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How to Deal with an Emotionally Distant Spouse

Many of us have unfortunately experienced the uncomfortable fizzling out of a relationship. Dates where neither of you know what to say anymore, anniversaries that are simply a date on a calendar. But sometimes, the problem is more than simply a marriage losing its spark.

Sometimes, one of you genuinely tries to connect with your spouse, but they don’t reciprocate your efforts. Sometimes, your partner has simply become emotionally distant, and it’s hurting your marriage.

If you feel like your partner has retreated and become emotionally unavailable, here’s some answers to critical questions people ask.

What Does Emotionally Unavailability Look Like in a Relationship?

A spouse’s emotional unavailability can generally look like evasiveness, an inability to communicate their feelings clearly, or simple excuse-making. However, there are far more subtle signs, some of which may surprise you.

  • They’re overly critical.
  • They’re quick to blame others for their problems.
  • They get defensive when you communicate your feelings and frustrations.
  • They’re vague and often inconsistent.
  • They contribute little to the relationship in terms of emotional and physical intimacy.

How Do I Fix Emotional Distance in My Marriage?

Address It Right from the Get-Go

Whether you’ve been in a relationship/marriage for 10 years, or you’ve just started seeing someone, it’s best to communicate how you feel about emotional unavailability as soon as you notice it. If your spouse or partner seems more guarded lately, and this wasn’t always the case, ask them about it. Let them know that you’re ready and willing to hear something that you may not like.

Are You Emotionally Distant?

It is important to make sure you are not neglecting your spouse. By searching inward and asking yourself if there are any ways you are distancing yourself from your spouse, you can then be aware of your own shortcomings and start to work on your own emotional distancing. By taking the first step to healing your relationship you show you respect them and your partner in turn will respond positively towards that and be more willing to work on themselves. By both contributing towards fixing emotional distance, you will notice a greater bond and vulnerability.

Can Childhood Trauma Cause Relationship Problems?

The link between childhood trauma and attachment styles is well-established. Considering this is the case, the reason why your spouse is emotionally distant may be because they’re harboring the aftereffects of childhood trauma. It’s important to keep this in mind when you communicate with them about this, because it means you need to be empathetic.

Be supportive when your spouse opens up. Don’t probe with intrusive questions. Gently encourage them to talk about their frustrations, feelings, or fears.

Respect Boundaries and Differences

A happy and healthy marriage relies on mutual respect for each other’s boundaries and differences. Sometimes, what may seem emotionally removed to you, may simply be a way of life for someone else. Your spouse may value alone-time and personal space more than you do, and it’s important to respect that. Especially if they communicate that with their words.

That said, you should be mindful of your own needs. Communicate what you expect, emotionally and physically, and try to reach an understanding with your spouse. They should be equally willing to respect your needs as you are with theirs.

If you require help trying to reach an understanding with an emotionally distant spouse, you should consider couples counseling to heal the rift in your marriage.

Azizeh is an accomplished marriage counseling therapist based in Palo Alto. Her counseling services provide couples with the communication tools and mutual respect necessary to rekindle emotional intimacy.

Call (650) 206-9973 to schedule a free 20-minutes consultation.


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