Unemotional Husband
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Old 01-02-2013, 02:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Unemotional Husband

First of all, my husband is a great man. He is actually the greatest man I have ever known. He is a calm gentle man and a great friend to have. He goes to work everyday, treats me with respect in front of others, holds my hand in public, and sits next to me on the couch in the evenings.

He absolutely hates conflict though and will do anything to avoid it. If I try to discuss anything that isn't pleasant, he gets defensive, stonewalls me, and completely shuts down. As time goes on, he has become mean, shifts the focus on me, and uses things he knows about me to hurt my feelings. He sees me as a nag, a silly girl, and thinks I need to talk about everything. (And yes, these are comments straight from his mouth.) Even when I have every right in the world to show concern, he still gets defensive and angry. For example, I watched a girl hand him her number and him put it in his pocket. When I asked about it, he pretty much ignored me until I became angry and demanded a response. I do not think he had bad intentions. I really think he is just a people pleaser (exept I feel my feelings should be #1). He will do ANYTHING to avoid conflict (other than talk to me). And this scenerio was a long time ago, so please do not respond about it alone, I do not think he is cheating. This is just one thing that always comes back to my mind as an extreme example of how he will do anything to please others, but my feelings are secondary.

I have a hard time letting go of things with my husband because we never really discuss anything. He feels the affects of me not letting go, but doesn't see how he contributes to this. I try to discuss things and he becomes angry. Then when I try again, he sees it as "why do you have to beat everything in the ground. Why can't you let anything go?"

The biggest thing bothering me is the lack of intimacy. Because I'm petrified to talk about my feelings with him, I do not feel emotionally close to him. This compounded with my desire to have sex twice a week rather than twice a month leaves me feeling empty inside. He went to the doctor (which made me happy he agreed to get checked out when I asked), but his testosterone levels were fine. I feel if we were emotionally closer through conversation or sex, I wouldn't feel so empty inside, but the lack of both is killing me. I feel like I am an emotional basketcase. I have lashed out on him while drinking, which was completely wrong of me. I started seeing a counselor on my own a while back because I felt so needy and empty and didn't like who I felt like I was becoming. She has helped learn how to communicate in a way that I would hope he would find less intrusive, but I still get the same response - he simply does not do emotions. I have also been putting my focus on doing things for myself for my own happiness (I purchased and learned how to ride a Sportster last summer - yay:-). While this is great, living with someone and feeling alone can be a horrible feeling and I find I can only let go of my needs for so long. About once a month, I try to talk to him about our relationship and he gets angry. I then retreat back, we pretend it ever happened, and then it repeats in another month or so. His way of dealing with problems is by pretending it doesn't exist.

Sorry so long, is my first post and it is hard to explain so much at once:-) Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 01-02-2013, 02:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

While I haven't been in a relationship where the conflict avoidance was quite this extreme, my ex was not much of a talker. (He did listen well and ask questions, though.)

Ironically, he was much happier than I was as a general rule. My new husband also isn't a big talker. Between the two of them, and some self-reflection, I've come to understand some things....

1. Some people can simply put their experiences into mental compartments and close the door. Once they do this, they literally stop remembering the event that triggered negative feelings. This is a coping skill that allows them to feel peace and happiness when the alternative is misery.

2. As that person's partner, I want to support their happiness. For me, that means respecting their coping methods and finding a way to cope with my own negativity in a way that doesn't intrude on them. They aren't unemotional, but they do not show their emotions. This is an important distinction. My men have found emotions overwhelming, but when you look at their behaviors, what they feel is very clear.

3. When I need to see change in them, it's better to use behavior than words to get my point across.

In your particular case, you seem to be focused on telling yourself that his conflict avoidance is a sign that he's not making you important. In reality, he'd avoid conflict even if you weren't in his life. It's truly not about you.

It's not his duty to help you "let things go." You're responsible for that, and sometimes it really is just a choice to not let yourself talk about or think about something again. I say this with caution, though, because there are some things that should never be ignored, like abuse, infidelity, or deal-breakers. But something like him taking that other woman's number? If you know it's not about him pursuing her, why not just chalk it up to his conflict avoidance instead of making yourself miserable by repeatedly saying "Oh, it means he doesn't care about my feelings?" Re-frame it in a way that makes it "no big deal" and you'll be able to let it go without any input from him at all. And in the process, you'll find new ways to let happiness into your life.

P.S. If you can learn to do this, I think you'll discover your sex life improving a little bit, too. Maybe not to where you want it, but not so distant as it has been.
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

Going to a therapist alone won't help much. What you are telling him is that you have a problem, not him.

Ask him to go to marriage counseling. If he doesn't want to go, go alone and let him know that you are going and that you take it seriously.
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

I can completely see where you're coming from.

Since you've been to counseling on your own, and have obviously carefully considered the situation, I'm guessing you've tried to approach him about this in many ways already. So I'm not sure if this suggestion will be anything new, but...If you want to talk to him about something he might see as confrontational, maybe try thinking about it very thoroughly beforehand, and then present it to him as you asking for something that you want. That way it doesn't come across as a general onslaught of complaining. You are not accusing him of failing you, you're just asking for something that would make you happy. Then if he follows through, give him lots of recognition for this, hugs, smiles and so on, or whatever he'd tend to appreciate.

Another suggestion: As far as intimacy, you might try to be nonverbal. Communicate with touches, a back rub, smiles.. Make it so your affection for him is clear, yet don't do it in a pressuring way. Flirt with him as if you were still dating. Make it safe and appealing for him to come to you.

Just an observation from what you wrote, but maybe what is coming across as him being attentive to others and not to you is just another instance of him trying to avoid confrontation. (Such as taking someone's number so as not to be rude by refusing.) It may come from him actually feeling a bit insecure. So I guess my overall advice would be, try to counter that insecurity by putting as much positivity out there as you can. I hope it helps.

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Old 01-02-2013, 03:47 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

KathyBatesel: Great advise! You really gave me something to think about from a different perspective. You are totally correct in that it is not about me, he would avoid conflict with or without me in his life. And most things, I agree, a different "frame" would work. But what about the things that are important to me to discuss? I realize that we are simply different people with different needs. I feel I do a great job by restraining myself for about a month before wanting to have a deep conversation...lol. His relationship with his daughter suffers because of the same issue. I try my hardest, and in every way I can think of, including planning out the conversation ahead of time, to avoid conflict but it doesn't work. To avoid conflict, I simply need to not have the conversation because he gets so uptight. He literally starts waiving his hands and you can see his body language change and perspiring over the stress...not sure exactly what an anxiety attack entails, but he certainly doesn't handle stress very well. I've noticed this while simply performing a task around the house as well. He gets stressed very easily.

Chris Tayler: He is aware that I have been talking to a counselor and is aware that I am taking it seriously. He thinks too seriously:-) He has however recently agreed to go with me, which is a positive sign. Because of the holidays, we just haven't made it there yet.

Anabel: I have tried asking for what I want and I get the same response. And I have tried the nonverbal intimacy suggestions (back rubs, etc.). After a while, I got my feelings hurt because he didn't reciprocate and stopped. I will try again though, maybe I was looking at it all wrong wanting something back in return.

Thank you for the responses!
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Old 01-02-2013, 04:34 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

He needs to feel safe sharing things with you. This means that if he opens up even a LITTLE, its imperitive that you not react in a negative way. Let him know that you are aware of his need to feel safe, and maybe that will encourage him. Also you should make it more about you. Tell him that you know he cares about you and that you have the same need for safety that he does. Maybe this will help him relate.
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Old 01-02-2013, 10:55 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

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Originally Posted by DeidreCPA View Post
I try my hardest, and in every way I can think of, including planning out the conversation ahead of time, to avoid conflict but it doesn't work. To avoid conflict, I simply need to not have the conversation because he gets so uptight. He literally starts waiving his hands and you can see his body language change and perspiring over the stress...not sure exactly what an anxiety attack entails, but he certainly doesn't handle stress very well. I've noticed this while simply performing a task around the house as well. He gets stressed very easily.
When you say you have a need for that convo, are you really wanting to get your message across or are you wanting to hear his? Are you seeking to negotiate something?

John Gottman talks about something he calls "harsh start ups." Men's blood pressure raises instantly when they hear something like "we need to talk." It's literally THAT automatic! You might be saying "We need to talk to tell him he's won the lottery and he'll have that same reaction because he's conditioned to think defensively when he hears ANYthing that indicates criticism/confrontation MAY be coming.

So harsh start ups are a problem, and rehearsing won't do a thing if the approach doesn't eliminate that initial response. Some possible ways to introduce topics that can eliminate that harsh start up is to deflect attention from you and him when you do. For instance, you can ask him his opinion about something you read that touches on something similar to what you'd like to talk about. You can mention a friend who is going through something similar and give your opinion and listen for his response. But what's necessary throughout this, as mentioned above, is that he must feel safe. If he anticipates any judgment or disagreement, he will enter a fight-or-flight state of mind, and I can tell you from long experience: As emotions increase, logic decreases.

I asked what your goal for the conversations is because once you understand about harsh starts, you can use your goal to consider ways to soften things and help him feel safer.

If you just want him to understand and validate you, maybe he'd feel ok with it if you set a 15-minute time limit and explain up front that you're not asking him to fix anything but just that you need to unload to a friendly ear.

If you are wanting to understand his views on something, you must be able to listen without a conversation. This means watching for his reactions and becoming intimate with his body language. You already know that when his arms start waving and his tone/volume/pace of speech changes, that he's signalling distress. How does he signal confusion? Unhappiness? Contentment? Once you learn to recognize these things, it may help to formulate his emotions into a question: "I thought you seemed unhappy when I said XYZ. Is there something you'd like to see instead?" You must also learn not to use blame or criticism. EVER. There simply is no room for that in a healthy relationship and even less than zero with a guy like yours. He'll suffer silently until one day he's gone and you have no idea why he left.

Negotiating with someone like him is very challenging. After all, his entire aim is to AVOID conflict. IF he comes to see you as a partner and not an opponent, it may help. As I said, I've never dealt with such a high degree of this, but I can tell you I've often been seen as an aggressive, demanding woman. Something I've learned to do in general but especially with people I know are uncomfortable with confrontation is to use statements designed to set them at ease and remind us both of our common goals:

"I know this is uncomfortable, but we are a team. I believe in you and I believe we'll be able to find a solution together."

"I am not your enemy. Please don't perceive me as one."

"I know that this is horrible for you. What's one thing I can do that would make it easier for you to have this conversation?"

Finally, I make it a point to be cooperative on most things with my partner, and I use this to calm down situations. I don't struggle for control/power any longer because it's rarely worth it. Instead, I let him choose what we do in our free time, how we do things, which route we take, and all these "little" decisions that arise every day. When something important to me comes up and it's only minimally important to him, I've said, "You know that I give you your way as much as I'm able, but on *this* matter, I'd like to have my way with your blessing."
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:03 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I have lashed out on him while drinking, which was completely wrong of me.
If you did something you regret while under the influence, alcohol may not be a positive influence in your relationships. Try stopping for a while
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:22 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

A lot of talk here is about creating safety for him, but keep in mind that you also feel very unsafe bringing up conversation with him, so this communication dynamic is affecting you both negatively.

This isn't a situation where you should walk on eggshells just for his sake - but rather, finding a new dynamic that will reduce your hurt as well. You are well within your rights to ask for that and work toward that, and hopefully like Kathy said, you could be a team where he'd be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:40 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Your husband does not sound like a great man. You lost me at stonewall, no great man would ever do this or try to hurt their wife's feelings.
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:53 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unemotional Husband

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A lot of talk here is about creating safety for him, but keep in mind that you also feel very unsafe bringing up conversation with him, so this communication dynamic is affecting you both negatively.

This isn't a situation where you should walk on eggshells just for his sake - but rather, finding a new dynamic that will reduce your hurt as well. You are well within your rights to ask for that and work toward that, and hopefully like Kathy said, you could be a team where he'd be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Agree.

The OP has an unmet need - a very important one for a successful relationship - COMMUNICATION.

Her husband could benefit from individual counseling. He is also avoiding conflict with his daughter - NOT GOOD. Conflict will always be present with children ESPECIALLY TEEN GIRLS.......

He may be suffering from anxiety which a doctor could dx & treat.

OP - you deserve a partner that will communicate with you. Conflict is a way of life. My husband doesn't like talking about problems, conflict & suffers from extreme anxiety but he will do it as a mature adult. I adjust to his needs about this because like your husband, he is an awesome man & partner.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:10 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Also, any good parent understands the need to teach their children to deal with conflict. Even 2 year olds.

OP - I like the way you started your post with your husband's positive qualities. I think you can really help your husband with his conflict avoidance & improve your relationship.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:55 AM   #13 (permalink)
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What you need in your marriage (conversation, sex) are not what he needs in his marriage (?). So the "solution" of having more emotional conversation is more about you and less about him. What does he need... probably admiration and respect. Don't try to have your needs as if they were the same as his needs. The best approach is to start figuring out what's important to him, then meet those needs. Once is is warmed up to you, that's when you start talking about your needs.
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Old 01-03-2013, 03:58 PM   #14 (permalink)
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KathyBatesel: You asked some questions that really made me think, such as why I have the need for the convo. I think it varies depending on the convo, and is for all the examples you listed (negotiation, validation, to understand him). All of your examples are great. I think I have tried similar things, but honestly, I typically end up frustrated when he shows aggression and it shows. I try really hard to prepare myself not to do this no matter how he reacts, and sometimes I follow through, but I can certainly do a better job. Sometimes it just seems so unfair to have to work so hard to communicate:-) And you have provided great specific examples that I can try to start the conversation off right - thanks!

I'mInLoveWithMyHubby: Yes, the stonewalling is very hurtful. I seem to go through a cycle of about once a month where I feel I can't take anymore and am ready to consider ending it. I've talked to my counselor about it, but always end up deciding I love him and want to make it work. I do believe he has a good core and means well; he simply lacks some communication skills. What really sends me over the edge isn't that he gets easily upset, it is when he makes me feel belittled for having the need to talk about things. And it hurts me that when I get upset (such as crying after hurtful things are said), he doesn't appear to care. I'm sure he does, but doesn't show it, it appears that my being upset simply aggravates him more. He is simply not a sensitive person. Sometimes I end up wondering if he isn't right, if I am too emotional, etc. My counselor says I should validate my own feelings and not allow what he says to change how I feel about my own feelings. Based on this, I think my own insecurities keep me from being able to work on his problems properly (I allow his negativity to hurt my feelings and retreat, or sometimes become defensive right back). I personally think I may take things too personally, but he needs help in his communication skills as well. I agree with Emerald that he needs individual counseling as well.
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Old 01-03-2013, 07:08 PM   #15 (permalink)
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My exhusband was noncommunicative. You need counseling. My 24-year married didn't make it. Without communication nothing gets resoved, plus you have no idea what is going through your husband's head. My exhusband was thinking about leaving me after five years of marriage. Said he loved me for five years and that was it. He said NOTHING and never mentioned he had any type of problem with me whatsoever until after we'd been married for 24 years he said he wanted to leave. When they don't communicate there is no way to know what the heck is in their head.
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