The Emotionally Distant Husband

Pixabay man-1150037_640Are you eager to be linked in a loving relationship with a man who cares about you deeply, but it’s just not happening? Are you willing to encourage him on the deepest emotional levels, but you can’t chip through the ice? Do you feel that despite your relatively lax expectations, you are being taken advantage of? In other words, does a void exist for you because you have an emotionally distant husband?

In my counseling practice I specialize in treating common emotional stresses. if left unattended, can turn into major debilitating problems. The hurting people who come to see me are trying to cope with anger, depression, anxiety in their marriage. These issues are usually played out in the home. I often face the task of helping people understand how their emotions relate to their unsolved marriage problems.

The Emotionally Eager Wife VS Husband Who Will Not Engage

Over twenty-five thousand counseling sessions have shown me that the most common marital problem I encounter is the case of an emotionally eager wife whose husband will not engage with her on a deep, meaningful, and personal level. These phrases are indicators of the problem:

  • “Just when I think we’ve really connected, he does something to prove he never understood a thing I said.”
  • “I think the guy is oblivious to my feelings.”
  • “What does it take to get through to him?”
  • “He cares more about his work [or sports or hobbies] than he does about me.”

As the relationship fails to progress, feelings of disillusionment become entrenched, and faulty patterns of communication yield increasing frustration. Failure to progress is not for lack of trying.

Good Reason to Be Disappointed

As I consult in case after case, I see that many emotionally eager women have good reason to feel disappointed. Most women need strong, growing relationships that are openly expressed. Unfortunately, their husbands fail to supply that need. These wives are living with men who have unconsciously committed themselves to an evasive way of life.

The wives aren’t the only ones hurt by this evasiveness. These men, unwilling to seriously explore the depths of their own emotional needs, perch securely atop their own little time bombs. As frustration and confusion mount, something will eventually blow.

If at all possible, I include husbands in my counseling sessions. You’d be surprised how often these undemonstrative men are looking, deep inside, for a way to jump-start their marriages. I can show spouses the best method to address their unique relational needs, and the lessons will probably “take.”

Options are Available.

When the husband, however, is unwilling to participate in counseling, the wife still has some excellent options. Her spouse may cling to stubborn, evasive patterns of relating, but she can make improvements in two general areas:

1. Have you noticed that in our culture, the burden of a relationship often falls on the woman? The woman is expected to “make it work.” If a man remains faithful, he gets the credit; if he strays, it’s somehow her fault, at least in part. When a relationship unravels, the greater share of the blame ends on her doorstep.

Counseling, however, can help a woman learn what lies behind the scenes of her husband’s personality, what makes him do what he does. With that knowledge in hand, she can come to realize that her husband’s behavior is not her fault after all.

2. The woman can examine the ways in which she reacts to her husband. From there she can figure out better ways of relating that will cause her less stress and personal frustration. Then, even if he never improves his behavior, she can still enjoy improved personal stability. She can be happier.

Identifying Pattern

The first step toward improving one’s relationship is to understand what constitutes patterns in marriages that can, frankly, be emotionally abusive. It sounds so far as if I’ve been painting the husbands as villains. That’s not true in the least. Most of these men have perfectly honorable intentions and would never try to hurt their wives. But even though they usually do not set out to harm, it happens all the same.

The problem lies in the way most (not all by any means!) men approach life. As a general rule, men are less naturally inclined than women to address personal or sensitive subjects. This isn’t simply fear of pain. They really aren’t as interested. They have a natural tendency to bypass the lengthy processing that is so necessary to intimate personal interchanges and skip straight to the solution.

When the wife seeks greater depth than simply problem-options-solution and presses to explore the emotional side of an issue or its ramifications, the man’s frustration kicks in. “We’ve already handled the problem; therefore, it doesn’t exist anymore; so what is it with this woman?” To him, detailed processing is useless, perhaps even inane.

Ways He Evades Processing

He then —and this is a key —begins looking for ways to end his participation in his wife’s processing. He may withdraw or try to put her back onto a path of logic or perhaps even explode. The explosion, you see, is a diversion, a distraction —in essence, a change of subject. Changing the subject is another often-used way out of processing. He is guided by the dread of having to spend any more time than is necessary to dwell on her emotional needs, for he almost never sees them as needs.

Women generally experience feelings and emotions more intensely than do men, mostly because they allow themselves to. A wife lets emotions run their course even as the husband is trying to stuff them, to get rid of them, for he sees them as anti-productive. Let me emphasize that there is no right-and-wrong about having strong emotions or even, to some extent, downplaying them. But because she recognizes and even nurtures her emotional side, the wife can enjoy life in its richest, fullest dimension.

Insistent Anger and Resistant Anger

Relationship and family connections are the most important ingredients in most wives’ lives. By their very nature, close relationships generate strong emotions. The wife can inadvertently create problems when she so craves emotional connections that she loses the ability to respond with reason or calm. She may become anxious; she certainly becomes angry. Not to put too fine a point on it, but hers is an insistent anger whereas his is a resistant anger.

The woman locked into these patterns can cry and complain that she feels unloved. She has such a powerful need to feel understood and cherished at an emotional level that she becomes greatly disillusioned when external signs of that understanding are nonexistent.

Evasive husbands invent a broad range of behaviors for avoiding the in-depth discussions they see as useless and potentially harmful: the silent treatment, pretended agreement, constant forgetfulness, procrastination, laziness, temper outbursts, work-a-holism, undue attention to a hobby or sport, and in general merely being unavailable. The evasive man may tune out. He might say whatever he thinks his wife wants to hear at that moment, to prevent the boat from rocking, you see, and harbors no intention of actually following through.

To counter evasiveness, the emotionally eager wife will be prone toward responses such as crying, persuading, calling friends for support, acting moody, repeating the same requests, accusing, and giving up. Once the cycle gets going it can be difficult to break.

Factors Behind the Pattern

In my practice, I see seven factors that are very common in marriages affected by the evasive and the emotionally eager relationship patterns. As we examine them, you will see that this tug-of-war is not confined to a few households. It is widespread. I find this tension in the homes of driven, success-oriented people and in laid-back, take-it-easy relationships. Some of the participants have a history of poor relations with others, while some can point to great popularity with others.

If your husband will join you in the awareness process, that’s great! Use the information provided as a springboard for healthy, honest discussion. If he will not, and many won’t, choose to make yourself aware of what’s happening and grow anyway. One person working toward a healthy style of relating is better than no one at all taking steps.

Let’s look at the seven indicators:

1. Communication is reduced to power plays.

If nothing else, evasive behavior creates a feeling of power. This concept of control and power-wielding can take some strange twists, and the people involved usually do not see it for what it is.

If the emotionally eager wife responds with her own overbearing style instead of understanding his fear of being controlled, she does the very thing that makes matters worse. She speaks coercively.

Perversely, even a caring husband derives a certain subconscious satisfaction when he witnesses his wife in great emotional distress. The underlying thought: You see? I do have power! I can control her emotions, and that’s not an easy thing to do. My tactics worked.

The more the wife registers anger or futility, the more likely the evasive husband will continue to respond with power tactics. His urgent, compelling need to keep the upper hand is satisfied. And I repeat, this is not necessarily deliberate. Usually, it is all going on in the darkest caverns of the mind.

2. He avoids commitment and personal accountability.

A common complaint I hear from emotionally eager wives is that they cannot get a solid commitment to anything. Their man is hard to pin down.

Remember that evasive husbands unconsciously lust for power. They must maintain control. So it isn’t hard to see why they don’t want to be held accountable to specific plans. They have confused commitment with enslavement or coercion and wrongly assume the words mean much the same thing. They see simple requests, then, as attempts at coercion, and they circumvent them by remaining vague.

These men realize that accountability requires a certain amount of vulnerability, and that scares them. Clear communication, self-revelation, and openness: These qualities could boomerang on them, they fear. The evasive person also fears that his good nature will be taken advantage of, so he plays it safe by revealing the least amount that he can about his plans, his preferences, his feelings.

Although these men would never admit it even to themselves, they have made a commitment to dishonesty. Sometimes blatant lying is involved, as when a man says he will do something, knowing full well that he will not. But usually this dishonesty is more subtle. Without openly lying, these men try to create an illusion of cooperation when in fact they inwardly hope to blaze their own trails independently of their mates’ plans.

Fear of Accountability

With this fear of accountability, these men fuel the wives’ worst fears of marital isolation. The men do whatever they must to keep a safe distance —exactly the opposite of what the emotionally eager wives are seeking. The men keep their feelings well hidden; the wives want feelings brought into view. The men think they dare not expose their preferences lest they be denied (in other words, the woman controls the situation through the power of choice). The women want more than anything else to know what their men want.

Needless to say, this factor of poor accountability works against the success of any relationship, for a thriving marriage needs sharing and openness in order to be truly fused into a unit.

3. Leadership roles are confused.

With all this control jockeying and poor accountability, the third factor in these conflicted marriages isn’t hard to see: badly defined leadership roles. The evasive husband prefers to hold back and sidestep situations that will bring his wife’s criticism to bear, and that includes certain situations where his leadership would be expected. He may even coyly set her up to take the heat. That, you see, is real control!

Have either of these scenarios happened in your home?

• A child makes a request that Dad knows should be turned down, so he says, “Why don’t you ask your mother?” Let her be the ogre who denies the child’s wants.

• The husband hears someone reprimand his wife. This might be a stranger in public or his own mother in private. Instead of standing up for his wife, he remains silent even though he knows his wife feels abandoned.

These husbands know that the more leadership they exert, the more controversy they may encounter. It works that way in politics; it must work that way in marriage. Notice that the power plays are still going on.

Has Preference to Lie Low

But here we’re talking about open, visible leadership. Being chronic conflict avoiders, these men prefer to lie low and stay out of the fray. In the battle of the sexes, it’s a good way to keep your head from being shot off. They falsely assume that openness invites problems.

It’s that don’t-rock-the-boat thing again. Unfortunately, by backing away from the leadership role, these men are sacrificing the family’s long-term needs —a stable leader —for the short-term goal of peace-for-the-moment.

Interestingly, in many cases, men who back out of the leadership role in personal and family matters are anything but weak in business pursuits or civic projects.

1. Relationship is secondary to performance.

Human beings err, make occasional wrong choices, and are occasionally selfish. In healthy marriages, the partners recognize this fact and allow plenty of room for open conflict resolution. Emotionally eager wives would welcome the chance to discuss problems. But because the evasive husband prefers to minimize his own emotional vulnerability, he customarily runs from the threat of having to struggle with emotions. Logic tells us that if a man is running away from something, he is also running toward something else. What is it that men run toward to avoid personal interactions? Performance.

Now, as a very general rule, men are performance-oriented anyway. Whereas women enjoy the process of doing something, men want to reach the goal as quickly and efficiently as possible and go on to something else. (Again, I remind you, there are plenty of exceptions to this.)

Commonly, evasive men will not mind giving time to an activity such as yard work, fishing, a project at the church. It’s familiar turf. They already know how to do those things. They’ll see a nice, neat, trimmed-up yard, the new church fence, perhaps a fish or two.something. But relationships require being not doing, an unsettling concept for many men.

2. Sexual relating is out of sync.

Happy, growing marriages are typified by reasonable sexual communication. Although frequency is not the chief concern (some couples are satisfied with twice monthly sex, some enjoy it several times a week), union occurs frequently enough to remind the spouses of their love and commitment to each other. Sex is a means of maintaining secure bonding.

For evasive men, however, sex is intended not for bonding but for physical satisfaction and—here it is again—control. Who’s in the driver’s seat?

At one extreme, the evasive man abstains for long periods of time, showing virtually no interest at all in his wife sexually. He knows sex can bring out tender sharing, something he prefers to avoid. He determines that it is easier to deny the pleasures of sexual relating in order to avoid emotional intimacy. I have heard numerous accounts from women who are eager to be sexually involved with their husbands but are rebuffed for six months at a time, a year, or longer.

Slipping into Comfortable Shell

The more common extreme has the evasive man showing little tenderness during waking hours. When bedtime comes, his engine turns on, and he gets his satisfaction from his wife. Then he slips back into his comfortable shell. He may even turn on at two o’clock in the morning, make his move, then go back to sleep. This approach to sex neatly minimizes emotional intimacy without minimizing the feel-good experience. The wife’s emotions are hardly considered.

The emotionally eager wife, then, develops conflicting feelings about marital sex. Part of her wants it and sees it as a wonderful communication time, but she is afraid of the hurt that comes as she senses her husband is merely after physical relief.

Often, if this conflict goes on long enough, one spouse or the other may opt for an outside form of sexual satisfaction: an affair, pornography, or flirtations outside marriage. Either spouse can feel such strong disappointment as to be abnormally vulnerable to temptation.

3. Personal insights are unequal.

Healthy people not only admit the need for improvement, they welcome the challenge. Growing people are willing to absorb insights and information. They actively seek out truth. Evasive people are not inclined toward insight and awareness. Apart from the fact that it’s too much trouble for what you get out of it, the evasive husband really isn’t interested in being challenged on the personal, philosophical level. That makes him too vulnerable. He wants the comfortable routine, the level keel, putting little or no thought into the whys of life.

The emotionally eager wives are usually the type who devour self-help books, enjoy stimulating philosophical discussions, flock to seminars. They invite growth. They like being challenged about what can be done to create a fuller life. Result: They grow and expand intellectually as their husbands tune in still another football game.

This eagerness does not always translate into significant change.

Because of the wife’s tendency to play off her husband’s behavior —reacting instead of pro-acting —this woman eventually loses heart as she realizes that her efforts are not being matched by his. She begins to perceive that she’s outgrowing him. I’ve see many of these wives become increasingly agitated or collapse in despair or depression. Either way, the woman ought to press forward, gaining insight, regardless of her mate’s lack of interest.

4. Both sides feel victimized.

Evasive husbands subconsciously live with a philosophy of “You leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone, and we’ll get along just fine.” The fewer challenges they encounter, the less conflict they experience, and the better they feel. The problem is that their spouses by nature yearn for a far more intimate pattern of relating.

The wife launches her various attempts to get the intimacy and depth she craves, protesting or cajoling or simply acting unhappy. The husband, turned off by his wife’s prodding, sulks and wonders, “Why do I have to live with this kind of stuff? She’s crabby for no good reason.”

Either unwilling or unable to grasp that he is contributing to the problem, he sees himself as a victim of unreasonableness. Victims are not cheerful people. The feel, if you will —of the household nose-dives as anger and sadness feed on each other.

The emotionally eager wife feels just as victimized.

“When is all this misery going to end? Look what he’s doing to my life. It’s sterile! Going nowhere. Emotionally zip. When will he ever wake up, or is it always going to be this miserable?” In a sense, there is truth to each mate’s feeling of victimization. Both spouses can point to evidence that this marriage has become something of a raw deal. Both can show legitimate ways in which the other spouse is contributing to the problem. Neither sees the whole picture. When either of them places all blame on the other partner, the “I’m a victim” attitude has gone too far.

Once this evasive pattern has become entrenched in a marriage, it is tempting to place full blame onto the shoulders of the husband who resists deep relating. Let’s say that, in certain instances, it’s true. He does need to change his ways of relating to his wife. His evasiveness damages and even destroys his position of influence in his own home. After all, God did not place us here on earth to avoid each other. We were made to relate first to God, then with family and friends.

Evasive behaviors are damaging not just to the wife but to the husband as well, preventing him from knowing the satisfaction God intended for him.

Beginning the Journey Toward Improvement

If you are the mate of someone who is non-communicative, realize that to some degree, the relational problems you’ve encountered are predictable. They show up in a lot of marriages. Also, there are some things of a general nature that you can do to ease them. For starters:

  • Quit assuming responsibility for your spouse’s imperfections. He may well say, “You make me this way with your constant [nagging, whining, whatever].” That’s not true, even though he may think it is. He would be acting the same way if he were married to someone else.
  • Ease up on your persuasive efforts to convince your mate to fit your mold. Coercion will only make the problem worse. This is hard to do when you desperately want change.

Down deep, you probably realize that no person is going to change, at least not effectively, based on someone else’s forceful persuasion. An evasive husband will amend his ways only if given the room to do so in his own will. That leaves the ugly prospect that he will choose not to. For now, it is wise to back off.

Don’t Quit

That does not mean that you quit doing anything. If you believe that your husband is ducking away from topics you are sure must be discussed, that he is becoming evasive in the midst of emotional exchanges, can you tell him about the frustration this creates without overworking the point or becoming confrontational? Everything will be working against you.

The heat of the moment makes a person say things she would not say at a less emotional time. And most of all, old habits die hard. You are accustomed to addressing an issue in a particular way now. It is exceptionally hard to change your approach. But it will pay dividends if you can do it. Personal soul-searching will help you turn things around and give positive traits to your marriage.

To get a good idea about how ready you are to do the soul-searching necessary for real growth, be aware of your use of one simple word. You. How often is that word spoken as you are trying to make sense of the tensions with your mate? I’m not suggesting that you should never be spoken. I am saying, though, that its overuse indicates that you are not looking inward.

Work on Your Happiness

In short, a major step is to put your own house in order to improve your own satisfaction and happiness. You may find that the improvement in your life is just the catalyst your spouse needs. You will still be a more stable and content individual, even if you do not experience adjustment you have hoped for in your mate. Are you willing to start with your own hard, inward search?

The emotionally eager wife will say, “Yes! Of course.” But then she amends that with a but. “I’m willing to adjust, but my husband needs to change.” Whether or not you are correct to say this, you are basing your happiness and responses on someone else’s behavior.

Your willingness to work on your own issues will be the key for finding personal peace, then potentially, success in that most important relationship, your marriage.

The above edited article came from the great book, Distant Partner written by Dr Les Carter, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The subtitle for the book is: “How to tear down emotional walls and communicate with your husband.”  As Dr Carter says in the beginning of the book, “I have written this book primarily for answer-seeking wives… I want you to understand why some husbands act evasively and maintain a certain distance from you. Most particularly, I want to show you what you can do to improve your emotional reactions to your husband.” 

We believe that obtaining this book would be an inexpensive way to start on a road to better understanding and working through issues that could greatly improve your relationship. Also, if you want to read this book along with your spouse (if he desires to do so) Dr Carter explains in the preface of the book the best way to do this.

— ALSO —

For additional help, Dr Richard Fitzgibbons offers insights into this difficult marital issue, as well as some practical tools to help you in the web site article:


And to help you even further, another book we recommend is Married…But Lonely (which many of you who have the ability can purchase through this Amazon link). You can read the first chapter of Dr David Clarke’s book by going to the following link:



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477 responses to “The Emotionally Distant Husband

  1. Looking for answers tonight… I googled “non communicating husband” and this article was the first to come up and I must say I have a small puddle of tears right in front of me. I feel as though I have just read my husband and I’s life. We have been married going on 15 years and we are in our late thirties, we have two beautiful living kids and (one heavenly baby who was a twin to my daughter but passed away at 7months). On top of all of that …we are Pastors and have been for the last 10 years.

    My husband and I have always had communication problems but I didn’t know it was that until, we had to face hard, trying situations that I needed the emotional support and my husband was no where to be found. I have always seen this as a problem but just couldn’t pinpoint what it was; I was dealing with thinking maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s because He wants more sex and he’s upset with me. Our lack of communication did not really become a huge issue for me until we started to discuss things that I felt he didn’t help me with for example, picking up after himself, financially supporting our family, making decisions for the church (He would leave a lot of it up to me) Helping me with the kids, and showing me attention like (a compliment every now and then, or taking me out on a date, or showing affection).

    We have been through SO much and I feel that I have been left to deal with a lot of it without His support or affection. For example, in 2009 we went through a hard period in our lives, of having twins and one of them had medical issues and died at 7 months and in that process of trying to stay afloat we lost everything (House, cars, jobs) but we didn’t lose our church; but the church was so young (2 yrs old) they didn’t have any support for us either. During that time, He suffered with Sleep apnea severely and would be sleep all the time and this would leave me having to deal with issues by myself in which I felt often times like a single mother because he would sleep for hours and hours each day. Since 2010 He has gotten a lot better because he got a cpap machine so it helped dramatically, but did not help the communication at all.

    We have to communicate about the church because He needs me to help him with it…and we communicate about the kids…but when it comes to us and our marriage…I often find myself having conversations with him and then wait for him to respond and it can take hours before he says a word. Once he says something it is mostly blaming me for everything and that His portion of the conversation lasts all of 5 or 10 mins at the most and then he walks off.

    I have been the one working an outside job while we are pastoring but I recently got laid off and I refused to go out and try to find something else because he has been promising for 7 yrs that he would find outside work. Well, he has found a job and now we never see him. He works, gets off, comes home, grabs a bite and then goes inside the TV room and watches movies until its time to go to bed.

    When it comes to the ministry, he will do whatever it takes, especially for people. But, I feel very left out and not apart of his world. I have been let down by him concerning his mother who used to be a member of our church and treated me so cruelly and he never took up for me. He was silent. Every time she disrespected me in front of the church. He was silent. He would later say that he knew it was wrong but I’m going to have to learn to take up for myself concerning his mom. I thought that was a cowardly approach considering that I am his wife and he agreeded that his mom was way out of line.

    I have cried and cried, prayed and sometimes I want to just ignore him totally and see if he notices at all. He gets upset at me for the simpliest things. He was in his movie room watching movies today and I asked him to take out the trash because it was filled to the top …he didn’t move … so I asked him politely to just help me around the house and tried to pour out my heart about how tired I am, taking care of the kids, obtaining my masters degree, working full time for the church, and taking care of home… instead of him having compassion…He gets up and throw the remote very hard and takes out the trash as if I was disturbing him although he had been in the room for about 4 hours.

    It is 12:45 am and guess where he is? In still in the tv room. I have started to sleep on the couch because I don’t want to be next to him…and I’m tired of cleaning after him…He throws his clothes everywhere and have water bottles everywhere and if I ask him to pick up after himself…it’s like I’m talking to my 15 yr old son. The sad part about all of this is…in the publics eye…we are the best thing since sliced bread and everyone adores us and always talk about how much we bless their lives and how they want to be just like us…only if they knew that there is so much pain behind these smiles.

    1. Hi Tiffany, I am a husband married 36 years with 2 adult children… I read your text just now and could not help thinking that your husband has a real internal battle going on within himself; that he sees no real way out, and that therefore he is acting the way he is right now. On top of everything else you describe, losing a child can be a major blow to any marriage! It feels like he is running away from his own emotions. Finances, his mother’s treating you badly and perhaps failing in his own eyes, his sleep apnea… other issues not mentioned here… a LOT to carry for you both!

      I was also the “poorly communicating husband” for some time during our marriage- mainly because I had not learned to do this as a child. Expressing myself was risky business when I was young, therefore I learned that shutting down was the easiest and most pain-free course to take. Perhaps your husband is doing the same thing? He occupies himself with the ministry perhaps because it is there that he can direct his energy in a much lower-risk way. As soon as you and the family come into focus, the risk of failure and fallout goes way up!

      Have you ever talked with each other about your daughter’s twin who is no longer with you? Seems that outside help would be a good idea… all of these concerns taken together would certainly be over my head to handle! Have you considered getting outside reinforcements? Do you have trusted friends or family? I hope these comments are not too late… and that they give you some ideas… WP (Work in Progress)

    2. Hi Tiffany, First of all, I would like to tell you that you are not alone. Living with an emotionally distant spouse can be a lonely life, but there are a lot of us (I am learning). Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too am in a similar situation with my own husband. We’ve been married for 18 years and have 4 kids, the oldest which we just sent away to college. With our family dynamic shifting at home, a lot of problems have risen to the surface.

      My husband has always seemed calm and reserved, offering little interjection in conversations, and rarely standing up to help. This left me taking the reins in our lives; paying bills, planning vacations, disciplining the kids etc. He would just zone out, and would snap back in if I pleaded for help, but by that time I was already so desparate and exasperated that his complete lack of understanding or pre-emptiveness only made his “help” worse. I would often call him a robot, because he had a preset list of responses for questions or situations. If I would ask him why he loved me, he would rattle off a script “I love you because you’re beautiful, smart and a great mother.” His canned responses never felt genuine and when I would tell him this, he would get upset with me.

      His anger eventually started to get more violent. If I would ask him to fix something that broke in the house, he would say he would do it, and would then either NOT do it, or do it so badly that I would have to fix it again. If he saw me fixing it again, he would explode and tell me that I don’t respect him and that I think he’s worthless, all words that I never said. He would blame me and tell me that nothing he ever does is good enough. I eventually just started taking care of everything, since involving him in the simplest tasks was so emotionally draining.

      He also is never direct and can’t give a direct response. I would often have to ask the same question 15 different ways before I got the truth. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Are you sure?” “It’s nothing don’t worry about it.” “Please tell me what’s wrong lets talk.” “I already told you it was nothing.” Round and round like this for HOURS until he would finally tell me and by that point I’m so exhausted I don’t even care. After a particularly bad fight, and a small nervous breakdown on my part, he finally agreed to see a counselor and we have been talking. I learned that he has been watching porn for the last 5 years unbeknownst to me and that he has also harbored his emotions so much, he plays me out as the villan in his head before I even speak. For example, if he wants to buy himself something, he will talk himself out of it by saying to himself that I would get mad at him, and doesn’t get it. He has played this unfair game with me in his head for so long, that he can’t even separate my true responses from his made up version of me. He said he never told me about his porn watching because he knew I would get upset. He never gave me that choice to be upset or not, he already made it for me.

      He has villianized me for so long and I had NO IDEA because on the outside he would be an emotional robot. I am also seen as the controlling spouse, because he seems so “chill and relaxed”. His family has been so rude to me and our family and my husband has never stood up for us. Last week, my grandmother passed away and when I went to my husband for emotional support, he gave me an awkward hug and said “she lived a great life” like something a stranger would say. For our anniversary, he sent me a pre-typed text message while I was at work, telling me how much he loves me.

      We have been going to counseling for the last 3 months and his communication has improved. He wants to make it work, but I can tell that it’s still takes a huge amount of effort on his part. Situations in which he is caught off guard (grandma passing) tend to give light to how truly emotionally distant he is, because he doesn’t have a script to go off of so his responses end up being weird, or awkward. However from the outside, we are the perfect marriage. Our children are all smart, independent, brave and caring, all traits that I instilled in them and they are the best part of our marriage. Right now, I am assessing my marriage to see if I want to put more effort into making this work, or if I am better off with someone who will be my emotional and intellectual equal. We are trying to make this work, but I am at the point in my life where I realized I outgrew our relationship a long time ago and I deserve better.

  2. Hello, I just came across this site trying to research how I can better understand my husband. The descriptions above fit us to a T. It doesn’t comfort me too much as I am still saddened that I have a husband who says he wants me and thinks of me all the time or wants to be a better person but he is emotionally absent most of the time. We have been married two years and together three.

    Part of that time, we were separated and he immediately went back to his ex-wife. He abandoned me like I never existed until he felt pain from my absence and wanted me back…4 months later. I decided to work it out. I had previously been married to an alcoholic, drug user and abusive husband. I had been out of that relationship for 7 years when my current husband and I got together. I went through so much therapy from the previous relationship that I learned not to judge people but try to understand them but I feel like I am getting absolutely no give back here.

    I am a sexual woman and he loved it at first and he won’t even engage or entertain talk about it at times. I feel dirty for mentioning it and less than a woman. This is a new form of abuse and I am questioning what I am doing in this relationship. I want to make it work somehow.

    1. Hi Renee, I was the emotionally distant husband for some time, but if God can turn me around, He can work miracles in your husband as well! Don’t give up hope…can you tell us more about yourself and your situation? WP (Work in Progress) – married 36 years now.

  3. This was a wonderful article. I have this exact relationship with my husband. Our relationship used to be a lot worse, there was a lot of fighting, and emotional abuse from both sides. We have worked out our differences for the most part, at least we don’t fight anymore. I feel like I have changed a lot about myself in order to keep the peace, and I have to work around him… he likes things his way.

    He has a terrible anger problem; he has had a pretty messy life, and it is scary when it erupts. He’s cool as long as he can be and then he explodes. These explosions haven’t been directed at me in a long time. But my children and his children are very hyperactive and sometimes disobedient and disrespectful. Sometimes they push too hard and he has these explosions at the kids. He never hits them but he yells mean ugly hateful things. He has gotten better, but after a particularly awesome summer that my kids spent with their dad, they came back even more badly behaved. But still, my husband is the adult and he needs to realize that he can’t do that. I told him if it didn’t get any better I would have to leave him. I told him if I could overcome my dpredepression a few years agp, and all the horrible negative ways I behaved and acted, that he should be able to learn to control his anger.

    It seems he blames his anger when it happens on the external factors. I try to explain to him that the problem is internal and that he can get control over it by realizing that. But I don’t think he gets it. Or wants to. We have other issues such as you mention; we have trouble talking about bills and I feel like we are never on the same page. I have tried keeping stuff to myself and analyzing and over analyzing every thought that comes into my head before approaching a topic with him. Is this really important? Does this really matter? Should I be feeling this way? I second guess and doubt myself all the time.

    I just want us to be able to commit enough to a budget! Or for him to start working on his inner self. But he always is looking out, he never looks in because I think it would hurt too bad. But I’m left out in the cold just grasping at straws, and part of me feels like I’m growing emotionless because its easier than feeling. I just need him to be a real good leader. I would gladly follow and so would our children. We are just looking for a way up. But he has to learn to control his anger. Will he ever look inside himself and admit that he has a problem, he does, he admits it.. but will he accept it and learn to change?

  4. HI, I get a lot of what I read above is happening in my relationship. I get my part in it and I am doing my best. What is so un-motivating is that now – I feel whatever I say – my husband takes it like some kind of order. We can never just talk about things and see what we both want etc. This means the communication has become even worse. If I ask or question something that was supposed to be done or if something we agreed on is done – it’s like I am his sergeant major and have issued an order. I can’t even get the words out before its being repeated like I have demanded something. I feel the relationship is a pretence and he acts like he will die without me. I feel like a backdrop or a requirement but not personally important.

    I want the relationship to work, but nagging and getting angry have just been making things worse and worse. Now I just am avoiding anything except the idea that we are married. I can respond in a pretence – like he is comfortable with, but then I feel like a fake. So the vicious cycle begins again as I try to connect, he acts like I am everything but it feels like I am a ‘demand’ which he has to fulfil or keep happy. It would seem no engagement is ever going to happen and if I even begin to discuss separating – its like he is so confused and hurt, just goes into trying even harder. He doesn’t ever initate any sort of communication or plans except his own. He only wants to react to me and everything to do with me (our lives) so he is never in a creating role – only deal with his life and then his sport and kind of make sure I’m happy, which I am, I have my life.

    Yet this is so flat for me. I have been dealing with this for a while so it has all gone quiet now. I used to rant and rave. I’m trying to find a new way but it just persists and I feel very separate and wish I had someone to share things with. (Like being Married.) We spend 6 weeks apart every 2-3 months due to his work. …Can anybody who may have been in a similar situation help me see how to be positive and happy in my marriage the way he/it is without getting sad and depressed because I can’t seem to live with it, and I don’t want to live without him, and because I feel bereft quite a lot of the time? I have become nothing but some sort of a threat to him. Like his mother used to be and he doesnt seem able or interested in fixing that. Thanks…

    1. Wow! I feel almost as if you were a fly on my wall; writing my story and speaking my truth. I totally understand how you are feeling because this is my marriage, in a nutshell. I have made a vow today to put my energy into myself and my children. I cannot and will not continue to be the nagging wife. I love my husband with all of my heart. But I have to love me too. Forget asking your friends for advice, unless they have dealt with a similar situation, they have no idea how to advise you. Seek counseling through your church or an organization that can help. Keep your faith. Thanks for sharing your story and mine!

  5. Thank you so much for this article – it describes my husband/situation perfectly. I came across it from a search trying to figure out why my husband periodically avoids all communication with me and uses family and our children to communicate with me. We have been separated for 10 months as he needed “safety” from me (which is truly that he needed safety from his verbally abusive/controlling father – who I had somehow become in his mind). In any case, throughout the separation there has been little communication. It gets better and then worse and I have not been able to determine a clear trigger. However, I would like to understand how to communicate with him that it is not acceptable to me to have to find out information through my parents or kids – without being critical or using “you” statements? Or should I acknowledge it at all? A perfect example is our current situation.

    My father is in ICU recovering from bypass surgery and my husband had to leave for a work trip. Although I never critized him for leaving us during such a hard time, his communication with me decreased as his departure date came closer. To the point that before he left, I texted him to find out when his flight was leaving and he never responded. But, he texted my mother and my daughter giving all the details to them (I can only assume that he is hoping they will relay to me). Why would he have this behavior? I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt all the time and see things from his – broken and dysfunctional – perspective. But I just can’t wrap my brain around this behavior (especially during such a difficult time for me) and I don’t understand how I can set a “boundary” for myself without making things worse. Any suggestions/insight would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance for your thought on this matter!!

    1. Lisa, I truly do not know what is happening with your husband. It could be passive aggressive behavior or just a total disconnect for some reason I’m not sure of. But the thought occurred to me that perhaps your husband could be suffering from Aspergers Syndrome. I’m not sure at all of this, but it’s a thought. Here’s a link to one explanation of it: Again, I’m not sure if this is what is happening with your husband. But read what they say, and Google more explanations if any of this hits home. Those with Aspergers have a complete disconnect with those who are going through problems. They understand their own woes… but they sure don’t get it when it comes to the feelings of others. They are also very socially awkward. It’s like their head is screwed on a little bit differently It’s a type of Autism with a bit of a twist because they can appear to be functional in some settings, but over the long run, in inter-personal matters (particularly with a spouse) they sure can get things upside down in how they interact. I don’t know if this helps at all, but it’s sure worth a look. Other than that, I would encourage you to pray, and keep praying for insight. God promises wisdom when we pray. I have no doubt He will give it to you as you petition Heaven for it.

      P.S. I pray your dad is doing better :)

  6. I don’t know why I am writing on this forum, I guess, I’m feeling defeated and lost! I met my husband in the Middle East. I am Italian he is American. When we first met, we were friends for about 7 months. Later he lost his job, we started dating. I suggested he come work for me, or with me until he finds the contract he wants. Needless to say he did not take me up on my offer, he was not affectionate, in any level from the start, or even sexual. When I tried to ask why he would say, quote “I have worked since I was 17 and I always have had a job” end quote.I justified his lack of everything with what he had said. I later gave up my business and independency and followed him to the U.S. We got married, very basic registry office, shorts and shirt attire and one friend of his was a witness… (I am my husbands 3rd wife).

    I did not know anyone to invite so I did not mind as much since we had agreed we would have a friends and family wedding later on. I have been married 3 years now; he is still the same in the emotional and intimacy department. I spent my first year and a half in tears, trying to talk to him asking him why he doesn’t touch me? or when he does, why he will never kiss my lips? Why he only points out when he finds a fault (in clothing skin or hair or my creative work) but never points out anything positive? Why do we never go anywhere together? A walk, a picnic, to the beach (he says he is black so he doesn’t need to go to the beach!!!)

    I believe I did everything a “woman” could to try and make it a happy environment. I cook (Italian, Thai, Mexican) I used to wake up at 4 am to make him food to take for his lunch, also for his golf days. I painted and decorated our home, I never asked him to buy me anything, nor do I hint. I would feel so lonely and angry when he would tell me, quote “I showed your photo to Mike at work and he did not believe that your my wife, like thought I downloaded the photo. He said you’re hot, then I told him you’re my wife” end quote! I feel like I am a decoration for him, like his car. He likes people admiring him for having it… But he doesn’t do anything with “it!”

    At times 6 months would go by and we had not been sexual. The day I mentioned it, that night he would!!! Just like timing a box… And no kissing! 8 months ago I started to change, I had to, I was low, lonely and hurt with all my options for solutions exhausted. My mom had passed away, about 2 weeks later. I said to him, “When someone you love dies it makes you look at life so differently, it makes you re evaluate your life. I have no idea how or what you feel about me? And I’m so lonely”. He did not respond to that.

    The next day on a phone call to him, I said I’m hanging up now, and I did. 40 min later he stormed in the house and said, “if you ever hang up on me again you can pack your stuff and get out!” That moment to me was like a cloudy mirror clearing and I could see… I do not believe this man has ever loved me, so much anger as he spoke. Even if I was wrong hanging up on him since I was low due to my mum’s death, even if I was wrong, does the crime really fit the punishment?

    He normally doesn’t say much or doesn’t like to discuss issues of him and I, nothing that he plays a part in causing my pain… Now, I feel better sleeping in the spare room. I pretend it’s because he snores to loud. I married him 3 years ago and I am still waiting for my laughter, fun, sharing experiences, the moments we collect to reminisce in our old age! I realize I was so stupid for having “hope” and wanting to believe the excuses he gave me, for the same issues as from the start, tho, the excuses crept changing but the situation remained the same.

    Now I think of divorce… It saddens me when I look at him as he has nothing inside of him, empty and cold. I had told him 5 months back that I had spoken to a lawyer about divorce, also told him that the lawyer asked me do I want the divorce as his wife was a therapist and could help… I told the lawyer ,that it’s not that I want it it’s that now, at this point it’s about saving myself, my sanity. I have 10,000 hobbies to distract my focus and that’s not who I am. I usually face my issues and try and solve them, but it needs 2 to solve them. I said to the lawyer that my husband had told me he had been to a therapist with his ex wife. Apparently that therapist had told my husband that – nothing is wrong with him. To my husband everything is right or wrong.

    I mentioned it to my husband, yet again, me the “Idiot” if he wants this marriage to help me help us and try the therapist as my only other alternative is to part ways. And of course as always, never did he call or mention it again. He is a good man. It a terrible partner in my opinion. He seems like he likes the title of a “wife” to talk about while golfing or show of my photos when I was fitness modeling but doesn’t want the effort or commitment that normally goes in to a healthy marriage.

    He is the main provider of our home. I don’t make enough money to sustain us if I had too. I hate that! I had told him before we got married that I wanted children and it’s important to me. He said yes but once married, well besides needing to have sex to get pregnant – this was not happening, he started to say it’s too expensive to have a child, college is lots of money and that we are too old. I was 40 when we met he was 45. I am 44 now. Now I feel it’s late, so I got married to not have a child, not have a husband/partner and to be celibate and lonely!!!

    These past months we are nice to each other since I gave up. I get my quick kiss on the lips as he goes to work and the same when he goes to bed. It’s too sad. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. Life is so short, why would we waste it by being with someone who doesn’t reach their hand back to you as to float? I did not make friends because I did not want to be the woman bringing such sad stories of my now life to the table, since till 5 months ago. Just thinking about it made me cry so much, I would drive and suddenly start crying in the car. I did not want a new friend to see me, “this” girl before they knew the me, before marriage! So, that’s my naked truth, my present life.
    Thank you for letting me explode out on your page:-) J

    1. Jane, I’m so sorry for the difficulty you are experiencing in your marriage. I’m not sure why your husband is so emotionally distant… there could be so many reasons. Perhaps early imprinting, or something else. But there is a book I highly recommend for you to read that could perhaps give you insight into his not letting anyone get close and what you can do about it. It’s a book written by Milan and Kay Yerkovich titled, How We Love. It’s published by Water Brook. The authors of this book “draw on the tool of an attachment theory to show how your early life experiences created an ‘intimacy imprint’ —an underlying blueprint that shapes your behavior, beliefs, and expectations of all relationships, especially your marriage. They identify four types of injured imprints that combine in marriage to trap couples in a repetitive dance of pain. The principles and solution-focused tools in this book will equip you to… –identify the imprints disrupting your marriage –understand how your love style impacts your mate –break free of negative patterns that hinder your relationship –enhance your sexual intimacy, and –create a deeper, richer marriage.”

      We heard the Yerkovich’s talk about this subject and can see how it can absolutely change the lives of couples in positive ways as they better understood each other’s communication styles. It’s truly an enlightening book –revealing things we’d never realized before. We’re thinking it would do the same for you.

      Jane, I’m not sure if this book would help, nor if the Yerkovich’s could help you, but I plead with you to try. Your husband needs to wake up. If you don’t pray and try to be God’s colleague in waking him up, then who will help him? It may be that this is your present mission. Even if he never responds as you put your hand into God’s and take this journey, you still gain. You went the extra, extra mile. You will learn some things in the process. I hope you will, and pray the Lord gives you the strength and insight to try in another way to reach your emotionally isolated husband. I pray for you that as you walk this additional journey with the Lord, you will gain even more than you put into it –more than you can imagine at this point.

      “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11) “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18)

  7. Wow. I feel like my entire relationship has been explained in this article. It’s good to know that I am not going crazy.