The Emotionally Distant Husband

Emotionally Distant Pixabay man-1150037_640Are you eager to be linked in a loving relationship with a man who cares about you deeply, but it’s just not happening? Are you willing to encourage him on the deepest emotional levels, but you can’t chip through the ice? Do you feel that despite your relatively lax expectations, you are being taken advantage of? In other words, does a void exist for you because you have an emotionally distant husband?

In my counseling practice I specialize in treating common emotional stresses. if left unattended, They can turn into major debilitating problems. The hurting people who come to see me are trying to cope with anger, depression, anxiety in their marriage. These issues are usually played out in the home. I often face the task of helping people understand how their emotions relate to their unsolved marriage problems.

The Emotionally Eager Wife VS Emotionally Distant Husband Who Will Not Engage

Over twenty-five thousand counseling sessions have shown me that the most common marital problem I encounter is the case of an emotionally eager wife whose husband will not engage with her on a deep, meaningful, and personal level. These phrases are indicators of the problem of being emotionally distant and disconnected:

  • “Just when I think we’ve really connected, he does something to prove he never understood a thing I said.”
  • “I think the guy is oblivious to my feelings.”
  • “What does it take to get through to him?”
  • “He cares more about his work [or sports or hobbies] than he does about me.”

As the relationship fails to progress, feelings of disillusionment become entrenched. And then faulty patterns of communication yield increasing frustration. Failure to progress is not for lack of trying.

Good Reason to Be Disappointed

As I consult in case after case, I see that many emotionally eager women have good reason to feel disappointed. Most women need strong, growing relationships that are openly expressed. Unfortunately, their husbands fail to supply that need. They are emotionally distant. These wives are living with men who have unconsciously committed themselves to an evasive way of life.

The wives aren’t the only ones hurt by this evasiveness. These men are unwilling to seriously explore the depths of their own emotional needs. As a result, they perch securely atop their own little time bombs. As frustration and confusion mount, something will eventually blow.

If at all possible, I include husbands in my counseling sessions. You’d be surprised how often these emotionally distant, undemonstrative men are looking, deep inside, for a way to jump-start their marriages. I can show spouses the best method to address their unique relational needs, and the lessons will probably “take.”

Options are Available in Dealing with the Emotionally Distant Spouse.

When the husband, however, is unwilling to participate in counseling, the wife still has some excellent options. Her emotionally distant spouse may cling to stubborn, evasive patterns of relating. But she can make improvements in two general areas:

1. Have you noticed that in our culture, the burden of a relationship often falls on the woman? The woman is expected to “make it work.” If a man remains faithful, he gets the credit. If he strays, it’s somehow her fault, at least in part. When a relationship unravels, the greater share of the blame ends on her doorstep.

Counseling, however, can help a woman learn what lies behind the scenes of her husband’s personality, what makes him do what he does. With that knowledge in hand, she can come to realize that her husband’s behavior is not her fault after all.

2. The woman can examine the ways in which she reacts to her husband. From there she can figure out better ways of relating that will cause her less stress and personal frustration. Then, even if he never improves his behavior, she can still enjoy improved personal stability. She can be happier.

The Emotionally Distant Identifying Pattern

The first step toward improving one’s relationship is to understand what constitutes patterns in marriages that can be emotionally abusive. It sounds so far as if I’ve been painting the husbands as villains. That’s not true in the least. Most of these men have perfectly honorable intentions. They would never try to hurt their wives. But even though they usually do not set out to harm, it happens all the same.

The problem lies in the way most (not all by any means!) men approach life. As a general rule, men are less naturally inclined than women to address personal or sensitive subjects. This isn’t simply fear of pain. They really aren’t as interested. They have a natural tendency to bypass the lengthy processing that is so necessary to intimate personal interchanges and skip straight to the solution.

When the wife seeks greater depth than simply problem-options-solution and presses to explore the emotional side of an issue or its ramifications, the man’s frustration kicks in. “We’ve already handled the problem. Therefore, it doesn’t exist anymore. So what is it with this woman?” To him, detailed processing is useless, perhaps even inane. He doesn’t see himself as being emotionally distant.

Ways He Evades Processing

He then —and this is a key —begins looking for ways to end his participation in his wife’s processing. He may withdraw or try to put her back onto a path of logic or perhaps even explode. The explosion, you see, is a diversion. It’s a distraction —in essence, a change of subject. Changing the subject is another often-used way out of processing. He is guided by the dread of having to spend any more time than is necessary to dwell on her emotional needs, for he almost never sees them as needs.

Women generally experience feelings and emotions more intensely than do men, mostly because they allow themselves to. A wife lets emotions run their course even as the husband is trying to stuff them, and to get rid of them. That is because he sees them as anti-productive. Let me emphasize that there is no right-and-wrong about having strong emotions. It is not wrong to even, to some extent, downplay them. But because she recognizes and even nurtures her emotional side, the wife can enjoy life in its richest, fullest dimension.

Insistent Anger and Resistant Anger

Relationship and family connections are the most important ingredients in most wives’ lives. By their very nature, close relationships generate strong emotions. The wife can inadvertently create problems. This happens when she so craves emotional connections that she loses the ability to respond with reason or calm. She may become anxious. She certainly becomes angry. Not to put too fine a point on it, but hers is an insistent anger whereas his is a resistant anger.

The woman locked into these patterns can cry and complain that she feels unloved. She has such a powerful need to feel understood and cherished at an emotional level. So she becomes greatly disillusioned when external signs of that understanding are nonexistent.

Evasive Behavior

Evasive husbands invent a broad range of behaviors for avoiding the in-depth discussions they see as useless and potentially harmful. There is the silent treatment, pretended agreement, and constant forgetfulness. There is also procrastination, laziness, and temper outbursts. Plus, there is work-a-holism, undue attention to a hobby or sport, and in general merely being unavailable. The emotionally distant, evasive man may tune out. He might say whatever he thinks his wife wants to hear at that moment. He does this to prevent the boat from rocking, and harbors no intention of actually following through.

To counter evasiveness, the emotionally eager wife will be prone toward responses such as crying. They try to be persuading, calling friends for support, acting moody, repeating the same requests, accusing, and giving up. Once the cycle gets going it can be difficult to break this emotionally distant interplay.

Factors Behind the Pattern

In my practice, I see seven factors that are very common in marriages affected by the evasive and the emotionally eager relationship patterns. As we examine them, you will see that this tug-of-war is not confined to a few households. It is widespread. I find this tension in the homes of driven, success-oriented people and in laid-back, take-it-easy relationships. Some of the participants have a history of poor relations with others, while some can point to great popularity with others.

If your emotionally distant husband will join you in the awareness process, that’s great! Use the information provided as a springboard for healthy, honest discussion. If he will not, and many won’t, choose to make yourself aware of what’s happening and grow anyway. One person working toward a healthy style of relating is better than no one at all taking steps.

Let’s look at the seven indicators:

1. Communication is reduced to power plays.

If nothing else, evasive behavior creates a feeling of power. This concept of control and power-wielding can take some strange twists. And the people involved usually do not see it for what it is.

If the emotionally eager wife responds with her own overbearing style instead of understanding his fear of being controlled, she does the very thing that makes matters worse. She speaks coercively to her emotionally distant husband.

Perversely, even a caring husband derives a certain subconscious satisfaction when he witnesses his wife in great emotional distress. The underlying thought: You see? I do have power! I can control her emotions, and that’s not an easy thing to do. My tactics worked.

The more the wife registers anger or futility, the more likely the emotionally distant, evasive husband will continue to respond with power tactics. His urgent, compelling need to keep the upper hand is satisfied. And I repeat, this is not necessarily deliberate. Usually, it is all going on in the darkest caverns of the mind.

2. The emotionally distant husband avoids commitment and personal accountability.

A common complaint I hear from emotionally eager wives is that they cannot get a solid commitment to anything. Their man is hard to pin down.

Remember that evasive husbands unconsciously lust for power. They must maintain control. So it isn’t hard to see why they don’t want to be held accountable to specific plans. They have confused commitment with enslavement or coercion and wrongly assume the words mean much the same thing. They see simple requests, then, as attempts at coercion, and they circumvent them by remaining vague.

These emotionally distant men realize that accountability requires a certain amount of vulnerability. And that scares them. Clear communication, self-revelation, and openness: These qualities could boomerang on them, they fear. The evasive person also fears that his good nature will be taken advantage of. So he plays it safe by revealing the least amount that he can about his plans, his preferences, his feelings.

Although these emotionally distant men would never admit it even to themselves, they have made a commitment to dishonesty. Sometimes blatant lying is involved, as when a man says he will do something, knowing full well that he will not. But usually this dishonesty is more subtle. Without openly lying, these men try to create an illusion of cooperation when in fact they inwardly hope to blaze their own trails independently of their mates’ plans.

The Emotionally Distant Fear of Accountability

With this fear of accountability, these men fuel the wives’ worst fears of marital isolation. The men do whatever they must to keep a safe distance. This is exactly the opposite of what the emotionally eager wives are seeking. The men keep their feelings well hidden. But their wives want feelings brought into view. The men think they dare not expose their preferences lest they be denied. (In other words, the woman controls the situation through the power of choice.) The women want more than anything else to know what their men want.

Needless to say, this factor of poor accountability works against the success of any relationship. A thriving marriage needs sharing and openness in order to be truly fused into a unit.

3. Leadership roles are confused.

With all this control jockeying and poor accountability, the third factor in these conflicted marriages isn’t hard to see: badly defined leadership roles. The evasive husband prefers to hold back and sidestep situations that will bring his wife’s criticism to bear. And that includes certain situations where his leadership would be expected. He may even coyly set her up to take the heat. That, you see, is real control!

Have either of these scenarios happened in your home?

• A child makes a request that Dad knows should be turned down. So he says, “Why don’t you ask your mother?” Let her be the ogre who denies the child’s wants.

• The husband hears someone reprimand his wife. This might be a stranger in public or his own mother in private. Instead of standing up for his wife, he remains silent even though he knows his wife feels abandoned.

These husbands know that the more leadership they exert, the more controversy they may encounter. It works that way in politics. It must work that way in marriage. Notice that the power plays are still going on.

Has Emotionally Distant Preference to Lie Low

But here we’re talking about open, visible leadership. Being chronic conflict avoiders, these men prefer to lie low and stay out of the fray. In the battle of the sexes, it’s a good way to keep your head from being shot off. They falsely assume that openness invites problems.

It’s that don’t-rock-the-boat thing again. Unfortunately, by backing away from the leadership role, these men are sacrificing the family’s long-term needs —a stable leader —for the short-term goal of peace-for-the-moment.

Interestingly, in many cases, men who back out of the leadership role in personal and family matters are anything but weak in business pursuits or civic projects.

1. Relationship is secondary to performance.

Human beings err, make occasional wrong choices, and are occasionally selfish. In healthy marriages, the partners recognize this fact and allow plenty of room for open conflict resolution. Emotionally eager wives would welcome the chance to discuss problems. But because the evasive husband prefers to minimize his own emotional vulnerability, he customarily runs from the threat of having to struggle with emotions. Logic tells us that if a man is running away from something, he is also running toward something else. What is it that men run toward to avoid personal interactions? Performance.

Now, as a very general rule, men are performance-oriented anyway. Whereas women enjoy the process of doing something, men want to reach the goal as quickly and efficiently as possible and go on to something else. (Again, I remind you, there are plenty of exceptions to this.)

Commonly, evasive men will not mind giving time to an activity such as yard work, fishing, a project at the church. It’s familiar turf. They already know how to do those things. They’ll see a nice, neat, trimmed-up yard, the new church fence, perhaps a fish or two as something. But relationships require being not doing, an unsettling concept for many men.

2. Sexual relating is out of sync.

Happy, growing marriages are typified by reasonable sexual communication. Although frequency is not the chief concern (some couples are satisfied with twice monthly sex, some enjoy it several times a week), union occurs frequently enough to remind the spouses of their love and commitment to each other. Sex is a means of maintaining secure bonding.

For evasive men, however, sex is intended not for bonding but for physical satisfaction and—here it is again—control. Who’s in the driver’s seat?

At one extreme, the evasive man abstains for long periods of time, showing virtually no interest at all in his wife sexually. He knows sex can bring out tender sharing. That is something he prefers to avoid. He determines that it is easier to deny the pleasures of sexual relating in order to avoid emotional intimacy. I have heard numerous accounts from women who are eager to be sexually involved with their husbands. But they are rebuffed for six months at a time, a year, or longer.

Slipping into an Emotionally Distant Comfortable Shell

The more common extreme has the evasive man showing little tenderness during waking hours. When bedtime comes, his engine turns on, and he gets his satisfaction from his wife. Then he slips back into his comfortable shell. He may even turn on at two o’clock in the morning, make his move, then go back to sleep. This approach to sex neatly minimizes emotional intimacy without minimizing the feel-good experience. The wife’s emotions are hardly considered.

The emotionally eager wife, then, develops conflicting feelings about marital sex. Part of her wants it and sees it as a wonderful communication time. But she is afraid of the hurt that comes as she senses her husband is merely after physical relief.

Often, if this conflict goes on long enough, one spouse or the other may opt for an outside form of sexual satisfaction. This is in the way of  an affair, pornography, or flirtations outside marriage. Either spouse can feel such strong disappointment as to be abnormally vulnerable to temptation.

3. Personal insights are unequal.

Healthy people not only admit the need for improvement, they welcome the challenge. Growing people are willing to absorb insights and information. They actively seek out truth. Evasive people are not inclined toward insight and awareness. Apart from the fact that it’s too much trouble for what you get out of it, the evasive husband really isn’t interested in being challenged on the personal, philosophical level. That makes him too vulnerable. He wants the comfortable routine, the level keel, putting little or no thought into the whys of life.

The emotionally eager wives are usually the type who devour self-help books. They enjoy stimulating philosophical discussions, flock to seminars, and invite growth. They like being challenged about what can be done to create a fuller life. Result: They grow and expand intellectually as their husbands tune in still another football game.

This eagerness does not always translate into significant change.

Because of the wife’s tendency to play off her husband’s behavior —reacting instead of pro-acting —this woman eventually loses heart. She realizes that her efforts are not being matched by his. She begins to perceive that she’s outgrowing him. I’ve see many of these wives become increasingly agitated or collapse in despair or depression. Either way, the woman ought to press forward, gaining insight, regardless of her mate’s lack of interest.

4. Both sides feel victimized.

Evasive husbands subconsciously live with a philosophy of “You leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone, and we’ll get along just fine.” The fewer challenges they encounter, the less conflict they experience. And then, the better they feel. The problem is that their spouses by nature yearn for a far more intimate pattern of relating.

The wife launches her various attempts to get the intimacy and depth she craves. She does this by protesting, cajoling or simply acting unhappy. The husband, turned off by his wife’s prodding, sulks and wonders, “Why do I have to live with this kind of stuff? She’s crabby for no good reason.”

Either unwilling or unable to grasp that he is contributing to the problem, he sees himself as a victim of unreasonableness. Victims are not cheerful people. The feel, if you will —of the household nose-dives as anger and sadness feed on each other.

The emotionally eager wife feels just as victimized by her emotionally distant husband.

“When is all this misery going to end? Look what he’s doing to my life. It’s sterile! Going nowhere. Emotionally zip. When will he ever wake up, or is it always going to be this miserable?” In a sense, there is truth to each mate’s feeling of victimization. Both spouses can point to evidence that this marriage has become something of a raw deal. Both can show legitimate ways in which the other spouse is contributing to the problem. Neither sees the whole picture. When either of them places all blame on the other partner, the “I’m a victim” attitude has gone too far.

Once this evasive pattern has become entrenched in a marriage, it is tempting to place full blame onto the shoulders of the husband who resists deep relating. Let’s say that, in certain instances, it’s true. He does need to change his ways of relating to his wife. His evasiveness damages and even destroys his position of influence in his own home. After all, God did not place us here on earth to avoid each other. We were made to relate first to God, then with family and friends.

Evasive behaviors are damaging not just to the wife but to the husband as well, preventing him from knowing the satisfaction God intended for him.

Beginning the Journey Toward Improvement

If you are the mate of someone who is non-communicative, realize that to some degree, the relational problems you’ve encountered are predictable. They show up in a lot of marriages. Also, there are some things of a general nature that you can do to ease them. For starters:

  • Quit assuming responsibility for your spouse’s imperfections. He may well say, “You make me this way with your constant [nagging, whining, whatever].” That’s not true, even though he may think it is. He would be acting the same way if he were married to someone else.
  • Ease up on your persuasive efforts to convince your mate to fit your mold. Coercion will only make the problem worse. This is hard to do when you desperately want change.

Down deep, you probably realize that no person is going to change, at least not effectively, based on someone else’s forceful persuasion. An evasive husband will amend his ways only if given the room to do so in his own will. That leaves the ugly prospect that he will choose not to. For now, it is wise to back off.

Don’t Quit

That does not mean that you quit doing anything. If you believe that your husband is ducking away from topics you are sure must be discussed, that he is becoming evasive in the midst of emotional exchanges, can you tell him about the frustration this creates without overworking the point or becoming confrontational? Everything will be working against you.

The heat of the moment makes a person say things she would not say at a less emotional time. And most of all, old habits die hard. You are accustomed to addressing an issue in a particular way now. It is exceptionally hard to change your approach. But it will pay dividends if you can do it. Personal soul-searching will help you turn things around and give positive traits to your marriage.

To get a good idea about how ready you are to do the soul-searching necessary for real growth, be aware of your use of one simple word. You. How often is that word spoken as you are trying to make sense of the tensions with your mate? I’m not suggesting that you should never be spoken. I am saying, though, that its overuse indicates that you are not looking inward.

Work on Your Happiness

In short, a major step is to put your own house in order to improve your own satisfaction and happiness. You may find that the improvement in your life is just the catalyst your spouse needs. You will still be a more stable and content individual, even if you do not experience adjustment you have hoped for in your mate. Are you willing to start with your own hard, inward search?

The emotionally eager wife will say, “Yes! Of course.” But then she amends that with a but. “I’m willing to adjust, but my husband needs to change.” Whether or not you are correct to say this, you are basing your happiness and responses on someone else’s behavior.

Your willingness to work on your own issues will be the key for finding personal peace, then potentially, success in that most important relationship, your marriage.

This edited article came from the great book, Distant Partner. It is written by Dr Les Carter, and is published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The subtitle for the book is: “How to tear down emotional walls and communicate with your husband.”  As Dr Carter says in the beginning of the book, “I have written this book primarily for answer-seeking wives. I want you to understand why some husbands act evasively and maintain a certain distance from you. Most particularly, I want to show you what you can do to improve your emotional reactions to your husband.” 

We believe that obtaining this book would be an inexpensive way to start on a road to better understanding and working through issues that could greatly improve your relationship. Also, if you read this book along with your spouse Dr Carter explains in the preface of the book the best way to do this.

— ALSO —

For additional insight, here are two additional articles to read to help you deal with this issue:



And then lastly, Dr Greg Smalley gives the following insight:


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622 responses to “The Emotionally Distant Husband

  1. Interesting article. I can only speak from personal experience and the waste of years in therapy for what was a no win situation. The great but sad option is there is divorce, I wasted so many years not knowing that emotionally dead men existed – I dated a guy who was divorced and had moved to the furthest state away from his 5 year old adopted daughter. He left a slew of unfinished relationships (albeit sexual/shallow relationships behind) and then I walked into his life – he swore there was no one else he was serious about as I didn’t really want to date – I wanted a full on relationship that would lead somewhere.

    Ladies don’t have sex with men who aren’t going anywhere, who fake emotions, who have no friends and whose family has no connection with each other who cheats with others, who flirts openly to make you feel badly, who thinks intimacy is penetration. If only I could go back.

    I wanted to love him as he told me on those first few dates how his mother had died in childbirth and his father remarried only to have that pregnant wife number two fall down in the snow and die; then he died on the side of the road in his car a few years later. Honestly, it read like a tragedy and I felt I could love him and make him happy…IMPOSSIBLE. My husband was sent off to various foster homes and made a ward of the courts. He was mistreated by his foster parents who were mostly alcoholics. My heart went out to him but now I know though his story was true he really was so shallow in all his feelings. He really, as the years went by had no empathy at all and hated being touched. He drank a lot so the sex was usually drunken sex with me his sober wife-I began to dread his touch.

    I don’t know how I lasted 15 years (call me an imbecile) but in the end I had nothing because he destroyed his career and his life with me and our children. I know even now I try not to blame myself for his idiocy and for my not knowing the red flags. I did meet his family; they were pretty abysmal and I had nothing in common with them though I tried at the beginning. Most were addicts and one, a brother-in-law who tried to rape me. But I always justified all his flaws; I mean who wouldn’t be screwed up if their parents died so young, if they were molested, if shuttled between various foster homes. But then in a moment of clarity I thought why me? Why should I be this girl who got lumbered with a horrible sister and brother-in-law; with a bunch of hillbillies (partly because I was a foreigner, a fashion model fresh over from London and our culture was very different. I grew up in an era where my mum taught me to look out for the underdog – be kind – go out with a guy who asks you even if you aren’t attracted to him; it was all very sacrificial, Catholic if you will.

    Finally I divorced him and though we have two lovely children there are times when I wish I had had children with a man I adored, not some weird Romanian orphan style inability to love type of male. I can no longer have babies. I am probably not going to meet a man in this lifetime. Though I am open to love but I have such enormous school repayments for my children that its unlikely. So, for everyone else out there…if it feels wrong and you seem to be the one doing all the loving – if his family is weird and if he never seems to really connect at all…Run! Run! Run!

    1. I’ve been living with “The Stepford Wives” except it was the Stepford husband. I’ve been on anti-anxiety for 11 years, thought it was me. Off meds., and was illuminated. I will proceed with what I have left. I’ll find a peace. Have some of that already.

  2. This is the most up lifting spot on article that I have ever read. It hits on both aspects of a relationship without placing blame on one party or the other. I have went to counseling because I thought I was to blame for my evasive husband, feeling as though he wasn’t interested in me and it was my fault. I learned to accept him for his inability to connect to anyone, now knowing it isn’t me. I will not give up inviting him to do things, knowing the answer will probably be no, but hopeful the answer might me yes. Learning how to communicate effectively without anger/ frustration/ hurt is where I struggle. If there are any tools for effective communication and prayer I am all ears :)

    1. Brienne, I’m so sorry that you find yourself in that place within your marriage. There are some spouses that just aren’t very good in sharing deep emotional feelings with their spouse. Many times it has nothing or very little to do with the receptivity of the other spouse. It is just who they are at that point in their life (given what has happened to them in the past, plus personality tendencies) as to whether or not they can or will eventually share with their marriage partner. Some spouse’s eventually change, and others don’t. I hope your husband will. He is losing out big time if he doesn’t.

      But I love the attitude you have now arrived at–to keep inviting him, don’t put the blame upon yourself, but always being hopeful and inviting. I don’t know you or your husband so I can’t say what’s happening here. It is probably not about you–but rather more about him as far as his not sharing. Just do what you can to be emotionally healthy, pray for him, and see where God takes you. I recommend that you look through the Communication and Conflict topic to see if there is something there that could help you on this journey. Just prayerfully glean through the articles you read, picking up what you can use, and leaving the rest there for that, which helps others.

      Our relationships are not created to be equal. What works for one couple or one spouse, doesn’t work for another. One “size” does not fit all, just as one piece of advice does not fit all. Pray, read, glean, and be open to what you can learn. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Here is a link to the Communication and Conflict topic: Just go into the ones you feel will help you. And then here is the Communication Tools topic you can peruse through to see what you can use there: I hope this helps.

    2. I just wanted to share where I am at with my husband. And give hope to people with distant husbands. We are at a much better place now though not perfect. I don’t have romantic lovey, dovey feelings for him right now because of all the hurt and rejection I felt the past 2 years. But I do ultimately care about him and love him. It stinks but I believe that God can bring those passionate feelings back.

      He has changed though it has been very gradual. I honestly thought my relationship would never get better after the lows we hit. At some points I didn’t know what to do and even thought about ending the marriage and at one low point my life. I thank God that he never left us and was right by our side and still is.

      How it was after we got married… At first it was a gradual distancing. He kind of just started to do his own thing. He didn’t seek me out all that much and I waited for him to do so. I finally got upset enough I would tell him that we didn’t spend much time together. Then he would remind me that when we met he told me he was an independent person. I would get upset time and again because I felt alone and pushed away. He would tell me I was over emotional, irrational and or needy.

      When he got home from work he would greet me and then go on the computer to play games and he would drink alcohol usually getting pretty drunk, because he needed to relax. Sometimes we had dinner together and sometimes he had it at his computer. I felt like I was competing with his video games. Thoughts like,”He should have just married his computer.” Would run through my mind. I remember seeing the amount of hours logged on his games and it hurt. To think of the hours spent with me and the hours he spent playing the games.

      Then I would go to bed around 8, 9 and he would stay up till 11-1am. We rarely went to bed together. This was the norm for most days. We did hang out together for or go out together a couple times a week for a few hours. He would ask what I wanted to do but usually not want to do the things I suggested. I pretty much just started to suggest things I knew he would want to do, even if it was something I didn’t want to do. However, a week or two could go by with hardly any together time. I had so many emotions and he thought I was ridiculous and needed to go to therapy to get help with my unresolved issues.

      Fast forward to now with lots of prayer for help and guidance. He stopped drinking alcohol. He comes home and gets settled and talks with me while playing with the baby. We have dinner together. We have regular Friday night dates. He has more compassion and empathy toward me. He is doing nightly devotional readings with me. He goes to bed with me at night and we watch a TV show together or just talk. He is much more likely to do or try things that I want to do. He tries to remember to ask how I am doing. I don’t feel all over the place emotional wise. He usually seeks me out to do things. He is still an introverted person but much more open to me. He waits for me to ask him how he is doing usually.

      1. I also noticed that he is more aware of what he was doing before and he even said if he was me he wouldn’t have been happy either. We are both still learning to better communicate and be open with each other.

        At some point along the way I became emotionally unavailable because I didn’t want to keep being hurt. I think that is partly why I don’t have those in love feelings, even though he has changed so much. But I know there is hope as God brings us closer together. It has been a hard hard journey.

        1. Keep looking to God to give you the feelings that He knows you should have. I had lost those “lovey-dovey” feelings for my husband for quite a while earlier in our marriage. But in looking to God and showing love, even though I didn’t feel it inside, God eventually helped to restore those feelings–even stronger than ever before. We have now been married over 47 years and I love this man more than I ever thought possible. By giving him God’s love, my love was restored and strengthened. God is amazing! I pray God does the same for you. Thank God your husband has changed his negative behavior. I pray God encourages him to keep going in this positive direction.

          “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

      2. Thank you Kacey for sharing this. Too many people believe that spouses never change. Yes, that’s true with some, but not all. Your testimony will help those who need encouragement that marriage miracles DO happen. Pray, believe, look for God’s wisdom, and do things God’s way and who knows where it will take you. I can guarantee it would be A LOT better than just fixating on that, which YOU cannot change. I rejoice with you over the positive direction your marriage is going in right now. Keep looking to God, and seeking guidance–applying the wisdom you are given and God will bless you in ways you never thought possible. Thanks again, for sharing your testimony as an encouragement to Brienne, and others who read what you have written. May God continue to bless your efforts to encourage those around you, including your husband :)

  3. This was very informative and helpful. Alot of the issues, in my marriage, and the negative effects it has had on me was addressed. I Thank you for sharing. God bless you

    1. The story was encouraging indeed Kacey, thank you for sharing your story. I have been through a lot in my 14 years of marriage (infidelity, alcohol and constant disappointments). I even have the last girlfriend sending me photos of them together on holidays whenever she feels like it, which brings so much pain. I always feel like I take so many steps forward in my healing and when that happens I take 100 steps back.

      The joys have been so short-lived and yet the pain so much. I have been wondering if it will ever get better or if I’ll ever enjoy my marriage. I got to a point where I started telling myself that my marriage is an assignment from God and I have to pass it regardless of what happens.

      I am relying on God each day to give me the strength and wisdom to do what is right in His sight. Marriage has not been easy, I even wondered at times if I was meant to be happy in my marriage; but I have faith that God will turn things around. There is always a blessing in doing what is right in God’s eyes.

  4. I am mystified by this continued assertion that men are biologically predisposed to being evasive, when in fact, this is modeled and learned behavior. I am disappointed by the continued message to women: the onus is on YOU. YOU react differently. YOU stop doing X, Y, and Z. The emotional labor falls perpetually on women to stifle themselves and their needs; to be more understanding of men’s alleged biological limitations.

    1. Thank you! I got the same exact impression, and the biological assertions made it almost unreadable for me, too. I had some hope when the article mentioned how the responsibility of a relationship tends to unreasonably fall onto women’s shoulders, but when it came to advice or solutions on how to deal with this type of situation, the author turned around and did that very same thing themselves!

    2. I want to first offer my gratitude for this written piece. It’s one of the best I’ve read, without direct blame and clearly stating a lot of the complications of relationship dynamic. I’m an open-minded, forward thinking person who feels that a great deal of what’s expressed as biology is needing more modern, updated renditions of explanation. It’s not simply biological- its a blend of hereditarily passed, systemically supported, and much of it is done by choice.

      I’m 34, and have been with the same person for 3.5 years wondering when they will wake up and want to be emotionally vulnerable and involve feelings with this relationship. I love Christ, because he came with fire and the sword. Whoever has a limitlessly forgiving idea of Jesus, please reread the New Testament and know that righteous anger is not only reflected in Jesus’ actions, but allowed for our lives too.

      Much of the responses in the comments here are deeply damaging to women. If you are unhappy, don’t simply throw in the towel. But if you feel you’ve truly done everything to support change in your marriage, stop burdening yourselves and seek the beauty you deserve. To knowingly cause harm is a sin, especially to ourselves. To endure pain is often needed in life. But to do so for the sake of something you can’t even identify anymore is to forsake the gift of life.

  5. Thanks for this powerful, insightful article. I need every drop of enlightenment and encouragement it offers. I also appreciate all of the comments below. My husband and I have been married 12 years and we have struggled with intimacy from the start. I have given up on trying to change or fix our situation. I have surrendered to God in prayer to heal the brokenness in my heart and somehow restore love, closeness and intimacy.

    It is hard to navigate day to day when it seems things are moving in the wrong direction – silent treatment, harsh words, neglect, apathy. . . . But I am confident in my faith that things can and will change in God’s timing and in God’s plan. In the meanwhile, I am focused on my emotional well-being, self-care, health, wellness, financial stability and building solid relationships with family and friends to help me find balance, love and support when needed. So glad to have found this article today. Blessings!!!

    1. Pray for me as I pray for you. I am feeling the exact same thing. Learning to not focus on what he can’t do but what he does do. And to not make it about me. And not blame myself for it or feel there’s something wrong with me. It needs divine strength.

  6. You have mentioned all the things I cannot put into words. It has been so frustrating and tiring; being the one doing all the work in our relationship. After 30+ years, I do not see a solution. My husband feels that everything is up to me because he works and I do not. It’s my job to do everything because he sees himself as being the bread winner and nothing more.

    It started with his lack of good parenting and stepping aside and then continues with everything you can imagine. I have to hold his hand through life. He asks me what to do, how to do it, etc., BUT gets po’d when he doesn’t like what I say and tells me I am bossing him. I can’t win. On top of it all, he drinks 7 nights a week and gets out there. I have told him so many times that this is hurting our relationship and he looks at me like I am imagining things. He then says things like, “Why wouldn’t you want me to be happy?..I enjoy are making a big deal out of nothing”. He also says he is not quitting something he enjoys and that I need to back off. This is when he has strength to join in the conversation.

    Otherwise, he knows nothing..has nothing to offer..doesn’t understand things..and excuses himself from life’s problems. It’s unbelievable how he plays dumb on so many topics. I have even told him I would leave if I could and he says I would never do that because I have nowhere to go. He is right. This may be a Christ-centered site, but I have to wonder where Christ is right now. I have prayed, cried, and begged The Lord to help me. Nothing changes. My husband is a stubborn man on one hand, and a baby who needs me to guide him through life on the other. He has ruined our relationship, our sex life, and our adult children are confused about life.

    To me, he was not involved as a father and they saw me as the mean one trying to discipline and guide…something they didn’t like as teens, so they started to go with the flow and now have all sorts of strange beliefs about life. I don’t even know if they believe in God anymore, although I did my very best to bring them up with church and private school teachings. Their father would join us on Sundays, but have very little to say about morals and how to live life. He gave our children the feeling that he just went along to make mom happy and not as a participant.

    I am just at a point where I am so frustrated with how this turned out and there is nowhere to really turn. I only have dreams of what I would have done differently, and I pray that God will guide our adult children.

  7. I got married 8 months back to my long distance boyfriend of 2 years. I knew before the wedding too that he was emotionally unavailable but every time we would meet, we would go on dates and have a really good time. Also, he spoke a lot about his emotions when we confessed about our feelings to each other which was an exception for him. Fast forward 2 years, I am married and relocated to a country that is very far from my home country and he is unavailable emotionally and there is no kind of physical or emotional bonding between us.

    I have to literally teach him how to cuddle, but when we do, it feels like I am just forcing him to do so. I have raised the issue of lack of intimacy many times but he says that I should stop finding problems and focus on my health rather than dwelling on those thoughts. For me, it is very important that he is open and communicative. He also seems disinterested in going out on dates and having meaningful conversations with me.

    As much as I want to keep trying, a part of me tells me that he would never change and however hard it might be, but it might be in my best interest to separate from him as things might further worsen once we have kids together. But separation is a very difficult decision as it comes with a lot of stigma in my home country. I am willing to do anything to get his attention and love but nothing seems to be working out :(

  8. I need some advice. I am a 64 year old married woman. I have been married to my husband for 42 years. My Husband barely talks to me; today is valentines day and he did not get out of bed till 6:15 pm. He has not said Happy Valentines Day or what’s for dinner. I can not remember that last time he said I love you. But I can remember him saying that he wasn’t in love with me anymore and that he was only staying because of our past together. When I question him about what he meant by that statement he says he doesn’t remember saying that.

    HOW CAN HE NOT REMEMBER saying that. It is now 8:30 pm and we have not spent more than 20 minutes together. I feel so lonely, I have tried talking to him about how I feel many times and it is like talking to a brick wall. He says he will try to do better but that just lasts 2 or 3 days and its back to the same old thing. He pays more attention to the dogs than he does me. I would leave but financially I cannot do that. I do puzzles, make afghans and sew to keep busy, but I NEED human interaction please advise me how to get my husband to understand how I feel.

    1. I have never responded to anything like this before but I am 46 and have been with my husband since I was 16 and married at 20. We have 29 years together and 25 years married. I am going through the same thing. I am lost also. We are back in church as of a year now and our children are 25 and 21 and are praying for us. We are in a Regeneration group and therapy. My heart goes out to you! I am feeling your pain. Is he willing or both of you willing to go to church and or therapy?

    2. Hi, Linda. I am 71 and live a similar life as you. As I face the same apathy and ungrateful coldness in my spouse, I have been told by counselors to learn the practice of “self-care”. So I am making changes. I cannot make a happy marriage by myself, but I CAN live a happy life, even in emotional aloneness. Tho this is a somewhat tenuous task (finding a perspective that frees me from sorrow, emptiness or judgment), yet this is what I am moving toward.

      There is no point and no reward in blaming my spouse—that just keeps me in a paralyzed place. If he doesn’t want to love me, I think I can handle it, knowing that there are many people who DO want to love me! 😃. One counselor used Scripture to show me that “the man who ‘hates’ his wife, actually hates himself”… I can buy that; yet its up to me if I receive this into my own life.

      Yes, this puts a burden on me to keep my goals pure (no inappropriate relationships), but lets acknowledge that I am not the first person to live in an empty marriage, nor will I be the last. Others have lived radically fruitful, joyful, useful lives against the backdrop of disinterested spouses—so I know it can be done. Regarding Christ, He may or may not heal my marriage, but most surely He will heal me and give me His Joy. I’ll take that any day! There is always a “way of escape”—-find yours.♥️

      1. Thank you Bev, for sharing your heart here. I’m sure it will touch and inspire a lot of spouses who find themselves in the same place. I pray your husband wakes up someday and recognizes the gem God gave him in you. But you are right; you can’t make him wake up. And his deficiency in this area does not mean you are at fault or unlovable. He should know better than marrying you and treating you this way. I’m so glad you are taking hold of God all the stronger and are finding a healthy way of dealing with all of this. I’m proud of you, and love you as my sister in Christ! It’s a privilege! May God bless you all the more as you lean into Him!

    3. Consideration #1. Why is he in bed until 6:30pm… was he up all night watching TV, other? If no, maybe he is depressed or has another health issue. Lots of men do not do great with identity once retired. If he has a guy friend, can he talk to him? Maybe you should suggest he consider a physical. Maybe you can model that behavior by making one for yourself if you are due?

      Consideration #2. If there are no clear reasons, go out and do something for yourself, leave him a cryptic note and do not be back to make dinner and do not apologize for going. Coffee shop, shop browsing, library. It does not matter, just let him know that you are taking care of your needs. Maybe you will shock him into some awareness.

  9. Hi, I’ve been in a relationship that is going nowhere for 10 plus years. My husband has spent most of that time seeking out something more casual with no responsibilities much to my surprise. I feel lost and there’s no one to talk to and he doesn’t want help. He plays the whole anger, rage, cry, gaslight scenario that I’m just nagging or trying to hurt him by discussing his issues.

    I really set out to have the happily after and I’m sadly disappointed. He actually told me he doesn’t want to be an adult. what the heck! He was on an antidepressant for about a month and it was helping with his mood swings, but he refused to seek more. Also we just spent those years putting together a place of our own. I rebuilt his credit to the detriment of mine.

    I’ve done everything I can think to do and it’s so frustrating. I have noticed he has almost all the symptoms described above and so do I. So should I just give up and call it a loss as he apparently doesn’t even respect me enough to be faithfull. I just could scream and he never is dependable; when I need help it’s always on me. He refuses all help. I am currently working on myself as I just don’t know what else to do. I don’t need a child who I have to take care of. I trusted him above all others to protect my heart and he shattered it. I was already slow to trust but this one takes the cake as I intended to never marry because of past infidelities.

    Should I just move on and give up? He’s become really hard to love and I’m struggling with my own self love right now as a result. I’m tired of feeling like this is my fault. I have made many changes in my life to fit into his and this final blow of a woman sending me her picture having dinner and her calling while I was taking my training for a new career so we could be together really feels like the last straw. Please help me understand if I’m seeking something he will never be able to give me?

  10. Thank you for this article. As I sit here at the computer on the evening of my 10 year anniversary I wonder where our relationship will go next. We have been on a roller coaster of a relationship that has been growing apart for the last 5 years. This is a second marriage for both of us. Tonight we had an argument so here goes another anniversary moment down the drain. Just like when he got drunk and passed out on our 5-year anniversary trip.

    Interesting how you can love someone but not like them. I feel more like his Mom than his wife. I ask for interaction, I ask him not to be on his phone while we have dinner. Talk about various things. He prefers to work, eat dinner in silence, have several drinks every nite, go to bed early – sometimes at 8:30 without even saying goodnight. I wonder if I can do this for another 20 years? We’ve done therapy before but it didn’t help. I know people don’t change but don’t we try to adjust to adapt to each other. To enjoy differences and figure out how to focus on the good things and enjoy each other? I feel like a housekeeper, travel agent, social planner, financial planner, with someone that loves when I do all these things but seems to expect it.

    I would label my marriage transactional, scheduled, and disconnected. There are times I’ve been upset about something and it’s interesting how he has no empathy. He actually walks away and goes and watches TV. He doesn’t ask me what’s wrong, or if he can help. He lacks the ability to show empathy. He uses the word ‘I’ a lot. I use the word ‘we’. This is something the counselor we went to asked us to focus on. We have come to the point we cannot even watch the news together. A story will be on and his question to me is, ‘Do you understand that?’. When it comes to politics and economics he’s always asking me that question. Why doesn’t he ask me ‘What do you think of that story?’ He doesn’t think I’m upset enough about the COVID situation, that I won’t voice my opinions. I tell him it’s because your response to me is ‘Don’t you understand what is going on?’. Of course, I do but I’m not going to dwell on what could of or should have happened. I’m trying to ensure our children are staying current on information, that they are safe. I have one daughter who’s pregnant and another who works at a large hospital.

    I’m working to ensure my parents are safe who are in their 80’s. I’m working to keep us all connected. I’m making masks and getting them to people that need/want them. He sits around and drinks and watches TV and complains about things then goes to bed and starts the same routine over every day. I don’t want to be divorced again but when your partner won’t even discuss your relationship, meet you part way, I don’t know what to do….Thanks for letting me share this, I’m considering ordering your book but sometimes I think it is too late for us.

  11. Good article, however, not sure how me working on myself is going to help our marriage. I’ve sat back and waited over 25 years for him to change (we’ve been married 30, so it’s never really been great). I don’t consider myself a nag or demanding. We never go anywhere together and on the odd occasion we do it’s because it’s something he wants to do. If I suggest anything he’s “busy.”

    I’ve sat here, watching him drink night after night, for over 20 years. He’s happy enough; in his world all is good. We have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, etc. Everything is at a ‘practical’ level with him; as long as these things are OK we have no problems. But I’m lonely. I want company, somebody to share things with (he is so emotionally immature he can’t relate to anyone else’s perspective, mine, his children, his family).

    I’ve given up now. I want out, but I feel scared. What if there isn’t anything better for me; what if being on my own is worse than living with him? Has anyone taken this leap of faith and come out the other side? I don’t want to work on our marriage anymore. I don’t want to look at my communication style and pussy foot around him to make sure I’m not “poking” him. Why do I have to adapt my style when he sits there like he’s perfect and none of our issues are his fault. If I had a pound for every time he said to me “we’d be OK if you weren’t so miserable” I’d be a very wealthy woman. That’s right, it’s my hormones that cause all our issues; if I was just happy everything would be OK arghhhhh.

    So yeah, great article; it’s nice to know I’m in good company, but working on me, isn’t going to change him, so we still have a problem. If anyone out there has any words of hope they can share with me then please do, because right now, I’ve hit rock bottom :(

    1. Sorry to hear this, don’t give up on him. You need some FEMALE friends to do things with. Not bar hopping. Asking for trouble doing that. Hormones? Hate to tell you this, you probably are in your mid 50’s and probably menopausal; consider HRT. Talk to your OBGYN about this. (My wife is an OBGYN nurse and is on HRT)

      1. Bob, I don’t think Jo was saying that her hormones were actually causing the problem. She was using sarcasm to illustrate her husband’s attitude. It’s him that’s blaming her hormones.

    2. Ditto, ditto and ditto. Drinking, doing crosswords all day every day. A robot, or as someone once said he’s a “nobot.” Most accurate. Why do they pick us?? I’m certain it’s because we are normal, kind and outgoing humans. What to do about it without money. Committing suicide is one of my constant thoughts. When I tell him that I feel worthless, dead etc, he just stands there like a wall. Never says let’s go to doctors, occasionally says tell me what I can do. Duh!! Then reverts to who he is.

      Nothing changes. Never get birthday, anniversary or Christmas. Every bloody day is Groundhog day; every day is the same as the one before. Just wants a cook, cleaner and sex. Apparently that’s what I’m for. Mine is 71 years old and unless I can win the lottery then he has to die or I do. Do you feel like a greyhound waiting to race away? I do. But always in the trap.

  12. The question is how many men would tolerate the same behavior from their wives and seek guidance on how to accept an emotionally unavailable wife? NONE.

    1. There may not be any that you know of, but we get a LOT of correspondence from husbands that refutes that claim. They are at their wits end to get their wives to connect with them emotionally. Sad, but true whenever it happens–whether it’s the husband or the wife.

  13. My husband has always put his friends, neighbors, and everyone ahead of me. I ask for one night out a month and he can’t manage that. He will spend hours worrying over how to please and impress the neighbors with what he will cook for them at an outing and then spend a week planning the meal, two days to cook it, but he can’t take the time to plan one night out a month with me. It’s been almost a year now since he’s taken me out.

    He had cancer last year and found his friends weren’t there for him; I was. Now that he’s past that, had the surgery, there have been no changes in how he treats me. We went and got guns, me thinking well perhaps he will take me out to teach me how to shoot, never did. I give up.

    After the cancer I’ve changed; I realized he doesn’t even like me. This relationship is just convenient. I want someone who wants to make me smile, someone to take me out and worry about my happiness. I’m done after 34 years. I’d rather be alone then feel like this any longer. I’m sad about it. I really love him but he will never changes, puts everyone comes before me. I’m the fixer, but I’m done trying to fix this broken marriage.

    1. I am so sorry about this. Usually it is the woman who puts everyone ahead of the man. That is a hard one. For a lack of terms, is he a control freak? My wife is; she worries about everybody, tells everybody how to solve their problems, tries to please everybody; when we invite people over, we eat at a time that pleases everybody. We can go on a date and she will be saying that the grandkids would like it here, or we can watch GK’s while our kids come here, not thinking about our date. Plus I have to almost make her get ready to go on a date. So I feel a little what you are going through. What to do? Share the cooking & planning with him. Show some interest in it. Make a date to go shopping to get the food. Try to make it fun. Tell him that you need a couple of things for the deck or patio next time company comes over; go shopping together, you drive, and then stop by restaurant to eat. This may eventually lead to a better relationship.

  14. The real problem is that men have always ruled and made the rules in humanity. One of those rules are men don’t cry, hide their feelings, look down on others who express feelings, always seek to be on top and the best. All human beings experience emotion….that fact is neither good or bad…it just IS. If you are in an intimate relationship, intimacy is far more than just sex. When only one partner believes intimacy means sex, then you do not have a healthy relationship.

    There should be nothing wrong with showing empathy and compassion when your spouse is hurting; there should be nothing wrong with encouraging and uplift your spouse when they are down. No one person can give you everything…not even your spouse; but you are to give your spouse 100% and you give 100% of what is with in your genuine ability.

    So if I dont use gender, you might be a little more objective with giving out your advice. Men who claim to give advice always lean to what is comfortable for the man, and encourage the wife to be quiet, be respectful, love and submit to your husband, turn to Christ (about the ONLY good advice) give him space, accept him the way he is…etc. If this is the way men are, why not encourage men to recognize the social conditioning you men force on each other, and then require wives to behave in the same destructive ways, instead of teaching them to practice behaviors that may alleviate stress and enrich relationships with not only the wife, but children, extended family, and future relationships?

    No one is asking for a man to sit and try on lipstick, watch the soaps (which I hate) try on panty hose? If your own brother had a friend that died, would you tell him to man-up, stop acting like a sissy…people die? Until gender difference and character differences are equally respected; until both genders realize we need each other; The writer of sites like this, and counseling in general will never work. Ultimately men are men and woman.

  15. I wish these women who write these articles stop demonizing and try to cypher mens emotions.

    1. It’s either men are dogs, puppies, egomaniacs, sex crazed, irresponsible, control freaks, nonchalant idiots, emotionally unavailable robots and so on in this article. This article, among countless others, is the reason why alot of men gave up on establishing a connection between the genders. Because it really isn’t about building the relationship, it’s about polishing massive egos with acknowledging the obvious on the women’s side, effectively an echo chamber, despite HUGE and effective cultural campaigns that already do that ad nauseum. Skip this one fellas, we are the villains in this story.