When your husband is there but not there, it’s lonely. It’s also stressful and exhausting. When you’re there trying to reach out and get reassurance and he doesn’t respond, it only reinforces how disconnected you are, which hurts. A lot.
If this goes on for a long time, you feel a wave a hopelessness that it will never get better because that’s just who he is. Then you feel disappointed that you didn’t see it sooner, before you chose him.
But his emotional detachment doesn’t have to be a life sentence of loneliness for you.
There are two ways to cure an emotionally distant husband, and you have great power to implement both of them.
1. Shore Up the Emotional Safety
When I get the chance to interview the husbands of students who have transformed their once distant marriages, one thing I hear from these men is that they were intentionally reserved and distant when they thought it was the only alternative to a fight.
In other words, these husbands were actually intentionally stonewalling their wives because they thought they were doing the best thing for their marriages and their families. It was the best way they could think of to “do no harm.” Sure, that meant they were quiet and distant, and things were tense, but it also meant fewer hurtful words were thrown back and forth, which would have done more damage.
So one incredible power you have to make your marriage feel more connected, comfy and relaxed is to create more emotional safety.
One way to do that is to check to see whether you’re being as respectful as you set out to be. Or if you’re like me, you set out to be a respectful wife but really had no idea what that meant and ended up being inadvertently disrespectful by questioning his judgment, arguing with his logic and telling him how to do things he’s perfectly capable of doing without your instructions.
That was not creating emotional safety at my house. Quite the opposite. My husband was veeeeery distant and quiet because he didn’t feel safe. And that was on me.
I thought he was just a distant, unaffectionate kind of guy, but that is no longer the case. Now he wants to interact with me as much as he can, in playful and fun ways, because he feels safe that I’m not going to barrage him with disrespect, which is so hurtful to my big strong man.
I still unfortunately do show up disrespectfully from time to time, like when I’m the passenger in the car for example. But fortunately the overall culture around here is emotionally safe for him, and that means he can be himself—that affectionate, playful guy I fell in love with.
You can improve the emotional safety at your house by apologizing for the disrespectful things you’ve said or done. It’s not that easy to do the first time. It feels so vulnerable. And it is. It’s also humble and accountable, which are attractive qualities that will draw your distant husband into your orbit again, in my experience.
2. Rediscover the Girl of Fun and Light
Another reason that things felt so distant in my early marriage is because I was so serious and stressed out. I was doing a lot of things that my nervous system can’t really handle and not doing enough to fill up my own happiness tank, so the smiles on my face were few and far between and laughs were even harder to come by. Nevermind the dancing and singing and goofiness.
I was convinced that he had changed and left me feeling lonely and ignored because that was just the kind of guy he was. But really, he fell in love with me partly because of that easy, infectious laugh I had in the beginning and because I smiled when I saw him and, okay, probably that goofy dance I do in the kitchen when I’m feeling especially happy.
He missed that as much as I missed him! When I found my happy groove again, I went back to being an irresistible magnet to that steely man.
Only he didn’t seem so steely and cold anymore.
If your man is emotionally detached like mine was, what is within your power to change? I can’t wait to hear.