Emotional Distance in Marriage

Emotional Neglect in Marriage

Emotional distance in marriage also called emotional neglect in marriage is a painful dynamic. It's a lack of emotional support, or feeling emotional intimacy with their partner. Others feel disconnected and in response, they emotionally disconnect themselves and give their partner the silent treatment. It has been given the label "emotional anorexia" because it's as basic as food that someone refuses to eat.

Therapists describe severe emotional distance as "emotional abuse," believing that in a healthy relationship it isn't enough to simply be parents to your children. 

Emotional Neglect in Childhood

When you feel lonely in a long term relationship, it taps into feelings of childhood emotional neglect and a previous history of an abusive relationship between the spouse and their parent. But it's not as simple as "finding the bad guy," in this case, the one who has been emotionally neglectful in the marriage may be mimicking their parent, or responding to those earlier wounds.

Because often when one partner is failing to notice the signs of emotional longing and desires to connect, say in date nights, they themselves become angry and withdraw, and this begins a "demon dance" of a downward spiral. Feelings connected to this issue can feel like it started with your spouse, but it might instead be interactional.

Camilla and Paul

Camilla partially blames herself. The emotional distance in marriage was just too upsetting to her, she explains. "I'm too clingy," she says, "I should leave him alone more like he asks, but I just can't. I'm lonely. And I can't stand feeling like we are two strangers living under the same roof."

Her husband, Paul agrees.  "I tell her:  'Just leave me alone, and I'll come to you when I'm ready.' 

He adds:

"I can't stand it when she asks over and over 'Do you love me?' I say: 'We're married aren't we?'"

But he never comes to reassure Camilla of his love because he is never "ready," enough. We will never know for certain just how long Paul would need before he would reach out. Camilla never waits long enough for him to feel the urge to go to her.

Understanding Emotional Distance in Marriage

The difference between Camilla and Paul go back much earlier than their marriage. They are "attachment style" differences.  Attachment styles are "baked in the cake" very early in childhood. These differences impact how close is "too close" or how far is "too far," for each of them. Both feel these differences acutely. Attachment Styles are also unlikely to change. Differences in Attachment Styles are what marital researcher John Gottman calls a "Perpetual Problem."

But the good news is that the real issue isn't that Camilla needs more active attention and Paul needs more time alone. In emotionally distance or emotionally neglectful marriages, both spouses have very little empathy for the other person's needs. Or even an awareness that these needs aren't based on the quality of their relationship.

Early Marriage History

When asked about their early marriage, we learn that Paul used to love how attentive Camilla was. He called it "pampering" when they were dating. "She used to wait on me, like asking me if I wanted anything to drink...and the sex was great back then!"

"He appreciated me back then..." Camilla added woefully. "He noticed what I did for him, and I could tell he liked it. Now he says: "Leave me alone, will ya?" 

So What Happened?

Time.

And living together after their marriage.

Camilla's Contribution

Camilla noticed Paul "pulling back" after they moved in. What she didn't realize was that Paul was taking no more time for himself after the marriage, than he had while the couple was still dating. In fact, he was actually spending a lot less time alone than before.

But now, because they were living together, Camilla directly witnessed the times Paul wanted to spend doing his "alone time" hobbies. And she took it personally. It felt to her like he was emotionally neglecting his marriage and his wife.

Camilla knew Paul was a guy who often kept to himself. And knew about the many solitary hobbies he enjoyed. She just didn't know that after they got married, he would still want to do them. And she didn't realize that his doing them meant he would be spending more time away from her in order to do them.

What Camilla once found so attractive about Paul, his quiet independence, she now saw as a threat to her feelings of security.

Paul's Contribution

Paul no longer saw her attentiveness as a sign of love. He saw it as "invasive," when instead, he needed time to do the things he enjoyed. In his mind, he felt Camilla was being "needy." Paul was used to the bachelor lifestyle, and deep down he wondered if he had made a mistake in his decision to live with anybody.

Many men going through a Midlife Crisis will often feel pinned in or blamed.

Vicious Cycles

Hence, a cycle of increasing emotional distance in marriage began, and repeated over and over,  becoming emotional neglect in marriage.

The more Camilla attempted to engage Paul, during the moments when he "just needed to be by himself," the less he seemed to appreciate her attention and "pampering." The more irritated and withdrawn Paul became, the more effort Camilla put into "doing the things he liked" in order to capture his attention.

Then she got upset that he wasn't responding.

In response to her upset, Paul got more irritated and angry. And more distant and withdrawn. And the vicious cycle repeated.

After a while, Camilla stopped trying to get his attention, and began, instead, to complain and criticize him for being unresponsive to her. And for needing to spend so much time alone. In response, Paul withdrew. And they spent less and less time together. And the time they did spend together, was filled with a lot of tension and resentment.

The Only Two Problems in Marriage

...there are only two problems in marriage: Not getting what you want, and getting what you want..."

Paul chose Camilla because he wanted a companion, someone to "pull him out of his shell." He loved the fact that Camilla was outgoing, talkative, and really loved to shower affection on him.

So what Paul wanted in a mate was exactly what he got. An emotionally engaged spouse.

Camilla wanted a thoughtful man, and not a flirt, like her first serious relationship. Someone who was mature, and even shy, because she would know that if he told he loved her, he truly did. She knew that Paul was shy, even withdrawn at times, and needed "alone time" from people, in order to refuel.

Just as she had hoped, Camilla got the mature, shy man, who was earnest in his affections toward her. And needed time alone. But instead of appreciating that difference, she described it as emotional neglect.

Couples are surprised to learn that there are only two problems in marriage.

Two Sides to Getting What You Want

And they are even more surprised to realize that just as every coin has two sides, so do the personality traits of every spouse. Often the very traits that draw you to your partner are the very same traits that now upset you.

The "outgoing" spouse you so appreciated, now becomes the spouse that "never stops talking." The "strong, silent type," becomes "taciturn and withdrawn." A spouse that contributes to emotional neglect in marriage.

Downward Spiraling and the Demon Dance

At first, Camilla "complained" about Paul's lack of attention, but this eventually became criticizing him. The more she criticized his distance and "coldness," the more withdrawn Paul became. Both of them engaged in a "demon dance" that neither one of them enjoyed.

And the sex suffered as well.

Emotional Distance in Marriage and Sex

The passionate sex they enjoyed, at first began to lose some of its passion.

Then frequency.

And then both.

Camilla was a "Partner Engager" and used sex to feel emotionally connected to her partner. During sex, she wanted to hear Paul tell her that he loved her. She didn't want to feel emotional distance in marriage and also feel this same emotional distance during sex. But she did.

The Trancer

Paul was a "Trancer" in sex. For him, sex was the opportunity to quietly connect with Camilla, and show his deepest feelings for her non-verbally. When she would talk to him, trying to get him to say the words that would reassure her, he would get distracted from his arousal. He couldn't both focus on his sensate arousal and think up things he could say to please Camilla. Sex, instead of being a time to connect on a non-verbal level, began to feel like another demand. Eventually, he began to lose his arousal altogether.

If they could have had sex in silence, he could have become "swept away" by the sensations and warm feelings he had toward his wife. Instead, sex became another exchange where he felt "put upon." And he grew more resentful.

The Partner Engager

Whenever they had sex in silence, though, like he preferred, Camilla felt "used." In her mind, if he couldn't express "how he really felt" in something as intimate as sex, there was something seriously wrong --with him, with her, or with the relationship. Maybe it meant that he didn't really love her. So instead of relaxing into the quiet, noticing his tender touches, she got upset. She called these encounters "wham bam sex." And she withdrew from them.

The next thing that happened is common in these types of marriages: when he'd lose his arousal, he began to lose his erections. Then, his anxiety about his ability to keep his erections grew. This intensified how often he would lose his erections. For Camilla, when he lost his erection, it was further "proof" to her that he didn't really care for her or find her attractive.

As the tensions grew, he withdrew, and the sex dropped off.

What to Do when Dealing with Emotional Distance or Emotional Neglect in Marriage

The first step, according to Dr. K, is to increase the fondness and admiration both feel for each other. Couples like Paul and Camilla are helped to remember a time when they each got what they wanted from the relationship. After a thorough assessment of the couple's relationship, patterns become clearer, as does the goals for treatment.

Changing the Demon Dance and the Emotional Distance in Marriage

As each partner began to recognize the "demon dance," they began to change their tune. It wasn't easy. Both of them had to make an effort, and it was difficult at first, not to take things personally.

Camilla's Challenge

Camilla said:

"I knew he loved me, deep down, but why didn't he show it? Therapy gave us space, and the chance to really talk honestly to each other. I came to see that his need for 'alone time' was just that: A need to be by himself. It didn't mean he didn't want to be with me. It wasn't him rejecting me. I get that now, but it was too painful for me to get that on my own."

The more she could reassure herself that Paul just needed time for himself--to refuel and not to "escape," the easier it was for Paul to move toward her.

Paul's Challenge

Paul said:

"I stopped feeling bad about needing to be by myself, which was part of what made me so angry. If Camilla married me this way, why did she suddenly want me to change? Once I got that Camilla really understood that my alone time wasn't anything personal to her, she backed off. And when I was able to spend time, every day, on the things I just liked to do, I had more to give back to her."

In this interaction, Camilla needed to be the "mover," the initiator of change.

But Paul also had to initiate action, as well.

For example, it was tough for Paul to actually say the words "I love you." These weren't words he'd often heard growing up. In his family, love was something you showed, not said. And he also learned to accept emotional distance in marriage as the norm by watching the way his own parents interacted. 

They loved each other, but they, too, were very formal in the way they interacted," he said.

Therapy Approach: Building the Fondness and Admiration System

The exercises we did to strengthen the Fondness and Admiration system really made a difference.

Paul began to express himself and to ask for what he needed without ambivalence or blame. While telling Camilla just how much she meant to him was hard for him initially, the impact on Camilla was dramatic. She began to feel more secure and loved. This made it easier for her to encourage him to take time alone when he needed it.

Instead of a "vicious circle," this couple learned to engage in a "virtuous circle" of love and affection.

Improved Sex Life

And the sex also improved when they learned that their differences were really a difference in their sexual styles. Paul learned to be very verbally affectionate at the start of sex before he became highly aroused. Camilla came to accept that as he got more aroused sexually, he stopped talking and tuned-in to his sensations. 

She learned to do more of that, herself. Their sex started out with verbally affectionate exchanges and ended up with both of them expressing their feelings physically, rather than using words.

As both got what they wanted, the tension decreased and his erections returned. As did their mutual passion.

Ready to recover from emotional distance in your marriage?

Want to re-engage and renew your love and passion.

Email or call us:

844 - 9 - COUPLES

844 - 926-8753 x 2 and speak to Daniel about setting up for first in-person or online appointment.

 

Want to learn more about Sexual Styles? Read The Myth of Sexual Chemistry.


About the Author Dr. K

Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her Intensive Couples Therapy practice over the winter in Miami, Fl and the rest of the year in Boston and on the edge of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. She is a Gottman Certified Couples Therapist, has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and has been a AASECT board-certified sex therapist from 1982-2017. She continues her work in sex therapy.

  • Gordon says:

    Thank you Nancy. Regarding the type of therapy you suggest: are there therapists who specialize in helping people recover systematically buried emotions? Since you mention that this is a very difficult task, I would guess that it would be best assisted by a specialist. If so, how would such professionals be categorized, so I know what to look for? I appreciate your perspective.

  • Gordon says:

    Nancy, I apologize for taking so long to write back. I’ve been mulling over your response, I think my emotions have been buried in concrete for so long (ca. 45 years) that it would be a monumental effort to recover them. Further, I am struggling to maintain equilibrium in a number of areas of my life.. Releasing emotions I’ve never learned to handle (that’s why I buried them to begin with) in this volatile situation would be like starting a chain reaction on a nuclear pile. I see the risk as extreme, too great to justify the potential return. Has anyone actually been able to become emotionally whole under these types of conditions, with a positive result? Thank you.

    • Nancy St. John Senior Couples Therapist Couples Therapy Inc. says:

      Gordon-

      I’m truly sorry to hear that life is so difficult for you.

      You say that you have decades of buried emotions and ask if one can become emotionally whole under these conditions.

      This is not a simple or easy task. For many of us it is more like a lifetime’s work and it’s never too late to get started.

      Couples counseling requires both partners to have a fair degree of emotional strength so as a starting point you might consider contacting a good individual therapist to support you as you nurture and develop your emotional capacity.

      Take care,
      Nancy

  • Dear Gordon,

    I’m really glad you asked about emotions because it’s a subject I love to talk to couples about.

    You say in your family growing up emotion was linked with pain and humiliation. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality for many of us.

    Children are smart. When expressing emotions leads to painful responses we quickly figure out how we can stay safe. We adapt to our environment and protect ourselves, mainly by shutting down or fighting back.

    This early emotional coping mechanism gets embedded in our character and is with us for life. We develop what is known as an attachment style.

    This is a big subject but what I want to say about attachment styles is there are four types: Secure, Avoidant, Ambivalent and Disorganised. Because attachment styles begin forming in early childhood through our experiences with our parents or primary caregivers we often have different attachment styles with each of our caregivers. So we may have a secure attachment style with one parent and an avoidant attachment style with the other. If we’re lucky we form a secure attachment style with at least one primary care giver: a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or teacher; someone who was safe and supported our development when we were young.

    As adults most of us function pretty well regardless of our attachment styles and it’s only after we form a committed intimate relationship the tensions and differences between partners begin to emerge that our primary attachment style starts to surface.

    For example, you may be an easy-going kind of guy but if your attachment style is avoidant when you get irritated with your wife your tendency would be to withdraw rather than to talk to her.

    This becomes a real problem for your wife because one minute she’s experiencing you as the man she married and the next she sees you changed. You’ve become distant and unfriendly. What your wife doesn’t know is that you are unable to stay in the present and that someone else has stepped in: the little boy who knows it’s better to back off and keep quiet when there’s tension.

    Now if your wife has her own insecure attachment style then she has a reaction to your reaction. She may get upset and keep trying to get you to talk to her or she may retreat as well and all of a sudden you’re both trying to keep your heads above water while swimming in very unsafe currents.

    So is there anything else you can do?

    It’s interesting that the founder of Imago Relationship Theory, Harville Hendrix, asserts that while we may believe ourselves to be separate and disconnected from others this is, in fact, just an illusion. Hendrix asserts that our true nature is connection.

    Looking at the etymology of the word emotion we see it originally meant to move out, to excite, to agitate.

    It might be helpful to imagine an emotional intimacy continuum. On one end is a high level of emotional intimacy. This is where you will find connection, openness, curiosity, energy, vulnerability, risk, excitement, passion, vitality and growth. At the other end is isolation, loneliness, separation, disconnection, lack of expression, withdrawal, fear and hurt.

    Most of us navigate along the middle of the continuum. We know how to respond to the ups and downs of life with what feels like an appropriate level of emotion so when a loved one feels sad or disappointed something within us is moved and we reach out with empathy and support. Other times when we or our partners want more space we are able to take care of our emotional needs on our own.

    As adults, expressing emotional intimacy is an active choice each one of us makes. The challenge for you is to decide if you would like you and your wife to be more moved, excited and agitated with each other.

    Gordon, I want you to know that this is a journey of self, and other, discovery that will bring vulnerability and connection, pain and pleasure, advancing and withdrawing, confusion and clarity, curiosity, growth, wisdom, and above all, a sense of aliveness into your lives.

    There’s a saying in couples therapy I love: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” If you’re ready to bring healing to painful and shutdown parts of your childhood then talk to your wife. Tell her you want more from life than you’ve been giving or getting and that you want her to come with you on this journey.

    Then contact an expert in couples therapy Inc and we will guide you through the process.

    Good luck Gordon!

    Nancy St. John
    Senior Couples Therapist
    Couples Therapy Inc.

  • Gordon says:

    I understand the concept of emotional intimacy and connection, but I can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s like to actually have it in your life. I don’t do emotion — I checked that at the door when I was a kid because it caused too much pain and humiliation. My wife doesn’t do much emotion either, because that’s how her family environment was. It’s just more natural for us to keep our emotional distance from each other. However, reading the comments on boards like this one makes me think it’s wrong to do that — rather, we should be doing all we can to reduce the emotional distance between us. Frankly, I don’t think that’s possible for every couple. Some of us just aren’t wired for emotional intimacy, and we have to accept that a roommate marriage is the best we can do. Am I the only person who sees it this way?

  • Stef T says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing your advice, i find it very useful. My husband and i have known each other for about 10 years, we married about 4 years ago. Our relationship is exactly like paul and camilia’s. We have discovered our differences in attachment styles and maybe culturally for a while now. Whenever the issues are raised, to me i would just close one eye, since i am able to see beyond these personality traits and habits. He seems on the surface that he can accept our differences and the way we do things differently. But There are many little things that we disagree on and so far i think i am the one compromising and making these adjustments since to him, he doesnt want to change. Recently i guess all these accumulated feelings from witnessing and discussing these differences have finally erupted as he told me that he thinks that holding hands is frivalous, it does not communicate to him meaning of love, he has always been feeling this way just that i have been ignoring and would still want to hold hands when we go out. and he doesnt understand why we need to do things together when we may not neccessarily like what the other person is doing eg. Accommpany him to beach places for holiday when i do not like the sun. I thought is just companiomship and i am willing to compromise but he thinks i am forcing myself to be unhappy by changing myself and doing things that i do not like. He also says he needs time and space and its not me but he need to sort out his thoughts. As a result, for the past few weeks i have left him to do things that he enjoys, without me, and i have been feeling very lonely. I break down sometimes and i wonder, what is in a relationship that we cannot do thing stogether? We do not have children and i have asked if we should consider, he said that adding children will be just adding more problems when there are already so much. I would really like to seek your perspective on how to handle this situation since it is slowly eating me alive with the distance between me and him now. Thanks.

    • Kathy McMahon, Psy.D. says:

      What an interesting and useful set of questions, Stef. Thanks. Very often, a couple has to adjust the distance and closeness, so that BOTH of them are happier. It doesn’t sound like you have found this balance yet. Also, your husband doesn’t sound very receptive to accepting your influence. It is a work in progress to be happily married, Stef. It takes two people to find common ground. No one should “win” on every issue. Nobody would like to play ball with a person like that, who always insists on getting their way. Perhaps at a time of crisis, spending two weeks alone is a good thing, but if it is two weeks every month, we might ask why did he get married?

      The issue of children is too huge to answer in a comment. I hope it was something you discussed before agreeing to marry. If not, you need to decide for yourself if having children is important to you, and process this with him. Already after 4 years, your relationship is showing signs of distress. Consider a professional consultation to take a careful look at what might be not working and how you both might work on it. Thanks for writing.
      Dr. K

  • Dave says:

    Weve been together 15 years. Our son is 8. Im an introvert. Shes an extrovert. We’ve always had an up/down push/pull relationship. Ive always been on the receiving end of scapegoating from my family. Last June, our anniversary was great. Im not sure what happened. She started drinking more, really too much, getting into hard liquor. She rekindled a friendship with an old pal that went through a bitter divorce too. My job duties are incredibly high stress, and they got a lot higher stress. I would get home from work and be so spent that I couldn’t do much anything, and just needed to go sit alone and try to recharge. She started the nagging, calling me lazy, absent father, always complaining about all she had to do. I felt resent, as I was always the one to handle all finances, home maintenance and renovation, and I did a lot of the “domestic” stuff too like shopping and cleaning. I coached my boys baseball team, was his scout leader. I just didnt get it, and felt like she just wanted me to do everything. She started going to people she knew, talking bad about me. She went to my mother and did it, and my mom went and told others. I am an avid hiker/camper so I spent a lot of weekends solo camping in the Adirondacks. She viewed this as me being selfish and a deadbeat dad and husband and continued to trash talk me to friends, coworkers, parents. Her parents have a history of meddling in our marriage, so this was something I feared. Last november, I fell and fractured my right heel severely and needed major surgery and was non weight bearing for 3 months. I got really depressed. The blame and guilt she directed towards me was incredible, for having to be my caregiver. Now I am recovering, and when I went back to work, the badgering ratcheted up. Ive worked myself to incredible pain and had to get my foot iced and up only for her to still be upset and tell me I dont do enough, yet she hasn’t cooked a meal in months. Im now handling trials and the stress load is even higher, and shes gone to her parents twice, taken my son with her. She has taken him two other times also, and despite me wanting her to bring him home, she wouldnt. Shes told me all these things her parents and friends have said about me. Threatened me with police, lawyers, just this week threatened me with 5150 and order of protection. Ive lived downstairs in exile in my own home for 3 weeks, I barely see my son. She tells me I am mentally unstable and not fit to be a father, but then harasses me by text all day at work demanding I take him to practice, pick him up, etc. I feel punchdrunk. All my friends are gone. I tried to cofide in them and they turned away. I have never felt so alone in all my 40 years. I wanted to fix this now I just want to escape. Im still in physical pain walking, I cant exactly move furniture and handle getting my own place, and if I leave she will let this house with my name on it fall apart and my credit will be damaged. She has two divorced parents with their own places and two places to stay but refuses despite taking my boy there for a week a couple times. I am completely at a loss and sending this note is like “pissing in the wind” because even if you respond, Im not sure how it will help anything. No therapy or medication is going to change the situation. I feel like I need to get out now, and if I do, Ill just have her taking sole custody, taking me to the cleaners and robbing me of 1/2 my earnings and more all so she can keep the house, keep my son and enjoy my earnings to pay for her comfortable situation. I am scared and alone.

    • Kathy McMahon, Psy.D. says:

      Hi Dave,

      It sounds like you are married to a monster who suddenly decided to rage at you.

      All of your complaints against her have merit, but she’s just a gal gone mad.

      And while sometimes we do see people who for a variety of reasons (alcohol being one of them) have a personality change, usually there is another side to the story. And that side is noticeably missing in your tale of sadness and woe. And perhaps it can give us some hint as to why you’re in this situation. Maybe not.

      But as you tell it, your wife has absolutely, positively no legitimate beef with you. None at all. And that would really worry me if you were my client. You don’t explain what it might have been like for her when you came home, night after night wanting to be alone and recharge, while she, the extrovert, wanted your love and affection. And that lack of empathy or insight might have contributed to her inexcusable behavior.

      If she’s an emotionally needy person, you didn’t talk about how the two of you made plans to discuss ways that both she can get her attachment needs met, and you could get your need for quietude met. And this might be a hint to what’s wrong. She may feel neglected by you, but confuses it with you neglecting your son, and chores, which you certainly sound like you don’t.

      Did you at any point “wave the white flag?” Did you tell her that it hurts you to see her so unhappy, and want to know what you can do, beyond “more chores”? She’s on “the war path,” and she sounds very skilled in smearing your name. You know she’s very unhappy with you. But do you really have a clue why? She claims that you are mentally unstable, but you describe her actions as just that. And yet, you worry about her “taking me to the cleaners and robbing me of 1/2 of my earnings.”

      We can all focus on how our partner has “done us wrong.” That’s the easy part. The harder part is to examine what has driven this woman who I assumed you at one point loved, only a year ago, to turn into this nagging, destructive, resentful woman who trashes you to others.

      If you focus on your loss being only the cash, you will have learned nothing. Nothing at all. And that’s the real sadness in your story. Because you WILL have a failed marriage, if you are describing things accurately. But more importantly, you will have failed yourself. Because while you are good at self-preservation (hiking, etc) in an isolated way, your capacity to negotiate the closeness-distance dance that all couples have to negotiate, has failed you.

      You sound depressed, and I would strongly suggest you spring for a psychotherapist to get some perspective. Yes it will cost you, but the price you are paying at this point is enormous…

      I wish you well and speedy healing of your pain.

      Dr. K

  • Lindsey says:

    Hello, this article hits a lot of points right on that my husband and I are dealing with. Married for 2.5yrs, the vicious cycle of demon dance has gone on for so long that anything can trigger it and we slip right into the pattern of arguing for hours. It feels hopeless yet we each love each other so deeply, we are trying our best to keep fighting for our marriage. He has 2 children from a previous marriage, and that is also added tension when we fight about his ex and his kids. And I am still waiting for him to be ready to have a child with me, although with each passing day, that window of opportunity is slowly fading away and I will need to accept that in this life, as long as I still want to share my life with this man.

    By now there’s been so much emotional distancing on both sides and hurt feelings, and it feels like no matter how or what I say, there is no way to move forward. He always reverts back to what happened, how hurt he is, how “unheard” he feels and he blows up and gets angry and starts breaking things. I try to calm him down and talk calmly but he is way too hurt to hear me. So, there seem to be no chance to experience anything new, no matter what I say or do different because in his head, he still is stuck in the past.

    I am recovering from surgery and have had to deal with his anger and coldness for having to take care of me, even though he says he would do anything I ask for help. When I shared with him, in a very calm way, that I miss feeling his warmth and caring, or even feel a nice warm hug from him for so long…. he erupts into anger and a fight went on for a couple hours, ending with a broken door. Later on, after all the raging and damage was done, he then texted me that he also “miss feeling close and it feels lost under a thickness of resentment from all the disconnects between us.”

    I’m desperate to get through to him… I am so tired of fighting him and constantly feeling stressed and burdened emotionally. We should be fighting together, not against each other. I know I cannot control nor prevent him from thinking or feeling negative and let all of his anger and resentment direct any current interactions. I’m at a loss how to be supportive, yet protect my own feelings and well-being.

    Over and over, my soul and heart bleeds… and yet, I keep reaching out to him and want nothing more than a calm, adult, sharing of our own feelings, thoughts, hurts, dreams. I love this man and cannot imagine my life without him (the good and all the bad that comes from having him in my life). I just don’t know how to connect with someone who is always angry and resentful, and get triggered by anything and everything. It’s a daily struggle and some days, I just want to give up so I can have peace in my life.

    • Kathy McMahon, Psy.D. says:

      One thing I want to point out to you, Lindsey, but also to all other readers:

      Your husband is not only unhappily married. He’s unhappy.

      He is unable to control his rage, and he destroys things in the process of feeling out of control.

      Tenderness causes him to erupt. This is not marital distress. This is a deep emotional dysregulation that needs attending to.

      If he were my client, I would inquire about his drinking of alcohol and use of drugs. Then I’d want to know if he’s clinically depressed. Then if those were “no” I would go on to find out about how he’s sleeping and what he eats in a day. Or if he’s ex-military or had been abused as a child (PTSD). This is not only an “unhappy husband.” This is a miserable man. And a divorced man, meaning he’s already had one “failed marriage.”

      I hope he gets help to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. None of what you are talking about is strictly marital unhappiness. It’s a man out of control who helps no one, especially the children who are a victim to his rage and destruction.

      If you contact our office, I’ll have my office manager send you some resources. Let us know where you live.

      Dr. K

  • Lorraine Bennett says:

    Hello my name is Daphne. I have been with my husband for 8 years but married for 4 years. Everything was good until he came back from being away with the military. He cheated on me and it hurt me very deeply. We separated for a few weeks and he came back home. We talked about it and we came to a conclusion. Although I did forgive him I have always been very resentful towards him. I would bring it up during any argument. I stopped doing a lot of the things I used to do before it happened. Not as much cleaning, cooking, and laundry. I used to love doing this stuff and just got very disappointed. Even though I forgave him I always felt he had no idea how deeply hurt I was. How this affected my self esteem. I wanted to make sure he felt how I felt some way or another so he can understand me better. Here we are and I have fulfilled my purpose.
    We argue over the same thing over and over. I didn’t realize how badly I have hurt our marriage but worse of all how I have someone I love by acting the way I have been acting. My husband has had enough and he now feels “distant from our marriage”. He doesn’t see us getting a divorce but he doesn’t know he says. I have analyzed and though of my ways and I feel so bad I became very possessive with everything he did. I couldn’t trust him. I would snoop in his phone. Ask him what, when, and where when he went out. I gave him no privacy at all. He went away for a week for his military duties and I sat home thing and analyzing, I couldn’t believe of the kind of person I have become. I was never like that. I believe that everyone deserves space and time o do things on our own as well as together.
    We have a 6 year old who is in love with her parents. Everything is mommy & daddy. We are also expecting our second child this June. I’m trying to give my husband the space he needs but because I am so emotional now it’s very hard and I’m trying even harder. I can’t change the past so all I can do now is change my way of treating him like crap. I took him and our marriage for granted. I have been cleaning like I used to and it felt so nice. I have been cooking everyday as well rather than just 3 times a week. By the way by cleaning I don’t mean to sound like a dirty person but more like cleaning and having everything smell good. I can’t explain it. For the first time in years I felt so “homey”. He came home last night and it was just very awkward as I got a kiss in the cheek. He asked for space but every chance he got to text me or call he did. I felt as if he was or actually is sending me mixed signals here. I don’t know what else to do. I feel that even though its very hard for me I should continue giving him the space he needs. My fear is how long and would it be any help to do so. I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to be so understanding and I think I have been a little but I’m desperate at the same time.

  • Robyn says:

    My AS husband cannot walk beside me. He walks several paces ahead then stops to check where I am. I have tried holding hands or hooking his thumb inside my pants belt but as soon as the opportunity arises he is off again. His solution is for me to walk ahead and doesn’t see how ridiculous that statement is. How can you walk in front of someone who is always walking ahead. He stops abruptly and just turns around where is people behind bump into him or trip over him. It is so frustrating and embarrassing. My solution is to keep reminding him to walk with me until eventually he gets cranky and yells at me. I now avoid walking with him expect with an organised crowd. He will stay in the group but looks cranky and grumpy and red faced the whole time. He is quite hyperactive and wears me out just watching him some days. If I suggest he slows down he will just snap at me. His favourite saying is I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

    • I’m curious what makes it easier or better to walk ahead, and what’s so difficult about being side-by-side. Have you ever asked?
      It’s very easy to get upset with our spouse’s quirks. Believe me, other people find them much more “innocent” than we do, as the spouses. But really, many people are odd and quirky, even without AS. I know it is annoying to you. I can imagine that something happens inside of him that is so agitating when he’s next to you, that he gets red-faced. It sounds so physiologically arousing for him. It’s so hard to predict what it is, without carefully picking it bit by bit apart.
      Thanks for sharing this.

      Dr. K

  • Heide says:

    Hello Carol. I am Dr. Rodriguez one of the therapists at Couples Therapy Inc. Emotional distance is very hurtful, I am sure for both of you. It is brave that you admit that you have changed. You may be experiencing mood changes due to the recent losses and the hormonal process. This change is affecting the way you both relate to each other. It does not mean that it is ok to feel ignored or rejected. In fact, it is a dangerous coping mechanism; “If you are irritable, I avoid you/ If you avoid me I feel rejected, then I will be more resentful/ If I am resentful, I do not feel like showing you my love.. and so on.”

    I would recommend you sit down and talk to your husband. Let him your feelings, that you miss the words of appreciation and tenderness. Listen to what he says about it, without judging. Avoid being defensive.

    Then agree to be generous to each other. Recent research from the Gottman Institute states that generosity is one of the milestones of long and healthy relationships. Start from yourself, show him love in ways you used to, even if you don’t feel like doing it. The positive energy that you will get from being affectionate, will empower your next act of love, and so on.

    At the same time, I suggest you visit your doctor and let him know about your lack of energy and mood changes. Also, counseling for healing during this grieving period would be helpful. Many times loosing our parents may activate a process of reflecting on our present life, which is good, but counseling will help you to use this time for your best. Learning about grieving may also, give your husband a better idea on how to support you. You are a team! So the menopause and the losses are not your problems, these are challenges for the team to face.

    Hope this words can bring you some peace.

    Heide Rodríguez Ubiñas, Ph.D.
    Senior Couples Therapist
    Couples Therapy Inc.
    San Juan, Puerto Rico.
    Clinical Psychologist

  • carol says:

    my husband use to call me honey and now the only time is during sex which is hardley ever i am going through menopause and my mother and father passed away a year ago,he said i am being mean so why should he be all lovey dovey with me yes i have been mean at times but i am angry i lost so much and i did take it out on him he says i worry to much and i have changed, he wont touch me i am the one that says do you want to fool around problem is i do everything and he does not touch me and thats when he calls me honey only during that time yet for xmass he gave me a beautiful card that says all i want is to be with you and he gave me many gifts but he acts so distance and i cant stand walking on egg shells all the time and he wants to move and says of course i want you to go with me would u worry about how he is acting or is it my menopause help thank you carol

  • Dr. Rodriguez says:

    Dear Alisia.

    Thanks for sharing your situation with us. I am Dr. Rodriguez, one of the Senior Therapists at Couples Therapy Inc. I worked with military families for many years, and I learned how challenging the military life can be for a marriage.

    The reintegration phase, the months following the service member’s return, may be very difficult for them and also for the spouses. Every person (the one who left, as well as the one who stayed ) changes during a deployment. Therefore, your relationship is changing too. During the deployment, many military spouses learned to be more independent, self-sufficient, and had to organized the household in your own terms, which is perfectly normal. However, sometimes this change may be interpreted for the service member as “I am not needed anymore in this house”.

    Also, the service member faces some internal issues during this reintegration stage. During deployment, most of them had to learned in the hard way, to keep their feelings “shut down” for a long time, as a mental defense mechanism. That is why so many of them would tell me in counseling “I do not feel anything”, “it is like I do not care about anything”. It is like a numbness because it is hard to be in touch with their feelings.
    Also, during that same time, service members are under long hours of work and a lot of stress. As a result, the nervous system has been under an “alarm” for so long that it takes a while for the system to understand “it is safe now”.

    I suggest you look for help, as a couple. If he agrees, we can be your resource. We have a special rate for military couples, as an appreciation for your sacrifices.

    If he is not interested in counseling at this moment, you need to find support for yourself. You may write me an email (in our website), so we can discuss resources available for military families. The individual counseling would help you to be more patient, since you will learn more about what the emotional changes after deployment, and at the same time, you will get emotional support.

    In the mean time;
    – Ask him for help with household demands, as a way to remind him that he is important.
    – Show him your support.
    – Try to fix his favorite food
    – Plan a picnic in a relaxing area.
    – Avoid criticizing!!!
    – Find a good time to talk to him about your feelings. Let him know that you are concerned about his well-being and your relationship.

    I know it is not easy, but if you get defensive, then the emotional distance will be even worse.

    Wishing you the best.

    Heide Rodríguez Ubiñas, Ph.D.
    Senior Couples Therapist
    Couples Therapy Inc.
    San Juan, Puerto Rico.
    Clinical Psychologist

  • Alisia says:

    Hello my name is Lisa my husband is military and he was deployed in Bahrain for 15 months..I was excited for him to return however when he came back it was really bad and still is…My husband says he has been unhappy for a long time and he just dont feel lik he is the man incharrge…I must admit I used to complain about a lot of things he used to do because I felt he was extremely lazy.I also felt like while he was away, he avoided my calls and when he did tal to me the conversation ended real quick…Now that he’s home he shows no affection towards me, He wont rub my leg or touch me in no type of way… Once we get in bed he wants to have sex……I dont understand…After thats over the next day he treats me the same by not touching me….I ask is ther another women, he says why do someone else have to be the reason and he says no….He has had a consult with an divorce attorney but says it was just a cconsult…I discovered the other day that he also have rented a storage unit….Please help

  • Alisha Powell says:

    Hi Marcie,
    Thanks for contacting Couples Therapy Inc. The responsibilities around caring for older parents can be a source of stress for a lot of couples. You mentioned that you feel distant from your husband and it sounds like a stressful time for the both of you. A lot of couples have been able to reconnect in small but meaningful ways including checking in with each other at the end of the day or routinely enjoying a common interest together. Couples therapy can also be helpful to facilitate a productive discussion on expectations and ways to manage differences of opinion. CTI offers a free 15 minute consultation and other resources for couples that include couples therapy and weekend intensives that many have found to be very eye opening and effective in changing their relationship for the better. I would encourage you to take a look at some of the resources on our website: http://www.couplestherapyinc.com
    Our operations manager can be contacted at: [email protected] for scheduling any of the options I mentioned. Thank you for reaching out and I hope to work with you in the future.

    Sincerely,
    Alisha Powell, LCSW
    Therapist
    Couples Therapy Inc.
    http://www.couplestherapyinc.com
    844-9-COUPLE X703

  • Marcie says:

    My spouse’s mother is in the hospital for surgery. I just started working so I was unable to go with him his mom and dad live in another state. His parents live in the same house and have been married for 40 plus years. His dad however has checked out. I was angry as my husband is with him mom at the hospital dealing with doctors and such and the day of the surgery his father did not show up until it was almost done and when he did leave she was calling him and not his dad! Today is day two and again he was at the hospital early in the am and his dad did not show up. After 4 years of marriage it finally came together for me today she his mom is always calling and wanting to know when he is coming why is his dad not there? why is she loneley in her own house? why does he not care for her? The light bulb moment my husband’s has always been to himself worked just enough to support the family be not so enough which left them poor. How do I deal with role reversal to my husband (she already has a husband) its not an issue but it is because I can tell after he has talked to her or after he has been at his parents for a few days it causes difficulty for our marriage. I feel at time he is very distant with me.

  • Dear Bianca,

    Thank you for contacting Couples Therapy Inc and reaching out for help. It sounds like you’re in a very difficult situation which is not uncommon for newly married couples. Making a commitment like marriage, even after years of being together, can often bring up unconscious issues which disrupt the good connection you used to have. It sounds like this is possibly what’s happened.

    I’m interested to read that you’re in couples counselling. What do you know about the post-graduate qualifications of your couples therapist? Many therapists who work with couples unfortunately do not have adequate training to deal with complex situations such as yours.

    Keep in mind that we at CTI offer a free 15 minute consultation so we can see how we may be able to help. I practice in Newtown, Sydney. Please contact our operations manager [email protected] & he’ll guide you through the process of getting this 15 minute consult.

    Looking forward to sepaking with you further.

    Vivian Baruch, M.Couns.
    Company: Couples Therapy Inc.
    http://www.couplestherapyinc.com/
    Toll free: 844-9-COUPLE
    Sydney, Australia.
    Licensed Clinical Counselor, Senior Couples Therapist
    https://www.facebook.com/CouplesTherapyInc

  • Bianca says:

    What to do when your husband has withdrawn and has emotionally abandoned you?

    We have been together for close to 6 years, married for 7 months and for the last 6 months my husband has withdrawn, and I feel like I don’t exist in his life. He says he has no feelings for me anymore and about 3 months ago I discovered he was cheating. From the day he told me he had lost feelings for me, prior to the cheating, I immediately chose to work on myself for the sake of our relationship. To this day, I am still trying, showing affection, saying nice things, planning activities, cooking, cleaning however with no appreciation and no change in attitude from my husband.
    We have started couples counselling which he reluctantly agreed to, saying he doesn’t think any of our issues can be changed. He believes they are personality traits engrained in us, whilst I have hope as I know we have strayed from what we once were, and the basic principles of having a successful relationship. He was the most loving and caring man, always showing affection, wanting to spend time with me and he has completely changed.
    After months of trying, keeping a positive face, of giving and no receiving – I am wondering what can I do for the man I love to show him this relationship is worth working on? I feel as though he made his decision months ago to leave.

  • Dear Ramon,

    You have been doing something what I would call “real giving” in your relationship for quite a while. Real giving is when you give your spouse what she wants or needs instead of what you want or need. Real giving is important in a relationship because it helps to build the Emotional Bank Account in a relationship. That in turn helps to build and deepen the trust in the relationship. That being said, we need “real giving” to be mutual in order for the Emotional Bank Account to fill up with positive emotions, which of course creates more trust in the dynamic. And TRUST is one of the necessary pillars in building a positive relationship. (The other really important one is commitment if you want to know). I did not hear much of mutual “real giving” in your description of your relationship with your wife. I wonder how strong the trust is in the relationship.

    I’m glad that you are honest with your feelings around writing notes – “I can’t write all that stuff with it being original when I don’t feel ‘it'”. That is you standing up for yourself! As I had described in the above, real giving is important for different reasons. Real giving is no longer real giving if you are doing it out of the fear of losing her and the family. That is your anxiety, your fear talking. It is not the best part of you stepping forward and doing the giving. When it is the best part of you doing the deed, YOU GENUINELY want to give your wife what she wants. It is NOT because YOUR FEAR/Anxiety wants you to. Also, when it is the best of part you doing the work, you are still grounded in you and not losing who you are. And your emotions are not managing you and causing you to be reactive. Plus, when you keep doing it out of fear or avoiding disappointment, it is not making you desired to your wife. You are and have been taken for granted!

    It might be helpful for you to find some quite, alone time for yourself and go deeper with yourself and decide “what am I willing to put up with? Where is my line? What are my needs and wants?” I also would encourage you to think of the question – “If I do something different, would that make me a better person that in turn will make the relationship better?”

    Once you have figure out you, sit down with your wife calmly and say something that is not that what she would expect. Surprise her!! Start your conversation with a “gentle start up.” Describe your feelings, describe the situation between the two of you in a nonjudgmental way, and clearly stating your needs in a positive way. It could be something like, “I don’t want to fight with you, but I want you to know something important about me. I have been feeling lonely and disconnected in the relationship. I don’t know how to change things around. I want us to get help from a trained professional to help us with our troubled marriage. I can’t continue to live like it. It is only fair to let you know where I am at in our relationship. I will make plans to leave the relationship. Then I will leave you.”

    After you say what you need to say, do not argue about it or fight about it with your wife. Stay calm because you have stated your position. Never leave angry. Leave thoughtfully, and after you’ve done everything you can think of, including requesting that your spouse join you for SKILLED couples therapy.

    Best wishes to you, Ramon! Thank you for your hard work in your relationship and your willingness to reach out for help. Keep in mind that we offer free 15 minute consultation to people in your situation who have spouses who are unwilling to seek help. Give us a call and ask for Daniel at extension 2.

    Sincerely,
    YY Wei, LCSW, CAC III

  • Ramon says:

    How do you deal with a spouse that doesn’t view your support as support?

    My wife wanted a tummy-tuck for years. I didn’t feel she needed it but she felt terrible about herself and got depressed trying on even one or two outfits. It was also a financial stretch for us on our budget but she worked all the overtime and saved enough money for the surgery. 2 months before surgery, she became pregnant with our child and had to cancel. The surgeon refunded the money which we used to have the baby. She was angry about “losing” the money so when I got a job offer from a competitor offering a signing bonus and higher salary, she pressured me to take it. My employer was going to raise my salary to keep me but not match. I took the job from the competitor and then had to use the signing bonus money that would have gone to surgery to replace very large AC coil and furnace. The rest went to the baby. We eventually took out a home equity loan to pay for the surgery and some home repairs but not before she threatened to divorce me because her needs weren’t being met, emotionally or financially. That was in February.

    I wanted to go to couples counseling. She said it was a waste of time and I didn’t go alone because of the 3k they wanted to start sessions. She’s happy with the surgery results but our sex life has been very scant. I haven’t been very emotionally supportive since February. I also got laid off from the competitor in March, the very next month (oil industry). Her response was “What was I going to do?” I quickly found another job. I hated that job and got fired in 5 months. I just got another one but we will have to relocate. I resent her for pushing me to take the competitor and have been pretty withdrawn for over a year.

    I feel like I have bent over backwards financially meeting her needs. I gave up my hobbies once I met her and really don’t have any friends outside of my old company. She says she wants me to have hobbies and friends but I don’t really feel I get any time to do so between honey-do’s, work and kids. She wants lots of notes, cards and time on the couch watching TV (I’m not allowed to work during TV time) but I can’t write all that stuff with it being original when I don’t feel “it”. I tell her I love her frequently, it’s even the last thing I tell her at bedtime. I do love her otherwise I wouldn’t have done all these things to pay for her surgery. She doesn’t view that as supportive at all because she had to command it from me.

    I don’t want a divorce. I grew up in a broken home and I want my child to have a loving home with loving parents. How do I emotionally connect with my spouse without an endless supply of $100 date nights and $5 greeting cards? Doing things helps but only when they are especially gruesome like lifting 60 pound bucket seats out of a minivan to make room for a mattress for a drive in movie.

    • Hi Ramon,

      As I read your letter I can see how hard you’ve been working to honor your wife’s dreams – but as we all know, life has a way of setting frustrating obstacles and detours along our route, and when we aren’t able to manage these frustrations effectively, it can lead to hurt, anger, and emotional distancing.

      I also see that some of your dreams have been getting lost along the way too.

      You and your wife need to find your way back to each other, and your idea about going to couples counselling is an excellent one.

      Every intimate relationship goes through a series of stages, and some of these stages very challenging. A professional couples counselor will help you and your wife recognize, understand, and effectively navigate these essential stages.

      Through couples counselling you will learn how to communicate deeply with each other, and to develop the skills you need to build a strong, healthy and exciting future together.

      Good luck Ramon. I hope this helps!

  • J,

    I think you misunderstand me. I’m not so big on threats.

    I’m also not so positive on a husband that tells his wife to “stop bothering and annoying me.” The reason is simple: Wives complain. That’s what we do. That’s what the science says. We do it 80% of the time compared to men’s complaining 20% of the time. They look at their “relationship watches” and they ask themselves: “Have we been close enough? Together enough? Do we need to go away together? etc, etc.” Men who tell you: “If you just don’t bother me, we’ll get along better” are telling you they are half out of the relationship (at best). If he doesn’t like the way you complain, perhaps you can learn to complain in a healthier way. Gottman says it’s a formula XYZ. “I feel (X) about this particular thing (Y) and here’s what I’d like to see happen (Z).” But if you just stop complaining, that’s a recipe for disaster.

    Shutting up only works in the short-term. Then shutting up turns into distance. Or resentment. Or both.

    It sounds as if your husband isn’t willing to accept your influence, and that’s a common problem in many unhappy marriages. I’ve never suggested threats. But if you are saying that “If I tell him the ways I want to be closer to him, he’ll tell me move out,” then you are in a distressed marriage.

    And if he, in fact, was nicer to another woman, perhaps he was on his best behavior, and was trying to please her…something that you’re describing he’s not that interested in doing with you.

    It is a strange paradox that sometimes when we give up ourselves to be able to keep a relationship we value, we end up losing both. Many of the most destructive relationships I’ve seen happen because someone goes overboard trying to please their partner, and the harder THEY try, the LESS HARD their partner puts effort into it. So when their partner leaves for an affair partner, the answer to why they left is something like: “Because I didn’t have to do anything to stay in a relationship with you. I could be any old way, and you’d accept it. With this woman, I have to try. I have to put in effort. I feel better about myself, because she expects things of me, and you never did.”

    Strange but true.

  • j says:

    If I did what this Dr said in the comments that either he does it or I’m leaving he will absolutely say well contact your family and leave. I don’t agree with threatening him like that because he’s going to tell me to leave. I have tried hard to explain how I feel and have apologized for bothering him since he said he works and I’m bothering him with this and that I better back off. I have come to the realization that I need to accept this and no longer say anything. Maybe if you don’t say anything or bother them he will come around. A girl was able to turn my husband’s head and I asked what she did that made him act differently towards her than me and he said it’s because she didn’t bother him and annoy him. I just want my husband to love me and not be so cold so I’m going to shut my dumb mouth and hope it helps.

  • Sandy M says:

    This article really spoke to me. I’ve been having so many problems as of late with my husband of two years. I can certainly relate to Camilla, and he is just like Paul, but the problem is because I have felt so shot down and so abandoned recently, I have just withdrawn myself. I find it easier to not have any expectations, to not put forth any affection, to withdraw first — so that I do not have to feel the pain of having someone else be cold and distant toward me.

    We are very up and down. Things will be great, then for a week things will be awful and I will think about leaving him. I don’t want this anymore. I don’t want the great high only to be let down afterward. In that sense, I don’t even want things to get better because I know it’ll only get worse again.

    I’m so unhappy and lonely, I have thought about taking desperate measures like finding someone else. I want to have a baby, but not like this.

    • Hi Sandy,

      I’d like you to consider a less “drastic” measure, and go to a qualified Couples Therapist. If this is a person you are considering a baby with, you really need to figure out how to relate on an intimate emotional level, and what’s stopping that.

      These sorts of “push-pulls” between couples are often seen in the very earliest parts of the relationship. But if these have not been there from the beginning, it would be really important to complete a thorough assessment and find out what’s really wrong, and how to fix it.

      This stuff isn’t a “mystery” anymore and couples therapy now has a proven track record of effectiveness with a skilled couples therapist. But not all therapists are skilled couples therapists.

      I’m urging you to consider getting effective treatment first, and then make your decision…all for a fraction of the price of a divorce attorney’s retainer.

      Read more.

  • Mary says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I found so many answers here, that i could not find anywhere else.
    Here is our story:
    Me and my fiance are together for 2,5 years now, engaged for a month. Our wedding os in 5 weeks and he is not sure about it anymore as he doesnt feel the connection. Needless to say i an heart broken and crushed… Dont know what to do,- to give up or try.
    We met on holiday and fell in love with each other deeply. We were from different countries, but that was not a problem, a wish to meet and stay together was stronger than anything. So we were taking flights to each others countries, met as much as we can and we were truly happy. Sex…sex was the best sex ever! We both like it and we were having sex a lot,- sometimes all day, if we could. I am divorced once and have a child, which was never a problem to him or to his family and i felt over the moon, because i was finally happy, had a loving man , who cared about me and my child. He is an airforce pilot and had to go to missions and trainings for 2-6 months on and on, but that was not a problem for us , i waited because i love him so much, visited him when i could, stayed and supported him when he had to work and study almost 12 hours per day. During the last year he studied so much, had to move to US for 7 month to get a better degree and study so hard that it took all his time, literally. I was by his side at that time with my child. He became irritated, we stopped having sex, connection was lost, but i blamed the studies and hoped for better situation one day. My man also gained about 18 kg while staying in US. He lost confidence completely.. When he came back from the US, things were ok for some time( not sex life, though). I will not lie,- i blamed him a lot, that he doesnt want me…That got him even more angry. He was angry all the time and for anything or anybody. Didnt talk to me, his family his friends. Hated his job so much , that all the training and study took away all his life. He is 30 years old now. That depression lasted for 4 months, we even broke up once for 3 days, but got back together. Then he broke his knee and had to experience the surgery and a long rehab. I was by his side all the time and it was not easy for both of us, because he couldnt move and was angry, me ,- because i loved him and was unhappy and lonelly. He started to feel better, walk again, things got better ( but not sex) and he proposed to me one beautiful night. I was over the moon and so was he! He insisted to get married as soon as we can, so we can start planning a baby and create a beautiful family. I had to go to my country to get the documents ready and so on. His happiness lasted a week..Then i felt the distance between us..he seemed colder and his mind was ocupied by something else. I asked, we fighted and discussed and it didnt bring us anywhere. Then we met again in the airport and he was colder than even,- basically couldnt look at my side. He was angry, i was crying and he was getting even more angry. We talked a lot and open and he said that he was happy that we got engaged, but now when he is moving again, does sports, stays all days on the beach, he found out that he is happy like this and feels like he is 18 again, that life without problems and responsibilities is great and that i was talking only about the wedding all these 3 weeks when i was home, that annoyed him and now he doesnt know if he loves me anymore and he is very very confused. How can i take all this information? My heart broke into pieces, – i really dont know what to think… He stays in his hometown for all summer now, off work because of the knee situation and rehab, but i will not last forever. Next month he is going back to work and then what?I asked him to cancel the wedding, because it is just not the right time to do it, but he refused it and told me to wait. Wait for what? Yesterday i tried not to talk about ” the feelings and situation” and i saw that it helped a bit, we were talking with friends, laughing, it felt better. But my hopes for intimacy are destroyed every night… And sex was a thing that was tying us up so strong before… He just goes to bed, says ” good night”, kisses me to the forehead and thats it. Its been like this for a year now. I dont understand whats happening with him, why did he proposed( he said he felt like it and was very happy about his decision to do it), why did the feelings change, why does he want to be alone now and makes a distance? Why do we need to wait to cancel the wedding , even if he feels different now?

    • Hi Mary,

      The decision to marry is one of the most important decisions you can make in life. It will determine your financial success, your emotional stability, and so, so much more.

      It takes only one person to cancel wedding plans. It doesn’t take a mutual agreement.

      It would be of no surprise to anyone, Mary, if you realized that something is seriously wrong in this relationship, and before you commit to spending your life with this person, you are determined to find out what it is, and how it can change. For you, you have a child who’s life depends upon you choosing wisely. This is especially true if he is in a hurry to have another child. No woman can easily handle being on her own with two children. No one should have to risk it, either.

      Over 40% of divorces have at least one depressed person in it. Depression is an illness that is best handled with a combination of psychotherapy, neurofeedback, and, if necessary, medication. It is often, in this day and age, a chronic condition as well. Learn everything you can about being the spouse of a depressed person, and insist that he get help, before you make a decision about whether to marry him or not. Slow down, be thoughtful and reflective, and expect him to show his dedication to bringing his “best self” into this marriage.

      Your future success and the success of your child depends upon it.

      Good luck and thanks for writing.

      Dr. K

      • Anonymous says:

        My fiance was depressed – chronic depression. We were together for a little over 4 years when I left… I left him for another person, someone I had developed very strong feelings for over time. My fiance abused drugs and alcohol (sometimes heavily but sometimes ‘reasonably’); he used things to get himself distracted and was never really present for me. I felt bad because he was depressed, and he still IS depressed (especially after I left him), but in the end I did what was right for me. He was never really happy, either with me or on his own… I suspect he never will be happy unless he gets serious therapy. Red flags early on in the relationship that I dismissed and just put under the rug: smoking pot all the time, even high on dates; talking over me a lot, always wants to talk but never to listen; hard for him to just be WITH me without distractions (TV, video games, other people, etc…); shutting down of my feelings — feel like I shouldn’t have negative feelings. I started to feel like I didn’t deserve him because he was paying more share of the bills (a fact he loved to reiterate after the breakup).. I started to feel like I was actually disappearing at home.

        And then, I met someone wonderful, whom I am still with.. a man who has his sh** together, so to speak. Very open, honest, communicative, caring… the absolute opposite of my ex. If I am feeling negative, he brings me up… he’s there to talk to. I realized all of these qualities while I was with my ex and I would talk to him all the time… within a few months, I started having feelings for him because I saw this was what I wanted in a relationship. Now, I am happy as ever. We are 4 months together and it’s getting better all the time!! I have not felt this kind of connection to anyone, even my ex early on in the relationship.

        • Yes, Anonymous,

          At some point, when behavior is down right disrespectful and self harming, you have to be direct with the person you love: Get help, because your problems are impacting me!

          It is easy to say that “Love conquers all” but really? In the early stages of a relationship, take a tip from women with high self-esteem:

            They don’t have a second date with someone who is rude, self-obsessed, or drugged on the first one.
            They don’t play games and hope and pray that that “groovy guy” will call, even after a week. They just move on, and take it as a sign that:
            “He’s just not into me.”
            They look for someone that has similar interests, drive for success, and wants the same things that they want out of life (including children)
            They are invested in their own self-development and expect someone they date to be interested in that too.
            The WANT to be WANTED. If someone is giving mixed signals, they move on.

          Look, it is smart to know what you can do to influence another human being, and what you can’t. You CAN suggest, you CAN’T threaten. You CAN say what you will do for your own health and welfare. You CAN’T demand that someone else do what you want them to do, that will benefit you.

          As I said, a person who is depressed needs help by a qualified person, if they’ve actively tried to change and could not (we’re talking in terms of weeks here, not years…) Sometimes, they do need motivation to WANT to change, and sometimes that comes in the form of someone who’s love and admiration they really want. So sometimes that motivates real action. Sometimes not…

  • Cole says:

    Hello my name is Cole and I have a few questions about things. First off I really enjoyed this article, it speaks to me on different levels because I believe me and my wife of 3 years are starting to become like Camilla and Paul. To start I have to say I am a shy a distant person, which is a complete opposite of my wife. She is outgoing and very social. We have had our differences about this in the past and seem to resolve them in our own way, but recently she have been asking me if I feel like were distant. I do now feel this way and feel insulted that she asks me this but I don’t show that. I work at least 12 hour days Monday through Friday and she does not work at this time because she is finishing her schooling. I tend to keep to myself doing “loner” things like reading or playing games which I enjoy which I enjoy a great deal. I have noticed that she has started to mold herself like me and doing stuff independently as well (watching shows, etc, etc,)I have supported her the best I can financially through this. She always wants to take trips and such and I do my best to explain that the money is not always there right now but I keep promising her that will. I have trouble opening up about certain things and every time I try I feel as though she takes offence to it. I do not want this problem to spiral out of control and was wondering if there is something I can do to alleviate these problems. Thank you for your advice

    • Let’s talk about Gottman’s notion of “Turning Toward.” In fact, I’ll write a post about it, but for now, let me summarize it:

      It is the “little hinges that swing big doors.” Turning toward is the act of one partner reaching out for “connection” and the other partner responding appropriately to it.

      “Hey honey, do you want to go to the lake next week-end?”
      “The lake? I’d LOVE to spend the day with you! But let’s go closer, so we don’t have to spend an overnight. I’m worried about finances… But spending the day with you on the water sounds wonderful!”

      What happened there? One person reached out. Made a “bid” for attention. The other responded positively. Not always “Yes,” but definitely positively to the idea of being together. Of connecting.

      Gottman says when one person consistently makes bids, and the other ignores, turns away, or turns against these bids, the partner making the bid eventually stops making them. When that happens, they both report feeling “lonely” over time.

      Missing your partner’s bids isn’t the problem, according to Dr. Gottman. That happens all the time. In fact, quoting a study by Berry Brazelton, M.D., a mother and baby in her arms is going to miss each other’s bids 70% of the time! Obviously, babies can’t walk away, like spouses can, so between couples, it is going to be AT LEAST 70% of bids that will be missed.

      What needs to happen is that partners need a way to process these missed bids when they happen. Your wife is trying to process these with you. She might say to you: “When I don’t have time I spend away with you, I end up feeling upset and neglected.” How you talk to her is essential. Perhaps let me suggest a conversation about the VALUES each of you have on finance.

      * What percentage of our income should be spend on vacations, trips, eating out, etc?
      * What percentage should be spend on savings?
      * How do we plan get-aways ahead of time, so we have something to look forward to?
      * What kinds of fun things can we do that don’t involve a lot of money?
      * How can we manage the difference in energy levels we have right now? I’m tired a lot given my work, and you have a more flexible schedule. What can we do to make allowances for that difference?

      If I were to give you one piece of advice, Cole, it is to be grateful that your wife is talking about her feeling “distant,” because you both can now invest in changing that around. Don’t ignore it. Men who ignore wives complains about feeling “distant” with feeling “insulted” are tossing pearls into the mud.

      * Can you pick a novel to read together?
      * Can you find a game you can play together?
      * Is there a TV series you can watch together and talk about afterward?

      You are wise to not want it to “spiral out of control” because it can. Turn towards her. Be responsive. Tell her you are ready to plan the next vacation with her, and dream, dream, dream. Dreaming is free and it brings couples intimately together.

      Hope this helps. Keep watching the blog for an entry on Turning Toward.

      Thanks for writing!

      Dr. K

  • Debamita Talukdar says:

    I am married since 6 months but me n my husband dnt spend time as he starts 7.30 in d morningn comes by 8.30 nite so Dats created a distance in our relation most of d times he’s either busy watching tv or working on laptop on weekends smtimes V fight a lot Bcoz of all dis. I m very upset. I dnt feel loved in d marriage now hv started avoiding him just b myself.I love him believe he also love me but dnt fee lanything of dis sort. Feel very sad wen I c other newly wed couples together. What to do?

    • The one thing you can do is to tell him that you recognize that he works so hard for the both you you. That’s called a “softened start-up.” Then go on to talk together about what you both imagine the future should look like. Most newlyweds want children. If that’s the case, you’ll need more support than such a grueling schedule will permit.

      As someone who was in your situation, I know how easy it is to get critical. But will that really encourage him to want to spend more time with you? I doubt he thinks a 13 hour workday is ideal either. What is it about that job that makes it so desirable? Let him talk to you about his own vision of the future. You may learn that he sees this to a better life.

      Talk about other ways to “de-stress” rather than television or internet. Something you can both do together, even simple things like puzzles or games. A mutual tv show or movie that you watch together and talk about.

      Then plan a week-end away. Doesn’t have to be far, and it doesn’t have to be more than an overnight. Just somewhere away from the everyday.

      We’re happy to help you facilitate a conversation about the issues you raise. They are so common with newlyweds. You’re lonely, and that’s sadness you need to share. But you also have to give him a way to shine for you: “Honey, I’ve missed you so much today. Let’s give each other back rubs and talk…”

      Learn how to talk together, instead of fight. That’s a big deal when you are newly married and figuring each other out.

      Drop us a line if you think we can help. We’d love to help you both.
      Dr. K

  • Cherakia says:

    I loved your article. A lot of what was written made a lot of sense and are things I had read and understood from other articles. However I feel though that I have done a lot of changes and my spouse is the same person. He has made no effort to reach me halfway. He believes all the problems that we have it is me. He has been rude, unsympathetic and downright mean. It is now 3 weeks we have not had a conversation of more the 3 words in one sentence. He goes about his life as if I do not exist. I am making plans to separate from him. I have reached a point where I will feel happy by myself.

    • And you are what we have called the “Walk-away Wife.” She tries to make changes, and even suggest couples therapy, but her husband remains unresponsive. Or blaming. Or rude.

      Quite often, the husband expects that you are just “yak, yak, yakking,” and aren’t serious.

      Sit down with him calmly and say something that may surprise him: “I don’t want to fight with you, but I want you to know something about me, right now. I’m profoundly lonely. I have no idea how to effectively change things around. I want us to get help from a trained professional who works on nothing but troubled marriages. If you are not interested in doing that, it is only fair to tell you that I can’t continue to live like this. I will make plans to leave you. Then I will leave you.”

      Don’t argue or fight about it. You have said your peace. There will be no “surprise” when you tell him you’ve consulted an attorney, or are looking for an apartment. And take what he says seriously about you needing help. Divorce IS one of the most stressful things a person can go through. Go see an individual counselor (who often, unfortunately, performs “relationship-dectomies…”). Get a list from him of the things he thinks you need help with. But don’t ever allow him to think that anyone, and I mean ANYONE is ALWAYS responsible for EVERY marital problem. There are exceptions, but usually too few to mention in a response like this one.

      There is no “halfway” in a troubled relationship. There is only “all out.” You might consider giving your “all out,” because ultimately, you’ll end up a more mature, adaptive, responsive person for the next relationship. Do it willingly, and with humility. Let him know that you are trying to change things around. It causes most spouses to pause when their partner makes an all-out effort, while at the same times saying: “We’re going to get help, or we’re going to split up.”

      Never leave angry. Leave thoughtfully, and after you’ve done everything you can think of, including requesting that your spouse join you for SKILLED couples therapy.

      My experience is that many of our husbands go through profound emotional changes when they realize that their wives are serious about getting help or leaving. That’s when we get calls asking: “How can I convince her to stay?”

      My best wishes to you, Cherakia. Consider this advice, and keep in mind that we offer free 15 minute consultation to people in your situation who have spouses who are unwilling to seek help. Give us a call and ask for Daniel at extension 2.

      Dr. K

      • Cherakia says:

        It is 30 days now since my spouse told me to leave him in his little world. 21 days I have been sleeping on the floor and crouch. 30 days there has not been 2 words between us. He has long chats with his friends on his mobile. Every Saturday he goes to his favorite clubs. He watches tv and movies and laughs out loud. He says nothing to me. He continues to buy what he wants to eat and drink. I cook and sometimes he eats it. He pays the apt rent, electricity and water. I do not ask him for rides in his car. I take the bus to work or walk. I have planned to stay here for at least till the end of August. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I am not able to say anything calmly at the moment. There is a volcano waiting to explode. If I react like this he looks at me as if I am crazy, walks away and says nothing. Thanks though for your good advice.

  • Epifania says:

    Hello
    I’ve read your article about Emotional Distance within a marriage. I’m 22 yrs old and I’ve been married for 5 months. We have a beautiful baby girl who’s only 2 months old.
    I feel like emotional distance is already a problem in our marriage for both my husband and I. Though it’s me who’s to blame. I have trouble expressing myself and opening up more to my husband. I’m so used to repressing my feelings before marriage when I’m hurt, angry, or sad that it’s affecting him. I’d get depressed trying to deal with things myself.
    I was denied emotional help from my father that I no longer seemed help from him unless it’s critical. I grew up in a family (I was separated from my parents for 13 yrs since baby) where you didn’t have much not even a voice to say what’s bothering you, how you feel, what you need. No, we’d get beaten or verbally abused for doing so.
    That sort of mentality stuck with me for years and I know it’s wrong. I need help and I don’t know how to ask. Its a constant struggle open myself up more to my husband. I have everything I want to say in mind but no words seem to fall out of my mouth.
    We love each other so much and we’re both compatible. I connect with my husband in many ways but it’s a one-way street emotionally. I see his love through his actions and what he’d say to me. And I try to reciprocate by expressing my love for him through actions and verbally too. I feel happy and secure with him. Those emotions alone are easy to express, not sadness, anger, or hurt.
    My husband is an amazing person and a wonderful father. I don’t want to lose him.

    • Afarin Rajaei says:

      Hello Epifania,

      I understood how important your husband and family are for you while I was reading your message. It’s really hard to feel emotional distance with the person that you truly love and care about. I think it’s great that you’re mindful of your relationship and some of your personal history. I believe this awareness can help you move your relationship closer to what you expect.
      Sometimes , people can understand something is wrong in their relationship, but they would not find what it is; and sometimes, they understand what is wrong, but they don’t know what to do after that. What is the solution? How can I work it out?
      There is no fixed formula prescription and I think that’s good because everyone has a story. I think that a professional couple therapist can help you to develop your communication skills and make your connection “a two-way street” as you wish. As David and Vera Mace said “the development of a really good marriage is not a natural process. It’s an achievement.”

      I hope this helps. Best wishes,
      Afarin
      Intern therapist at Couple Therapy INC

    • Afarin Rajaei says:

      Hello Epifania,

      I understood how important your husband and family are for you while I was reading your message. It’s really hard to feel emotional distance with the person that you truly love and care about. I think it’s great that you’re mindful of your relationship and some of your personal history. I believe this awareness can help you move your relationship closer to what you expect.
      Sometimes , people can understand something is wrong in their relationship, but they would not find what it is; and sometimes, they understand what is wrong, but they don’t know what to do after that. What is the solution? How can I work it out?
      There is no fixed formula prescription and I think that’s good because everyone has a story. I think that a professional couple therapist can help you to develop your communication skills and make your connection “a two-way street” as you wish. As David and Vera Mace said “the development of a really good marriage is not a natural process. It’s an achievement.”

      I hope this helps. Best wishes,
      Afarin
      Intern therapist at Couple Therapy INC

    • Hello Epifania,

      I’m YY, one of the Couples Therapists at Couples Therapy Inc.

      I appreciate the sincerely and the honesty in your comments. I can tell how much you care about your husband, your family and the overall relationship. You are on the right track to have that awareness about yourself and how some of your upbringings have impacted your way of interacting and expressing yourself.

      You have all these love and emotions for your husband and sometimes it is hard to get all of them out. It is quite normal actually. First of all, you have not gotten the encouragement to openly stand up for yourself to express feelings. Second of all, we all need practice with any skills, and standing up and speaking up for yourself are skills just like any other ones. I believe with time AND practice, you will be able to start sharing the intimate, emotional side of you more with your husband.

      It is possible to do that at the beginning because of the history and the above reasons I had stated. If that happens, ground yourself by breathing first. Just keep breathing to allow your body to calm down and get regulated. It also helps if you write down what you would like to say to your husband on a card or a piece of paper beforehand, and then find a time to sit down with him and share it with him.

      You are on the right track to heal yourself and strength the relationship.

      YY WeiL, CSW, CAC III
      Associate Couples Therapist
      Couples Therapy Inc.
      Denver Colorado.

  • >