Dealing with an Emotionally Distant Spouse

AdobeStock emotionally distant spouse Unlovable Conflict between man and womanWhen you are trying to save your marriage and your spouse distances himself/herself either emotionally, physically or both, you feel more alone than you ever imagined possible. You can very well understand why God said the words, It is not good for man to be alone. Being alone when you’re in a marriage is NOT the plan you had. You never thought that you would be dealing with an emotionally distant spouse.

But how do you get past the walls that have built up between you and your spouse? Is there a door that can be constructed so the husband and wife are no longer emotionally shut off to one another?

Dealing with an Emotionally Distant Spouse

Yes, there is, but unfortunately, this is not something that can be accomplished overnight. Many different things went into building those walls. And it will take a lot of effort and time to dismantle them. And it may be that your spouse is not open to participating with you and God in this… at least in the beginning. And frankly, maybe ever.

But we have to say, that it’s well worth the effort and work to try. Because in doing so, you could open a whole new world up to your spouse and in your own life in relationship with him or her.

I know, I have been there with my husband. And with prayer and perseverance to do as God lead, in the timing that truly worked (rather than my misguided timing), God opened doors that I only dreamed was possible. And now, as I look back, I think about all the blessings I could have missed out on, and all my husband would have missed, if I had given up too soon. How sad that would have been for us and our families and friends. Plus the fact we would not have been able to participate with God in this awesome ministry.

I have to reiterate though, that perseverance is a big part of what it will take for the eventual blessing —perseverance in hand with prayer to the Lord for guidance.

Persevere, As Hard As It Is

As difficult as it is, God tells us that perseverance is a virtue that we are to strive after. How I wish it weren’t true. Like most human beings, I like things to come easy. Some of us think that as children of God, we’re entitled to certain “privileges” and answers to prayer in a shorter time frame. That makes sense to us.

If we think that way, we’re wrong. On this side of heaven, we aren’t promised an easy life —one that isn’t so troublesome. As a matter of fact, there are a number of warnings in the Bible that we will experience Trials and Tribulations.

Concerning marriage, the Apostle Paul warned us about that. It’s written in 1 Corinthians 7:28, Those who marry will face many troubles in this life. He put out that warning to “spare” us from thinking otherwise.

That’s where prayerful perseverance and trust in God becomes important. There are many verses in the Bible that encourages us to persevere even when we want to give up.

Among them are:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial. Because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9) 

Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.(James 1:2-4)

A few insights on the emotionally distant spouse issue:

In dealing with the dilemma of being married to an emotionally distant spouse, the following are a few insights and a few questions that might help you that Dr Gary Chapman brings out in his book, “Loving Solutions”:

There are many reasons why some spouses become uncommunicative. Their unwillingness to share verbally finds its root in what is going on inside of them. Often it is unmet needs in the marital relationship that have stimulated resentment in the spirit of the silent spouse. His silence is a way of expressing this resentment. It is his/her way of saying, “I don’t like you, so I will treat you as a non-person.”

I don’t mean that the silent partner is consciously thinking these thoughts; I mean these are the inner emotional reasons why he or she is not talking. If we can discover the emotions inside the person and the factors that give rise to these emotions, we are well on the way to helping the non-communicating spouse to break his/her silence.

The spouse who seeks to be a positive change agent would do well to ask this question: “Does my spouse have an unmet emotional need that may be causing him to resent me?”

Each of ourselves can ask ourselves the following:

  • Does my spouse genuinely feel my unconditional love or has my love been conditional —I will love you if…
  • Have I done anything to infringe upon my spouse’s freedom? Does he feel that I am trying to control his life
  • Has my speech or behavior struck at her efforts to gain significance? Does she see me as condemning something that she values as being significant?
  • Does he see me as a barrier to the fulfillment of his need for recreation and relaxation?
  • Is my spouse struggling with the spiritual dimension of life? Does she see me as interfering with her search for peace with God?

Anyone of these questions may uncover the source of your spouse’s silence. The challenge then is to find a way to help him or her meet that emotional need at the same time maintain your own integrity and get your own needs met.

Helpful Articles to Read on the Emotionally Distant Spouse

With this said, as you brace yourself to do what it takes, I encourage you to read the following articles we found on the Internet. I believe they will give you insight and help in this area of your marriage. I encourage you to make this your mission to do your part in opening the door to better understanding and communication in your marriage.

In this first article April Motl says the following about emotional detachment in marriage:

“A lot can happen between the ‘I do’ at the altar and the years that follow.  We can end up married to someone yet emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically disengaged. I have come to believe that one primary problem seems to sit at the root of most couples who feel disengaged. I call it the ‘full plate’ phenomenon. When your spouse (or you) has something that puts them emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually on overload something else has to be shut off in life —and that something else often becomes your marriage.”

To find out more, read this article:


Additionally, Concerning the Emotionally Distant Spouse:

Here are three more articles that you could find helpful to read on this issue:





You may even be at the point where you feel abandoned. Here is an article that addresses that:

EMOTIONAL ABANDONMENT: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

Please search through the Marriage Missions web site for more articles that can help you in this mission of connecting with your spouse. Look for ways to build and open doors of communication. There is a lot of wisdom, written by relationship experts, that is waiting for you to tap into and use. I encourage you not to give up. God has a blessing for you as you look to the Holy Spirit, our Wonderful Counselor, to open your understanding and to apply to your life.

In an article formerly posted on the Internet titled, “My Spouse is Emotionally Distant,” a challenge is given to “keep trusting God’s power and goodness.” It’s a difficult thing to do when you feel abandoned in many ways by your spouse. But God has promised to “never leave nor forsake” us. Sometimes it’s a matter of F.A.I.T.H. to believe that. F.A.I.T.H. means: Forsaking All I Trust Him. Trust in His power and goodness —no matter what!

Above All:

Keep in mind the following (which was written in that article):

“Remember who God is! The same God who healed the rift between us and Him can also bring you and your spouse closer together. Zephaniah reminded Judah that God wouldn’t let their sin keep them separated from Him (Zephaniah 3:15). And God wants you to see your sadness about your relationship with your spouse by the same light.

“Don’t be discouraged. God can bring victory over sin (Zephaniah 3:13), and He can use your marriage for good purposes because He loves you and knows what you’re going through. Keep trusting in God’s power and goodness so you can be the spouse God has called you to be —and let God take care of your mate.” (See also Proverbs 3:27-35; Ephesians 4:14-16.)

Prayerfully keep in mind and consider:

The LORD your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love, and will rejoice over you with singing.(Zephaniah 3:17)

May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
(2 Thessalonians 3:5)

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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Filed under: Communication and Conflict

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89 responses to “Dealing with an Emotionally Distant Spouse

  1. Wow I Thank God for this web site. I’m a Christian woman looking for help in my marriage but was scared to go online. I didn’t want the world’s advise, but Christ advice.

    1. I pray for you in your situation… praying that God will give you insight and help. God bless.

    2. I married a man with two adults children. He lost his wife, his children did not care for him, so after he told me about his loneliness, I married him. I have two children too. My 2nd daughter was with me; they got along together. I have never rejected his kids; the son never liked me. I told my husband before the wedding your son does not approve that union, you go. He stated that he is not getting married for them.

      These kids never cared for him. I always asked him do you hear about them? Call them. He would say, Do they care about me? He has said the same thing to my friends and family. He lost his daughter (who was drinking a lot). I was the one caring for that daughter when she was sick. Now he is saying that I did not do anything for her. That’s ok. The son got married; wife left him. Now my husband does not care anymore for me. There is no more love and understanding. I feel depressed and rejected. Please pray for me. Thank you.

      1. I pray that the Lord will give you the strength through the Holy Spirit to endure the pain you’re experiencing with a peace of mind. I also pray that God will challenge or convict the heart of your husband to humble himself and ask God to forgive him as well as you. In Jesus name…..Amen!

  2. My husband avoids any question or conversation about our marriage. He does not own anything. Whatever he does, intentional or not, it’s always not his fault. I am a firm believer that man should never be alone. I try to stay connected, but it’s very hard. I hate the way our marriage is after 31 years. I feel not needed. I just want to be able to connect with each other and STAY connected. There is NO conversation about us. We can talk about anybody else (person, place or thing) but not us. He totally gets away from it. I really need help. I feel like I’m in this all by myself. Thank you.

    1. Lin, I understand how you feel. I have been through it and trust me it was a difficult time for me, until I channeled all my pain and tears to prayer. I prayed earnestly, I cried my heart out to God and decided not to be bitter any more. I went forward based on His word. I forgave my husband and moved on with my life…until things started changing.

  3. Greetings. Couldn’t help but comment on this one. Our culture is just this article. Church going or not, we are possibly the most dysfunctional nation in the modern world, we even make ancient Babylon look good!!! :(

    Seriously, churches have nothing to offer the followers of Christ, as the leaders marriages and family life is no better than those of the world. I’ve seen it for 20 years following the lord. He has to soften each heart, solve each issue as communication is dead, unless its in the form of a text.

    You are right, if one isn’t willing to look inside themselves, God can’t help the situation either. I love the Lord with all of my heart, I stayed 11 years with my first wife. I was struck with a disease, she detached asap, I struggled alone the whole marriage. Single the next 12 years, remarried a woman I dated 4 years, disease relapsed after our daughter was born; she did the same thing as my first wife, turned a cold shoulder to me.

    However, I’m coming to the conclusion that they were both in my life as antagonists, to show me that only He can truly comfort another. It’s just a truth, humans are self serving, God isn’t. By the way, my first wife is a Reg. nurse, my second wife a child social worker, so don’t be fooled into thinking that ones career reflects their heart, as it’s usually the wallet. Hope I don’t sound too negative, just trying to be honest in what I’ve experienced.

    1. Chris, I’m so sorry that this has been your experience. I sure can’t talk for you or for your wives. But I know that God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” for a reason. He saw and sees the importance of having one another. We also see in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 where we’re told, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

      I’m not sure where the failure came with your wives, but over and over again God shows strength in helping one another. Yes, He is the one who helps us the most, but He also seems to expect that we will also be His colleague in helping one another. I’m sure that is one of the reasons He calls a wife a “helpmate.” Sadly, many people are self-serving. And it appears to be happening more and more in these days. But that doesn’t erase the fact that optimally, God wants us to help one another.

      My life would be SO much more difficult without the help and loving care that my husband has shown me through difficult times. And the same is true with him — with his Diabetes and when he had his heart attack, plus times he has needed comfort during difficult times. We are there for one another. There is no “wallet” involved except for a paycheck of the heart and love for the Lord lavished on one another. We have many, many friends, for whom this is true in their marriages too… so it IS possible to hold one another up and “bear with one another” helping to carry the other’s burdens.

      I pray you find others who will be there for you in ways that the Lord wants them to help you, when you need it. Yes, God is your ultimate “help in a time of trouble” but please don’t assume that this means that everyone should look to the Lord alone when there are times that God wants to use another to “do good” for our fellow brother or sister in the Lord. Please see the scriptures listed in These are just a few of many, many more where God tells us we are to be there for one another to the extent that we can. I hope you find some of those types of people, and that you are one of those types of people. We are not called to be emotionally distant from each other. When we are, there is a problem going on there somewhere.

  4. Please pray for my wife and I. We’ve been married 37 years. She told me she is physically and emotionally detached from me. The wall she has made makes me feel small and weak. Trying to communicate with her is like throwing a pebble at a wall. She is the love of my life and I need her. There is two sides to every pancake and i’m At fault not just her. Something is missing in our relationship and I’m not providing it. Gods word has helped but my emotions get the best of me. I want our marriage healed so I can feel whole. My heart is in agony. God saved my soul and now I pray my marriage. I appreciate any input to restore our marriage. Thank you

  5. Please pray for my wife and I. We’ve been married 37 years. She told me she is physically and emotionally detached from me. The wall she has made makes me feel small and weak. Trying to communicate with her is like throwing a pebble at a wall. She is the love of my life and I need her. There are two sides to every pancake and I’m at fault too and not just her. Something is missing in our relationship and I’m not providing it. God’s word has helped but my emotions get the best of me. I want our marriage healed so I can feel whole. My heart is in agony. God saved my soul and now I pray He will save my marriage. I appreciate any input to restore our marriage. Thank you

  6. I’m fighting to save my marriage. Only married 1 1/2 years. I’m devastated. The main reason for divorce my husband has chosen his family’s needs over our married covenant. I’m willing to do anything to make it work. He says when I change we could look at a future. He has said don’t give up hope. We live 174 miles away. I love this man. He’s 56. I’m 51.

  7. My wife has been distant lately an unwilling to discuss the problem. I don’t know wether she is having an affair or starting her menopause. How should I handle this?

  8. My wife shut down 1 year into our marriage and we’ve only been together 4 years. She has father issues and brought them into the marriage. She blames me for decisions she made before we even met. I’m at my wits end. After year 1 she just lays there like dead meat for sex. I give her so much; never disrespected her at all. I think I may have spoiled her. I’m just relying on reading promises and trying to hold on to God at this point.

    I don’t know what to do. I’m not perfect by any means but I really don’t remember doing anything to her. God help me. I love her so much. I literally never get hugs. No touching, no I love you’s, no eye contact, no kind words, no attention what so ever. But she’ll readily give all this and more to her family. She’s still married to them. Gonna keep praying and claiming promises. It’s all I have left.

    1. So sorry to hear this. It is really hard to deal with an unaffectionate spouse. Christ will honor your efforts to maintain the unity of marriage between you two. Your comment was a year ago, any positive changes since then?