I recently sat down with a young married couple. They’re in a stressful season of life with work demands, the stresses of raising a young child, stretching every dollar to make ends meet and trying to make time for one another. On top of those everyday stresses, a tragic death in the husband’s family has cast a shadow of grief over their home that has replaced their previous laugher and joy with painful tears and and sometimes even numbness. Through it all, the wife has desperately wanted her husband to open up to her, but her husband seems distant and disconnected.
To hear them taking turns talking, it was if they were trying to figure out how they had drifted so far apart. The long days between meaningful conversations had left the wife feeling emotionally starved, but the stresses of work and the grieving process had left the husband feeling physically and emotionally exhausted but instead of finding a retreat from the stresses at home with his wife, he was acting like a turtle retreating into his shell to find safety and comfort in dark solitude.
For the wife, his isolation and refusal to open up was creating deep feelings of loneliness, rejection and abandonment. Her questions about his day upon his arrival home were simply meant to reconnect, but to his weary mind, they seemed like an interrogation and he was exercising his “right to remain silent.” He didn’t know how to put it into words, so he didn’t even try.
Had the couple kept on this path, their slow drift apart could have resulted in reckless behaviors like adultery or addiction and possibly in divorce.
Thankfully, they recognized that they were drifting in opposite directions, and it was a wakeup call. They sought help. If you’re dealing with a similar situation in your marriage, I’ll tell you what I told them: “This problem didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight, but if you’re willing to make some changes and form some new habits, you’ll get through this together and you’ll be stronger on the other side!”
Some of the ways to reconnect with a “distant” husband include:
FOR THE HUSBANDS…
Stop pushing your wife away! That might not be what you think you’re doing, but that’s exactly how it feels to her. Your silence is crushing her. Your absence is devastating her. Step out of your comfort zone and OPEN UP TO HER. Tell her how you’re feeling even if you can’t put it into words. MAKE TIME TOGETHER A PRIORITY. Don’t expect this to fix itself. If you stay on autopilot, the marriage will crash. Take action. Fight for your marriage. Your wife needs you. Reassure your wife every chance you get. Encourage her. Pray with her. Leave her love notes. Ask her how she’s feeling. Text and call her throughout the day. Remind her often of your love for her and you commitment to the marriage.
FOR THE WIVES…
Understand that there may be times when some silence and solitude is what your husband needs to mentally process his feelings and make plans for healing. He has an innate need to “fix” things and when he’s faced with a situation he can’t seem to fix, it causes deep feelings of insecurity and frustration that can manifest themselves in negative ways at home. Give him some space and some grace, but then also ENCOURAGE HIM TO OPEN UP. Tell him everything you’re feeling. Tell him how much you LOVE and RESPECT him, but also tell him that working through this TOGETHER is the ONLY way the marriage can survive.
FOR BOTH OF YOU…
Don’t lose hope! You’ll get through this together and be stronger on the other side, but YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE. Please check out the resources available from our friends at the The National Institute of Marriage and our new online program for couples in crisis at FightingForMyMarriage.com.
Don't give up on your marriage. It is worth the effort and investment. If you feel like your marriage is struggling, or even failing, there is hope. There is healing.