Q & A TOPIC: Emotional avoidance
Mary from Wellsburg, N.Y.:
Q: Please help! I have been married for only 8 months now. The main problem is, that since the day we said "I do", my husband has become increasingly self-centered. He is also no longer interested in sex. He refuses to tell me I look good, or do any small act to show his love. His excuse is that he has no energy for such things. I have tried to explain how much it would mean to me, with no avail. He seems only to be interested in himself. Sexually, we had no problems until our wedding day. He admits that his sexual drive is dead now, and can give no reason. In turn, it is making me feel extremely unattractive, and unimportant in his eyes. I don't know what happened. My only guess is that he regrets his decision now that it is over. Please tell me I'm wrong to believe this! In his defense, he feels that all I do anymore is complain. He also started a new job the week we got married, and it keeps him away from home for days at a time. When he is home, all he wants to do is lay on the couch and watch TV. I understand that he is tired, but I have needs too. He has also stated that he believes that a marriage should not need any work, it should just flow smoothly, so he sees ours as being defective. I am at my wits end. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated.
A: Mary. First, read the diagnostic section titled "Emotional Deprivation Syndrome" in the First Aid Kit. See if your husband is willing to do some scheduling with you. If he is not willing to do so, you would best confront him that the marriage is not working for you and that you both need to see a marriage counselor to save it. If he still refuses, then you should reconsider your marriage with a husband who refuses to manage the relationship responsibly. Marriage relationships DO require work....a lot of work! Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Ken from Pembroke, Canada:
Q: My wife told me she is bored with me and her life. Truth be told, I'm rather bored with her. She does little to contribute to the marriage, yet I feel she's just in a "depressed state." Money, job, life in general just seem to plod by for her. I've taken up other interests that keep me busy (in the house) while she watches the television night after night. I would like for us to do something together, but most of my ideas are rejected or met with zero enthusiasm. We have been married just over two years. She lashes out at me and is highly critical of just about every move I make. Avoiding confrontation, I stay out of her way. I learned I can't win an argument or make the right decision about anything. She's suggested I move out to give us some time apart, I agreed, now she's recanted the idea but with no thought as to how to improve the current situation. Any suggestions on how I / we can get this back on track?
A: Ken, I'm sorry but this situation does not sound good. Your wife sounds as if she's not very invested in building the relationship. It would be best that the two of you get some good marital counseling to shake out the truth about what is happening with her - and to help the two of you to get on with your lives. All you can do is to "invite" her to get help with you. If she refuses, and if she keeps on withdrawing from your other invitations to engage, then you might best consider whether you want to spend the rest of your life in a sterile relationship. If both of you agree to work to intensify the relationship, there are plenty of ways to do it with good help. You may want to check out the Pairs Program to see if there's one in your area: www.pairs.com .
JJ from Fayetteville, N.C.:
Q: ME AND MY WIFE HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR A LITTLE OVER 5 MONTHS AND ARE REALLY YOUNG TO BE MARRIED BUT WE DIDN'T CARE WE WERE IN LOVE. I KNEW WHAT I WANTED AND SHE DID TOO BUT NOW SHE'S GOING THROUGH ALL OF THESE EMOTIONAL IMBALANCES THAT ARE SERIOUSLY AFFECTING OUR RELATIONSHIP. ABOUT 3 WEEKS AGO SHE LEFT ME TO LIVE WITH HER GIRLFRIEND'S AND NEVER GAVE ME A REASON WHY. I HAD NO IDEA THAT ANY OF THIS WAS GOING ON AND SHE JUST DROPS THIS BOMB ON ME. MY CONCLUSION IS HOW IS SHE SUPPOSED TO COMMUNICATE WITH ME, HER HUSBAND IF SHE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON INSIDE HER HEAD? AND NOW THERE IS A BABY INVOLVED OF 4 1/2 MONTHS. WHY WOULD SHE PUSH ME AWAY IN OUR TIME OF NEED. I TOLD HER WE NEED TO WORK THIS OUT AND SHE JUST KEEPS RUNNING FROM ME. I THINK THAT SHE SEES ME AS A FATHER-FIGURE AND IS REBELLING AGAINST ANY STABILITY IN HER LIFE BECAUSE SHE HAS NEVER HAD THAT IN HER LIFE UNTIL I WALKED INTO IT. WHAT DO I DO AND HOW DO I SHOW HER THAT I STILL LOVE HER NO MATTER WHAT. BUT SHE WONT EVEN TALK TO ME AT THIS POINT. HELP ME IM SO EMOTIONALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY MESSED UP RIGHT NOW THAT I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. PLEASE.
A: JJ. It's always very dangerous to be in a parenting role with your spouse. We all tend to want to eventually leave our parents at some point. I don't know if your assessment is accurate but if it is, the prospects are not good. In any case, don't do anything foolish like trying to force the situation. The only thing you can do is to respect her decision to separate by accepting it while making sure she knows she has an open invitation to return and work with you. I would recommend that you not get desperate about over-emphasizing your love for her. That's not likely the dimension that's relevant to her decision. If you over-emphasize how much you love her, you may only exacerbate her fear that you're desperate to control her. Sure you love her but respect is more important at this point. It would perhaps be more reassuring to her if you can tolerate her separation without becoming desperate. Be honest, but be careful. And good luck - Bryce Kaye
Marie from Tewksbury, Ma:
Q: My husband and I were best of friends at the beginning of our relationship. We knew each other as friends for two years before becoming romantically involved and then lived together for 3 1/2 years before getting married. We have been married for 2 1/2 years. We have chosen to not have children (he has two children from a previous marriage that I am very close to), so we are both very involved in our careers. My relationship with him is the most important thing in my life and it comes before my job. He puts much less effort into our relationship than he did previously. He is less willing to spend time with me and is very much immersed in his job, to the extent that it interferes with his relationships. I am afraid of discussing these issues with him, because he either becomes very defensive and cold or will promise to make changes that he does not follow through with. I have also become less willing to suggest doing things together because of my fear of rejection. I find that I have adapted by immersing myself in my own pursuits-in my work and otherwise. Any suggestions?
A: Marie. I'm glad that you're so clear about your situation. I would suggest that you hang tough and be assertive about what you need in the relationship. Risk rejection so that you can be very open about how you feel. However, I would suggest that you be very methodical in how you approach him. You don't want to come across as a nag or a hysteric. Avoid nagging and complaining in a spontaneous manner. Instead, plan and schedule your hard talks with him so that he will be better mobilized to hear you. When you does not follow through, confront him about what different type of plan he will have so that he doesn't break the same commitment again.. Do not accept vague or general commitments, only very very specific ones. It's OK that he gets distracted at work sometimes. I would suggest that you don't focus on derogating or trying to compete with his work That won't help you. Focus on the specific commitments and risking your openness despite your fear of rejection. If you're very methodical in how you ask, you're much less likely to be rejected. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Barb from Belton, Mo.:
Q: My husband and I have been married almost seven years, and the past two years have been horrible. He lies about stupid things because he says he doesn't want to fight, I am constantly telling him that I feel and believe that he doesn't love me. He says he does but he keeps hurting, me alienating me, telling me that I am a pain, He sees me cry and says it irritates him. When we fight he just clams up and never wants to discuss the cause. We have gone to marriage counseling three times here and a couple of months living elsewhere. He doesn't know how to show me that he loves me, or any emotions except anger. He ignores me, and I really feel like he hates me. I tell him this and he just says " oh please." Tell me please am I being dumb or are all these signs that he doesn't love me? I don't trust him because he is always lying. I don't believe he is with someone else because he only goes to work and calls me from work. The biggest thing he lies about is that he says he will try to be more open and he doesn't. Please help me. Am I fighting a losing battle? I tell him I am half way out the door and he just acts like he couldn't care less. All of this fighting is affecting our children 8 and 4. Please, any advice will be greatly appreciated.
A: Dear Barb, first of all I would suggest that you stop telling your husband that he doesn't love you. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he's so tired of you telling him what he doesn't feel that all he can feel is resentment. As a general rule, I would suggest that you NEVER tell him what he feels or doesn't feel. He has no obligation to love you and you should never even imply that it's his responsibility. Your emotional pain is also not his responsibility and you should not serve it up as if it is. Instead, you both need to go back to the basic foundation of a good relationship: respect. You might ask him how you and he can get back on a better footing of enjoying each other friendship. - Bryce Kaye
Fancy from Bartlesville, Ok.:
Q: I don't know where to begin. To make a long story short, this is our second marriage for both of us. Before we got married I knew my husband would be more conservative and I thought this could be a good thing. In the past 10 years of our marriage I have found he has hidden bank accounts from me, he does not discuss major plans with me. He retired at 61 without even discussing this with me. I asked him why he didn't talk with me about it and his answer was "I knew you didn't want me to". He thinks since it didn't involve me I shouldn't have any say, but it does involve me. He never has asked me what my plans are or what I would like to do in the way of retiring. He is 12 years older than I am. There is no way I can retire until I pay this house off, and that will be when I am in my 60's. He doesn't even seem to care. When I have tried to talk with him about it he just seems to not understand. We go days in silence, when we do finally start talking and things do not go his way he starts bringing up the past. There is no affection unless I start it, he never tries to make things better or even makes an attempt to try to help solve our problems. I know a person should never say never but this happens to be the case here. I am at the end of even caring anymore. All I ever wanted was a happy marriage and healthy happy children. I have 2 wonderful kids from my first marriage which ended after 17 years because my husband was on drugs and had a tendency to get violent, I thought that was bad but at least there was emotion there. My husband does not like to be told what to do or criticized, which I try not to do. But, you cannot live with someone without asking them to do something every now and then. I know this isn't the big picture and it is only one sided. My problem is I am basically a quiet person and I let all my hurts and emotions eat me up on the inside, problem is now I know I cannot take not having a loving relationship without communication much longer. I need a relationship with love, security and commitment and either he does not know how to give it or he doesn't feel it. The thing is I think his Dad was the same way. His mom was in the process of divorce from his Dad until he got sick and she nursed him till he died. I do not want our marriage to end up like that. What do I do?
A: Dear Fancy, there's not much I can suggest if you don't have 2 people working in a relationship. It sounds as if you have some very serious problems that, without both of you actively engaged and communicating, can be fatal to the relationship. Sorry. - Bryce Kaye
Stephanie from Bloomington, Illinois
Q: I have been married for a year and a half now. The romance in our marriage is practically dead and I am starving for affection from my husband. It is hard for me to tell him how I feel because he is great in so many other ways. I hate to complain. I am really not sure if I am just extra needy or if he really should be more passionate towards me. My Question is how do I determine who has the problem (him or me), and how do I go about solving it?
A: Dear Stephanie, the problem is not how you frame it. You would best stay clear of evaluating his passion. Passion is delicate and strong romantic passion usually dies off in the first several years of a relationship anyway. It is more important that both of you stimulate the relationship by continuing to explore each other and yourselves. That way, the ground is fertile for different types of passions to grow - passions like sentiment and respect and , yes, even lusty sensuality. If your marriage is practically dead, it's because you probably stopped exploring each other and yourselves. It may be that one or both of you are limited in emotional insight and don't know how to explore. I strongly recommend for you to see if you have a PAIRS course in your area. You can check them out on the web at www.pairs.com . Meanwhile, go to the emotional starvation syndrome on the Marital Fist Aid Kit. You would do well to set up routine times to get together and use some of the exercises from the Kit and from Harville Hendrix's book. But I strongly suggest that you back away from expecting passion and focus more on exploring. - Bryce Kaye
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