I've been married for 12 years. For most of my married life I've struggled to maintain a relationship with my husband. Although we rarely fought in the beginning, when an issue would come up my husband would give me the silent treatment for days. When we'd finally "talk" about it I would do all the talking and his response would always be, "I'm sorry. I'll try harder." This basically was to shut me up and move on. The result was that we wouldn't resolve anything. He hasn't really shared who he really is throughout our marriage. He oftentimes responds to conversation with, "huh" or "oh really". Conversation doesn't exist on either a social level or a deeper level. He wasn't interested in my pregnancy, never wanted to feel the baby move. He has no interest or doesn't ask much about my life. He was jobless for 1.5 years and didn't feel it necessary to talk about our finances. We went to couseling for two years and he basically never opened up. They said that until he could figure out how to open up they couldn't help. His response consistently was stating what he needed to do or should do in our marriage. We learned nothing about his needs, thoughts, or feelings. I asked him to sign a consent form for psych testing and he never asked what it was for. When I told him he had an appointment for psych testing he just said, "oh". He doesn't see the need to discuss further. He was diagnosed as avoidant personality and dependant personality. I've come to him in anger, frustration, raw emotion, despair, hope, etc. All to no avail. I've been asking for years for him to sit down with me once a week to try to reconnect. I've given him options of writing down his thoughts. I don't think he even gets it. Now he says it's hard for him to talk to me because I'm angry all the time. What about the years and years that we went through this when I wasn't angry? On top of all of this he has extremely oily skin (to the point of ruining the finish on our headboard by resting his hand against it) and a bad odor from it. He showers twice daily but it doesn't help. That doesn't help the attraction. And he's begun snoring all the time, which resulted in him sleeping downstairs. I don't know what to do. I've been to counseling, seen our pastor, etc. He makes excuses for everything and can't remember anything. I do not like being around him. I am extremely angry and resentful, I'm an unattracted to him, and just plain frustrated because his behavior doesn't make sense. I feel like a horrible person. A couple of years ago I moved out temporarily. He did make more of an effort then and could even remember to come for talks once a week. When I moved back all bets were off. I'm tired of him saying we'll talk (even saying a specific date) and then never following through. He's committed to numerous things but not followed through. He even says he understands why I'm angry. I'm just sick over this.
Sorry, hon. It sounds like he feels his needs are being met, so he doesn't need to share such things. In other words, you're meeting HIS needs for connection, even though you feel shut out.
Was this a change from your dating days or was he always reserved? Can you pinpoint a time that things changed? I don't come into this forum often, so if you come back and reply, please send me a PM telling me that you did.
We spent much of our dating long distance so all we could do was talk. There were no communication issues. When I moved back home (which is where he was), we still had a good relationship. Issues rarely came up, but when they did he would just say, "Sorry, I'll try harder". End of conversation. He would never talk about his feelings or emotions. He felt attacked if I brought up anything and he would disassociate. This has been for most of our marriage but as time has gone on I feel even more abandoned and unfulfilled. I feel like he's a stranger and I honestly don't know anything about him on a deeper level.
So he talked fine when he felt "safer" because of distance...
I am brainstorming here, because it sounds like your husband is pretty extreme.
I'm guessing that his childhood was pretty traumatic and lacked connections with other people, and that as a result, he never built the kind of social skills to negotiate solutions, or even to identify his own feelings. Does this sound accurate?
Would you be satisfied with small increases or do you expect a big transition all at once? If you can feel happy with small progressions in the right direction, you might try some of these to see what does or doesn't work:
Whenever you try to talk to him, always include reassurances in your messages that you love him and tell him you know he wants to do the right thing by you (even if you're not sure about that!) so you'd like to make a request. Make your request a simple one - a measurable, concrete task that he can complete and KNOW he has satisfied you. Then show him that you're grateful for his effort.
You could ask him to spend 5 minutes a day telling you about his workday, for instance. But if he complies with that, you'll have to be careful to thank him for his efforts and avoid criticism.
You have two tasks: One is about him - to teach him how to be a person with feelings and to feel safe. The other task is to get your own needs met in the marriage. This may be a very long process.
I wouldn't ask him to talk about feelings at all at this point. Stick to things that let him be objective and matter-of-fact. The way to introduce feelings and let him learn to talk about them is by making your own observations based on things he tells you about work. "Well, Joe got mad about XYZ today" might bring a response from you like, "You must feel annoyed when you have to listen to Joe's rants!" Over time, this will help him learn what labels to use to describe feelings that he doesn't know how to label. He probably will shrug his shoulders and say "I guess" or something like that, but be ok with that. This is teaching him how to have and recognize feelings and feel safe sharing them with you.
In order to address problem areas in your marriage, I'd recommend avoiding any kind of criticism about HIM, and to be very cautious about the words you use when you address his behaviors. Some people are motivated to protect themselves from negative outcomes, while others are motivated by positive regard. You have to determine which type he is and use that awareness in your approach to marital problems. If he works harder because he might get a raise at work, he's probably motivated by positive recognition. On the other hand, if he gives up and the other guy gets promoted, fear of negative outcomes is what motivated him to shirk responsibilities.
If he's motivated by positive regard, use lots of praise and affection as you make very simple requests. He may not be able to process complexities the same way you do. He might be someone who compartmentalizes every little thing - something that is hard for many of us to understand. But anyway, if he is a compartment guy, those small, measurable tasks are CRITICAL to seeing progress. He'll feel completely overwhelmed by a request to "just talk for five minutes," but can understand "tell me the best part about your day at work." He'll understand, "Please wash your face before bed with that nice smelling soap I bought you" but won't get it when you say, "Here's a nice smelling soap that will help your oily skin."
In a very real sense, I'm seeing that you'd have to take on a role of re-parenting him even though he's an adult. This might or might not be worthwhile for you to do. There's a strong chance that it will bring about unexpected results that you may not be prepared to handle, so if you do decide to take these steps, I'd also encourage you to discuss this with a counselor as you're going through all this.
Sounds like high functioning autism. Basically, it is a form of congenital social deafness. Symptoms are all there: ill at ease communicating, problems being physically close, ignoring social norms like hygiene, etc..
I have it too, except I have worked extremely hard to transcend my limitations in dealing with people, but he seems to have been too discouraged by life to try.
You have to learn to work with him as he is. That being said, using a medium of communication where he can feel "safer" communicating through distance in time and space can work wonders.
I actually met my wife online 11 years ago from about 2000 miles away, and we chatted into the small hours daily for a month before we decided to even meet for real, for the first time.
My wife is head over heels in love with me despite my problems, and because she accepts me for who and what I am, I am insanely in love with her and my heart is utterly enslaved to her cause.
My suggestion is that you begin a conversation with him by email. Tell you you understand he has trouble communicating his feelings in front of you, and that this channel is always open for him to tell you without judgement from your part.