No matter how long you’ve been married, feeling emotionally detached from your wife is painful and worrying. You probably remember happier times when you were connected and enjoyed spending long days together. But now it feels like that bond is no longer there and you’re living side by side instead of truly together. Rest assured this is not uncommon, but it is concerning. If you don’t take steps to correct this, your marriage will be at risk of unraveling.
The first step in remedying emotional detachment is to understand your own feelings about yourself, your wife, and your relationship. Once you have more clarity on what’s causing you to feel detached, you can begin the process of healing and reconnection. It is possible to build your relationship back up stronger and better than it was before, and I recommend starting by considering the following advice:
Men Often Struggle With Their Feelings
In most western cultures, men are socialized not to deal with their feelings. Vulnerability is seen as weakness, and therefore not particularly macho. Even though social norms have changed significantly over the past 50+ years, it’s not likely you’ll see men cry, talk about their emotions or turn to others for help.
Because men are used to repressing their feelings instead of addressing them openly, it can be hard to acknowledge your worries about the state of your marriage. You may not be comfortable talking with your wife, trusted friend, or even a therapist. However, it is vital to start addressing your emotions of detachment from your partner. And the sooner the better.
In fact, emotional detachment is one of the first risk factors for having an affair (for either spouse) if the situation isn’t remedied. So if you’re feeling worried about your relationship, trust your gut and be ready to take corrective action.
3 Factors Which Lead To Emotional Detachment
Internal factors which can lead to emotional detachment are self esteem, depression, anxiety, and the like. Even poor sleep, which impacts your mood and energy level, can throw you off balance and lead to detachment. Feelings of sadness and hopelessness tend to be overwhelming. When you’re in this state, you’re more likely to pull away from your spouse.
“After losing my job, I fell into a deep depression. There was no point in getting out of bed in the morning. My wife would drag me out of bed but I’d end up on the couch watching TV for hours while she was at work. Without the purpose that work gave me, I sort of fell apart.”
External factors like job stress, financial worries and family responsibilities can also cause you to withdraw from your spouse. Life’s daily demands and worries can quickly push you to your limits. Some men’s reaction to this kind of stress is to recede – to numb out the stress of life when it all gets to be too much. This can, and does, spill over into your marriage. Your relationship requires effort, attention, and time. But all too often marriage is the first thing to be neglected when it seems other issues in life are more urgent. Like a plant that goes unwatered for too long, your marriage, too, will begin to wilt over time.
“I’m a business consultant and travel for work much of the time. When I’m home on weekends, I’m tired but still try to spend as much time with my sons as possible. And I’m still on point to answer clients’ emails and calls. I know my wife would like us to spend more time together but something always comes up, something that’s time-sensitive or urgent. Date nights are pretty low on the list of priorities with little kids, aging parents, and a demanding job.”
Emotional detachment from your partner is an indicator that your marriage is lacking something you want or need; that some aspects of your marriage feel unfulfilled. Frequently, it could be that your sexual desires aren’t being satisfied or you feel stuck in a sexless marriage. It could also be that you feel constantly picked on, belittled, and criticized by your wife. Or perhaps she seems to enjoy spending time with everyone except you and you feel lonely.
Most people experiencing marital distress have reached out to their partner at least a few times, but unsuccessfully. This leads to hurt, rejection and disappointment, especially if you don’t see how to move past it. As a result, you detach emotionally for self-preservation. It’s easier to feel detached than rejected. This is especially true if you have a trauma history of abandonment, abuse, and the like.
“I’ve always been a social guy and like being around people. Back in the day my wife and I would be out at BBQs or sports events with friends every weekend. Home was for sleeping. After the baby was born she lost all interest in going out, which was fine for a while. But it’s been over a year and I want us to get back to seeing friends. I go to get-togethers by myself but it would be more fun to be there with her and our daughter. Nothing I do or say seems to encourage her to join me, and I’m tired of sitting at home all the time. I’m starting to think she doesn’t want to be with me anymore.”
How To Rebuild Your Emotional Connection
The most important thing you can do is to not blame your wife for your emotional detachment. Practice some self-reflection and process your feelings. Consider the factors behind your detachment and take ownership of your feelings. Once you have more clarity about why you feel disconnected from your partner, you’ll be able to articulate them. Your wife can’t read your mind, so being able to share your feelings and express what it is that you need is critical.
When you’ve identified what you’d like to change in order to feel more connected, you can become the agent of change. Recruit your partner to help you. You’ll need to be proactive and drive this effort. Don’t burden your partner, but encourage her to join you. Make the process enticing and enjoyable for you both and celebrate each step forward.
Here are some ways to kick off the conversation with your wife:
“I realize I’ve been preoccupied by work lately and have been irritable and unpleasant to be around. It’s unfair that I’ve been taking out my stress on you and I’m really sorry. I miss being with you and would like to make it up to you. I’d like to have a nice quiet dinner Sunday just the two of us. How does that sound?”
“We’ve been fighting like cats and dogs lately and I know I’m exhausted. . I’m worried that if we don’t fix this soon we’ll have to deal with marriage burnout. I’d like to figure out how to improve our communication. It’s important to me that we get to a better place sooner rather than later.”
“I know I’ve let my depression go unchecked for too long, and it’s affecting our family. I’m ready to take responsibility for my actions and get back to being a good husband and father. I thought the depression would lift over time but that’s not happening and I need to take steps to correct it. I will make an appointment with my doctor first thing tomorrow morning and take it from there. You’ve been so patient with me, and I’m truly grateful.”
Get Professional Support
Sometimes it’s better to get professional support instead of going it alone. Think of it this way: if your car needs fixing, you’ll seek out a mechanic. And if your knees hurt you’ll go see a doctor. When your marriage feels broken, find a therapist who is trained and has experience working with couples. If left untreated, what today feels like detachment may spiral toward separation and divorce. There is no shame in getting outside help. In fact, it’s a smart step forward for yourself and for your relationship.