The worst type of loneliness is being married but feeling lonelier than when you were single. How do you cope with emotional disconnection in your marriage? Is it possible to reconnect with your husband and rebuild your relationship?
Last week my husband and I went to a couples therapy group session. A marriage counselor counseled a married couple in front of four other couples. I didn’t even know this type of therapy happened; it was incredibly helpful! I am grateful to the counselor and the married couple for being willing to share this experience with us. Here’s what I learned from the lives couples therapy session.
Do you feel emotionally disconnected and alone in your marriage? You are not alone. “We’ve been married for 28 years and I feel like a stranger to my husband,” says Here’s what Gloria says on How to Know if Your Husband Still Loves You. “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. Most importantly it commitment on both your parts. You can’t connect emotionally with a husband who isn’t interested or able to commit to your marriage.
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 live with joy, peace, and freedom – even when you feel alone in your marriage.
How Do You Connect Emotionally With Your Husband?
The couple in the live couples therapy session have 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?
1. Seek an objective perspective
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?
2. Ask your husband if he’s willing to open up emotionally
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.
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.
3. Explore your and his marriage expectations
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.
4. 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.
5. Get emotionally and spiritually healthy
Nothing and nobody can meet all your emotional needs for connection and intimacy – no matter how great your husband or healthy your marriage. It’s just not possible for another human to be your only source of emotional stability or intimacy. Some women make friends by doing volunteer work, joining book clubs or hiking groups, joining a church or spiritual organization, or taking continuing education classes. Others challenge themselves by pursuing a different career or going back to school.
What makes you a happy, fulfilled woman? It can never be one thing – whether that it’s a man, family, job, possession or body shape. My source of peace, love and joy is the presence of God. The healthier and more grounded I am spiritually, the more open I am to emotional connection in my marriage. If my husband can’t or won’t be emotionally available to me in the ways I need, I’ve developed a relationship with God that fulfills me. It’s incredible – and it’s definitely not just for me! God is for you, too 🙂
Take care of your emotional, spiritual, and social health. Build a strong personal identity as a child of God. Not only is this key for a healthy marriage, it’s crucial for a life of joy and peace.
What do you think? Feel free to share your comments – big and little – below. If your husband is struggling, you may find it helpful to read How Do You Help an Unhappy Husband?