“He’s just not emotionally available!” These are words that so many wives have said about their husbands only to be left feeling misunderstood and unloved. Most husbands don’t fully understand what their wives mean by “emotionally available,” and it kind of freaks them out. Instead of striving to be more emotionally available, many men sidestep the issue and try to avoid it altogether by throwing themselves into work and hobbies. But this only makes the problem worse, and it often leads to a wife being emotionally neglected. Then the wife pulls away sexually because she doesn’t feel an emotional connection to her husband. And, a negative cycle of misunderstanding, hurt, and neglect is formed.
Wives, does this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone, and the good news is there are steps you can take to help your husband emotionally connect with you.
First of all, it’s important that you take the right approach when you inform your husband that you don’t feel like the two of you are emotionally connecting. The whole “We need to talk” conversation starter will only make a husband avoid his wife, so it’s important to think about what language will resonate with him the most and help him open up to you.
Your husband wants to feel close to you, but the primary way most men feel closeness to their wife is through sex. As women, our primary way to feel close to our husband is through conversation, and the intimacy we feel through these talks often leads us to want to be more physically intimate as well. Therefore, the best way to get your husband’s attention is to tell him that you want to be closer to him and that you feel closest to him when he opens up to you emotionally about the ups and downs of his day, his hopes, his dreams, etc. Tell him that your need for him to emotionally connect with you is as strong as his need to connect sexually, and he will have a better understanding.
It’s important that we approach the issue in the right setting as well. For example, you’re probably not going to get the best response out of your husband right when he gets home from work and his mind is reeling from the day. He doesn’t want to feel ambushed. It’s also a good rule of thumb to not call him out for not being emotionally available when the two of you are having a disagreement. The best time to talk about this issue is when the two of you are alone and settled like right before bed, on a date night, or during a lunch date. Recent research also suggests that men are more prone to having deeper conversations while doing an activity and when they are side-by-side someone, as opposed to face-to-face. Isn’t that fascinating? This doesn’t mean that you and your husband should only have side-by-side conversations from now on, but it does mean that you might get a better listening ear from him if you approach his lack of emotional availability while on a walk, while driving somewhere, or when the two of you are working out together.
With that said, the most important thing to remember here is to not ignore the problem and expect things to just fix themselves. Emotional neglect is a real thing, and it’s heartbreaking. We can’t have the vibrant and thriving marriage that God wants us to have when we refuse to connect emotionally, and it creates a sterile and lifeless home life that is unsustainable and damaging.
If you’re reading this and you feel like you’ve tried your best to approach your husband in a disarming way and have addressed his lack of emotional availability to no avail, please know that there is still hope for you. My friend, Janny, was in this predicament. She felt like she had tried everything she could to connect with her husband, but his long hours and lack of interest in her and their home life was tearing her heart apart. She also found herself in the negative habit of making a list of things to discuss with him the minute he got home from work. This only made things worse. It made him want to escape more and Janny felt even more unloved and unappreciated. So, she asked to him to go to counseling, and he attended–reluctantly.
It took several months, but over time, he began to see that he needed to do a better job of being emotionally available for Janny. As suggested by the counselor, he also read a marriage book that helped him to realize that Janny wasn’t asking for too much in needing him to connect with her. He had always thought that she was much “needier” than most wives. What he found when he read and talked with the counselor was that Janny wasn’t needy at all; she just wanted to be close to him. She simply wanted to connect with him through conversation, laughter, and time together. So, little by little, Janny’s husband made more effort in their relationship. He stopped working as late so he could come home and engage with Janny and the kids. He decided to finally take some time off work so he could take Janny and the kids on several vacations after years of excuses for why they didn’t “need” to have a vacation. He started taking Janny on regular dates where they could talk without having to manage the kids. Needless to say, it was a huge shift for the better in their marriage, and they both feel closer than ever before.
If you currently feel emotionally disconnected from your spouse, please know that all hope is not lost. You can have the close, thriving marriage that you long for. Try the approach discussed at the beginning of this blog, and if you both are still struggling, find a local counselor near you. Keep on fighting for and investing in your marriage, and your connection will grow stronger!