Tabitha married the man of her dreams two years after they had started dating. “I was so happy and couldn’t wait to be with him every day for the rest of my life,” she recalls. However, soon after the honeymoon, once they began to settle into everyday life, she noticed that he would just go quiet ever so often. Tabitha had no idea that the marriage she had thought was going to be perfect, was actually going to be the biggest struggle of her life. Tabitha learned soon after that she had an emotionally distant spouse.
“Marty would come home from work, and while I would be all excited to share stories from the day, talk about my work, hear from him, he would just nod through it all, have dinner then sit all by himself. I was so confused by his behavior!” she adds.
Did She Have An Emotionally Unavailable Husband?
Marty’s version of the whole thing is quite different. “Of course I loved coming home to my wife and being married to her. She’s everything I have ever wanted. But I also love my own personal space in a relationship and quiet time. I loved hearing her stories, about her friends too, but I am just not much of a sharer like her. Not for lack of caring, that’s just who I am as a person, I guess.”
Marty and Tabitha had spent a majority of their dating time, in a long-distance relationship. But after getting married, Tabitha discovered that while the geographic distance was gone, she was left with the emptiness in her marriage created by an emotionally distant spouse.
There are many of us, men and women, who can probably relate to Tabitha in this case. A spouse who is unwilling to commit the same level of emotional intimacy can seem cold and uncaring.
However, before one goes feeling dejected in love, give a moment to understand your emotionally unavailable husband or wife. After all, you promised to love them unconditionally, without trying to change them. An emotionally distant partner is just a character trait, and it need not make or break your relationship.
Related Reading: 12 Ways To Build Intellectual Intimacy In A Relationship
Signs Of An Emotionally Distant Spouse
If after reading Tabitha and Marty’s account, you think you could be in a similar situation, then these signs of an emotionally distant spouse can help you confirm the same. If you think that your husband is distant and cold or that your wife never spends any quality time with you, it is possible that you and your partner are just not on the same emotional wavelength.
1. You constantly feel unheard
Literally and figuratively both. When your husband is distant or your wife never makes the time to talk to you, you will feel invalidated in the relationship. It’s like you’re present in that marriage with them but your heart is just not in it. Every time you bring something up or raise an issue, they think you are just being dramatic or that you are unnecessarily overreacting to the situation.
This can make you feel misunderstood and unheard. If they’re a narcissist, they might even use gaslighting phrases to make you think that everything you are feeling is just all in your head and isn’t actually coming from anywhere.
2. They prefer to do things alone
If your husband takes a fishing trip out by himself once in a while, that is not a sure-shot sign that he’s an emotionally distant spouse. But if he does it way too often or also ends up sitting alone at a bar every single night after work, then you might have a reason to worry about your marriage.
Even when you two are in the house together or having dinner, he sits far from you and makes little to no conversation. And as soon as he’s done eating, he doesn’t suggest that you two grab a drink together or watch something on the couch together. He quickly rushes to his study and spends the rest of his evening there. If this isn’t the sign of an emotionally unavailable husband, we don’t know what is.
3. They make little contribution to the relationship
Planning a surprise birthday for you, pulling off unique romantic gestures, suggesting that you two meet up for lunch in the middle of a working day or even trying new things in bed – these are things people do to show affection and also keep a relationship afloat. But if you’re saying “My husband is cold emotionally” or that “My wife doesn’t care about me at all”, it’s probably because they never do any of these things with you.
A relationship is a two-way street, you can’t be the only person in it. It can become very distressing when you’re the only one doing everything from planning meals to making an effort to spend time with them.
What Makes One Emotionally Distant?
Keeping one’s feelings at bay might just be a coping mechanism for some. Any past relationships or emotionally turbulent event can cause one to bottle up their feelings and want to keep it that way as well. This does not mean that it is necessarily emotionally unhealthy. After all, they did marry you and commit to you emotionally. So they do love you. It is just a way to deal with life’s vagaries and we all have our own unique mechanisms of doing that.
Don’t push your partner to open up about why they are so either. If it is due to anything in their past or their upbringing, you may realize the causes over time. But do not hold them accountable for it, as it will only drive them away.
How To Deal With An Emotionally Unavailable Husband?
If the above signs have rung a bell and you are indeed convinced that you have an emotionally distant spouse, then you’re probably now thinking of how to deal with an emotionally unavailable husband and try to fix your marriage. The thing with people who are emotionally detached is that you must deal with them very carefully.
They’re complex people already and you really don’t want to hit the wrong spot and make them feel uncomfortable or awkward. Which is why, if you’re feeling like a Tabitha in your relationship then here is what you can do:
1. Stop playing the blame game when your husband is distant
It’s human nature to try and find solutions to problems, and find those solutions quickly too. Why is she/he so cold? Why don’t they share as much about their lives? Is it lack of love? Is something wrong with me? Why do I have an emotionally unsupportive husband? Is he just incapable of true emotional connection? Getting lost in these questions may be the first response to the problem, it is definitely not the right one.
Understand that you are two different kinds of people and try to develop that respect in your relationship. There’s nothing majorly wrong here that needs fixing, only the coming together of two unique souls, each with their own personalities. Yes, you might have to iron out a few creases and figure out how to make each other happy, but that does not start with blaming each other constantly. Once you respect the difference and stop seeing it as a problem, things will get easier.
2. Make your own couple rules for a better relationship
The real challenge that comes next is finding a middle ground which can sustain you both and keep you happy. You understand your partner’s needs and hope that they get yours too. He needs time apart? Sure, you have your own pursuits to follow. Go out with friends, pick up a new hobby, spend time with family — do everything you can to replenish your soul.
Don’t take him wanting to be alone as not wanting to be with you. He does not share what’s on his mind? It’s okay, because it does not mean that he finds you incapable of solving his problems. Let him try and figure it out himself first but do tell him that you are there whenever he needs you. Pushing an emotionally distant person to step out of their comfort zone will actually push them away from you.
Related Reading: Is Marriage Worth It – What You Gain Vs What You Lose
3. Don’t just diagnose your emotionally unsupportive husband, discover him
Being able to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve is difficult for your spouse even though it might come easily to you. But it’s not all there is to them for sure. Discover what brings them joy and do that for them. Such a person is acutely aware of someone genuinely trying to understand and accept them for who they are.
Your efforts at letting them be even as you want them to share all that’s in their hearts, will be deeply appreciated by them. How to deal with an emotionally unavailable husband? There are ways to work around it. He does not want to talk, but you still want to spend time together? Watch a movie or a play, and it’ll be a win-win. You’ve realized that he’s having a stressful week and is bottling up his feelings. Go do something on your own, discover yourself as well and find the happiness you deserve. He will feel much better knowing that you are happy and doing okay.
4. Ditch the auto-pilot mode
Exclaiming ‘My husband is cold emotionally’ and then crying about it is not a long-term situation. You just have to step up here and take the reins in your hands for a bit. If he doesn’t change, don’t force him to. You be the first one to change, be the first one to take the right step in the right direction.
Instead of feeling dejected, lost and deprived, be the one to change first and warm your spouse’s heart. Instead of letting things be and being on auto-pilot mode, take charge of your marriage and try out a new version of yourself. Focus on yourself, pursue your aspirations, don’t overly obsess on your distant spouse.
Related Reading: 9 Ways To Fix A Broken Marriage And Save It
5. Stop chasing what’s already yours
In the end, appreciate that even though your husband is distant, your spouse is with you in marriage even though it is not the relationship you had expected. If you go after trying to make them someone else or turn your marriage into something else, you may lose what you have to begin with. Work your differences together, without trying to define love as conventionally understood.
So how did Tabitha fare?
“Well, I realized that bridging this distance may mean I take more steps than him because I understood how difficult it is for him to even take one step, let alone the five I may be taking. And I really don’t mind going the extra mile, because I know he does that for me in so many other ways, all the time”, she says.
It can survive but we can’t guarantee how happy it will be. A good marriage needs a solid foundation for it to be able to stand on. Emotional intimacy is one of the bricks in that foundation. There needs to be a good deal of trust, understanding and closeness between two partners for a marriage to be happy.
When your husband is distant or your wife chooses to never talk to you anymore, one can say these are instances of emotional abandonment in marriage. Maybe their past emotional baggage is making them this way or they just don’t know how to be a good partner in a relationship.
Boredom, not spending any time with each other, a lack of excitement are all things that can lead to complacency in a relationship.