. I stopped working several months ago from the surgery and we are both collecting disability so it’s not like she could be motivated by money. She will get very little if any spousal support and from everything I have been told, it’s not likely she’ll be able to deny visitation beyond the TRO. So there is no money factor to gain. Please can anyone give me some insite.

  2. Last year I put my wife through a real rough time. I lost my job and was depressed, took it out on her emotionally. This was the year I was going to change after 7 years of doing her wrong; this was my year to change. She didn’t feel that the change came fast enough and I said “if you want to leave, then go and divorce me.” She has now taken that to heart and is looking for a divorce while im looking not to lose my family.

  3. I supported an alcoholic for the past 5 years. He moved from another state and “gave up his career” to be with me. We were in a long distance relationship for a year so I never knew or saw his drinking habits. But when he moved here that’s when I noticed his sickness. I had no experience with this so I kicked him out. Of course my friends and family said I was unreasonable and to give him a chance and that he probably drinks because he’s depressed. So I begged him to come home (he moved in with his family for a few months) and we started over.

    That’s when he didn’t even bother hiding the fact that he drank. I changed my approach and tried to bribe him, inspire him but nothing. Days, months and then years passed, he just couldn’t make up his mind. So I finally told him he needed to work (even part time) or go to school (he has GI bill so he gets paid to go to school). He finally decided to go to school and I was so happy. This time he was focused and excited to be doing something. I was over the moon.

    Then when he got his first pay, all his promise of finally helping me and taking care of me were gone. I had to demand he give me “rent” money. Then he started to shut me out. We sleep in a separate room so he would lock himself in the room and won’t come out when I’m home. If he does come out, he’ll make hurtful comments. When he leaves, I check his room and noticed he’s been buying lots of alcohol. The sad thing is that all of a sudden, now that he was making his own money, he didn’t want to talk to me, see me, NOTHING!!!

    So I would ask why he kept treating me this way and he kept screaming at me that I was being immature and that he needed to concentrate. We fought because he won’t talk to me in person or answer my text/calls. It would be for 3 weeks, then we’ll talk and fight, then back to ignoring me for weeks at a time while we live together. How does that happen? So I threatened to kick him out and he did. He said he was tired of my drama, and at least now, he can go out whenever he wants and spends his money on whatever he wants, etc. I cried and told him that after all these years of my supporting him financially, bought him a car, spent thousands for him to travel, (I spent a couple hundred thousand to make him happy) he walked out on me the moment he made some money. I know that’s not gonna last but I feel so betrayed, hurt and lonely.