Relationships are hard work that you must carefully manage if you want to make it work. Being in a committed relationship requires openness and compromise so that both parties are fulfilled. This commitment enables us to share intimacy with our spouses unrivaled by any friendship we might establish in life.
Unfortunately, life is never quite as simple as we might hope, and complications can arise in marriage, much like in friendships. Every relationship will have high and low points that can impact the emotional state of those involved. One of the more emotionally damaging issues in a relationship is the emotional withdrawal of your spouse from the marriage.
It can be easy to spot your husband pulling away from you emotionally, but that does not make it any easier to accept. Often, your husband emotionally pulling away is heartbreaking and confusing as you are left to try and make sense of things. It is not difficult to detect this emotional distance if you and your husband were previously close, but the biggest challenge is understanding the source of this newfound emotional distance.
The odds are high that you will pick up on your spouse's emotional distance fairly easily since it affects the atmosphere of the relationship. The thing that often eludes most is that the most critical signs are not always the most obvious and can begin much earlier. Generally, the signs of emotional distance are not obvious until they have persisted for a significant time. The early signs of emotional unavailability are more subtle and harder to notice because there is less of an established pattern. The only way to detect it immediately is if your husband ordinarily wears his heart on his sleeve, so to speak.
The most obvious sign of emotional distance from a spouse is his distinct lack of intimacy. Intimacy requires a degree of emotional vulnerability he will be unable to provide since he is withdrawing. It is important to remember that "intimacy" does not directly translate to sexual or physical contact. Intimacy applies to emotional communication and vulnerability that both spouses usually confide in one another. However, the vulnerability essential to this intimacy can be in short supply if your spouse is emotionally distant.
Per Dr. Lindsay Jernigan, a licensed clinical psychologist:
"Discomfort with vulnerability leads some people to distance themselves from their own emotional experiences, which makes it almost impossible to engage with others in a way that has emotional intimacy and depth."
Another important sign of emotional distance is a defensive personality. Being emotionally unavailable means your husband is likely insecure about his emotional state. This could make him aggressive or defensive about emotionally taxing inquiries or situations. Even when you are only trying to address a situation where he has no fault, he might view it as accusatory and respond accordingly.
Dr. Jernigan also touched on this concept:
"Someone who is emotionally unavailable rarely initiates conversations that involve discussing relationship dynamics, hurt feelings, or requests for behavioral changes."
Additionally, your spouse might be emotionally distant if they cannot demonstrate empathy. Emotional distance is usually accompanied by your husband "turning off" his emotions to avoid dealing with their vulnerability. When this occurs, your husband cannot understand your emotional stance on a topic because he cannot access his own emotions and place himself in your shoes. This lack of empathy is a sign of emotional detachment and a lack of concern for your emotional state.
"A lack of exploration of one's own emotional landscape leads to a lack of personal insight, and ultimately, limited comfort with an attunement to others' feelings."
Signs of emotional distance from your spouse can start with minor changes, such as refusing to share details of their day or discussing what is on their mind with you. Over time, the signs will grow, and stronger reactions such as anger and disdain can manifest in response. The signs of emotional distance can help you identify your husband's retreat from emotional intimacy. Unfortunately, your reaction must be delayed until you ascertain the reason behind their emotional distance.
Emotional distance is a common issue in modern marriages due to a lack of understanding of the underlying causes. Emotional distance is not something that happens suddenly but instead occurs gradually. This gradual withdrawal usually stems from a core issue that might have begun earlier in life or is a recent development in your husband's life.
Depending on the underlying cause of your spouse's emotional distance, it can profoundly impact the quality of your marriage. That said, there are situations where you can address the underlying cause and restore your marriage to what it was. Before that can happen, you must learn what some of the most common causes are.
Stress is one of the main causes and bears the responsibility of being one of the most underappreciated sources of emotional distance. Stress is very difficult for those who work in high-pressure careers or suffer from financial troubles. In these situations, treating the stress can be very difficult since the source of the stress is unavoidable. If your husband is overstressed, it should not be surprising if his emotional availability suffers.
Another major cause of emotional unavailability is when your husband is not given enough time to himself. Many men are full-time workers who focus on getting work done when on the clock and have no time to relax or engage in hobbies until they get home. An oversight that many spouses share is that your husband needs time to himself to enjoy the hobbies he has and decompress from the world around him. Unfortunately, most spouses want to maximize their time with their husband the second he is home, which leads to him losing most of his chances to enjoy these hobbies.
While some causes of emotional distance lend themselves to preserving the relationship with some effort, other causes of emotional withdrawal can end the marriage. Another cause of your husband withdrawing from the relationship is if he is having an affair. When someone is having a physical or emotional affair, they tend to shift their emotional availability to their lover and neglect their spouse. While serious, your spouse having an affair is not an allegation you should make lightly. You must prove their infidelity and remain open to the idea that it might not be the cause.
The next possible cause is not necessarily marriage-ending but is still serious. One of the most overlooked causes of emotional unavailability is lingering trauma. You were not always in your husband's life, and his youth might have been wrought with traumatic incidents that caused him to stifle his emotions.
This could include neglect or abuse as a child or a relationship where his emotions were actively ridiculed or disregarded. Trauma causes us to bury our emotions out of fear of experiencing more emotional pain, similar to the initial incident. Your husband might be among the ranks of men dealing with emotional trauma criminally overlooked by modern society.
There are many other potential causes for your husband's emotional distance, but the most important are listed here. Once you have identified the reason your husband is emotionally unavailable, you can begin trying to resolve the issue and bring back the man you love. However, your next step must be tailored to your husband's specific situation.
Your response to the situation might be prone to change depending on the cause of your husband's emotional unavailability. Many of the causes listed here result from situations beyond your husband's control, such as stress or trauma. These causes require tact and understanding to bring your husband back and restore his emotional presence. While you must consider your husband's circumstances, you do not have to resolve the issue alone. Your best bet for instances of trauma or stress is to seek aid from a mental health professional who can help your husband recover.
Your husband might resist seeking aid from a professional, but it is almost always the right thing to do when trauma is involved. Trauma and stress can take root in the deepest corners of the human psyche and fester, causing his overall health to deteriorate until he finally burns out. Convincing him to seek treatment can provide coping skills and techniques to work through his trauma and overcome stress.
Your next step is remarkably simple in situations where your husband feels suffocated in the relationship. It becomes a matter of giving him the space and time to decompress and engage in activities he enjoys. This is not to say you have to give him a blank check in terms of alone time, but that you can compromise with him to ensure both of your needs are met. It can be as simple as letting him have an hour or two to play a game, watch television, or go out with friends after work. In exchange, you will notice he is more likely to be emotionally present and more invested in spending time with you.
Finally, in situations where your spouse's emotional unavailability results from infidelity, your next step is far more harrowing. Discovering your husband is cheating on you is nothing short of devastating, especially since you likely came to this article to restore your marriage. Unfortunately, a violation of trust like this can be difficult to overcome, and most marriages end prematurely. It is possible to save the marriage, but you might find yourself unable to trust him again. This is why an affair should never be your first guess, and you should confirm before acting or making an accusation.
If your husband is having an affair, you might find yourself filing for divorce. While this is not always the case, you might find yourself unable to reconcile with your husband's betrayal, or your husband might be the one to request the divorce so he can focus on his new partner instead. In this situation, there is no good ending. It instead becomes a matter of surviving the emotional trauma your husband has inflicted on you in the process.
Seeing your husband withdraw emotionally is never an easy experience, and it can cause you to suffer emotionally. While your husband likely does not mean to cause you distress or pain, he is not always in control of the situation. Men are still human beings, and most are conditioned to suppress their emotions due to outdated societal practices.
While modern society is slowly working to undo the social conditioning placed on men about suppressing their emotions, it is still an overlooked subject by most mainstream groups. If your spouse is emotionally unavailable, there might be a valid reason, and the signs discussed in this article can help you figure that out.
Unfortunately, not every cause of emotional distance is something you can fix, and your husband's situation might be marriage-ending. While we urge you not to jump to that conclusion, it is something you should learn about before you go digging for insight. If your husband's emotional distance proves to be the result of some betrayal or an issue they refuse to fix, separation might be in the cards.
In this case, finding information about how certain situations might affect the legal proceedings can help you protect yourself and avoid a lengthy and emotionally-taxing process. While we hope you and your husband can reconnect, we also hope this article has proven enlightening.