HE AUTOMATICALLY AVOIDS INTIMACY
Chances are very good that your husband has no idea how you want him to get close to you. My research over the past two decades, as a clinical psychologist in private practice and as a speaker presenting marriage seminars across the United States, shows that eighty-five percent of all husbands have no clue when it comes to closeness with a woman. But just to make absolutely sure, take my Intimacy Avoider (IA) Quiz:
l. He is content with a very low level of intimacy in the marriage. T F
2. He does not talk in a personal, heart-to-heart way with you. T F
3. He holds his emotions and deep thoughts inside. T F
4. His idea of quality time is having you sit next to him while he watches
television. T F
5. He seems to love his television, his computer, and his job more than he loves you. T F
6. He believes the only purpose of romance was to get you to marry him; after the wedding, he dropped it. T F
7. The only time he's passionate is during sex. T F
8. He has the listening skills of a tree stump. T F
9. He's into conservation . . . conservation of words. He thinks there's no point in using twenty-five words when one or two will do. T F
10. You've come to realize that ninety-nine percent of his entire conversational repertoire with you consists of these twenty statements: T F
"I don't know."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"I said I was sorry."
"Get over it."
"You shouldn't feel that way."
"I never said that."
"It's that time of the month, isn't it?"
"How about some sex, Baby?"
"What's on television?"
"Do we have to visit your parents?"
"Where are my socks?"
"What's for dinner?"
"What did you say?"
11. He'd rather face a firing squad than talk through a conflict with you. T F
12. He does love you, but cannot express love in ways that make you feel loved.
13. He's happy as long as you're giving him sex, food, clean clothes, and the remote control. T F
14. He thinks you have a great marriage. T F
15. He has no idea why you're upset and unhappy in the marriage. T F
If you answered True to at least ten of these statements, you're married to an IA. Because this is usually a male trait, throughout this book I refer to the husband as the Intimacy Avoider. For those fifteen percent of you married to a female Intimacy Avoider, these same principles will apply to your marriage. Also, my strategy applies to those who are in serious dating relationships or are engaged. Before you get married, it's a good idea to make sure your partner can connect with you on a deeper level.
He Is Intimacy-Challenged
Your man isn't a bad guy. He's not mean or evil. He hasn't killed anyone. He doesn't run over squirrels for sport. He's a moral, decent, and upright person who works hard at his job. He's not having an affair. He's not an alcoholic or a drug user. He isn't addicted to anything. He does not verbally or physically abuse you. He's solid, stable, and responsible. He's a good guy!
He even loves you. You know he loves you. The one problem with him--and it's a big one--is that he doesn't love you the way you need to be loved. He doesn't meet your deepest and most important need as a wife: To be emotionally connected to him. He doesn't open up and share himself with you. His feelings, his personal thoughts, his problems, his worries, his spiritual life, and his hopes and dreams all stay buried inside. He is intimacy-challenged.
The one area in which he seems to be able to give himself to you is sex. During foreplay and intercourse, he can be very warm and sensitive and loving. But frankly, that's not good enough. You need him to give himself to you emotionally. Physical love without emotional connection is difficult--even painful--for you and does not meet your greatest need.
You really and truly don't know your own husband. And you desperately want-actually, need--to know him. That's why you got married! To be close to him! You need to know and experience who he really is inside. You need for him to know and experience who you really are inside. But that hasn't happened in your marriage and it doesn't look as though it's ever going to happen.
This is because for true intimacy to happen, it takes two persons. He's got to talk! He's got to put aside his logic and let his emotions come out. He's got to open up and share with you, on a regular basis, his personal stuff. As a woman, you know this is true because you understand how intimacy in a relationship works. But he doesn't seem to get it. And he certainly isn't joining you in this intimacy process. You're still at Square One. Why? Because your man won't talk on a personal level!
Your man is emotionally stunted. He hides his true self behind an incredibly thick, seemingly impenetrable wall. He might be a pretty expressive guy with a great sense of humor. I've known many men who have no trouble talking. But he closes down when it comes to any personal, below the surface conversation.
Oh, he'll talk to you. But only about things that are safe and superficial: generalities about his day, facts and events, logical observations, financial matters, his schedule, home maintenance, the kids, vacation plans . . . These are the kinds of things he could share with anyone: a friend, his dad or mom or brother, the mail carrier. You're his wife! You need more than this!
Anything but Closeness
Your husband is a master at avoiding intimacy. He's been doing it his whole life. Like the Great Houdini, he is a world-class escape artist. He'll do whatever it takes to weasel out of a close, deep conversation with you. Here are some of his favorite escape-from-closeness tricks:
Answering a Question with a Question
You ask him, "How are you doing?" He responds, "Why do you ask?" You're thinking, "What do you mean, why do I ask? I'm trying to start a conversation. I want to get to know you better." You ask him, "What are you thinking?" He responds with a question that makes no sense: "Who knows?" You're thinking, "Well, I guess the only person who knows would be you!"
One of the classic male IA escape lines to any question requiring personal information is: "I don't know." It is a beautiful, inoffensive way to kill a conversation cold. What he's really telling you is: "I'd love to talk to you, Honey, but I have no information. If only I could think of one thing that happened to me today. But, I can't. Sorry. My mind's a complete blank." It's amazing how men know completely zilch when you're trying to get a conversation going. The fact is, he just doesn't want to talk and this "brain cramp" is a wonderful excuse.
You ask, "How was your day?" He answers, "Fine" or "Okay." Too bad you can't build much of a conversation on these two global replies. Of course, that's why he responds this way. He wants to give you nothing to work with. He has courteously answered your question and escaped any possibility of closeness. It's like you asking, "Where do you live?" and him responding, "In the Milky Way Galaxy."
He simply does not respond to your questions. He says absolutely nothing. Like the Great Sphinx of Egypt, his face and body are carved out of stone. You could stick him with a pin--and it's tempting--and he'd give no reaction. You're thinking, "Am I here? Do I exist? Is he in some parallel universe? Did he hear me?" Oh, he heard you all right. He's exercising elective mutism. He's letting you know that he doesn't want to talk about whatever topic you have brought up.
Refusal to Talk
"I don't want to talk about it." How many times has your husband told you that? And, its time-honored corollary: "This isn't a good time to talk." He's tired, he's stressed, he's too full from dinner, the ballgame is coming on, he has a crick in his neck . . . He seems to indicate that sometime, someday, somewhere, there will be a good time to talk. Believe me, you won't live long enough to reach that time.
Letting You Talk All the Time
He is usually happy to let you talk. Of course, he's not always listening that closely. If you're talking and filling the air with words, he doesn't have to talk. There is no intimacy in a monologue. Intimacy requires a dialogue, so he avoids it by encouraging you to ramble on alone.
Snap, then Leave
He'll get angry, snap some nasty comment at you, and leave the room. He can't just stand up and leave, so he cleverly creates a reason to get out of your conversational clutches. He doesn't want to leave (yeah, right), but you made him angry and so he has to go. If you get angry or exasperated--which is perfectly understandable--that plays right into his hands. He'll say you're overreacting and, since he can't talk to an overreactor, he has to leave.
Drop It and Move On
When you want to talk through a conflict, he will accuse you of dwelling on the past. He fails to recognize that the past is not the past until you've dealt with it together and come to an understanding. He uses statements like, "I said I was sorry," or, "Stop bringing that up" to end conflict conversations. He believes if you drop the subject, the problem will magically disappear.
Too Busy to Talk
He's a busy, busy man. He's got to do a lot of important things and, sad though it is, that just doesn't leave any time to talk with you. He has to work, watch television, dink around on the computer, do yard work, fix things around the house, read the paper, sleep, or whatever else he can find to avoid conversation with you.
Can't Talk, but Can Have Sex
You'll be talking, and he'll start fondling you. You're trying to connect emotionally, and your conversationally-impaired husband is in groping mode! Why waste time talking when you can have sex? When you don't respond favorably (what a shocker), he gets offended and accuses you of rejecting him. Because he's angry and pouty, he certainly can't be expected to talk to you.
The Logical Man
He buries his emotions and is aware only of cold, hard, rational logic. When you get emotional, he doesn't see it as a normal and healthy female reaction. He sees it as a bizarre, unnecessary, and frightening monster that must be stamped out immediately. He tries his logic to talk you out of your feelings: "Honey, you shouldn't feel that way." "Honey, you're way too intense." "Honey, calm down and let's look at the facts." "Honey, listen up, and I'll tell you how to fix your problem." Of course, his logic infuriates you and hurts you. Conversation over.
When you press him to talk, he'll say in a whiny, pitiful voice, "I guess I can't ever please you." It's funny how his refusal to talk becomes your fault because you can't be pleased. Your expectations are too high. You want too much. This poor, dear man has tried his little heart out, and it's just not good enough for you. This clever ruse is nothing more than a distraction from the real issue. Your expectations--that he talk and share himself--are reasonable. You want what every wife wants!
The Genetic Excuse
If all else fails, your IA will resort to these old standards: "Hey, this is who I am." "You knew I was like this when you married me." "I can't change." Bogus. Bogus. Bogus. It is who he is, but he doesn't have to stay that way. Unless you both were freeze dried right after your wedding and put into cold storage, you both need to change as the marriage progresses. He can change and he needs to if you're going to build an intimate relationship. I tell husbands who use the genetic excuse: "I guess if you had a huge, painful boil the size of a basketball on your neck, you'd just keep it there. After all, it's who you are. Baloney! You get rid of something if it's causing real damage. Your being an Intimacy Avoider is causing real damage to your marriage."
Sound familiar? I'll bet it does. What your husband fails to realize is that all his intimacy avoidance techniques are hurting him, you, and the marriage. He isn't intentionally causing damage and pain. Sidestepping closeness is automatic for him. It's what comes naturally. He has no idea he's keeping himself and you from an intimate, joyful life together.
Why Did You Marry An Intimacy Avoider?
I'll tell you why you married an IA. There are three possible reasons. First, because you had no clue he was into intimacy avoiding. You were "in love" with him. Head over heels crazy about him. Totally infatuated. He was the greatest guy in the world: drop dead handsome, witty, expressive, kind, charming, and able to meet all of your needs. You couldn't believe how lucky you were to find such a perfect man.
By definition, your infatuated brain was blinded to the reality that you were dating a man who didn't understand true closeness. Infatuation put a wonderful glow around him and made whatever he said seem deep and personal and revealing:
"I like that dress."
"I had a lousy day at work."
"I think there's a rock in my shoe."
"Bugs Bunny is my favorite cartoon character."
These statements were fascinating, stimulating, and devastatingly insightful to you. No! No, they weren't! They were superficial! But you didn't know that. By the time the truth dawned on you, it was too late. You were married.
Second, it's possible that you actually knew he had IA traits before you married him. But, in your love-crazed mind, you were convinced you could change him. Your thinking went something like this:
"When we're married, we'll be closer and it'll all work out. He'll
open up because he knows me better. Being with me more will really
help. He's not so bad at communicating. He's really sensitive and
has real depth. He just needs to feel loved and safe, and then he'll
talk to me on a personal level."
Wrong on all counts. As you found out later, marriage did not bring you closer. It made things worse. Faced with being with you so much now, he put his intimacy avoidance techniques into hyper-drive to keep himself safe from your constant attempts to "get close." He knew you better because you talked and shared yourself. He figured that was fine for you to do. That was your choice. But it didn't motivate him to reveal himself to you.
Turns out, he's a terrible communicator. He's about as sensitive as a block of wood. He isn't deep. He's superficial. All the love in the world won't open him up. He's a man, and a man's primary purpose in relationships is to not open up.
The truth is, you can help him change. But not the way you've been going about it.
The third reason you married an IA is that you really didn't have much of a chance to dodge the bullet. The vast majority of men on the planet Earth fall into this category.
Being Married to An Intimacy Avoider Isn't Pretty
Well, you married him, and now you're stuck. He just won't talk personally, will he? You've tried everything. You've been nice and loving. It doesn't work. You've cried and begged. It doesn't work. You've prayed your heart out. It doesn't work. You've been angry and demanding. It doesn't work. You've given him the silent treatment. It doesn't work. You've threatened him. It doesn't work.
You've dragged him to church and to marriage seminars. You've tried to get him to read marriage books, but most men don't read. If he does read, he doesn't apply. You've bought audiotapes and videotapes. You have one of the largest private collections of marriage material in the civilized world. Nothing has worked. Nothing.
At best, your marriage is okay. On the good days, it might even reach the level of pretty good. But it's much more likely that your marriage is dying or already dead. Without an ongoing emotional connection--and you surely don't have that--there can be no real life in a marriage.
He's not meeting your emotional needs. You don't feel understood by him. You don't feel nurtured or cherished by him. You feel disconnected from him. You're angry and resentful and deeply hurt. This is not the marriage you dreamed of having. It's not even close.
The Way to Change
You're weary. You're beginning to lose hope. You tell yourself it could be worse and you're right. It could be worse. He's a decent guy. He's not abusive. He does love you and you still love him. But, you desire closeness with him. You can't settle for the mediocre, superficial bond you have now. You know what you're missing. You dread living out your life in this okay, no closeness, no-real-passion, we-just-get-along marriage.
Guess what? You don't have to. There is a way to change. You can do something about it. You're stuck now, but you don't have to stay stuck. You can help your husband become a man who talks, shares himself, and meets your needs. You can turn your marriage into the close, intimate, loving relationship you've always wanted and needed. My strategy has helped thousands of wives transform their marriages. It's worked for them and it will work for you. Turn the page, and let's get to work.
|Married But Lonely
How to help your intimacy-challenged spouse connect to you emotionally and spiritually. [MORE]