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

  1. My wife doesn’t want me touching her, or give her a kiss before work; she’s not interested any more. When we lay in bed I can’t touch her at all. I’m trying to talk out our differences but we end up arguing. She withholds sex also, and is friends with other men she works with. She doesn’t set boundaries with men and allows them to call her whenever. She doesn’t text me or call me throughout the day. I feel stuck and want to leave. I can’t take the sexual abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse any more.

    1. I don’t want my husband touching me; I could care less if he kisses me hi or bye; it’s just a routine and means nothing so I’d rather he just not do it. I’ve been emotionally shut down for years. I don’t deny him sex, but it’s just that and just long enough for him to get what he wants and it’s over. For that I’m grateful.

      I have not been able to get past the emotional neglect caused by him and even though I have verbalized it recently (tried many many times before just to be shutdown immediately) he heard me but it made no difference. I know there is nothing left of my marriage. As long as I continue my daily routine of being maid, baby sitter, cook and a piece of tail, he’ll be just fine. I however die a little more each day. I know I’m supposed to forgive and maybe I haven’t prayed enough, or really it’s just my pride and flesh keeping me from forgiving, I just can’t bring myself to be hurt any further but I too want to be a good Christian at least by staying married even though I’m failing in so many other areas in being a Christian.

      1. Hi Bullfrog, Emotional abandonment is still abandonment. And as a Christian you are under no obligation to offer forgiveness to someone who has never asked for it and shown remorse. That is both biblical and common sense.

        In addition, neglect is abusive. You can pray for someone but you can’t pray for someone’s changed behavior. That decision and choice is solely theirs. He has a free will and has chosen to no longer show up for your relationship. That’s called abandonment. You are not less of a Christian because you experience the pain of neglect and cannot offer something that he has not earned. And his lack of effort and selfishness has caused a normal and healthy response from you of the need of reciprocation from him.

        1. Shon, Where is it written in the Bible that you only give forgiveness if someone asks for it and shows remorse? It may make “common” sense to a person, but that doesn’t mean that this is God’s approach. Our common sense is not necessarily biblical. There is A LOT in the Bible that doesn’t make common sense to us but God has different standards. He does not do things in ways that always makes common sense to us. Look at what is written in Isaiah 55:8-9 where it is written: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Gods ways are different from ours.

          I’m not saying that reconciliation is always required, but coming to a place of forgiving and giving the matter over to God is required.

          1. Unconditional forgiveness is canceling a debt to all those who intentionally offend us, whether or not they own up to what they have done. Offering forgiveness without repentance, however, does not follow the biblical model of forgiveness (Luke 17:3,4).

            The Bible says that we are to forgive as God forgave us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). God forgives us when we repent (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:3,5, Acts 3:19). He does not grant forgiveness to those of us who are stubborn, prideful, selfish and refuse to repent. We must recognize our sin and repent to receive and enjoy God’s merciful forgiveness. God requires repentance and so must we.

            Repentance is important because it’s a person’s only hope for real change (Matthew 18:3; Acts 26:20). If we don’t admit our sin, it’s impossible to be transformed. If we aren’t keenly aware of the sinful direction our lives are going, we will not see a need to adjust the direction. Repentance demonstrates that we need God to help us change our thinking, attitudes, and behavior.

            The ultimate purpose of forgiveness is the healing of a relationship. This healing occurs only when the offender repents and demonstrates remorse and the offended one grants a pardon and demonstrates loving acceptance.

            An enemy can be defined as one who intentionally hurts us, is destructive, and can’t be trusted because of his or her lack of remorse. Unconditional forgiveness implies that our response to our enemies should be to offer a pardon with no response on the part of the offender. The Bible teaches, however, that we should respond to our enemies in love (Matthew 5:44). Scripture does not teach that we need to forgive our enemies. Instead, we should love them and pray for them. Love and forgiveness are not synonymous. And love does not also mean remaining in the presence of either an abuser or offender. That’s self torture, self-betrayal, not love or respect of oneself. Unless we have a different God that we believe in.

            And next in Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

            And finally in Revelation 9: 20-21 Now the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the works of their hands. They did not stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. Furthermore, they did not repent of their murder, sorcery, sexual immorality, and theft.”

            Thus even in the end times lack of repentance does not induce forgiveness of sin by our Lord Jesus Christ.

          2. Remember Cindy, I did answer your question. Whether or not you post my previous response does not negate the biblical legitimacy of it or the humaneness of our responsibilities to each other. As a Christian myself I am quite shocked at the lack of biblical literacy In Christians of this day and age.

            Never enable abuse, that always lets a foothold in for the devil. And never leave in God’s hands something that he expects you to be responsible for on your own. Have you forgotten free will, free choice, and the will of your own heart? Only our Lord knows for sure.

          3. We do offer un-conditional forgiveness, so does Jesus, as per Shon’s comments, forgiving doesn’t necessarily equal reconciliation, since that takes two willing parties….

        2. I know personally how difficult it is to forgive when the person who has wronged you is not repentant, and does not ask for forgiveness. But you CAN forgive them. It’s a matter of your choice and willingness to do so.

          This happened to me in my first marriage when my wife had an emotional affair, that led to an adulterous relationship that ended our marriage. I felt abandoned, and betrayed. I held on to the hurt, and refused to forgive.

          Many years later after I was remarried to a wonderful Christian woman. She encouraged me to forgive my former spouse, despite no evidence of repentance on her part. I did, and informed my ex wife in a letter that I forgave her…while at the same time confessing to her some of my own shortcomings in our first marriage. I never heard back from her. It was difficult but freeing. It gave me peace, and the Lord has used it in my life. It has allowed me to forgive others who still offend me, even when there is no remorse shown on their part.

          Why? Because my sins against God are too numerous to count…, and far too egregious to deserve forgiveness. His Grace is overwhelming in my life. If there was a Divine ledger that God kept based on how many times I offended Him, it would be huge, compared to how many times any one person sinned against me.

          I believe the biblical teaching is clear in passages such as Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:32: that since we have been forgiven by God of SO much, then we must NOT give in to our nature not to forgive, but instead, forgive others who sin against us. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23-35 illustrates the ‘ledger’ or the scale of justice showing God’s abundant, lopsided forgiveness of us. I would suggest we are therefore obligated to offer forgiveness to those who sin against us (including those who DON’T ask).

          In any event we as Believers will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), and give an account of all our actions in this life. At that time each of us will have to make a case for why we’ve chosen NOT to forgive, even though Christ has told us to do so. For my part, based on His unlimited forgiveness of my sins, I have no excuse.

          1. A wonderful reply and a great example of humility and grace. Thank you for sharing.

      2. Hi Cindy. What is @Bullfrog to do then? Please answer her, because I feel like her words were my words. I love the Lord and want to serve Him. But this emotional abandonment has me running on empty. We have no kids, so I’m all alone in the house while he goes out most of the time.

        I didn’t want pets because I’m busy enough taking care of his business and his domestic needs, but he wanted them. Although I have grown to love our puppies, he’s the one who got them and I’m the one left with the responsibility that I didn’t need. There are a few women I am discipling, but I feel like I have nothing to give. Like @Bullfrog, the loneliness is killing me a little every day. My husband says I should go have my own pursuits. That would mean no one’s left to take care of his needs, his house, his business and his pets. He only said that because he knew I wouldn’t be that irresponsible. I don’t want to be like him, but I sure want him to experience what it’s like having a spouse who not taking care of you.

        1. I’m addressing this to both Bullfrog and to Pinay. I’ve been praying about what to say to both of you. First off, please know that I don’t answer everyone’s comments on this web site. I’m not all-knowing and I don’t feel like I’m supposed to do that and wouldn’t have the time to do that, if I could. I pray, ask, and see how the Lord leads. With that said, I want you to know how my heart breaks for each of you. Before we marry we have very different ideas of what marriage will be like for us with our spouse. I’m so sorry you have both been terribly hurt and disappointed.

          Usually we have good surprises that happen in our marriages and bad surprises mixed in. And in some marriages the surprises lean heavily one way or another–sometimes for a season, and other times for much longer than a season (which you know all too well).

          For each of you, I wish the Lord would give me a “magic” formula that when you follow it, your marriage relationships and marital situations would automatically change for the better. That would be my heart. I hate to see people so miserable in their living situations. But life on this side of heaven isn’t that predictable or simple and everything isn’t easy to fix (and some won’t ever be fixed the way we want it because there are two of us involve). I certainly don’t have all the answers. God gives me some answers as I seek Him, but usually they aren’t a “one-size-fits-all” advice situation.

          As for you Bullfrog and Pinay, I can’t see everything that’s going on here. There are always different sides to see in every situation. That includes my own. I don’t always see things as clearly as I wish I could. But I do know that there is no situation that is hopeless. As we look to the Lord, there is hope. He is our Redeemer. We may not see that clearly for a while (even a long while), but we have this hope in Christ Jesus. The thing is though, that we have to take our focus away from that, which looks hopeless and by faith, trust that eventually the Lord will redeem that, which the enemy of our faith is trying to get us to believe. We have to take our eyes off of what we cannot see and cannot understand right now and look to and lean upon Jesus for rest, peace, and guidance. This is a faith walk we are journeying on this side of Heaven.

          Your husband is not your god. And he certainly isn’t your God! Take your eyes (and expectations) off of him and focus on what God would have you do. When you keep your eyes upon your imperfect husband, you will be disappointed. (And he shouldn’t focus upon you as a type of god, because he will be sorely disappointed.) He is flawed and you are flawed. That’s the way it is. Don’t focus on him. It’s certainly not helping you. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. That’s the best and wisest thing I can say. I want to say so much–give you so many scriptures and quotes and tidbits of wisdom I’ve learned in my own marriage and in witnessing hundreds and hundreds of marriages. But the best thing I can tell you is NOT to allow yourself to be swallowed up in hopelessness. Look to the Lord for guidance, comfort and help in all of this.

          I’ve seen what appears to be absolutely helpless situations turn into amazing miracles as people have turned their hearts and their focus upon the Lord. My own marriage looked hopeless for a long period of time. I started to think that divorce would be the only way out. But I was wrong. As I turned my focus onto the Lord and what He could do instead of what appeared to be hopeless, changes started to happen. Most of them were changes in me (which I didn’t think at the time was necessary–I thought it was all my husband’s fault). But step-by-step I started to see little glimmers of hope amidst the mess.

          Seek the Lord in prayer, read the Bible for insight and wisdom and comfort. Cry out to the Lord and keep crying out–persevere in seeking Him. And little by little you will start to see things change either inside or outside or both. Don’t give up. It’s worth the fight. I hope and pray you will.

    2. Very sorry to hear about this. I get the same treatment. It is a very selfish way we’ve been treated.

  2. I’m not giving up but my wife seems to be completely through with our marriage. She’s doing all the things this article explains. I don’t want to divorce but she’s going to and I don’t want be left with the short end of a stick and being told when I can see my children. I know divorce is wrong. But I don’t want to be naive. I’m also a Christian and I am not considering divorce but I’m not blind either.

    1. So, what are you thinking you will do here? You “know divorce is wrong” but… You say you are a Christian. So, the pressing question here is “What would Jesus do in this situation?” And then, what would Jesus have you do with your bride that appears to be abandoning you?

  3. My husband doesn’t have any affection for me. I have to ask for a hug or kiss when I am having problems or a bad day or just want to be loved; he usually just ignores me or tells me I am needy or crazy. We have no sex life. I have tried to talk to him, ask him what is wrong, or just try to live my own life.

    The problem is he changes the subject or tells me I am nuts. So, I try to spend time with my kids and grandkids, just live my life. The problem is when I was gone, I found out he texted his 20-year-old employee and asked to pay her for sex. He is over 40 years older than her. She told me he had been hitting on her and now it had gone too far and quit. She was confiding in him about her love and sex life because she thought he was a friend. I think he thought it was an open invitation, and knew she needed money.

    When I confronted him, he said he was just trying to scare her into not sleeping around. He told me our sex life hadn’t been great; he has ED and refused to do anything about it until that night. Funny, I found out he got money out of our account the night before I left and started taking Viagra.

    I am pretty hurt, and he just tells me he did nothing wrong. He takes no responsibility for any of it called her names and put all the blame onto her.

    I stayed; we have a 33-year-old marriage together and thought it was worth saving. Problem is I feel I am the only one trying to save it. He won’t talk to me about why or anything about it, just says he did nothing wrong. I have tried making our sex life better, but he really doesn’t want me. I don’t ask anymore about what happened let it go. I am so tired of trying to make this work; he doesn’t have anything to do with me physically or emotionally. It’s just hard to live this way, and now I don’t trust him. Won’t go to counselling.

    So now I am living a life somewhat life living with a brother. I cook, clean, and do everything at our house, sometimes help at the farm and gas station. He tells everyone I am no help or puts me down. I was married before to a verbally abusive husband and left because I couldn’t take it anymore.

    He was so kind and loving when I met him, and we talked about what we wanted out of life before we got married. I wanted to make sure it was good this time, but he changed. Now he puts me down all the time. We both are in our late 60s and I love him and don’t want to give up on our life. Got any ideas as to how to make this better?

    1. My husband and I have been married for over 10 years with 2 young children. Since early on, he’d prefer to game and not spend time with me. I called him out and even reached out to the church pastor and went to counselling, but it only got slightly better. He would get angry and speak unkindly to me when he was gaming and he’d not even put down the device. I would go and cry quietly.

      Over the years he’s grown defensive when I bring up things that bother me. He’s often yelled and walked out for hours. He self depreciates a lot and notice that’s a mechanism to avoid our marital issues. He hardly talks to me and I’m so lonely.

      He won’t accept when I tell him I’m ready to call it quits, and by staying, he doesn’t show me much love, compassion and closes himself in the bedroom working. He gets upset if I point out chores pending and says I’m looking to find fault with him and he never does anything right.

      I’m so emotionally exhausted and checking out emotionally to protect my heart. I can’t do this anymore…I’ve tried to make my marriage work, but to no avail.

  4. I find rarely that we should look inwards to see if we are doing something wrong to our spouse and ask God to show us.

    My wife and I came too close to ending ut and I made the effort to change and asking God to search my heart. He answered and I corrected much.

    On the flip side is my wife, on her second marriage. She has sought counseling to give reasons to hold on to her issues and use them to defend her actions. Our last fight caused her to assume it was unwise to marry me because of my thoughts. Now I sleep in the couch every night and look for excuses to avoid her, esp in the bedroom. Our time together is limited and I’m glad. She uses her issues to keep distant yet, blamed me for the problems. After six years since our incident, she refused to change and I no longer believe she wants to.

    I gave up hoping she wants to change herself. She likes her social media and gives little attention unless she wants something or blames me for everything. I still love her. I let her go her way. Stubbornness is a difficult thing to accept and change.

  5. My husband and I are both Christians. Whenever I try to talk to my husband about a subject that’s important he just says to me if you don’t stop talking about it I’m gonna leave the house. This happens almost every day when it’s a topic that he doesn’t wanna talk about. For example, there is a particular church whose leadership does not want my husband to be there because I think it’s that they basically don’t like his personality, which can be pushy at times and very opinionated.

    My husband is going to show up at this church even though they told him not to come there and I told him that in good conscience I don’t wanna show up at a church where the leaders don’t want us there. So, I’m forced to just stop talking about the subject, which is very important. Otherwise he gets his shoes on and he walks out the door and he leaves for a couple of hours.