Emotional Disconnection in Marriage – How to Feel Less Alone
The worst type of loneliness is being married but feeling all alone. Here are several ways to overcome emotional disconnection in marriage, and perhaps even grow closer together with your husband.
Here’s what Gloria says on Is My Marriage Over? 7 Signs Your Spouse is Ending the Relationship: “We’ve been married for 28 years and I feel like a stranger to my husband. I share my thoughts, worries, etc and he listens but never responds. It’s like I am forgotten, not important, not worth his attention. How do I fix it when I feel so alone? I have no friends to talk to. My children are adults and have their own issues. I am tired. I can’t fake it any longer. I am trying to find a way out because I don’t think I can overcome the emotional disconnection and walls we’ve built up. How do I feel less alone in my marriage?”
Feeling alone when you have a husband is a more painful type of loneliness than if you’re single, widowed, or divorced. When you’re alone in marriage, you’re constantly reminded of what you’re missing and how your relationship was when you first got married. You know your marriage could be better, you wish you could connect emotionally with your husband…but you don’t know how to rebuild your relationship.
The bad new is that there isn’t a magic solution. Reconnecting with your husband requires energy and time – and more importantly, commitment on both your parts. You can’t connect emotionally with a husband who isn’t interested or able to commit to your marriage. If you aren’t sure where he stands, read How to Know if Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For.
But there is good news! You have more power than you think. You can sit up, take notice of the things you can change, and choose to let go of what you can’t change.
You can choose joy, peace, and freedom – even when you feel alone in your marriage.
How to Overcome Emotional Disconnection in a Relationship
Last week my husband and I went to a live couples therapy session. I didn’t even know this type of therapy happened: a marriage counselor actually counseled a married couple in front of a group of couples. I’m not sure I’d want to be counseling in front of a group of people, but I am so grateful this married couple was willing to share their life with the counselor and us.
The couple has been married for six years; the wife is the “pursuer” who wants more emotional connection in their marriage. She wants to feel closer to him, to talk more, and to connect the way they did before they had two children. The husband is the “pursuee” who thinks things are fine the way they are. She feels alone in their marriage; he’d be happy with their relationship if nothing changed. He doesn’t feel the need to connect emotionally, and he very much enjoys the way he spends his time.
According to the couples therapist, this is a very common interaction or “marriage dance” between married couples. So how do you stop the dance and reconnect with your husband? You could leave your marriage, ignore the relationship problems, or try different ways to overcome your feelings of emotional disconnection in your marriage.
Get an objective perspective on your marriage
The couple who participated in the live marriage counseling session didn’t even realize they were doing this common relationship dance. They didn’t know anything about pursuing and being pursued – they just thought they had different opinions about how a marriage should be. It wasn’t until the couples therapist pointed out this dance that they realized what was happening. That’s the beauty of marriage counseling: it can give you an objective, healthy look at your relationship. A counselor can put words to your feelings and give you tools to rebuild your life together.
To stop feeling alone in your marriage, you first need to make sure you understand what’s happening. Why do you feel so disconnected? What do you want your spouse to do? What can you do to improve your marriage? Since you can’t change your spouse…what do you need to change about yourself?
Find out if your husband is willing to work on your relationship
You can’t overcome emotional disconnection alone. If your spouse isn’t willing or able to meet your needs, then you need to either accept him the way he is or end your marriage. Neither option may seem appealing or easy…but if you want to be happy, then you have to make a choice.
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How do you figure out if your spouse wants to participate in your marriage? Ask him to go to marriage counseling or a relationship retreat weekend. Give him a book to read about healthy relationships and emotional connection. You’ll know right away if he’s willing to invest the time and energy needed to build a healthy marriage. Maybe you already know what your husband is and isn’t willing to do.
Learn what your marriage expectations are
The live couples counseling session taught me that neither spouse is “right” or “wrong” in how they view or live out marriage. They just have different expectations of what marriage is all about. If you feel alone in your relationship, you might find it helpful to figure out what exactly what you expect from your husband and where your expectations come from.
For example, Gloria knows her husband listens to her, but he doesn’t respond. What sort of response does she want? Why does she need a response? If she can clarify her own needs, she’ll be more likely to communicate them to her husband. And if she’s clear and concise, he’s more likely to listen to her – and perhaps even connect with her emotionally.
Stop pursuing your husband
This is a surprising way to cope with emotional disconnection in marriage: the couples counselor told the wife who wanted more emotional connection to stop pursuing her husband. Let him go.
This is incredibly difficult to do, especially for a woman who wants to build a strong, healthy marriage! But, that’s the key to ending the pursuer-pursuee marriage dance. Stop chasing, stop asking, and stop focusing on how alone you feel in your marriage.
The counselor said he’d need about 10 sessions with the couple, to help them create more emotional intimacy. If you’re a pursuer who feels alone in your marriage, you may not be able to stop pursuing and reconnect without the guidance of a counselor who is experienced in marriage therapy. Learning how to love an emotionally unavailable man is a process that can take time and guidance.
Take care of your emotional, spiritual, and social needs
If you crave emotional connection, you have to create relationships outside of your marriage – whether or not your husband is willing to build a better marriage with you. You need to make friends by doing volunteer work, joining book clubs or hiking groups, joining a church or spiritual organization, or taking continuing education classes. Challenge yourself by pursuing a different career or going back to school.
The happier and more fulfilled you are, the more attractive you’ll be to your spouse…and the less you’ll want to pursue him. Taking care of your emotional, spiritual, and social needs will help you build a strong personal identity. This is crucial to being in a healthy marriage.
One of the first things to do is figure out if your husband is actually hearing you.
Why Can’t You Read My Mind? Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns That Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship is written by Jeffrey Bernstein, a psychologist specializing in couples and family therapy and Susan Magee, who wrote The Power of Positive Confrontation. They offer couples a way to renew the spark in their relationships.
These authors say one of the most significant steps is to focus on yourself rather than your partner by ridding yourself of toxic thoughts, “negative thoughts that have lost their basis in reality and have gotten out of control.”
If you feel emotionally disconnected in your marriage, do you think the solution is to stop pursuing your spouse? Comments welcome below…I can’t offer advice or relationship counseling, but it may help you to write about your experience with emotional disconnection in marriage.
May you be blessed with a renewed sense of connection to your husband! Remember that being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in your marriage. Being happy means you decided to look beyond the imperfections.