Married But Lonely
You are married but unsatisfied. You love each other. You're committed. But a lot is missing. You're not close. You're not intimate. And it looks like you never will be. The fact is many men are at least somewhat intimacy-challenged. Conversations tend toward the short, safe, and superficial, and finding out what is really going on inside can be a challenge. If this describes your relationship, there is hope! Married But Lonely offers a proven strategy to help your husband learn how to open up, express his love daily in special ways, and connect to you emotionally and spiritually. Start today and discover the kind of vibrant, loving marriage you've always wanted.
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HE AUTOMATICALLY AVOIDS INTIMACY
To every woman reading this, regardless of income, social level, or educational background, the 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 and as a speaker presenting marriage seminars nationwide, shows that 85 percent of all husbands have no clue when it comes to achieving closeness with their wives. However, to make absolutely sure, take my intimacy avoider (IA) Quiz:
He is content with low levels of intimacy in the marriage.
He does not talk in a personal, heart-to-heart way with you.
He holds his emotions and deep thoughts inside.
His idea of quality time is having you sit next to him while he watches TV.
He seems to love his TV, computer, and job more than he loves you.
He believes the only purpose of romance was to get you to marry him; after the wedding he dropped it.
The only time he is passionate is during sex.
He has he listening skills of a tree stump.
He's into conservation...of words. He sees no point in using twenty-five words when one or two will do.
You have come to realize that 99 percent of his entire conversational repertoire with you consists of these twenty statements:
- "Pretty good"
- "I don't know"
- "Nothing's wrong"
- "I don't want to talk about it"
- "I said I was sorry"
- "Get over it"
- " You are overreacting"
- "You shouldn't feel that way"
- "I forgot"
- "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?”
He would rather face a firing squad than talk through a conflict with you.
He does love you but cannot express love in ways that make you feel loved.
He is happy as long as you give him sex, food, clean clothes, and the remote control.
He thinks you have a great marriage.
He has no idea why you're upset and unhappy.
If you answered true to at least ten of these statements, you are married to an IA. Because this is usually a male trait, throughout this book I refer to the husband as the intimacy avoider. For any husbands reading, those who are married to one of the 15 percent of female intimacy avoiders, these same principles apply. My strategy also applies to those in serious dating relationships and engaged couples. 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 is not mean or evil, hasn't killed anyone, and doesn't run over squirrels for sport. He is a moral, decent, and upright person who works hard at his job. He is not having an affair. He is not an alcoholic or a drug user, nor is he addicted to anything. He does not verbally or physically abuse you. He is solid, stable, and responsible. He is 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, most important need as a wife: to be emotionally connected to him. He doesn't open up and share himself with you. His feelings, personal thoughts, problems, worries, spiritual life, 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 or intercourse he can be warm, sensitive, and loving. But frankly that isn't 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.
If this describes your marriage, you really and truly don’t know your own husband. And you desperately want- actually need- to know him. That is why you married him: to be close to him! You need to know and experience who he really is inside. And you need him to know and experience who you really are inside. You may be thinking, “That hasn't happened in my marriage, and it doesn’t look as though it's ever going to happen.”
For true intimacy to happen, it takes two people- both spouses. This means he has to talk! He has to put aside his logic and let his emotions come out. He has to open up and share with you his personal stuff on a regular basis. As a woman you know this is true because you understand how intimacy works. But he just doesn’t seem to get it, and he certainly isn’t joining you in this intimacy process. You feel stuck at square one, because your man won’t talk to you on a personal level.
Your man is emotionally stunted. He hides his true self behind an incredibly thick, seemingly impenetrable wall. He may even be a pretty expressive guy with a great sense of humor. I’ve known many men who have no trouble talking, but they close down when it comes to any personal, below-the-surface exchanges.
Oh, he will talk, but only about things that are safe and superficial: generalities about his day, facts, events, logical observations, financial matters, his schedule, home maintenance, the kids, or vacation plans… These are the kinds of things he could share with anyone: a friend; his dad, mom or brother; or the mail carrier. But you’re his wife! You need more than this!
ANYTHING BUT CLOSENESS
Your husband is a master at avoiding intimacy. He has been doing it his whole life. Like the Great Houdini, he is a world-class escape artist. He will do whatever it takes to weasel out of a close, deep conversation. Do any of these favorite escape-from-closeness tricks sounds familiar?
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.” So you ask, “What are you thinking?”and he responds with a question that makes no sense: “Why knows?” Meanwhile, you’re thinking, “Duh! 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.” That is a beautiful, inoffensive way to kill conversations. 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 zilch when you are trying to get a conversation going. The fact is, he just doesn’t want to talk and his “brain cramp” is a wonderful excuse.
You ask, “How was your day?” and he answers, “Fine” or “OK.” Too bad you can’t build much of a conversation on these two global replies. Of course that is why he responds this way. He doesn’t want to give you anything to work with. He has courteously answered your questions and escaped any possibility of closeness. It’s as if you asked, “Where do you live?” And he responded, “In the Milky Way Galaxy.”
He simply does not respond to your questions. Like the Great Sphinx of Egypt, his face and body are carved out of stone. You could stick him with a pin-admit it, that is tempting-and he wouldn’t react. 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 is exercising elective mutism. He is letting you know that he doesn’t want to talk about whatever topic you have brought up.
Refusal to talk
How many times has your husband told you, “I don’t want to talk about it” and its time-honored corollary, “This isn’t a good time to talk”? He is tired, stressed, too full from dinner, the ball game is coming on, or 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
While he is usually happy to let you talk, he doesn’t listen too closely. After all, if you fill 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. Since standing up and stalking out would be too obvious, he cleverly creates a ruse to escape your conversational clutches. If you get angry or exasperated- which is perfectly understandable- that plays right into his hands. He’ll say you’re overreacting, which gives him an excuse to leave. He doesn’t really want to leave (yeah, right), but you made him angry and so he has to split.
Drop it and move on
When you try 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 have dealt with it together and reached a mutual understanding. He may use statements such as, “I said I was sorry,” or, “Stop bringing that up” to end the conflict. He believes that if you drop the subject, the problem will magically vanish.
Too busy to talk
He is a busy, busy man with many important things to do; sadly, 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
Ever try to talk and your spouse starts 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. Now, because you have made him angry and pouty, he certainly can’t be expected to talk to you.
The logical man
Since he buries his emotions, he is aware only of cold, hard logic. When you get emotional, he doesn’t see it as a normal, 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 both infuriates 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 is almost amusing 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 is not good enough for you. This clever ruse is nothing more than a distraction from the real issue. Your expectation of him talking and sharing himself is 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 may be who he is, but he doesn’t have to stay that way. Unless you were freeze-dried right after the 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 would 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 your marriage. He isn't intentionally causing damage and pain. Sidestepping closeness is automatic for him. It comes naturally. He has no idea he is keeping himself and you from an intimate, joyful life together.
WHY DID YOU MARRY AN INTIMACY AVOIDER?
There are three possibly reasons:
1. You had no clue; you were “in love.”
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 as perfect man.
By definition your infatuated brain blinded you 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.
2. You may have realized 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 : “When we’re married, we will be closer. It will all work out. He will open up when he knows me better. Being with me more will really help. He isn’t so bad at communicating. He is really sensitive and has real depth. He just needs to feel loved and safe. Then he will 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 24/7, he put his IA techniques into hyperdrive 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. Turns out, he is a terrible communicator- 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 is a man, and a man’s primary purpose in relationships is to avoid opening up.
The truth is, you can help him change, but not the way you’ve been going about it.
3. You didn’t have much of a chance to dodge the bullet.
The vast majority of men on Earth fall into this category.
BEING MARIED 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 have tried everything. You’ve been nice and loving. It doesn’t work. You’ve cried and begged. It doesn’t work. You have prayed your heart out, been angry and demanding, and given him the silent treatment. Even threatened him. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work!
You have 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 what he reads to himself. You’ve bought audiotapes and videotapes, amassing one of the largest private collections of marriage material in the civilized world. Nothing has worked. Nothing.
At best your marriage is OK. On good days it might even reach the level of “pretty good.” However, it is more likely that your marriage is dying or already dead. Without an ongoing emotional connection- and if you are reading this, chances are you don’t have one-there can be no real life in a marriage.
He is not meeting your emotional needs. You don’t feel understood by him. You don’t feel nurtured or cherished. You feel disconnected from him. You are angry, resentful, and deeply hurt. This is not the marriage you dreamed of having. It’s not even close.
THE WAY TO CHANGE
Admit it. You are weary and losing hope. You tell yourself it could be worse. You are right-it could be. He is a decent guy. He is not abusive. He loves you, and you still love him. But you aren’t wiling to settle for the mediocre, superficial bonds you have now. You know what you’re missing. You dread living out your life in this, “OK so we have no closeness, no-real passion, just-get-along marriage.”
Guess what? You don’t have to settle. There is a way to change. You can do something about it. You don’t have to stay stuck. You can help your husband become a man who talks, shares himself, and meets your need for emotional intimacy. You can turn your marriage into the close, intimate, loving relationship you’ve always wanted and need. My strategy has helped thousands of wives transform their marriages. It has worked for them, and it will work for you. Turn the page and let’s get to work.