Are 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 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.
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:
• HOW TO RELATE TO AN EMOTIONALLY DISTANT MAN
• WHY DOESN’T MY HUSBAND ADDRESS PROBLEMS DIRECTLY
And then lastly, Dr Greg Smalley gives the following insight:
• FIGHT FOR YOUR MARRIAGE WHEN YOUR SPOUSE IS EMOTIONALLY DISTANT
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Filed under: Communication and Conflict
658 responses to “The Emotionally Distant Husband”
Thank you so much is all I can say! Truly appreciate this.
In my situation it’s actually my wife that is doing this to me.
Literally one of the best articles on marriage I’ve ever read. Thank you.
Thank you so much. Thanks for letting us know that it is helpful. God bless!
What if my happiness means to leave him?
What do you think Jesus would have you do? Don’t impose the “He wants me to be happy” theme on it, because that isn’t biblical. But what do you think He would have you do?
So, you don’t think Jesus wants me to be happy? You think he wants me to stay in a marriage that I have been in for 38 years and my husband has been so distant that we no longer share a bedroom? Since you don’t want me to take the theme that Jesus wants me to be happy, then I guess he must want me to be miserable and stay in a loveless marriage.
We starting counseling in 2018. He quit going all together and I am still going. He won’t do anything that could possibly resurrect this marriage. He is completely fine with us not communicating and not sharing a bed anymore.
TK, I’m truly sorry for what you are experiencing in your marriage. This has got to be so disheartening–to keep trying and trying and you don’t see effort on your husband’s part to draw closer together, as well. My heart goes out to you on this. And I’m not just saying that; I truly mean it.
TK, I can’t tell you what to do in your circumstances (or in any circumstances). But you asked me the question, “What if my happiness means to leave him?” I have to say that whenever someone talks about “my happiness” being a primary reason for leaving a marriage, I see red flags waving everywhere. It’s a common and a growing theme that we continually hear in today’s world to justify divorcing a spouse. But I just don’t see that backed up scripturally.
It’s not that God never wants us to be happy. And it’s not that Jesus doesn’t care. Of course, He does; He’s our gracious, Heavenly Father; and He loves us. But our happiness is not His primary concern. He is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness–our character than our comfort, and His Kingdom work to be accomplished than our personal happiness. You see this presented throughout the Bible.
It’s not that Jesus wants us to be miserable–again, of course He does not. But there is a bigger picture involved here. There are many, many people talked about in the Bible that had it pretty bad. But God worked in and through their lives to bring good–eternal good. And there are many, many people in today’s world that are going through very, very difficult circumstances. But again, God is working “all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
All I’m trying to say here is to seek God’s heart in this. Line your actions up with what you’re/we’re told in the Bible. God wants to work in and through each one of us and He does it in many different ways and in many different circumstances. Look past your own personal “happiness” and ask the question, “What would Jesus do in this situation? What would He have me do in this situation?” If you do that, I have no doubt that God will use you and bless you and so many others, in ways that you never could have imagined otherwise.
I want you to know that I’ve been praying for you, TK. I pray that God gives you hope, and strength, and a peace that passes all understanding. May you be blessed as you lean into Him!
Thanks for your kind words. I believe that you are being sincere. I’ve been working on concentrating on myself and not thinking about the marriage anymore. I do things that make me happy – like dancing, traveling, crafting, spending time with my friends. He can come along if he wants to, but usually he doesn’t want to.
I’ve done all that I can to get him to be a part of the marriage. Now it is up to him to decide if this marriage is worth it to him.
If I decide to continue to stay married to him, we will probably live separately. He wants to retire to the country and I will stay with my son. Seems like a pretty good arrangement.
Oh TK, my heart cries with yours. I pray your husband wakes up and sees that you want to partner with him in this marriage, but he has to be more connected to you and act more loving–like a partner is supposed to do.
I’m proud of you for your decisions. You’re trying to make the best out of a very difficult situation. As far as retirement decisions and where to live when it comes up, keep praying about it, asking God for wisdom. And then when it does happen you will be better prepared for what YOU are to do in this situation. But don’t rule out that God can work miracles. We see this happen quite a bit. Be open to whatever God can and will do. Prayerfully, your husband will cooperate. If not, you will need additional wisdom. Please remember: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)
Wow Tk, this is crazy. This is exactly what I am currently experiencing with my husband of 3 years. I tried so hard to understanding what is truly happening in my marriage- adhd, bad habits and attitudes, insecurities, immaturity- until I saw this article. Reading this article and your interactions with Cindy brought so much understanding of what is happening to me too.
I am in the prayerful and decision-making stage now. I keep praying Christ for counsel now that the allowed me to have clear understanding of what is happening. It is a tough spiritual warfare to overcome. We have a son too-2-year-old boy. It was never my dream to break his home. But right now, it almost feels like fight of flee dilemma: do I fight for this marriage until Christ opens my husbands’ eyes, or do I flee to protect my child and myself from this ungiving tumultuous emotional/spiritual draining toxic relationship. I also feel for my husband as I know he must really feel deeply encaged by his situation and cannot help himself but self-destruct. He grew up in a family where laissez-faire, detachments has been the thing. His mother accepted it her whole life, while his dad is absolutely absent even though he is present in person. He received bad counsel from his family, which makes matter worst.
It is all around a very painful situation. He is not a Christ follower, but I am one, which reduces the insightful counselling we can receive. We are currently physically separated and coparenting… I am really waiting on the lord to show me the way. But so far, leaving him feels like the only way he could grow for himself; even though it would be too late for us as a family.
Please post an update of your situation is you can. It may help to hear how God worked on your case.
I felt a little confused by one section in this article, this part: “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.”
This confused me a little, because it seems to be saying first that it’s not just the distant husband who is to blame, but then doesn’t describe what the wife is doing that shares the blame.
I’m in this situation described in the article with a distant husband, and I have learned that I do need to focus on the ways I can become more healthy as a person no matter what he does. But I can’t tell you how much further pain I have felt being told over and over again by well meaning people that we are both to blame for our lack of emotional intimacy. Isn’t a wife focusing on building up other areas of her life, quite different than being partially to blame for the distance in the relationship?
Also I would like to say that I am asking this above question, precisely because of how accurate and how helpful this article is overall! I have struggled to find marriage help that accurately describes my situation without just telling me I’ll probably need to walk away. So I wanted to ask for clarification on this point. I am so hurt and exhausted from being told that the distance between us is my fault too, when all I want is for us to be close to each other’s hearts.
I would love to read the response to your question. It is a great one which I relate to as well.
I need help in my marriage.
It seems the advice for solution is: Don’t complain, work on own happiness, worship God and Jesus, avoid pushing husband to get rid of (over 30 years ago) anniversary, birthday, etc. cards from his ex who divorced him after she found someone else – even though he throws away my cards within a month. He never compliments or supports me but is always ready to criticize.
I am eager to learn and help myself through prayer. This just may be a challenge to be strong. Sorry if it sounds like complaining but I no longer have any close friends as many died or moved away.
Hello to you all. I am new to all of this healthy emotional outlet of posting reply/original comments in support of each other as we all identify with on-going feelings of betrayal/abandonment/rejection/disillusionment/hopelessness/gnawing sense of loss/being utterly lost and at times “rattled” and confused/conflicted— the list goes on… and on… and yes, on. I too am in a longstanding albeit heartless marriage. If my first-ever posted comment, presently being reviewed for appropriateness, appears with the other comments, please look at what I typed on May 15, 2023. I was replying to “Anne of the United States” who I think posted an eerily similar-to-my-situation description of all the burdens she had been given to bear back in 2020 or 2021. (I hadn’t yet discovered the “Newer Comments” button yet but of course, regardless of date posted, every comment that I have read thus far carries merit). Have you guessed yet? Husband or Wife? Which one could they be with these deep-seated sentiments? I am someone’s wife for 41 years. I separated from my husband for 2 years, during which time, I sought out hours of good, useful, practical one-on-one therapy paired with extensive CBT. When I felt that I done the necessary work, all the while holding down my position, successfully nailing down a barely manageable mortgage on my own home, furnishing it, continuing to co-parent our son (my daughter stopped speaking to me then, never visited me, ignored my non-invasive politely occasional phone calls, and now continues to have a rather artificial relationship with my husband to the exclusion of myself). I made amends where possible with my husband, became totally humble, informed him of the psychological/emotional/relationship work I had done with a therapist’s valuable advice to sanction my self-improvements, and returned to our marital home 2 years after I had left. My husband reassured me, when I asked, that he, too “had done the work”, had sought out/participated in therapy, recognized his mistakes, had totally changed and I would be returning to the new-and-improved version of himself. That was about 15 years ago now. News Flash… It had taken 15 years to get up my nerve to lead him anywhere near the old scars that we both bear to the present. I calmly asked him in a polite, conversational, respectful/non-patronizing tone, “Did you go for therapy while we were separated?” He calmly answered in the negative. Furthermore, my husband added, “No, I didn’t need to go for therapy. There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to change myself. I’m not to blame for anything nor have I ever been. Bottom line: I had just found out through a clear verbal admission that my “new/improved” husband had lied to me about something very important 15 years ago. That means that this man who has been consistently socially absent, friendless, emotionally neglectful, cold emotionally-guarded/unable to share or display genuine affection/strictly functional non-conversational/joyless/inability to have fun,— Yes, that guy! I had just found out that my husband had been carrying around strapped to his back and shoulders guilt-laden, heavier-than-heavy burden of his own making. His resultant isolation became my isolation. His self-loathing became my self-loathing. His relentless loneliness became my own. And so, here we all are together in the same huge virtual arena sharing our sadness, our frustration, our at times (reading some older comments) getting uncomfortably close to crossing that neon yellow line into criticism territory. How about this for an idea that we might just all agree on (or most of us, at least)? Would it be possible to make a collective decision to:
– Be grateful that we can actually do this type of thing whenever it’s safe for us to do so,
– Be appreciative of each other simply because, after all, we did search other out in order
to vent/exchange feelings/open our souls to each other hoping for validation/support,
– Be mindful with the clear intent to respect that we are all hurting (potentially, quite
possibly, probably no doubt damaged as a result to a lesser/greater degree.
I don’t know any of you personally. However, I really feel like I’m “getting to know you” to quote a famous musical lyric. I’m so glad that you’re here for each other and for me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are all in this arena together for better or for worse. I’m really grateful that I have found you here. I’m totally appreciative of all that you have to say (type). My intent is to continue being mindful and all-in grateful in knowing with utmost certainty and without a doubt’s shadow that I have the following attributes:
– I have intrinsic value, always have had, will always have.
– I am a sincere Christian whose aim it is to never feel ill-will to anyone,
relative/spouse/friend/neighbour/colleague (I’m Canadian, okay?!)
– I am extremely creative (and humble).
– I am extremely talented in a number of valued, important, impactful, healthy ways. (and
oh yes, acchem, acchem, humble).
– I continue to do my very best and constantly remind myself through prayer and self-silent
talk/continue my daily faith practice of candidly examining my conscience (much like
some of us were formally taught when we were children/remember to do something good
for somebody (whether I know them personally or not) as often as is practical.
– I am generous of spirt, I am kind-hearted, I am a good listener, I am of honourable
character, I am polite, I promote goodness as I step the path that has become my life.
– And yes, I am a survivor– of lots of atrocities. And so are you. That’s why we’re here and
that’s precisely at the root of why we absolutely need each. We need the helpful, soul-
rejuvenating. effective pick-me-up available to share anytime, every time, anywhere,
everywhere… We’re here and we are listening. Now, your turn. Thank you for
listening/reading. P.S. Thank you to “Anne of the United States” back in 2020 or 2021!
Men shut down in a relationship where their needs are either not understood or go unmet for extended periods of time as they are not on the women’s priority list.
Women would do well to go backwards and take responsibility/find out why he is so resentful/upset/unwilling to connect with you emotionally.
Sex is emotional for men as well, despite stereotypical beliefs. A “hurt” man will provide you the same relationship he has been provided. A hurting one.
l have taken considerable time to read, digest, and make notes pertaining to your article re. emotionally distant spouses and the measures which can be taken to approach mutual resolution of an on-going dynamic within marriage. My husband and I have been married for 41 years. (I left the marital home and our 2 children who opted to stay here, the separation lasted for 2 full years)
Before the divorce documents were signed and filed with the family court, I made one last ditch effort and phoned my husband to inquire if he wanted to be a divorced parent. He replied in the negative. I replied that I felt the same. He promised that he had done the work, had sought out therapy (talk, CBT), he reassured me that he had changed. I had actually actively sought out therapy (one-on-one talk, extensive CBT) and I continue to do the work necessary by invoking my learned coping skills. I returned to the marital home soon after that last ditch phone call fully realizing that our 2 adolescent children would be grieving the loss of their parents’ relationship and my absence from the home. I was working full-time as an elementary school teacher at the time– I had purchased a house and my son regularly visited me for weekend sleep-over visits. I sold the house, put my furniture in storage and went back to being the cook/cleaning lady/organizer of all activities, fulfilling my husband’s every need (some of which was later categorized for me by my on-going therapist as “Spineless Sadism”, “Emotional Neglect” perpetuated by a “Vulnerable Narcissist”. I was unfamiliar with this new terminology so I (with her help) started researching on applicable refereed websites. Very soon after I had returned to our marital home, I discovered that my husband had not changed. Recently, I got up my nerve and asked him if he had indeed sought therapy and done the work during our 2 years’ separation. He admitted that he had not, (that meant that he had carried that untruth for approximately 18 years) He could not bring himself to use the words “I lied to you.” and admitted to me that he figured that he had changed during my absence. Yikes. I had worked so hard to earn my place/role back in our home and to make self-improvements/pursue a balanced life/set firm boundaries/develop coping skills/be an effective listener/lower expectations/be a healthy role model for our children/exercise the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The emotional neglect has continued to affect significant harm to my “self”, I constantly doubt myself, I put myself last (again like before) and my husband is still excluding me from holidays with our children, remains aloof, shows no signs of valuing me, and demonstrates/admitted to having a lack of empathy throughout his life. He has had no friends since I have know him. He is highly esteemed in his workplace but socializes with none of his colleagues. I (as do our children) recognize him as a workaholic with no outside interests. He only speaks to me when a task needs to be done, to update me on weather reports, and keeps me informed re. our dog’s behaviours. He has never engendered (nor does he now) a healthy relationship between our 2 children and myself. His relationship with them remains exclusionary such that I again feel like the abusive parent which I have never been– if anything, I continue to prioritize their physical/emotional/financial needs because my faith has taught me that the moral imperative is to do so and to never give in to feelings of hopelessness. I am glad to have found your enlightening article– all of the emotions/feelings/disappointments that I have experienced throughout my marriage have been entirely validated in what I read. My Problem = I would like to forward the article link to my husband to hopefully, spark a healthy, mutually respectful and satisfying conversation. My husband and I were both raised as Christians in faith-centred homes. We remain Christ-centred but only as separate individuals which is by definition, a troubling paradox. My husband will refuse to read this great article on emotional distancing without knowing the credentials of its author(s). My husband is a very successful judge/lawyer and only respects others whom he considers as intellectually gifted as he considers himself to be. (He only values the opinion of others who he deems to be his equal.) Would it be possible to know which credentials the author(s) have attained? I understand that this may seem like an unreasonable/petty/ridiculous request but having the answer will determine the outcome re. the chance to engage in a candid and informed Christian conversation with my husband to address our longstanding issues. Thank you sincerely for listening to my concerns. Very happy and somewhat relieved to have discovered that your organization exists. Such sage, thorough advice is indeed appreciated. It has helped to lighten my soul. I continue to pray about all of this.