Remember growing up when you used that long corded telephone to call a friend – and then that disappointment when the phone just rang and rang and rang? Or maybe she wasn’t home. Instead of getting to share your news you get nothing?
It can feel like that with my husband. Hello?? Is anybody home? Why do you feel so emotionally distant?
Maybe your husband doesn’t share his emotions much or even know how to share them. I’m certainly not an expert on emotionally withdrawn men. But I have aimed to become on expert on my husband as we have faced this challenge in our marriage. This is what Joe has taught me about the times when he is emotionally unavailable:
1.He literally may not be feeling anything.
I have learned that this is possible. Well, Joe tells me this is possible. Your husband is not broken. He’s just not feeling anything. And he may be very content that way. If he says he has nothing to share with you, you can start with believing him and respecting his opinion on the matter. (Adding pressure to feel things at this point will not help. I tried that, oh, maybe 1,569 times and it has never worked. Never. 1,565 times it made things worse. The other four times I think I fell asleep so we’ll call that neutral.)
2. He has emotions, but he does not want to deal with them.
Sometimes I forget how many responsibilities he has and just how many things are pulling at him. So for him to have to talk about any negative emotions he’s having, to him, it’s another thing he has to deal with. It’s easier for him to pack it away in one of the many mental compartments that he has been blessed with as a man 🙂
Or there are times I can tell Joe is struggling emotionally even though he insists he is fine. But him saying “I’m fine” is his way of not wanting those negative feelings to be true. Once he speaks them, it feels real. And that’s hard.
3. He may be afraid of sharing his feelings.
He may be fearful of your response. This may not even be because of something you have done. Past experiences may have taught him that opening up and sharing is dangerous. Emotions are very risky, dangerous things. And even though your husband may take every risk and face every danger in every other area of his life, sharing about emotions may seem scarier. Being vulnerable with someone can be very hard. Especially if you’ve been burned in the past with someone not responding in the way you hoped they would. Joe was often hesitant to share with me since my first response was invalidating his feelings rather than accepting them.
The great irony is that the difficulty we women feel with an emotionally unavailable man is it is eerily similar to how a man struggles with living with a sexually unavailable woman. Then a couple can become hopelessly trapped in a vicious cycle. I know as a woman, feeling sexually responsive to my husband when he’s emotionally unresponsive is nearly impossible. Yet my husband would say the exact opposite, to which we wonder if we will ever understand the mysteries of how God made us, right?
Joe doesn’t meet all my needs, and I can’t meet his. When I look only to my husband to be that everything I come back disappointed every time. When I focus instead on Jesus and his love for me then that fills my soul better than my husband ever could. As I abide in His love for me, I am also better able to take that first step in loving my husband how he needs to be loved. Even if that means giving him the space and time he needs to open up.
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11