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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86 responses to “Dealing with an Emotionally Distant Spouse

  1. Please pray for my fiance’ and I. We are experiencing some hard times right now that can possibly end our relationship. I just need those of you who know the true power of prayer, pray God restores, and bring his presence of peace into our situation.

    Thank You

  2. I became an emotionally-distant husband for my own protection. My wife, normally quiet and shy, started exploding at me constantly after our daughter died in an accident. Every time I reported to her what the police, coroner, funeral director, stonecutter, cemetery manager had said, she blew her stack at me.

    This was followed by, unbelievably, a flood four weeks later. She blew her stack when I did simple things such as buy a cell phone for $20 so we could have emergency communication during that time.

    Eventually, I realized that I could avoid getting yelled at by not telling her anything, and handled things like probate court on my own. If I asked her for help with a problem (such as help with flood repairs) and received a negative response, I said not a word and did it myself.

    I asked her to go to marriage counseling after a few months, and she refused. This made me avoid her even more.

    Three years later, she’s divorcing me, having left me with our two children and moved 5 hours away. I’m not happy to be divorcing, nor am I happy for the effect this is having on our kids. However, I couldn’t stand being a target, so I stayed away.

    Most people’s situations won’t sound like a chapter from the Old Testament as does mine (I was no saint throughout this process, I’ll admit), but if you find that someone is distancing themselves from you, please look in the mirror to see what you are doing to fuel our spouse’s behavior (it takes two in all cases), and consider getting help from a counselor or your pastor if you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall.

    1. Hi Book of Job. I myself is married to the most calm and peaceful person I know. We are a total opposite of each other. We’re just halfway on our second year of marriage and yet it’s as if we’ve been fighting all our lives. On our first year of marriage, we lost 2 angels due to miscarriages. And I have been blaming my husband for all the misfortunes that has befall on me.

  3. Marriage is no “bed of roses”. Husbands and wives sadly don’t obey God’s explicit commands – for the wife to honour the husband, and the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church. If we did, life would be so much better.

    None of us is without fault. And one partner may be more at fault than the other, and deeply hurt their partner. Yet, even in the justifiable reason for divorce i.e. adultery, God can enable us to forgive. IF the guilty person truly repents and does not repeat the sin. Adultery is devastating to the marriage relationship, as well as the children and entire family structure. But with God, nothing is impossible.

    What is equally destructive is simply being ignored. I pray daily and continue to trust that God will never leave me nor forsake me, even though my husband has, in many ways, other than walking out the door and not returning. There is still hope. I pray that anyone reading this will be encouraged to persevere, in Jesus’ Name. God bless you dear suffering friend.

  4. I told my husband to leave and don’t come back and he did just what I asked now he has put out an order of protection on me because I attacked him. What am I to do?

  5. I’ve been married for six years. I celebrated my 6 year anniversary on 9/5/15. I lost my job. I always had problems with supervisor because was I always asked questions about certain things that didn’t seem right but I always did my job. I showed up to work hrs early before my shift started. I always helped my coworkers but when I lost my 2nd job over the years she used tell me I was no good and I was ignorant and stupid and I was living off of her. She was able to pay all the bills without me but she would talk down about me, and my mother and my sister, about how she didn’t have a job and you all just don’t do nothing. I was verbally abused daily.

    I love my wife but she is a very mean. I was always feeling less of a man. My wife was Nigerian American and her father had more respect from my wife than she gave me. In Oct when I lost my job she asked me for a divorce. On oct 15 2015 she told I had to get out. We were living in her father’s basement who has an 8 bedroom home. He never liked me. My wife is 36. I am 47. I love her. She told me I’m not a good life partner. She is in debt over $200,000 thousand in school loans. I didn’t make enough money. I want my marriage but she doesn’t and yet she hasn’t filed for divorce.

    1. Pepe, because this is a Christian web site we refer to the One true God of the Holy Bible. If you go back to our web site and into the Seeking More tab on the right side of the Home Page you can explore to your heart’s content.

  6. Hi, just wondering my wife of 17 years decided that our marriage is over. This past month after our 6th baby was born she started texting a guy back in December. She met him last year after we had a miscarriage in November and about the same time she felt a connection to him. She was going to break up back then we found out that she was pregnant and decided to still after we talked about it and the summer was all good. Now she says she’s not happy with things the way they are and is emotionally detached and distant from me.

    What and how can I get her back? I love her. I know what caused her stress and money and she says 17 years of ups and downs. She says I tried to leave before when I lost feeling for you and then she stayed and worked it out. Over Christmas she told people at Christmas parties that we were going to try for another baby. Now she says no to that but I’m still in her heart. She says she just turned the switch off to me and turned it on for him as I saw some of the text messages between then. Thank you, Jami

  7. We have gone through counseling and I’ve grown a lot spiritually the last two years. My husband and I have different weekend lifestyles- he does not tend to keep me in the loop that he chooses to be doing yard work half the day. Can someone enlighten me is this mentally distancing and why does he choose not to keep me in the loop when he wants to choose his outdoors lifestyle as a priority?

    1. My wife and I have been married for 28 years coming up. We had twin boys born 12 years after marriage and one of the twins has had numerous medical issues with many months in the hospital. After all that we have gone through we have done very well. But four years ago she met another lady that has similar issues and then our communication decreased and when I would ask what is going on; she says I am just visiting her. As a husband that is used to talking about everything with my wife I no longer have that communication. Then I started questioning what is going on? Jealousy set in for the first time, and then you start thinking what is at her house that she has to be over to visit all the time? I feel like she is all talked out when I come home from work.

      Her friend and my wife do not work outside the home and every minute they can get together they do. Because of this it has put a strain on our marriage as she has her outing and not any time for us. Since our marriage this is the first real good friend that she connects with. I do not have a problem with her having a friend but she has changed and her priorities and values have also changed.

      The healthy twin does not enjoy going to church, and because he does not like to ,we do not go as a family. I take the disabled son to church. The other thing is her friend does not go to church any more as we all went to the same church. I have many friends and I have never taken my friends over my family. I have expressed myself, and it does not make any difference, calling during the day, texting during the day has decreased dramatically.

      While this was going on a I could observe a personality change, and I said maybe you are going through menapause. She denied it, and as it turned out later she was. Again when you are married this long and close for years you can detect personality changes. What I get out if it, is she wants time for herself and that is her main focus. The healthy twin, she does everything she can to catch up on time that was lost in the first several years of hospital stays. Because of that I stay home with my disabled son and hope some day she will want to do a family outing. Because of all of this we have had numerous arguments, and this has caused an emotional disconnect. Any suggestions?

  8. My husband has been living in another state with his mother and has been taking care if a sick gentleman. When he is at the man’s house he does not call me at all unless he goes outside or in another room….this is a man who has cheated on me repeatedly in the last 10 years. I know in my heart something is up and I’m at the end of my rope and do not know what to do other than pray about it now.

  9. Here goes. I have been married 19 years to a man I met at 17. We have two beautiful children. They both have special needs. For the last 15 years we have grown apart. He has become emotionally and physically unavailable. I have suffered in silence. I tried to talk to him, email, marraige counselling but nothing has worked. He stays home and I work. He does not like it when I try to tell him what I need and he never follows through. He is angry a lot and does not go to church. Is there any point in continuing this marraige. I feel like I have lost myself.

  10. Hi, I’m been married almost 9 yrs! My marriage has been a rollercoaster! My husband is bipolar and it has been tough! I was a single mother never married before when we met and we have 2 kids together! I have gone through domestic violence with him, emotional cheating recently, all the abuse for soo many years and we separated for a year but we still see each other. So many times I wanted to leave him but deep down inside I have always loved him. He is my husband, the partner I chose for life. I really meant it when I said I DO!

    Recently in March we had a big argument and over some issues he couldn’t get medicine for most 8 months and flipped out. Well, to make it short we’ve have a restraining order for 3 yrs! It’s hard living like this. I still love him, he says he loves me too but now he says he is confused about our marriage and doesn’t have hope any more and it breaks my heart that gave him so many chances and forgave him for all he did to me and now he is the one that is preparing to separate/divorce! He told me he is emotionally detaching. He started working traveling at the fair and started doing videos online. He lied to me about having Instagram when we agree on compromising and be a team but felt he stabbed me in the back the last time I found out he lied.

    He doesn’t call or text me like he used to he and is cold towards me and he say it’s because I’m stopping him for his dream of becoming famous as a counselor, an artist! I know I have some fault in this marriage .I did tell him if this didn’t work out I was going to leave from the city to another and when I found out about the girls and now that his boss gave him a free bike my trust in him is not there yet. I did flip out and told him to go with her in a meaner way! I know I wasn’t right! I don’t understand why I stay and put up with what I went through and for trust issues that I don’t have because of what he did.

    I know I cannot change him, only God can I just want the best for him and the best for our family. I don’t give up even with my heart all broken I still want this to work and he says he does but at the same time he is confused. His plans and dreams don’t include me! He wants to be a millionaire, a successful salesman etc.. and I see that we are not a priority. I have always focused too much on my marriage but alone I know I can’t do it! He doesn’t dedicate any time – almost never. I’m vulnerable and alone most of the time. This is some part of what my marriage has been.

    He knows some of the Bible and he says he prays but everything he knows he doesn’t practice! I found this website and I love it. I did some exercise questions but I see I’m the one looking to save my marriage. I told him to do the exercise for me and thankfully he did it but I read it and find out he loves me but he is confused and has no hope and he knows it won’t work! I’m devasted because I never saw myself divorced. God hates divorce and is a sacred covenant! We are a young couple 30 yrs of age! I need encouragements.

  11. My wife and I are still in our marital home. We have been separated for 4 months now as a result of my insecurities and jealousy. I have made all the mistakes and begged, pleaded with her. She wants a divorce and says there is no hope of a reconciliation. I love her so much and am now trying to be strong and give her time. She is going to Chicago to visit family for three weeks on Sunday. I need some help in what to do and say to get her back.?

  12. Its been 9 years for our marriage. Its been good at times but rough most of the times. I have a spouse who is very rough when talking and passing sarcastic comments. Its been difficult to accept this behavior. Most of the time small domestic issues and things have been flared making me feel as though I don’t do any work at home properly. Fault finding, criticism on everything like food, clothes, my physical appearance and mostly never giving any appreciation. There are so many days when he just does not speak and rather behaves revengeful having told him something. Being authoritative and does not like my opinions. Please help as I want to improve my relationship.

  13. I’ve been married 41 yrs. I was quite young when we married and I didn’t realize my husband was emotionally abused as a child. We had many problems of communication based in his mistrust and low sense of self worth. I don’t think anyone can change you after you are 7 yrs old. I had enough love from my own childhood to sustain us both. Its been hard to be with him sometimes but he never did anything that could take away from me my own sense of self worthiness. I have been lonely in many ways being married to him but never as lonely as he is within himself. Everyone has a cross to carry. My husband trusts me more than anyone else in the world but he forgets sometimes, his instincts to feel fear and insecurity go so deep. That is his cross to carry. We said we were marrying one another in sickness and in health.

    1. Mary, You have sure been a trooper in the way you have stuck with and have been there for your husband. I admire your tenacity and perseverance. I don’t know how much the following book could help you, but I truly believe it may very much. I highly recommend for you to read that could perhaps give you insight into your husband’s “love style” and what you can do about it. 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. I hope so. I thought I’d tell you about it in case you want to order it. God bless!

      1. Mary, I agree with Cindy’s recommendation. “How We Love” could be a great help in your marriage relationship. I will be praying for you and your husband…

  14. My wife and I have been ‘married’? Or should I say wearing the rings, well not the same ring I gave her, for 37, years. She has lost her ring twice. Both times she was playing with it and it ‘fell’ off her finger and it rolled away? I tried to dismiss it as wanting to love her above any possession we could ever own. Now that I look back on this example it is a very good reflection on her attitude towards the emotional depth of our relationship.

    On countless occasions I have tried to reach out emotionally to her. A majority of the time, I get ignored or shunned, usually ending the conversation with her being too busy doing other things. I would be moe inclined to believe her. But when the kids were younger and she was home with them, I tried my hardest to take the kids off her hands when I returned from work. I tried my hardest to not only prepare meals, help with the laundry, shopping, and housework. Now that the children are grown and have families of their own, we are empty nesters.

    The emotionally distant wife, still seems to work overtime at staying emotionally distant. Two years ago I had a massive stroke, which left me with my left side parylized. I have tried to talk and share my heart. Even though this illness has affected not only my ability to provide at a financial level she was accustomed to, but the illness has effected physical intimacy where I feel lacking, even though I prided myself in some way to make sure she reached her needs. But when it comes to her engaging for me, she leaves me wanting to talk or just to hold each other. She finds non critical business more important. I have never felt so alone.