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 (i.e. making few demands), you are being taken advantage of? In other words, does a void exist for you?

In my counseling practice I specialize in treating common emotional stresses that, 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, and the like stemming from their marriage. Since 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.

Over twenty-five thousand counseling sessions have shown me that the single 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 progresses, or rather, fails to progress, feelings of disillusionment and futility become entrenched, and faulty patterns of communication yield increasing frustration. Failure to progress is not for lack of trying.

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, and 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 and why they need to make the needed adjustments. 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.

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.

In short, to improve your own satisfaction and happiness, a major step is to put your own house in order. You may find that the improvement in your life is just the catalyst your spouse needs. And even if you do not experience the adjustments in your mate that you have hoped for, you will still be a more stable and content individual. 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 Maritalhealing.com web site article:

THE EMOTIONALLY DISTANT SPOUSE

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 to obtain their discounts). It’s written by Dr David Clarke. Below is a link so you can read the first chapter of this book:

MARRIED BUT LONELY

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Comments

464 responses to “The Emotionally Distant Husband

  1. I’m 23 years old and currently engaged but I call him my husband; he’s 43. We have a daughter who is almost 1. We have been having a lot of issues lately mostly me feeling lonely and at times I know he doesn’t care about the way I feel. Certain things have happened between us and there is a lot of trust issues, mostly me not trusting him. I know I have the tendency to dwell on stuff and dig deeper and deeper. Of course he calls it nagging and arguing and basically he shuts down.

    I know that at times he will tell me what I want to hear. The main cue is his body language facial expressions. I feel like he makes a bunch of promises like dumb things like he will come in early to spend time with me and the baby (he tends to get stuck on his projects) so basically we end up arguing and I get to that point where I just am in a raging fit. I don’t know if it’s just cuz I’m frustrated that I can’t ever get him to understand me or perhaps I’m in fact pretty dang bi polar. I really want to make this work and he says he does too. So idk what to do but something’s gotta give; this isnt healthy/ any advise would be appreciated.

    1. Desiree, You call him your husband, but he isn’t. He’s your live-in lover. Please keep that straight. If you DO get married, then you NEED to make this work. If you aren’t married, then it’s your desire to make it work.

      It seriously sounds like you both have issues that need to be worked on before you could EVER have a healthy relationship. It would be very difficult to get to that healthy place, but it IS possible when both of you determine that you will work on your individual issues for the better of your relationship. Please keep in mind too, that you have a one-year old who most likely hears everything and sees way more than she should –especially when there is a “raging fit” going on. She doesn’t need to see or hear that garbage.

      Whatever you do, please don’t get married until you work on these issues. Marrying won’t resolve them; it will just make it all more permanent (or at least, marriage SHOULD make your relationship permanent –that’s what you promise). You both need to sit down together at a nonvolatile time to talk about what’s going on that needs to be worked on so toxicity doesn’t stay in the way you relate to each other. We have LOTS of tools posted on this web site that can help you get to a better place. But you have to be committed to working on the relationship, and you have to resolve yourselves to actually use the tools that can help. Look under the various topics and see what you can glean from. But please don’t get married yet. You are not ready for it, and I’m not sure if you ever will be if you both aren’t committed to work on that, which is broke. I pray you gain insight on these matters and use the wisdom given to you.

  2. I’m 33 years old woman and I have been married to my husband for over 5 years. We are from different countries, I’m middle eastern and he is from Finland. We have a 1.5 year old baby. There were complications in pregnancy (2 miscarriages) and child birth and we had a hard time because the baby had to go to difficult operation, etc. I had depression after giving birth and still taking antidepressants. The problem is, I have never felt like a married woman. I have never felt he is my husband. I have felt we are roommates from the very beginning. He needs plenty of alone time. He does not expect much from me; it does not matter how dirty our house is. The only thing that matters for him is 1: There is some food at home (does not need to be delicious, just something to put in stomach is enough) 2: I don’t bother him, so he can sleep well (He says he needs to sleep 8 hours and 30 minutes per night, and he records the time and quality of his sleep with a device he puts under his pillow, so if he sleeps just 15 minutes less, he will turn our day to hell because he has not relaxed enough).

    When he comes home from work, he will go to the fridge and put something in micro and eat, then will go to his computer and watch videos until its sleeping time. Then he will say goodnight and go to sleep. I even don’t remember when was the last time we ate together. I tried to make him sit at the table with me, but then he will bring his computer with him to the table! Weekends are the same. Eats and sleeps and watches computer long hours. He has no friends, does not like to go shopping, restaurants (He is allergic to milk and grains so actually it is complicated to eat out), or any crowded place. He says crowded places make him nervous. Hardly talks to me.

    Since the time I got pregnant until now (over the last 2 years), we had sex maybe twice. He shows no interest in me. Does not matter what I wear or how I look. Actually he does not see me. I often wear trousers or jeans, very seldom wear a dress at home. Once I wore a dress, and after 3 days he said: Is that a dress you are wearing?! I have talked many times with him, I have said I expect him to be my husband not a roommate, he will change for 1-2 days, but same problems come back again. Anybody has an advice?

  3. I was shocked when I read this. It describes my husband and I. Married 33 years and we have struggled to stay together. The two examples of a evasive husband actually happened in my life. I have always felt like I tried to make it better and he has always pulled away! Everyone else’s feelings were more important than mine. I now just sort of totally ignore things so I don’t feel so much hurt and pain. I am lonely and sad a lot. I try to do things without him to make myself feel better. We have come very close to divorcing a few times. We do love each other, but lately to me, it’s not enough anymore.

    1. That sounds like me and my husband. I cry a lot. I feel very unloved and unwanted. We live in a rural area, and he leaves to visit and help all the neighbors, but does very little for me. When I try to talk to him, he refuses, or is very mean to me. I am now too scared to talk to him because he really hurts me emotionally. Basically I go all day without him speaking to me. There is no intimacy, physical or otherwise.

      1. Women of God, pray and speak the word of God that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. Rejoice in the word knowing that everything in each scripture is true. After you have prayed and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, direction, and the right words to reach your husband.

        Next, offer him a meal or attempt to share your heart with him in a pleasant setting. Perhaps after a meal, or a snack on the porch, short walk up/back driveway or in an area that is mutually comfortable. Listen attentively to his reaction, responses, and pay attention to his non-verbal communication. Start by asking how his day was and listen without interrupting. Next, repeat what you have heard and watch his cues.

        Follow-up with the phrase, I admire the way you take an interest in the community and serving other and would like to join you. I noticed you do this on your own and wanted to know if I could help. His response/reaction will be key as to how you need to proceed. Remember you are listening very intently for the barrier or what is getting in the way of him not inviting you.

        Next I would purchase books on how to talk so he listens and vice versa. Seek widow and counsel through your church if available.

        1. Talk is cheap. I have tried talking, submitting, stepping back, etc. When is he gonna do something? Never. Marriage is hopeless.

          1. Hi MP. Talk is cheap, yes, but prayer is powerful. Sharing (not gossiping about) your situation with other people whom you trust is powerful. Divorce is expensive and heart breaking; you end up exchanging one set of problems for another.

            He will do something when his well-being is directly affected by his continued actions and behaviors. Please see my text down below from June 29.

            I sincerely hope this turns around for you… Please don’t give up!! The rewards of fighting through the tunnel are well worth the anguish now! WP (Work in Progress)

          2. Hi MB, He will change as soon as he feels his own well being is at stake. Please don’t give up!! Talk to trusted friends and family, find a professional, read articles on this site- there are many which speak to your situation. Marriage can be difficult, yes! Very rarely hopeless. I am married 36 years with 2 adult children…WP (Work in Progress)

    2. I have only been married one year and feel the same – lonely and sad. Can’t believe this is the same man I fell in love with. I want to give up our marriage. I was so much happier being single. I am desperate. Please help.

      1. Hi Mary…Please see my text to MB just above here, and also my text from June 29 (It’s down below) I was also the emotionally distant husband, and I can well imagine how difficult this is! Please don’t give up!! Marriages (even the best ones) have their ups and downs. I have been married 36 years, and we have seen marriages survive terrible things- which would break most marriages. We have also seen other marriages break up over very trivial things.

        I am not saying your situation is trivial, not at ALL… I am saying that there is more hope than you think. Don’t give up! A good marriage never comes cheap. Fighting through the “desert” or weathering the storm, and staying the course may be hard now, but divorce is oftentimes far harder. I recall the words of a good friend, “I had no clue about how expensive and heartbreaking a divorce can be..!!”

        Have you told your husband exactly what you have written here? He may have NO idea!!

        Please don’t carry this alone, Find trusted friends and family and get their input. Talk to a professional. There are many good articles and tips on this website. Perhaps readers on this site may have input for you if you post more information about your situation?

        I hope you come back and that we hear from you…WP (Work in Porgress)

    3. I’m 33 and married for nearly 11 years…me and my husband had a good relationship; we loved and expressed our love openly to each other till last year. He always gives importance to his friends, their wives, and his own family over me. I’m told by him that my problems are only mine and I should deal with them but his family’s and his friend’s problems are his and he always helps and supports them.

      He has never supported me like this, has never stood up for me when I needed him deserately and has made me feel unwanted. He has cheated on me too a few times. We had raging arguments over this in the last 5 months. Since then I feel like I’ve lost interest in him and he’s kinda avoiding me too. We don’t have physical intimacy or otherwise, apart from once a month. I so try to make him happy but he’s more interested in spending time on his hobbies and not me. Though he has plenty of time for friends and family.

      I’m so helpless so tired and so lonely. I come from a background where I can’t even think of leaving him. I’m jobless; I’m totally dependent on him for everything. We have three children. I want a happy life for us and our children but he seems not to understand what I’m going through because of his behaviour. I’m lost and I don’t know what to do? I’m going into a depression. I cry all the time. I speak to myself… please help me.

  4. This article just found me at my point of need. Am the one reading article, seeking help. My husband is well, a mixed bag. One minute he wants help. We get there and it’s always about the sex. I have prayed and as we speak now, I am spent; finished.

    Before we got married we separated for almost a year and I told myself if this is meant to be it will happen. I had moved on when he came back into my life. I was honestly not ready to take him back. But he did over and above to get me back. Three years in with a tiny 5 month old baby it all went pear shaped. His pulling away. Basically what is mentioned above. And I was getting angry like the cycle above. But now I just do me. Sometime I send him articles about what I read. But I know it’s a waste of time. I don’t know if will make it, as I just don’t want my son to go through a divorce. My husband’s just a wall lately.

    I am just riding the storm. I am going to see a psychologist this week. But I think I’ll just do my own thing. But I wonder – does that not get him thinking he can move on too, maybe end up sexually with someone else as he feels I have pulled away too? What is the middle ground. It’s easy to say yes; cut, divorce and go but I really want help here. Help to fix not BREAK up. Work on me but still be in a RELATIONSHIP even if this is the way he is, as explained now. Thank you.

    1. Hi Liona, and other recent contributors here, I am a husband married now for 36 years, with 2 adult children. My wife and I are from different countries- she is from the Netherlands, and I am from the USA. I was also the “emotionally distant husband” for quite some time. But not anymore, I am happy to say. Let me try to explain.

      I am sure you all know that expression of emotions is more difficult for us men than for you women. Add to that (in my case) an upbringing in which it was dangerous to express how one feels. (Perhaps this is the case for your husbands too?) The result was the following:
      – I didn’t know how I felt…I could not find the right words to describe my feelings.
      – I was afraid to express myself- afraid of the strong emotions inside.
      – I did not learn how to express “negative emotions” in a constructive, respectful way.
      – I need time to sort out my feelings before I can express them.
      – I really could not appreciate the God-given need for women to exchange emotions and express emotions- I had no idea what it was like to have a conversation on this level.
      – I did not know that I, and other men, also need to express emotions.

      I can now appreciate that this state of things is extremely frustrating and disheartening for you women. Here below the barriers I encountered in my upbringing and also my marriage. Each of these encourages me to shut down, stay quiet, and.. simply, not bother.

      Upbringing:
      – Any show of frustration, anger, being upset…expression of a “negative emotion” was greeted by a confrontation in which I would “lose.” I quickly learned at a very young age, that it was not a good idea to deal with “negative emotions… :((

      Marriage: (All these have become FAR better now… this was in the beginning.)
      – Any demonstration that my wife is not listening is an instant “cold shower.” Such as:
      * being interrupted when I am speaking
      * getting the feeling that my wife is waiting for me to finish so that she can speak
      * clear signs of uninvolvement, such as eyes turned away, allowing a distraction, fidgiting, getting up and walking away to do something else, answering the phone, etc, etc.

      A few ideas on how to get your husbands to “venture out of their shells”:
      – AVOID all of the above “cold shower items” at all costs!!
      – Express positive things whenever you can, such as, “I felt so close to you when we went out for an ice cream today… It means the world to me when you mow the lawn and keep our garden looking nice… I feel so cared for by you when you _____.” etc., etc.
      – Initiate physical intimacy as an “add-on” to your expressions of positive emotions- this is something women should never lose sight of! Very powerful! Men feel connected through intimacy, while women feel connected through emotional expression. If you initiate the physical, it opens the door for your husband to be more open emotionally. The one feeds the other.
      – Have far more “positive emotions” conversations than “negative emotions” conversations.
      – Notice and comment on the things he does around the house, or things he does for you or the children.
      – see the site:
      http://marriagemissions.com/100-ways-you-can-love-your-husband-his-way/comment-page-10/#comment-347866
      – With “negative stuff,” please do NOT confront him when he gets home from work.
      – Express yourself in a non-accusing manner, such as, “I feel unloved and unwanted when you spend so many hours behind your computer.” “It upset me when I sensed you were looking at other women at our party last night.” “It feels to me like your friends matter more to you than I do.”
      – Listen and ask appropriate questions for clarification, such as, What I am hearing you say is: _____. Is this right? What do mean when you say:_____ ? Can you give me other examples?
      – Avoid nagging and attempting to prove you “are right.”
      – Be quick and sincere to admit when you are wrong.
      – Acknowledge your negative contributions to a problem. Own your part in the conflict.
      – Bringing up past issues, saying hurtful things out of frustration… very bad idea.

      Of course we men need to carry our end of the log as well. There are several articles mentioned in the general site in which it seems that the women are asked to to the lion’s share of maintaining the marriage relationship, or that the men are emotional cripples who need constant affirmation… This I can understand.

      If it gets really extreme, (only you can define the lines here,) then you need to express, not in a confronting or accusing way, nor as an “ultimatum” but rather as a simple fact, “I really need a change here. I have not been happy for too long. I don’t know if I can keep going like this.” as a gentle but clear hint that you are getting close to the unwanted option of separating, but that you don’t want to go there.

      It is true that we men can get pretty comfortable when we hear emotional monologues from our wives, but have the conviction that, “Well, she won’t leave….” WRONG on our part, but sadly true. On the other hand, if husband is faced with the possibility of his own well-being becoming impacted unless there is a change in direction- then he will be more motivated to take action.

      Of course there may be phychological influences there as well…these go beyond the range of my answer here. But, as a husband, I can say these ideas above will go a long way with most men!

      The main thing behind all this is your relationship with Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, He is your “shield and bulwark,” your “refuge in the storm” and your “Bridegroom.” Prayer is a powerful thing. My wife is a strong “prayer person.” Her prayers worked on me!
      Samantha’s comments are very good.

      Your husbands perhaps need to read the texts each of you have posted here. Have you expressed yourselves to him the way you have here? All your posts are straight to the point,, concise and clear in their meaning.

      I hope this helps. I take my hat off to all you wives living with emotionally distant husbands. With God all things are possible. WP (Work in Progress)

  5. Hello, my wife asked me to read this as she said it describes her to a T. I recognize both of us in the various descriptions. However, if there is something or someone out there who can tell someone who does desire to make changes described, please inform me. I literally don’t know how to talk to her the way she wants. I run out of things to say, etc. Things that interest me don’t interest her. We’ve been married 34 years. Thanks.

    1. Hi, Paul! First, I want to congratulate you on the awakening you’ve had -even after 34 years of marriage. And the fact you are wanting and willing to change to bless your wife and marriage is really cool. The good news is there is so much available today to help us “Communication Challenged Men” in this area that if you are willing to read and apply some new principles you can be on the road to “recovery” in no time.

      This was (and still can be) an area of struggle for me in our marriage. Cindy and I were talking about your post and reflecting on all God had to do in our lives to grow us in this area over the years. Like you, I had an “ah-ha!” moment years ago about what Cindy really needed from me but I felt totally inadequate and unable to be able to meet her “expectations.” I would break out in a cold sweat just thinking about what I needed to do – and I had no idea how to even start.

      Then about 20 years ago we took a vacation in the fall to a remote place where we could be alone and we planned to start gradually by using a simple “Question Book” where we would begin asking each other questions (i.e. What are your three favorite movies of all time? or Who was your favorite teacher and why?, etc.). You can find a few of them listed in the “Communication Tools” topic of this web site –go into the “Links and Recommended Resources” part of that topic and you will find some of them there. If you go into the Amazon link to the books… you can find them, and even scroll down for other recommendations. It’s a great start!

      I found it utterly amazing how easy it was to take something safe and innocuous like questions from a book like this and how the conversations started go a lot deeper than just answering just the question. By the end of our vacation the transformation had begun (painlessly) and motivated me to go deeper.

      We didn’t have the following books I’ll recommend to help you accelerate meaningful conversation. But what I’ve found, Paul, is that when we get serious about wanting to improve our marriages, God is always faithful to provide just what we need. Cindy and I are convinced that both of these resources can jump-start what you want to do:

      This first one is good because it covers so much about our styles and how we (men & women are wired). It’s not so much a “how-to” book as a great place to educate us on our styles. It’s a book written by Milan and Kay Yerkovich titled, How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. 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.” I heard the Yerkovich’s talk about this subject and could see how it could 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 I’d never realized before. I’m thinking it would do the same for you.

      This is another book we highly recommend: Talk Easy, Listen Hard: Real Communication for Two Really Different People written by Nancy Sebastian Meyer, published by Moody publishers. This is a book we highly recommend because it has shorter versions of some of the important communication info we have read through (that helped our marriage) that will help you to better understand your wife or husband. As the book says, “it helps you tackle your communication barriers, not each other.” Many of the things covered in this book (which is laid our very simply), are things we learned through many different resources. But what’s great about this is that it’s all in one book —some of the highlights of the best, within the same resource. How I wish I would have had this book earlier in our marriage. This book can really open your eyes.

      Don’t be intimidated, Paul. I know it looks like a daunting task but it will be worth it for you and your marriage. Cindy and I are already blessed by your desire to improve – and we believe you’ve blessed the heart of God, too. I hope you’ll update us on your progress. BTW…it will be important for your wife to read these books, too. Blessings!

  6. 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)

  7. 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.