How to have a happy marriage when you are an emotionally distant person?

Shahnaaz Khan
sad lady thinking about her life

So you find your unencumbered self tied to one end of a marriage? After spending a majority of your life running away from people and attachments, here you are, forever attached to one person. Don’t fret, we are here to help you go from the cold-hearted, distant person you are accused of being, to best spouse material.

Are you an emotionally distant person?

Being emotionally unavailable is not a sin, but it is difficult for people who love and care for you. If you are also one of them who like to be with themselves most of the time and hurting other without grasping it, then your partner can feel neglected and unwanted. You may come across as insensitive at times, and even hurtful. Your partner may feel left out and alone, and the lack of intimacy can even break your marriage.

close up of sad man

So you find your unencumbered self tied to one end of a marriage? After spending a majority of your life running away from people and attachments, here you are, forever attached to one person.

But if you know your problem, and are willing to work on it, you might as well succeed. You may be emotionally distant as a person, but still make it clear to your spouse that you love and care for him or her, just in a different way.

Emotionally distant, not emotionally absent

You probably don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, but that does not make you heartless. It’s crucial to first rid yourself of the notion that you cannot truly be connected or attached. You can, just not in the always-glued-together kind of way. There is one end of the spectrum – the couple attached at the hip, literally. And there is the other end – you and your partner.

Let your spouse know that it’s not that you do not care; you are just bad at showing it. Your husband showers you with lovey-dovey texts randomly; tell him how much you appreciate them, even if you are unable to respond in the same way. Unable to say ‘I love you’ to your wife every two hours like she does? Surprise her in ways that will show your love instead. Don’t let films and romance novels dictate how love is conveyed. It may take you longer to fall in love, and might be tougher to express it, but you are no less capable of it. Once you know and accept that, your partner will, too.

Walk the distance

Knowing you are emotionally distant is half the battle won. The other half of the battle you need to lose, and happily. Because what we are really after is winning in love, which entails compromise. So follow your diagnosis and acceptance with reaching a middle ground. He likes to share every detail of the day with you, while you’d rather read some Tagore? Listen to his day, and when it’s your turn, share your favourite poem or story with him. She accuses you of being inattentive, surprise her with tickets to a play she mentioned once in passing.

Always remember the everyday challenge your spouse takes up being in love with someone not as emotionally available. Why not make things a little easy for them?

And anything you do or say will be even more special, because they’ll know how much effort went into it. This is not to say that a relationship is a constant battle of one-upmanship and who did more. It’s actually a meeting of efforts. Your spouse will appreciate what you do because they understand how difficult it is for you. Even if you two are not traversing an equal distance, it is important to keep trying. Being emotionally distant is a trait; let it not turn into an excuse.

The journey within

Humans are the axiomatic social animal. Yet, here you are, the exception that proves the rule. Give some thought to what made you so. Was it a difficult childhood? Or a defence mechanism to not be hurt? This is not to say that something is wrong with you that needs fixing. But once you understand the cause, you can better predict the effects and find ways to deal to with them. If by being emotionally distant you are only trying to save yourself from heartache, then you are really a mushy one within a tough shell.

This means that if there is any chance of being hurt or disappointed, you will immediately retract.

That’s your defence, which can be easily misconstrued as indifference or even heartlessness. If you and your spouse have had a frank discussion on what makes you emotionally reticent and how that may affect your behaviour, both of you become adept at handling a crisis situation. Your partner will know that it’s not your lack of love, just your way of dealing with life.

Smaller steps trump longer strides

You have gotten far enough in your journey to actually find someone you are going to be sharing your life with. However, a marriage is a tumultuous journey, even for die-hard romantics. Knowing that your love story will be unconventional means you get script your own rules along the way. Work out your hopes and
fears, commitments and expectations.

Keep in mind though, that the goal isn’t changing one another.

You want to be able to be more emotionally available, while they want to give you the space you need. And neither of those things can be sudden or extreme. So make small and simple promises. Even if both want to make the other happy, going too much out of the way or too fast, can do the relationship more harm than good. This also means that you are not expecting drastic steps by the other.

Appreciate the differences in your personalities. It’s a long road together; savour it in breezy little steps instead of breathless leaps and bounds.

And for the times the going gets tough, remember that even distance can make the heart grow fonder.

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