Marriage Missions International

The Emotionally Distant Husband

Photo by Victor Habbick, courtesy of

Photo by Victor Habbick, courtesy of

Are 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 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 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:



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432 Responses to “The Emotionally Distant Husband”
  1. Tina from South Africa says:

    I’ve been going out of my mind silently lately. I thought this site was outdated so I’m elated to find that some of the posts are so recent!!! I’ve been married for 6 years and am pregnant with my second child. I’ve been with my husband for 8 years. He was emotionally connected to me for about a month and a half (when we started dating) and then withdrew. There was always a reason. And I honestly believed it would improve. Our wedding day was not a happy one even though everything was beautiful, simply because we were more disconnected from each other than ever before. He has a very big temper so if I insisted on intimacy he would explode.

    Long story short, my husband ALWAYS works. He claims he does it for us. But I never physically see the money. He does spend it on our bond and car payments but I have no say on our financial future. I pay all our other expenses, bond payment (he pays the extra that we pay in on our bond), utilities, daycare, rates and taxes, etc. Even my bonus and overtime money I must pay over to him. So first excuse is work. Then the stress of our engagement was a reason, then the stress of paying for our wedding, then the stress of buying a house, stress of buying new car, stress of first pregnancy, stress of buying second house etc etc.

    When I speak to him he will literally pretend not to hear me. If he does have a day off, his first priority will be to go to the gym for 2 hrs. He insists on gyming 7 times a week, leaving me to care for our son at all times. I’m also expected to have his food ready and plated when he arrives home. It MUST be on a plate otherwise it doesn’t count that I’ve made it. And the dishes MUST be washed. I also work full time but because I am the wife food and children are my responsibility.

    We won’t have sex unless I initiate it. He gets angry at me if I don’t initiate it. He is also only concerned with personal satisfaction. It doesn’t feel like we are connected at all during these times. When I was pregnant with my first child we didn’t have sex for more than a year. After the birth my son was a weeks old and my husband started saying he wants a divorce because I wasn’t attractive anymore and wasn’t giving him enough attention.

    He was abusive in the sense of shouting and screaming at me and physically restraining me from getting to my son when I tried to leave to get away from the screaming. He would hit the walls with his fists and turn over furniture right next to where our baby was sitting on the floor. I moved out because talking to him and being kind didn’t help. We went for counselling. He blamed me for making him feel this way. After two months my son and I moved back. He said that he actually didn’t mind the time he lived on his own. But I tried again.

    Things were better in the sense he stopped throwing furniture over and shouted at me less. But he was still basically ignoring me in our relationship. My current problem is that since we found out that I am expecting, my husband has withdrawn completely. He won’t hug or touch me. He’s touched my stomach once because I made him and I’m six months already. I lie in bed crying at night because I so desperately long for his attention and affection. I’ve tried to initiate it, he tells me then that we decided to wait till after our baby is born. I’ve told him in as many words that I long for him to just hold me or hug me. He simply turns his back on me and doesn’t even answer. I try to be strong and not to need to be loved and supported in this pregnancy but I’m failing.

    I haven’t told anyone because it’s so embarrassing trying to explain that you must beg your husband for love. But I feel like I’ll go mad if I can’t tell someone, or have someone tell me I’m not crazy for finding it unnatural to have NO physical or emotional contact with a man I (for some unbeknown reason) love so much. Please help.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Dear Tina, My heart really goes out to you over all that is happening in your marriage, while this should be such an exciting, loving time because of the expectancy of your baby. I’m so sorry you find yourself in this place.

      I don’t know what is happening to your husband. I don’t know if he is a person who is living out 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Timothy 4, where he is one of the “people” who are “lovers of self… wanting his ears tickled,” or if he is acting out in dysfunctional ways because of things that happened to him in his past and can’t or won’t break free from its influence, or if he has personality tendencies to be uncomfortable with emotions that he can’t fix, so he goes into just selfishly taking care of himself, rather than risking being compassionate and loving. But whatever it is, he is obviously caught up into himself right now, without considering how it is hurting others. How tragically sad… sad for you, sad for your son, and sad for him, because he is missing out on so many blessings if he would just love you as he vowed to do on your wedding day.

      I’m not sure what you can do, other than to find ways to protect yourself, and to not expect him to give you the attention you long for… he isn’t capable right now for some reason. Perhaps he will some day… I don’t know, but right now, it sure doesn’t seem possible. What you’re expecting doesn’t seem “crazy” or “unnatural” but he just won’t do it right now, for whatever (unhealthy) reason he has going on in his mind. It seems like the only option you have right now is to empty out your expectations, as best you can, and instead look for other healthy ways to keep yourself busy, as a mom and as a woman who is healthy, loving, and strong in the ways that are important.

      I wish I could give better advice. I would love to… there are lots of things I’d like to say to your husband, and say about this whole thing, but in reality, that would only hurt matters more than help them. You need to focus your energy on things you CAN do, which are good, rather than heightening expectations and angst, that will only drain you even more emotionally. Right now, concentrate on getting through this pregnancy in the best way you can, and welcome your baby into this world with a loving mom –a woman who is doing her best to NOT let such negativity that your husband is pushing, overtake all that can be good.

      You don’t mention anything about your spiritual beliefs, but I hope you can pour out your emotions to the Lord. We’re promised in the Bible that “He cares” and listens to us. He won’t MAKE people do what they should (such as your husband), because He gives us ALL a free will. But He promises to walk with us and help us, as we lean upon Him. I hope you will. I can’t imagine going through what you are without looking to God to bring SOME kind of good out of all the bad stuff. I pray for you, and for your son, and your new baby, and your husband… that he wakes up before he permanently poisons the good in his life. The gym can bring a shallow life, if that’s all you’re investing your time into… I hope he turns his heart towards home instead. He will be all the richer if he will… and so will each of you. May you find good moments each day –ones that will bring a smile to your heart and to your face. :)

  2. Ryan from United States says:

    I understand the emotional eager wife vs the emotionally distant husband as I am an emotionally distant husband. But when I read the comments it does touch my heart that so many wives are feeling so hurt. I know my wife is feeling the same way right now.

    But I just don’t think it’s a fair comparison to expect a husband to respond just as the wife prefers every time. I know we should honor our wives and make them feel emotionally connected, but husbands also need the ability to emotionally express themselves. I find my that the ability to express my emotions are often suppressed because I know they’ll be rejected or turned around to be used against me.

    I’m unsure how to tell my wife anything that is not a compliment and should be viewed as loving criticism. I just want us to be emotionally confident that what each other says comes from a place of love without any hints of anger, accusations, finger pointing. I love my wife but I just don’t see how her emotional needs trump mine to the point where what I describe to her as something that bothers me such as her screaming is viewed as “something small” that is not that important.

    For now I am focused on being a better human being, a more positive person, but it’s tough to fight the thoughts of negative emotion. If anyone has some constructive advice I would love to hear it.

    • Tina from United States says:

      Ryan, To me it sounds as if you are at least open to your wife’s feelings. I think some men are so emotionally shut down to their wives for whatever reason that they block out the fact that their wives are hurting. They can’t see the pain she’s in. Then the woman’s pain ends up causing the man pain.

      It can go the other way around too. The man’s frustration from things his wife does can cause the wife to suffer. I’ve come to learn that most of the time, each spouse, not just one of them but both of them have no clue what they’re doing that causes so much distress. I agree with you that the wife should also do her part to consider her husband’s needs and ways of thinking. It’s a two way street. Men and women just have such different ways of thinking and understanding things that it’s all too easy to not realize what we’re doing to each other. Knowledge is everything for both wives and husbands.

      I think if we could just learn all we can about how wives and husbands, men and women interact, think and behave individually and what each gender needs to feel valued, respected and loved in a relationship and be open to doing those things for our spouses it could solve a lot of problems. I wish I knew twenty years ago what I knew now, lol. Sure would have saved me a lot of trouble.

      I say just pick up books and read, read, read. The more each marital partner knows and understands about the inner workings of the male and female brain and what each genders needs are, the better. I’m no professional, just been married twenty years now and still trying to figure it all out, lol.

    • Tina from United States says:

      I’d like to add, don’t be too hard on your wife if she don’t understand. It’s hard to know when you’re doing something that pushes your spouse away when you just aren’t accustomed to thinking the way a male thinks because you are female or vice versa. Most of the time it’s not intentional avoidance of the other ones needs. If it was, then that would be a different.

    • Jane from Sweden says:

      @Ryan, “But I just don’t think it’s a fair comparison to expect a husband to respond just as the wife ‘prefers’ every time.”

      Prefers? It may be that behaviors and language that you judge to be trivial or arbitrary are very meaningful to your wife. Compare “prefers” to “needs” and “understands”. What is it that your wife specifically “needs”? Does she need to feel loved or to feel safe, for example? Ask her what she specifically needs. Ask her what specific behaviors or language best communicate, for example, love and safety to her. What can you do? What can you say? What should you not do? Not say? Listen to her. Repeat her answers. Ask her if you understood correctly. Then, if you’re comfortable with the behaviors and language which she described as “meaningful” to her, implement them. If you aren’t comfortable with those behaviors and language, explain why, and suggest alternatives. Negotiate alternatives together.

      “But I just don’t think it’s a fair comparison to expect a husband to respond just as the wife prefers ‘every time’.”

      Words like “every time” can make someone feel like she is “always” in the wrong, that she “never” gets things right. Can you share with your wife that you’re often frustrated, while also communicating an attitude of or even overtly stating something positive or something to the effect of, “Whatever this is, we can fix this. We can, and we will figure this out together.” Is there something positive in her behavior and language that you can point to, even in the midst of sharing criticism? Can you tell her how you feel when she behaves or speaks in a certain manner?

      “I find my that the ability to express my emotions are often suppressed because I know they’ll be ‘rejected’ or ‘turned around to be used against me’.”

      This may not be the case, but if your wife has come to you with a problem or concern, don’t respond with a problem or concern you have about her. If your wife has come to you with a problem or concern, “show her empathy and compassion”. Let her know that you care about her pain and frustration, that you’re glad that she brought this to your attention. Let her know that you love her. Ask her what she needs, what behaviors and language can help satisfy her needs. Implement such behaviors and language if you’re comfortable with them. If not, suggest and negotiate alternatives.

      If your wife has come to you with a problem or concern, and you don’t communicate empathy and compassion, if you leave her concerns unanswered, if you instead reply with your own problems and concerns about her, she is unlikely to listen to you “at this time”. Instead, she’s likely to feel rejected and that her own needs and concerns are not important to you.

      “Schedule a time to share what you are feeling, to explain your needs.” Tell your wife that you want to work through some things that have been on your mind. Ask her when a good time would be for the two of you to sit down together, to focus, to begin this work. Then at that time, tell her what you need —for example, to feel loved, to feel safe. Tell her what behaviors and language help you to feel loved, to feel safe. Ask her if she’s comfortable implementing these behaviors and language. If not, ask her to help you understand why. Ask if she can suggest alternatives, negotiate alternatives.

      Pick one problem or concern at a time. Be concise in explaining your concerns. If your wife is engaging in hurtful behavior, explain to her how you feel when she behaves or speaks in a certain manner. Explain how it harms your relationship, and ask her to stop. She may not even understand that her behavior and language are hurtful. She may not understand how certain behaviors and language make you feel.

      “I just want us to be emotionally confident that what each other says comes from a place of love without any hints of anger, accusations, finger pointing.”

      You can love someone and still be angry with them. Is her anger justified? Can you empathize with her anger? Is she expressing her anger in a way that is healthy or unhealthy? If you feel that a conversation is escalating into a fight, stop, breath, reach out and take her hand. Call a timeout.

      If her anger is not in check, tell her, and walk away from her. Let her know that you’re concerned about the issue at hand but that you’re going to wait to discuss it until her anger subsides or she can better manage it.

      Additionally, are there truths to her accusations? Is there something which you need to take responsibility for? Have you engaged in or do you engage in behaviors and language which are hurtful? How well do you accept criticism? Do you become defensive? Again, ask her what she’s feeling. Ask her what she needs. Tell her what you’re feeling. Tell her what you need.

      “…I just don’t see how her emotional needs trump mine to the point where what I describe to her as something that bothers me such as her screaming is viewed as ‘something small’ that is not that important.”

      Why do you believe that her emotional needs trump yours? What behaviors and language have lead you to this conclusion? How does your wife define screaming? How do you define screaming? At what level of loudness has she gone too far? Does she display her emotions in an unhealthy manner? Are you uncomfortable with displays of negative emotion? Are there healthy ways and unhealthy ways to display negative emotion? Define these things together. Discuss boundaries. If she still continues to scream, leave the room.

      • Jane from Sweden says:

        In my comment above, I used asterisks to emphasize key thoughts. Unfortunately though, the asterisks have been converted to quotation marks, so it’s probably no longer clear where I actually quoted some of Ryan’s statements and where I was trying to emphasize my own thoughts and ideas. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. Patsy from United States says:

    Tina, I just want to affirm what Cindy said. Think about the things you can do! There are many things that will keep your mind busy. Can you think of someone who maybe needs some food brought to them? But of course take care of yourself. Does your husband have an interest you could expand your knowledge in? You could visit about that. I really believe it’s difficult. If you are living in an area where it is culturally acceptable to behave “that way”, maybe there is a missionary who you can talk to that could advise you.

    Cindy also asked you about your spiritual life. That is extremely important to me. I am beginning to memorize the armor of God passage Chapter 6 of Galatians or Ephesians. I just had a brain freeze and forgot which book :). I care! Don’t give up!

  4. Willievergetoverthis from United Kingdom says:

    I’ve been trying to deal my emotionally evasive husband for several years. Now he has cheated on me. I don’t feel like I can ever truly love him again. Your description of ‘The Emotionally Distant Husband’ is mine to a key. I’m so depressed as we have two gorgeous boys together and I’m dreading the day we tell them we’re splitting up.

    • MarRev from United States says:

      I am so sorry to hear your story. Mine also cheated on me; he has denied it until today… but I know how you feel! I haven’t been so hurt in my life. After 12 year of marriage I know that he doesn’t love me anymore so I live in fear that he will tell me any day “it’s over”. I would love to meet a man who loves me and accepts me just the way I am. I feel that my life is passing by. Everybody needs a second chance!

  5. Mary from United States says:

    I’m writing this because I think I need to talk to someone and because of some problems I cannot. I’m 34 yrs and studying Ph.D in another country now. I’ve been married for 10 years and have three children girls 9, 7 and 5. I’ve been facing marriage problems since I was married. In laws and my husband infidelities. My marriage lack sex, intimacy and I might conclude love. I suffered psychological damage because of the stress I have.

    After one year of marriage I discovered my husband has another woman, because he started coming home late sometimes up to 3 am in the morning. When I asked why, he decided to put password in his phone so I won’t know the woman’s number or name. I lived like that for 5 years until I decided I’m tired. I used to respect my husband so much, never shout even do anything bad to him. I did all my duties as a wife including accepting his young brother to come to live with us.

    We have three houses, three cars and he provides for the family very well, although I don’t know how much he gets a month, and how he spends it, because he once told me when I know he has money I plan for him, which he doesn’t want. When his brother came to live with us, he didn’t want me to tell anything to his brother. The guy 14 at that time, did not help with anything around the house, couldn’t even clean his own room. He’d finish eating and leave everything on the table. I did all because I believe a woman should be patient and forgive. The brother used to treat the house helps very bad. One day I told the house help she shouldn’t cook for him any more; he should cook for himself because she does everything and yet he doesn’t respect her. That’s when I knew my husband didn’t love me. He organized a meeting for us and told me in front of his brother that I’m to leave his house because of his brother. I cried and asked him why the brother doesn’t respect anybody in the house. I said that because I was angry but later I told the house help to cook and leave food for him.

    One day we were fighting because I saw message on his phone a woman thanking him for sex and asking him for next time. I found his brother listening at the door. I told the brother to leave my house because I was tired of him too. His brother insulted me. That day I left my house, and my two children because I was pregnant with my third child and my husband hides everything, my bank cards, university certificate etc.. I went to my mum’s house with nothing but I had to come back after three days because I didn’t have even one cent, certificates, money etc. when I came back my hubby called his people, 10 people, only my mum was from my side. He told them that I was a bad woman when I told his brother to leave my house. I told my father in-law that I was angry, besides, that was not our fight. It was about his women.

    My father in law told me that should never touch my husband’s phone and I’m a bad woman because I told his young child to leave my house. That day I cried the whole night, never believing that a so called hubby can humiliate me like that. So the whole family knew I’m a bad woman while he was the one cheating on me. I concluded that my hubby doesn’t love me, but I cannot leave because I had two small children and pregnant so I keep quiet.

    When I gave birth to my last child, that is when I knew how my husband is. I found one message a woman asking him for money that the child was sick. I decide to investigate and found the woman’s name, where she lived, took her pict etc. Then I told my hubby and showed him the pict, but he denied it as usual and called me crazy, asking why I’m into his phone etc, and said the baby is not his. My baby was born on Feb, 2010. The other baby was born on January 2010.

    Then after a few days I saw another message, another woman was asking money to go to the hospital. I text the woman and replied back showing that they’re lovers. I decided to check all the women’s names on this phone, and realized that he has 5 women, one with a child, and I total 7. It was a shock. I decided I cannot change him. I will just wait for the perfect time to leave him.

    So I decided to look for further studies abroad because the anger was killing me. I became harsh to the people who live with me, including my children. The situation was bad and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I have to admit those days I had problem with bad breath. And so bad my husband never tries to help so I think that is why everybody knew, including my in-laws, that is why they despise me.

    One year staying away from my family was a bad experience I’ll never forget. Sometimes he didn’t call me for almost 3 weeks, and when he called he say he’d call back, and never do it. I did not have good time using skype with my children. It was a psychological torture I will never forget. Even when he calls he only talks about children, or how he is building another house etc. I was so lonely in need of affection and love, which I never have since married.

    It was my ex first boyfriend who helped me and see the light I have not seen him for more than 14 yrs, I connected with him through Facebook. Encourage me, call me every day for six month. Then I changed my self, loose like 14 kg ,I was 84kg, so after one year I was 70kg.. I manage to cure my bad breath, dress nice and taking care of myself.
    When I come home for holiday as soon as I reach at the airport, did not even reach my home. Someone call me explain my hubby is going out with his woman. The man is one of the richest guy in my home town so I was not surprised how he know I was in town that day. The richest man told me everything any he even told me about other 4 woman my hubby have.
    I did the follow up and realize all was true but my hubby denied as usually. So I decide I could not take it anymore. I missed my children, staying one year without them was bad but also the torture I was going through was too much. So I decide for sure my marriage was over and pack my things and leave him.
    I come back to finish my master’s degree but later I had to think because he has my children and some of my relatives are staying in the house with him.. I decide to try to forget everything and continue be with him. But I needed time to heal so I apply for my Ph.D and I thank God I got it. I went back again home but it was hard for me to even make love with him, no affection, I don’t feel anything. Besides when we have sex I keep remembering how he treated me all those years, I think what he used to do it with other woman and I told him iam not ready for sex yet.
    The problem which caused me to write here today is few month ago I told him we need to separate and he agree. But when we have small misunderstanding he insult me, does not even allow my children to have a tablet or phone so I can talk to them anytime I want. He now treat me like an enemy tell me I took him as a fool cause he allowed me to go for my studies now I want to leave him. I told him many times we need to talk about our marriage he act as if nothing happen he just ignore me.
    Sorry for the too long message. I know Bible says we should not divorce but at this point am real tired and this psychological torture is interfering my studies because I cannot concentrate. I real think he did not marry me because of love but because he need a wife and I was a wife material. Besides we only dated for two weeks and he propose to me, I was 23 at that time. Because I was a true Christian did not want to sin I agree and after one year we got married I was a student studying bachelor degree that time, so I did not have time to get to know him well because after engagement I had to go back to university in another region. We only meet three times before our wedding.
    I ask God to forgive me because I want to leave him and am still young definitely I will need a partner in life but I cannot be with him anymore, I do not trust him and he has shown me a true side treating me like an enemy while I do not and I never did that besides what he has done all those years to me. So now he does not reply my message maybe after two days even when I ask the wellbeing of my children. When I call sometimes he does not pick up, I see him online on WhatsApp, and he does not text me. I used to be humble text him asking about his health and my children but now I got tired of it. The problem is why he treat me like that while I never hate him
    I wish I can talk to someone but because I am in a foreign country it is difficult for me.

  6. Marie from United States says:

    I am living this kind of marriage. I am a wfe who desperately wants and needs an intimate connection with my emtionally distant husband. We are both 59, married at 47, my second, his third marriage. My first marriage at age 22 was also to an “ED” husband who decided to have affairs rather than work on our marriage, ending in divorce with two small children.

    I was a single mother for 18 years, met my current husband, we’d sit and talk for hours when dating, though now I realize ninety percent of the conversation was from me, loved that he was such a great listener at the time. He is a great person in every way, just as it states in the article, but when it comes to intimacy with me there’s none. We haven’t had sex since almost ten years now, by his choice, and whenever I’d bring it up, he gets this look of disgust on his face.

    I’ve taken it personally, was in excellent shape up to the time of his rejecting me sexually, and have packed on the weight turning to comfort food from his rejection of me, during this time he was also going overseas for three to six months at a time for almost seven years and I was dealing with the deaths of my parents, and other severe emotional issues. I feel extremely disappointed, resentful, angry, like I’m living a lie. We live like roommates, I sleep on the couch and he sleeps upstairs. I can’t sleep in bed with him because I know how he sees me and the pain is too much knowing he has no interest in me.

    I’ve tried numerous times talking to him about these issues, he would get angry, walk out, tell me I’m trying to make him think the way I do, turn it around on me always that it’s me. I’ve sent him info and articles, to no avail. When he was overseas at my being upset on the phone with him because there was no intimacy at all between us, he would just pacify me by saying that when he got back we’d go to therapy and for me to find one to go to. It would never happen. He’d never bring it up once home, and I was sick of being the only one who cared to bring it up anymore.

    I’ve seperated emotionally from him now, the resentment has built up in me to the point I’m not interested in him anymore either, we live a lie. Few times I see hope, then it always ends up back to square one. I have to say that at this point I’ve resolved to the fact this is just the way it is. I truly believe what happened is my “attachment style” of needing and desiring a deep close intimate relationship comes from my childhood, my father was emotionally distant, and I’ve subconsciously married my father, trying to change these men, and my husband, who was sexually abused by a man as a child, whose father died in a car accident the day of his birth, whose mother gave him and his older siblings up to be raised by the grandparents, learned how to stay closed up from pain.

    I believe what he initially saw in me he was extremely attracted to but doesn’t know or want to go there with me, it’s too much for him to be open and risk feeling pain as the article says. I am living married but lonely to the fullest!

  7. Kesha from United States says:

    Hi. I’m married and pregnant. And I’m lonely because my husband acts very distant of me, not sexually active or physically involved with me. I don’t know what to do or think. I feel that he is attracted to another women. I ask him but he says no, but he refuses to communicate with me or tell me what’s going on with him. Can you please tell me if my marriage is over or if I’m overreacting; please help me.. thanks, Kesha.

  8. I find this very interesting, “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.”

    It’s statements like this that makes it difficult, if not impossible for me to consider such articles as being balanced and not simply bashing a gender. To suggest that the problem is with men is why you find men reluctant to go to therapy. It’s the, “if we could only fix men to want less sex and want to talk more…”

    Instead of trying to “fix” men, why not find ways to celebrate what makes men who they are AND still allow women to be who they are.

    If you want men to be more intimate, you have to start with accepting who they are. If one is trying to change them, or suggesting they are defective, what sort of intimacy should you really expect? Certainly not any real intimacy if your message is your true self is not acceptable and we want you to play this role instead of being yourself.

  9. OutofAfrica from Kenya says:

    I must commend the writer; this a well researched paper. I come from another part of the world (Africa) but I did feel a sense of connection with my situation. It is my first time to read about the evasive husband and emotional distant partner but I am glad that your description establishes for me where I can start from. What I felt missing in this piece was a mentioning on resentment and manipulative. I believe this is one behavior we develop when our relationships are lopsided as above. It would also help to know what triggers this kind of behavior (evasiveness and emotional distant), is it culture, upbringing???😉

    • Amy from United States says:

      Dear Men and Women, We all have so much to learn! My heart breaks for everyone who has posted comments here. It is not natural to be ignored or horribly mistreated in marriage. No one’s spirit can take that and God sees it all.

      A comment to Tony: The article was discussing the emotionally distant husband. This isn’t gender bashing. It’s an attempt to highlight a type of tragic marriage that can occur when the woman is emotionally eager for intimacy and the man actively (consciously or not) avoids intimacy like the plague: No touching, no sex, no talking, no interacting because the man just opts out of all of that completely.

      This describes my 23 year marriage perfectly. My husband doesn’t want a divorce. I’ve wanted to leave a few times but don’t believe a divorce would make life any easier. So, I’ve contorted myself to try and make our marriage work in ways that I can only describe as heroic, and I mean to praise myself like that completely before God and everyone here! We’ve seen 7 marriage counselors and have both agreed to plans of action in the pastor/counselor/therapists offices, and we’ll get home and what has happened is that I will plug along trying to implement what we’ve planned, and then my husband just cannot or will not stick with it or will actively do something to sabatage any positive progress we make and then blame me when I naturally express sadness or anger about his behavior.

      I’ve spent years -literally-digging through my past to identify and deal with any baggage I’ve brought to the marriage and I’ve grown and changed because of that effort I’ve made on behalf of our marriage. My husband sees no need or value in examining his own past, even though by doing so he could learn a lot about himself and his role in our unhappiness.

      I have concluded that I can only try to be as kind as possible and stop expecting my husband to be other than who he shows himself to be: a guy who just really doesn’t want or need me for much of anything. I simply had rightfully expected sex, touching, interaction, planning, shared experiences -eye contact!- daily chats, communication and warmth out of marriage. I have no choice but to go ahead and live life without his involvement and be aware that I have to choose to stay focused on him rather than other men that I may be drawn to. Ours is not the kind of cold marriage I signed up for though, and it’s been heartbreaking. Our marriage has been like this for 21 out of 23 years. I’m not perfect and don’t mean to suggest I am. But I’m giving this my best. It’s been hard for us both.

      Tony, I am certain a similar article could be written about the emotionally distant wife. I wish and pray for the best for all of us here. God bless us all!

  10. Misi from United States says:

    Please write an article and title it “How to tear down emotional and ego centric male walls and communicate with your Wife.” Thank you.

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