Marriage Missions International

Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

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When 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:

HER HUSBAND WOULDN’T SPEAK TO HER FOR THREE YEARS

MY HUSBAND IS A MYSTERIOUS ISLAND

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.
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Comments

175 Responses to “Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out”
  1. Janet from United Kingdom says:

    My husband is a difficult man to live with, always has been. Anger is close to the surface and he unwittingly uses his tongue to put me down. I am very easy going, laid back and happy go lucky in nature. However, if I am in a happy mood he drains it out of me, by dismissing what I have to say.

    He takes more interest in rubbish films on the tv and tells me to ‘shush’, or ‘can I just watch this’ meaning …. shut up! Quite frankly I am sick of it, I try hard to be interested in what he has to say as I don’t want to sink to his level but I don’t think I can be bothered anymore. Life is too short. I’ve been married to him for nearly 30 years and put up with this for nearly all of them.

    Totally fed up, what can I do? I have told him how I feel and he replies ‘Oh for Gods sake, get over it. I can’t be bothered…yet again meaning ‘shut up’ ….. Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!

    • Lisa from United States says:

      I’d like to hear others opinions, for I’m in the same situation.

    • Jose from United States says:

      With all due respect I will apologize now for any reply that may seem hurtful. I will say one must go back to the beginning till about where you’re at now in your relationship and see what may have caused your husband to shut down. Then start from there, to see what can be done to bring him back,

  2. Joe from United States says:

    Why is it always the men on these sites?

    I have a wife who while we were dating had me on a pedestal I never asked to be on. Once we got married and had kids, I had some growing up to do, and know I’ve hurt her – we’ve hurt each other. Like others have said, it happens in marriage. But because of the high pedestal she had me on, something I could never live up to, now any conflict is an opportunity to go into full retreat mode, sometimes over what might be seemingly minor things.

    I wish there was more out there. Everything is about emotionally distant men. There are emotionally distant women out there too. I am still head over heals in love with her, but it feels like an old Charlie Brown placard – “when you get it right, no one remembers, when you get it wrong, no one forgets”.

  3. Jose from United States says:

    2 weeks ago my wife told me she was numb and needed her space to “find herself”. She didn’t ask me for a divorce but I asked her if she wanted one. She didn’t say yes or no, but hinted that she wanted me out (or at least I took it that way). I took it very personal and I packed a bag and left without having anywhere to really go. What’s strange is that the same morning that this occured she was very loving and affectionate. I believe what caused her to blow her top is that she tried to call her father (who has always neglected her) which she hasn’t spoken to in about 7 months and hasn’t seen in about 25 years. When she wasn’t able to get in contact with him that’s when she became numb and angry enough to request her space from me.

    After I left I tried calling her a couple of days after this happened and she didn’t answer, nor call me back. I have since not tried to contact her but I still love her even though she hurt my feelings. After 9 years of being together and 4 years marriage I’m devastated and just feel lost. In 2014 so far I lost my mother, laid off from my job, and now it seems like I lost my wife. I’m not perfect but I’ve never cheated on her, nor been abusive (though we’ve had several disagreements nothing out of the ordinary), and I don’t hang out with friends all hours of the night. The only semi-serious issue we had were finances. I’ve bounced around many jobs and haven’t been the best money manager… it’s a very complicated situation and whatever insight anyone has will be appreciated.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Jose, It sounds like you and your wife need to call a truce and quit treating each other like enemies and strangers. You’re not; so don’t act like it. Instead, dig deep into your wedding vows and say “I do” and “I will” all over again… “I will love, honor and cherish” the one I vowed to love and cherish for ever.

      I suggest you go to your wife and talk with her. Confess everything you believe you have recently done wrong. Ask for her forgiveness and ask her to join with you in calling a truce (You can find an article on this at http://marriagemissions.com/calling-a-truce-marriage-message-121/). And then ask for her help in rebuilding, or building your marriage so it’s strong and filled with love, rather than the strife you’ve been experiencing lately. You both need each other. You’ve both been hurt in life and you should work to be a safe place for the other to fall, when life kicks you.

      You may ask, “why me?” And my answer is that someone needs to jump off this crazy ride and be the hero here… sacrificing for the betterment of both of you and persevering as you said you would on your wedding day.

      This will take intentionality and determination. Please look around this web site. We have LOTS of articles and resources that can help you, so you learn some new things on how to build a good marriage and how to “unlearn” some things that need to be dealt with and thrown out with yesterday’s garbage. This won’t be easy, but if you both vow to do this together, you will be amazed how wonderful your marriage can be. I know… this is what my husband and I did. And we are now married over 42 years, and are going strong. We are DEEPLY in love with each other. There was a time when that wasn’t so. We were close to divorce. But we dug in and decided we were going to make our marriage work, “so help us God.” And He has, and we have. I pray this for you and your wife.

      I pray that you both open your eyes to the mess that you allowed yourselves to get into, but I also pray that you open your eyes to the fact that you can start anew with each other. Each day can bring a new beginning. Yes, you have hurt each other, but don’t let that block you from all the good waiting for you if you forgive, release that which you should, you work together, and love together with the determination you had when you first married. I pray God’s help for both of you in this mission.

      • Jose from United States says:

        Thank you for your words of encouragement. I’m just tired of trying to communicate and being the only one making the effort… She hoards her pain and then explodes when she can’t take it anymore. I would confess to what I did if I actually did something. Like I said previously I’m not perfect but I wasn’t the direct cause of what happened. Deep down I am still willing to do whatever it takes to make it work but she doesn’t even want to talk to me. She’s acting like I never existed. I would understand if I had actually done something to deserve (i.e. Infidelity, Domestic Violence, etc.). I’m just so lost I don’t know how to proceed in my marriage at this point. But I will read the articles and maybe things will make more sense when I do.

    • Victoria from United States says:

      You said that your wife hadn’t seen her father in 25 years. That leaves a huge hole in a person. Years of wondering “why doesn’t he want me”, “is there something wrong with me”, “what did I do”, changes the core of a person. Your wife is living with that. And without help she will forever question all relationships because of that abandonment. When a father walks away from a child the assumption becomes that all relationships will be like that. So instead of being the one left behind, she pushed you away. She (at least in this situation) had control.

      It doesn’t mean that she you haven’t been a good husband, it just means that she is protecting herself. Is this right?No. Fair? Definitely not. But I don’t believe that this is really about the two of you, I just think she is in pain. My suggestion would be for you to go talk to a counselor, gain insight into your relationship and perhaps a counselor will give you a good plan to help you and your wife. Don’t walk away because of her past this is her expectation of men. Prove her wrong. Good luck.

  4. Julie from United States says:

    Anytime my husband gets mad he stops speaking to me for weeks, sometimes months. I never see it coming; I could think we are getting along great – we are talking, spending time together – then boom he’s withdrawn, won’t speak to anyone, won’t eat any meals I fix. It seems to he cares more for his friends over others I care about. 6 weeks ago my daughter had my first grandson, and of course I was happy. But boom hubby quit speaking, withdrew, even completely ignoring baby.

    • Rochelle from South Africa says:

      I agree totally. I have been married for 25 years and my spouse is still the same person, not changed for anything. He doesn’t talk, speaks when it’s necessary, and doesn’t take part in his kids lives. We’re total strangers. I work hard and do everything in the home. He pays as a boarder and expects everything to be done, doesn’t buy a gift for his kids or me. He takes me for granted. Whenever I ask him to leave he says he will change but he never does. I’ve given up talking now cos it makes no sense to do so. I’m living in a marriage that I don’t want to be in. My kids don’t have a relationship with him at all, and he thinks it’s fine.

      I am slowing dying inside. I want out so badly I don’t know what to do. I need help so bad. How do I say this, as he will say he has no where to go. I was diagnosed with cancer and he was never supportive at all, doesn’t care about the pains I go through; to him I should do as I do, and go on. I cannot anymore, I need to be happy as well. Please give any advice or tell me if I am wrong. I stayed all these years for the kids but they are also fed up now.

      • Mary from United States says:

        I am in same boat as you. I love him but want out so bad. He does not care about me at all. Our kids are grown. One lives with us with her two children, and more people live with us. I am left to do all work and he doesn’t care. He won’t even help me. But the worst is living with someone you can’t turn to or talk to. He just gets mad when I say something. How do you get out after so long?

  5. Lisa from United States says:

    My husband & I have been together since we were teenagers. We have 2 wonderful children in college. He is the greatest father I have ever seen in all my years. Is very close with the kids. With me though, he is not. He has always done what he wanted & went where he wanted (ski trips, surf trips–without me). There have been no affairs by either of us. He has never really talked to me over the years. Also, his mother never really loved him (big reason he is like this, I think). He has never gotten over our son leaving for college and now our daughter recently left.

    I have never been included on decisions, purchases, vacation plans, gifts for kids, etc. It has been very painful over the years. I have seen a few therapists but left. He also suffered a mental breakdown a couple of years ago and has never continued any treatment. So, now I am just at a point in my life that I cannot see spending the next 20-30 years living ALONE with my husband. He literally does not say a word to me. If I try to start a conversation he does not reply. He does not ask to go anywhere. Our son had a college function recently and just because I was going, he didn’t.

    He purchased 2 paddle boards, but never asks me to go, but will ask the kids whenever they are home. During his breakdown I wanted to leave so bad as he was never home, started gambling (not any longer), was gone for hours during the day, etc. This lasted over a year and I stayed. I just cannot do it any longer. He recently retired so I have a feeling he will be traveling a lot to go surfing, skiing, golfing, etc. I cry 3-4 times a week as the pain hurts so bad. I feel like if we were to get divorced then I have failed. That is what I would be–a failure. I do not believe in divorce. My husband will not go to counseling so I guess I am at a loss.

    • Lisa from United States says:

      I just wanted to add to my story –I also wanted to know why my husband cannot take affection. If I go near him he shrugs away. I feel like I have some infectious disease –it hurts. If I go to kiss him, he turns his face. There is intimacy, but only on his advances. I’ve been with him for 35 years and he has always been like this. He’s very affectionate with our children. He has said he loves me only one time, and that is when he was going to the hospital a couple of years ago.

      I’m not an unattractive woman–I used to model, I was a cheerleader, I go to the gym, I’m in great shape, I work full time again after 18 years, I’m organized, clean, generous, etc. I wish he would let me know why he’s like this with ME. But, he doesn’t talk to me. I’m planning on leaving, I don’t want to, but I can’t live like this any longer.

      • Zilola from Uzbekistan says:

        Dear Lisa, I feel very sorry that this is happening to you. But I must say you have a great tolerance if you really have been living like this for 35 years. Please don’t be upset at my comment, but just understand that you live only once and what happens in your life is based on the decisions that you make. It doesn’t matter how you look, don’t feel like the reason is your looks, ever. You deserve to be happy – end of the discussion. Don’t ever think that you should sacrifice twice in a row. It has to be one from you and one from the other partner. If it isn’t this way, then it isn’t worth continuing. Be strong and take responsibility for your happy tomorrow. It will all work out. I believe in you! One day you will look back at your journey to happiness and feel proud of yourself. And this is the only reason why you should try! A big hug!

      • Mary from United States says:

        Yes, why do they like that? I mean are they getting love somewhere else or just doing without? I really miss hugs and kisses and just being held.

  6. Sarge from United States says:

    From all the comments regarding husbands and why they stop talking or show “Emotional Abandonment”, I will give you an easy explanation for all the ladies, it’s because of DISRESPECT and the wife NOT LISTENING when we want some form of confirmation or acknowledgement that you get what we are saying or that you APPRECIATE US.

    1. I stop talking, 9 times out of 10 when my wife is rude, disrespectful, and talks in a condescending way or act like what I am saying doesn’t mean anything.

    So, in order not to get loud, violent, or argue… the best solution… DON’T TALK. Why you say? It’s because the old saying is “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    2. When our wives don’t listen to us, we feel unappreciated and that our words have no value or meaning. It’s like I tell my daughter, I get upset when folks don’t listen. It’s rude, it shows that you don’t care, and it tells me what I am saying just goes in one ear and out the other.

    3) When husbands do things, buy things, make things, and show some of act of service or quality time or gifts, which are THREE of the LOVE LANGUAGES, then a wife should show appreciation. A simple “Thanks honey” “Love you honey, I really love what you did or what you bought”. Men want to be appreciated for what we do or what we say… nothing more, nothing less. When you don’t, then it’s a BIG forget you, in the FACE. Then we stop talking and ignore you.

    So, that is my take and my opinion. We have two huge problems in our culture, LACK OF COMMUNICATION and ARGUING OVER MONEY… the first one is easy to fix, just listen to the husband, like we listen to you ladies when we do, buy, or make, or fix the things you need or want.

    The best quote I ever heard was “The person that listens the most is the best orator or speaker”… that probably comes from the saying “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen twice as much as we talk:”

    Just listen to your husbands, appreciate us more, say THANK YOU more and we will love you like a faithful dog, not asking for much expect some food, some sex, and some laughter along the way. We are simple creatures us MEN, we don’t need much, but when you don’t listen or are ungrateful… in our minds and hearts, WE SAY… Forget You and Ignore you.

  7. Sr from United States says:

    After being dismissed, ignored and emotionally shut down over and over it’s very hard to deal with it all. I haven’t handled it well and have lashed out when I can’t take it anymore. Then I feel like a horrible person. I just don’t know how else to get his attention. I try talking and saying what’s bothering me but I get dismissed or it will get better for a few days, and then we are right back to it. I hold it in as long as possible because talking gets me no where. Then when it comes out it’s horrible!

    I love him; we have a new baby 5 months old. I just don’t know how after all this. He tells me he’s happy but acts like he’s not when we’re together. Everything is all about him. If we’re talking it’s because he’s talking about what he wants to; other than that I feel alone. Any advice? I am far from perfect but all I want is attention, respect, and some help. I am not the maid; I work all day too. I want him to act interested in me sometimes.

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