Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

Emotional abandonment AdobeStock_99535893 copyAs it pertains to emotional abandonment, when your spouse shuts you out:

“It’s a complaint I hear regularly from people looking for help for their marriages:

  • ‘I feel distant from my spouse.’
  • ‘I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.’
  • ‘My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.’
  • ‘I don’t know if I love him anymore.’

“What we’re talking about here is emotional abandonment. Instead of physically leaving the relationship, your spouse simply checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death.” (Dr Dave Currie with Glen Hoos)

Emotional abandonment might not even die quite so slowly and quietly, as the spouse who is shut out tries to grapple with what is happening. Sometimes there is a lot of screaming and finger-pointing within the home. This often complicates the situation even further. And yet, what can the abandoned spouse do to turn the relationship back around in the right direction?

Addressing this issue:

Honestly, it’s confusing —even to those who call themselves “experts” in marriage relationships because everyone’s situation is different. What’s especially tragic is that emotional abandonment is something that seems to be happening in epidemic proportions in marriages today, or maybe it’s just that we hear more about this in today’s world… it’s difficult to tell.

But whatever the case, this is something we need to address because of the devastation it is causing on so many levels to individuals within their marriages, families, churches, and society as a whole, as the family unit breaks down and goes in an unhealthy direction.

Insights that may help:

We have found several web site articles that we believe will help in some way. They are ones that give insight into what may be causing this type of emotional shut down. They also give insight on what you may be able to do to turn things around. Please read:



With this next article, written by Dr Dave Currie and Glenn Hoos, posted on The Power to Change web site. It not only gives you solutions to consider but also gives you the opportunity to request to talk to a Marriage Mentor over the issue.

Something you may want to consider:

• EMOTIONAL ABANDONMENT: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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385 responses to “Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

  1. I have always struggled to build loving relationship with my spouse, but I feel like I’m the one person in her life that she doesn’t care about hurting with words.

  2. A guy I really like (liked?) was once kind of a sweet man to me but I never really understood what he thought or felt for me. It seemed like he would never finish any conversation or wait to listen to my thoughts, feelings, or feedback about what he had said, or that he was even interested to know what mattered to me. I felt like he would just give a lecture, and then walk away or just not listen or even ask if I understood or how what he had said affected me. I always wanted to please him, and it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, or if I learned something new, it was not good enough at the time. I feel like I am trying so hard, and never get any feedback or encouragement or results. I want to work with this guy to come to a meaningful resolution, but it seems like I am getting no where fast…Please help.

  3. I have been with a man for 5 years now. I thought I knew him so well. We worked together at the same company and I knew him for 2-3 years before we became involved. I would describe my interest in him borderline obsessed in the beginning but I did due diligence in learning about him and realizing he wasn’t perfect. Long and short, about 2 year ago, after we had great sex, he made an odd comment that I now know was a weird forecast of what was to become of our sexual relationship.

    He got up after we made love and said something like wow you really took all that I have to offer babe… that was awesome. The strange thing is, that was the last time we had sex of any sort. He became impotent and now things are so hurtful between us that I won’t even accept a kiss good bye. Its just like he literally chose to ditch me and doesn’t get the right to now just want to kiss me or get an occasional hug when he wants it. I moved into our guest room. We have discussed the growing distance in our relationship and he says he is still in love with me and loves me but just doesn’t feel sexual anymore.

    I don’t understand how anyone just chooses not to want to express some kind of love or intimacy with the person they say they love. I have contemplated having a sexual relationship with someone else. And I have told him that I think I should be able to explore my own sexuality as I still have an interest in having a sexual relationship with someone. Please give me some insight. I’m confused.

  4. I feel like have ruined my relationship by sleeping too much and arguments. What do I do? My partner either won’t touch me or when being physical it’s loveless. What do I when my partner talks to his x more than me?

  5. My husband said he wants me to leave especially when I try to talk to him. He said I’m nagging. I really want to talk.

    1. Mary, When he says that you’re nagging him, that’s probably just a way for him to tell you that he doesn’t want to talk. Try not react negatively to his words. He is possibly afraid to talk, for some reason. Something is making him nervous or apprehensive.

      You might try writing him a letter as a way to start a “conversation”. For me, when there is something significant on my mind, it is often better and easier for me to write down my thoughts. That allows me to slowly and carefully think them through. And if I mis-state something, I can make a correction and re-word it without my wife being involved, real-time. When we talk face-to-face, her thought process runs a lot faster than mine and if I say something incorrectly, she will react quickly to it before I can correct my words, which makes the conversation riskier for me. A letter might work for you…

    2. I swear this is worse than the infidelity I dealt with before my first husband abandoned me. For eight years my (2nd) husband has been gradually getting more and more distant. He refuses to talk about our problems; he says he “doesn’t have time” (but spends at least 3 hours a day gaming) or he blows up and we can’t make any progress. He says his #1 issue with me is that I don’t have a job. I’m hesitant to do so because when I worked before, he wouldn’t share the load at home. So I worked, spent all evening doing everything for everyone while he “relaxed because he’s tired,” was exhausted by the time the kids went to bed. Then all of a sudden he has the energy to try for sex, when I’m dead on my feet from my daily 15 hour (total, minimum) shift.

      I have been applying, and when/if I am hired, I’m telling him that I’ve given him an additional 40 hours a week of my effort, and if he doesn’t find a way to show the same level of commitment to our relationship, I will know where I stand. Plus I will have my own income, because if I put myself through all that, just to do it all alone, I might as well be alone and not have to deal with his messes, temper, selfishness, etc.

      1. Mirei, You have some real marriage problems going on here. Right now you are both backing away from looking at your marriage as a partnership. There is also some real misunderstandings going on here. This will keep cascading into dangerous marital territory if you don’t do something at this point to get both of you to talk to each other and listen to each other, and then work on what you can so you both feel heard, validated, and satisfied with the agreements you come to.

        I recommend that you find a marriage friendly counselor if you can’t do this in a satisfying way to both of you–not just one of you. Go into the “Communication and Conflict” topic and do some reading. Look for articles to read that will help you to figure out how to better approach the issues you’re dealing with. What you are currently doing is not working, so try something else. Give it your honest effort–not looking back at past upsets as points to sit upon and be bitter about–but stepping points to work on so you are better united in your marriage. If you make some different efforts and these don’t work then reach out to a marriage friendly counselor. Don’t just amp up your resentment and pile more contentions upon the ones you already have. If you don’t know who to go to them contact the ministry of Focus on the Family. They have a great list of counselors they can recommend to you. I hope you will.

        These marriage problems are fixable. But if you leave them as they are and keep piling more upon them, you are really headed for trouble–more than you can imagine. Work through the problems. When you said your vows you promised to do what you could to keep showing love and support to each other… now is the time to apply the hard work of marriage for a great result.

  6. I have been dating this guy for 2.5 years and we got engaged 8 months ago. The issue is whenever we have a disagreement and I try to explain why I said something, his response is, ‘that doesn’t make any sense’ and then he proceeds to dismiss it. Also if we plan a date at a certain time and he’s late or doesn’t call when he says he is going to, when he finally shows up or calls, he never apologizes for being late or not returning the call. I feel taken for granted he thinks I am over re-acting? Any suggestions, I do not want to go into a marriage where I feel I cannot express myself.
    Feeling Stuck.

    1. Estella, Please know that your fiancé needs to TRY to “make sense” out of what you are telling him. When he dismisses you, he is showing distain and disrespect. He is acting as if it he doesn’t understand what you are saying –it isn’t important, which can be interpreted that you aren’t important. He might deny it, but his actions say something different. You have a BIG problem on your hands. If you feel “stuck” now, you haven’t seen anything yet. Whatever problems you are having now, they will multiply in how much they will be problematic if you marry. NOW is the time to work through these issues that you are aware of. You will have many others to work on later.

      But working together to bridge your differences –finding ways to resolve matters so you both feel valued and heard is a REALLY, REALLY big deal. Your future husband must be willing to work with you, and not dismiss you. PLEASE don’t marry thinking you will work through these issues later. It doesn’t work like that. This is too important of an issue. Below are some things that I gleaned from a few marriage experts that may show you the importance:

      — “Our studies show that most women are comfortable listening to their mate’s point of view and allowing it to influence them. But only 35 percent of men really listen and take into account their wife’s view. When a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an eighty-one percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct.” (Marriage Expert, John Gottman)

      — “The woman wants to communicate about feelings and to be connected to her mate on an emotional level. The man wants to communicate on a logical, rational level. Finally, because neither one of them makes sense to the other, their attempts to communicate may cease altogether. The relationship begins to feel more like a punishment than their hopes and dreams for a satisfying, peaceful union. [ONE of you trying, isn’t enough… BOTH of you have to work on this.)

      “It hurts when someone you love, or want to love, treats you with disrespect. A lack of listening in a relationship is both disrespectful and hurtful. When you are continually misunderstood, and you can no longer communicate with each other because anger and fear have built up, your relationship no longer feels safe. Listening helps you build safety and trust into your relationship. The gift of listening provides a structure for trust and grow and flourish.” (Dallas and Nancy Demmitt)

      The bottom line is that your fiancé needs to give you the gift of listening to you. You BOTH need work on trying to hear each other, even though you are very different in the way you approach matters. If one of you refuses or dismisses, this is a BIG red flag waving that is warning you that there is a lot of trouble ahead. Please don’t walk into marriage with trouble brewing. Make sure you both are working in partnership to hear each other, and work together on problematic relationship issues. You need a marriage partner, not a marriage tyrant –his way, or no way. We have a LOT of articles posted on this web site that can help both of you get to a better place in how you work through issues. Please take advantage of them. And please don’t marry if you aren’t 100% convinced that he will partner with you. You will regret it if you do.

  7. I have been with my spouse for almost 13 yrs. He has always been a liar, manipulator, and deceiver. I’ve always known this, but he didn’t seem to be THAT way with me. With him claiming that I was “the one” and believing in him, and trusting that I could be the woman to be the first one to love him right, that this could be the magic ingredient in his life to help him be honest, truthful, and build integrity. Not surprisingly, the last 7 years have consisted of me responding harshly to his selfish choices, letting the dust settle, then him repeating another selfish action that I have repeatedly begged him NOT to do.

    The last 4 years have consisted of very selfish acts on his behalf. It has caused such severe damage to our family life and personal relationship, that I feel that forgiving him anymore is only calming the pain until he chooses to do something else, and lie again. That has become the “norm” in our life… he chooses to do something, or neglect something, or simply just do for himself again, then lie to me, neglect me, and carry on only seeing or speaking IF we pass each other on the staircase. It’s quite sad really.

    I have sat and talked with him a MILLION times about how the lying has hurt and effected EVERYONE, and also about my mistakes and where I have gone wrong. Over the last 2 years I have worked very hard not to repeat those mistakes, which explains why to this day we are still together. It isn’t because he has changed anything, or chose to quit any of the behavior that he insists on doing. He consistently lies about where he goes, what he does all day, who he talks to, how long he was there, etc. I know he isn’t cheating on me, or has any interest in anyone else. That I DO know. It’s just selfish choices like… not paying a bill and he said he did, or taking too much medication and saying he didn’t, saying he took out garbage when he hasn’t, or washed certain articles of clothing when he KNOWS he didn’t.

    He is very irresponsible, so when I ask and rely on him to help take care of responsibilities, he fails at that and lies. There was this one incident that he has repeated weekly in spite of me expressing how bad it bothers me. We lost the use of our washer and drier so we have to do laundry by hand. Naturally this is a very physically straining activity, so he offered to wash them in the tub, by hand. This was fine. Well, it got to the point that the laundry was piling up, so I told him to only grab an outfit each, and just focus on that. Even though he agreed, he still grabbed way more than he was able to complete and he started to leave clothes all over the floors. When I mentioned leaving them on the floor, he started to just put them all in the tub soaking in water and leave them there for days.
    This was no good. I asked him nicely, and repeatedly, “Honey, you can’t let clothes sit on floors or in tubs, they get lost and ruined like that, and nobody can bathe without having to pull wet clothes out and put them somewhere.” He naturally agreed that this was the case, but for some reason, every week he did it over and over and over and over and over. Each time i got louder, and madder.

    This is what happens with MOST things that are needed or asked from him. He simply does things HIS way, even though HIS way doesn’t work. His way doesn’t even work for him. He saw how crazy this made me, and it literally drove me to tears, but he just kept doing it. Every week, at some point, there is yelling because he is again doing something that I have asked him not to do. He abuses pill… he abuses current medication… he hasn’t touched me physically for about 8 months now (probably because of all the fighting).

    The only thing he does loyally is all the things that he knows, hurts us. I have thrown him out at least 12 times in the last year, but he always comes back to the door a few hours later. He uses little antics to get back in the house. I always tell him though, you can’t stay, you need to find another place to go… I will help you; I know its dark and cold out… you can stay on couch for the night. But he never leaves. He just keeps carrying on like nothing has happened. If he wants me so badly, why won’t he apply changes to the choices he is making? Why won’t he choose to be honest with me? His lying only hurts us all and makes us fight, then gets him thrown back out. I just don’t understand anymore. I don’t have it in me anymore. I’m done loving him because it hurts me. I don’t want to be mad at him anymore. I can’t better myself or my life with him here continuing all the things that hurt me on a daily basis.

    If he wants in this relationship so badly, why won’t he do better? Get a job and support us? Stop taking pills and getting high? Quit smoking? He was supposed to quit with me, but he didn’t. I did THAT by myself as well. Anyway, I’m just looking for any kind of advice or answers out there. I don’t have anyone else to talk to or turn to. Sincerely, FED UP

    1. Hi Janet, WOW! That’s a lot to take in… I can’t even imagine living with all of that dysfunction. As I was reading through your comment what kept going on in my mind is that you married someone with a Narcissistic personality disorder. It’s all about him, and apparently, he isn’t motivated to change in any way. This is termed as “functional fixedness.” What he is doing “seems” to be working for him (although you and I would never understand why he would think so), so he stays fixed upon continuing to do things the way he wants to. I’m not sure if this will help you at all, but here is an article posted on this web site that may help you in some way: https://marriagemissions.com/why-doesnt-my-spouse-change-functional-fixedness/. You will find that it has linked articles within it that I recommend you read, as well.

      Somehow, you have to get it through to your husband that you won’t put up with the lies, and his selfish behavior. Your words aren’t making much of an impression. They have to sting more, before they will even have a chance of working. You have to follow through with actions that get your point across — you AREN’T giving in, no matter how much he manipulates and pulls off “little antics.” You are totally being taken advantage of –he knows you have a soft spot when he manipulates.

      The article(s) may help… I hope they will. I also thought of the following book, that you may find helpful: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Somehow, you need to put some boundaries down and stick to them, no matter how many clever “antics” he comes up with. He MAY change… but I don’t think there is any chance of it unless he feels the sting of “no” and sticking to it. “Ah hah moments” can come… I’m not sure if they will with him, but some things need to change as far as what you allow. Don’t keep lecturing, or yelling… it doesn’t work with him, obviously. You need to change your tactics. Perhaps the articles and the book will help. I hope so. This is a miserable situation.

  8. I don’t reallly have comment,but more of a question? How to turn it around? My daughter is head strong and for 18 thinks she has all the answers. She’s a smart, friendly, witty. Now on the other hand my wife is smart, hard working, loyal, provider, mother, spouse. But over the last couple of years our daughter has divided us. Manipulation, lies, deception. Now I’m in a race again.

  9. I met my husband on the internet. We met in person and dated a short-time before he created a romantic “Notebook” experience and proposed. Our wedding was beautiful, perfect day etc. We went on a the perfect honeymoon – Life was amazing. What I failed to see is that he was stuffing away emotions regarding me, and hiding his feelings. One day we were on a 4 day weekend and the last day of the weekend he exploded, in a way I had never seen him react.

    I have sought Christian counseling for a year now. I pray for him constantly. He will pull me in and snuggle at night, but when he leaves for work the next day I can barely get a hug. He won’t kiss me or tell me he loves me. He continues to tell me “he is
    done,” and at times pushes me for a divorce.

    This has been going on for a year. I was injured in April 2016 and had to have several surgeries. He would always tell me he loved me before I would be wheeled back. My last surgery was on August 1, 2016, and this was the last time I would hear him say he loved me. I knew it, and when I woke up from surgery, I lay and sobbed. The nurse asked if I wanted her to get him, and I simply continued to say no. It hurt too bad.

    We are still living under one roof, and the moment I think things are turning in the right direction he pulls away. I really think he wants me to file for divorce. This is not going to happen. I hurt so badly – I can’t even put it into words.

    1. Lord, You know the details…please step in and do Your will. Heal this man from whatever is troubling him, draw him to You, so that he can love his wife as Jesus loves the church. Bless Angela for her faithfulness. Guide her and fight on her behalf for this marriage to arise from the enemy’s schemes. In Jesus name I ask. Amen!

      1. What do you do after 30 years of marriage and you’ve worked as hard as you could to keep it together and your husband says to you he doesn’t think he wants to be married anymore; he needs space to work out his own problems. What do you do?

  10. I had to have my spouse declared financially incompetent over 13 years ago … and recently (2014) he was declared incompetent of person with a court appointed guardian of his property and of him personally .. four of our six children (the girls ) don’t speak to me and are very disrespectful (so is he). He has dementia and CHF with numerous other issues. I used to cry all the time and go out of my way for them, this only led them to be even more disrespectful….I have realized that you can’t demand respect…. You can refuse to be disirespected… It works for me.

  11. Marriage of 16 years already and it seems that I am the guy who gets kicked to the curb half the time. What do I do?? She goes out with her friends but when I have time off she always goes and does stuff on her own, never with me, her husband. I guarantee I work all the time and we work different shifts. It would just be nice to figure out what’s going on. I always ask but the answer I get is nothing, but I can tell there’s an issue.

  12. My husband is in the music minister. I don’t expect him to be perfect, but he never communicates anything to me that’s very deep at all; Bbt the neighbor girls come out, and he’s smiling, laughing, talking. He’s not the type that would cheat on me, but why is it that he gives other ladies time and attention, and I just get the left overs? He says he just cares about people and their state of spirituality; sometimes I think this can be true, but I am dying inside because I feel less important and useless! Sometimes I do question the motive behind this. Lonely

  13. I am so hurt and don’t know what to do?! I have been married for 32 years and at the time, it felt like I married my Prince Charming. When we had our 2 kids, he was a great father; but when they became teenagers, he absolutely never disciplined them. It was always on me and because of that, everything that could possibly go wrong, did!

    I have been a stay-at-home mom, encouraged by him, since they were little. I read every book, I could [possibly read, on how to raise your children the right way. Because of his lack of discipline, I now have 3 of them that have emotionally abandoned me, when I try to explain why I feel the way I do. My husband always plays, “The Poor Me,” and literally leaves the home to go sleep at a hotel because his poor brain doesn’t want to deal with it. He is very much a people pleaser and will agree with anyone, even if it is wrong?!

    When we are alone and talk he always agrees with me but if we have the same conversation with one or both of our kids and they disagree, he takes their side. I am so confused and extremely hurt. I really wish I could go into detail with what our children have done and his non reaction to it. They could walk out of the house naked and I swear he’d make up some excuse why it would be ok. When it comes to him and you find fault with him, omg, the man will cry or get defensive and blame his mother, his father or just about anyone else, instead of himself. I literally have found him to be a compulsive liar and lies over the dumbest things. It doesn’t even make sense.

    The part that really hurts, is that everyone he meets, thinks he is such a “nice” guy. He was given money at a very young age and buys everyone. He thinks love is buying me something, instead of being emotionally there for me. I would much rather have the emotional support. If we have an arguement and let’s say we go to bed, the next day he pretends like it never happened and everything is fine. There is never a conclusion to the discussion we had and it just makes me hurt more?! I don’t understand.

    I have read where you should try and communicate, but he just doesn’t get it. I will bring up something and he will bring up something about the past, that has nothing to do about any thing and it ends up being a battle, where my head feels like it is spinning and instead of talking about the present, we are arguing about everything. I am at my wits end, know I should divorce him, will loose my adult children, because he buys them and I have no means of support, financially. At this point, I’d rather be dead:((((((((

  14. My husband of 6 months is the same way! We’ve been separated for about 3 weeks now due to our living situation being compromised and I went to my mothers house and he went elsewhere. He started a new job and for months when I would see him it was in passing for 10 minutes. He spends no time with me or our children in pursuit of making money; and when I try to address it he tells me to get out my feelings and shut up.

    I resorted to sleeping with a shirt of his just to feel some kind of closeness. He saw it one day and called me sad and pathetic and I was being selfish. Since I’ve been away he doesn’t call or text at all and when I do he never responds or tells me to get off his phone with my bs. But he posts on fb all the time but won’t return my calls or texts. I even tried to make time one night; I put on makeup did my hair and wore a little nighty. He didn’t notice at all and 10 minutes later got a phone call he took outside and I didn’t see him anymore until the next day.

    I feel so alone and abandoned and wondering why and when I no longer mattered to him. At first we were inseparable; now he finds so much to do away from home to keep from being with me. I don’t know what to do anymore. Is this even worth it anymore? He goes days without even talking to me and when he does its “yeah, yeah, whatever.” I’m at the end of my rope.

  15. After 18 years of marriage, I only just defined the problem in our marriage as my husband being emotionally unavailable. Apparently I have such low self esteem that I’ve been willing to accept any and all responsibility for our marriage problems. Anyways, it finally dawned on me the other night when we were riding along together with me doing the talking. I said something that required a reply. He didn’t so I asked my question again and he said, “I’m not listening to you.” Nothing else. Not, ” I’m sorry, hon, I wasn’t listening, what did you say?” I was dumbfounded. And since that night, I’ve just felt numb. And nauseous. And great sorrow.