Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Unhappy in my marriage - DH emotionally detached

(126 Posts)
wonderingifthisisit Fri 28-May-10 12:51:03

I really could do with some advice about my marriage (have namechanged). DH and I have been together for 12 years or so. We have two lovely children. We were reasonably happy for the first few years, but as things have got more stressful and complicated following children, our relationship has steadily deteriorated.

Basically, we've always just done our own thing and paid little attention to our relationship. And while this worked for a long time, I've come to understand that it isn't really enough to sustain a marriage - and that I want and need more commitment, support and love. But DH is happy with things as they are (other than wishing there was a bit more sex, but I don't feel particuarly interested when I am ignored the rest of the time). He agrees that he isn't particularly emotional, but is very happy with himself, doesn't want to change, and thinks that emotional men are a bit weak. And he won't change. And resents the implication that he should.

I forced him to go to Relate. And within the first session the counsellor had reached the same point as me - that he's essentially emotionally detached, but happy to be so and unwilling to change. And that I am probably a bit detached too, which is why we got along together for as long as we did, but that I have changed over the years and following the kids, and am now looking for more from him.

We have sex maybe 3 times a month but otherwise there is no intimacy, no hugs, kisses, no 'I loves you's. When pushed, DH will say 'of course I love you' and says he respects me enormously. But there is no evidence of this love. There used to be more, but since the kids and him getting preoccupied with work and study, this is just not a priority for him.

He has shown me over and over again that whenever I really need him, he retreats and gets consumed with his own thoughts and activities. He gets overwelmed, cannot provide support, and becomes entirely self-centered. Which I forget when life is just bubbling along normally and I don't particularly need help and love. But remember again when I turn for him and he's emotionally not there. So I just do everything myself. And I'm tired of not being looked after in any aspect of my life.

He says he likes talking to me, but never organises anything for us to do together or expresses any particular interest in us being together. We have babysitters freely available, but I have to make all the effort. I can expect little/no effort for birthdays. I've tried date nights etc. I had to force him to go away for our anniversary. And we had a better time when we did our own thing while we were away.

We can't agree on basic stuff like where to live, because we are really two people living separate lives in the same house - which is exactly how he wants it. ie.e unaffected by the other person.

Now we just find it harder to be together. We find it easier to do things alone with the kids, because otherwise we bicker in the weekends. We even take the kids away on holiday alone because we don't really want to be together. Earlier in the month he was away for work for a week and neither of us missed the other in the slightest (although obviously he missed the kids).

Which leaves me with an otherwise decent man who is a good father to our children, reliable and honest, and who I can have a laugh with and interesting conversations - but who will never wrap his arms around and adore me, and who isn't there when I really need him. sad

There's no hope is there? He's also disconnected from his mother (politeness, but nothing more which drives her insane) and from what I gather all previous relationships ended with girlfriends getting similary frustrated and angry with his inability to connect.

I've been depressed, angry and miserable about this for 3 years or so, and can't bear much more of it - it's a very lonely place -but don't want to walk away without really feeling like I tried my best.

Anyone else had experience of this?

ItsGraceAgain Fri 28-May-10 13:07:27

Yes, I totally have! I'm absolutely sure my ex has Asperger's. I realised, long after divorce, that he was also emotionally abusive but that may not apply in your case so I'll stick with what you've told us.

Prior to my divorce, someone told me "Your relationship is not meeting your emotional needs and he says he can't or won't meet them. So this relationship isn't right for you." I think that is an utterly crucial point. Your needs do matter. As you've said, they were fewer (didn't matter as much to you) earlier on in your marriage, but now you're feeling the loneliness inherent in a mismatched partnership - and it hurts. A lot.

Your post suggests you have done everything recommended in a situation like yours. I'm very sad for you - the disappointment is heartbreaking

That loneliness is far worse than the kind you have when you're loely on your own. I'm single and lonely now, but I wouldn't swap it for the torture of being lonely, in bed with your chosen partner (and still take pleasure, every night, in sleeping all over the bed!!) You've got your kids and a healthy social network, so you won't actually be lonely like me.

I can't see a whole lot of point in your staying together. Your H will barely notice the difference, by the sounds of things.

I'm sorry not to have been more upbeat - but, in a way, I'm trying to be positive by saying you DO matter; you're NOT unreasonable; you CAN live more happily, and with more fulfilment; you HAVE tried your best.

There's also the matter of your kids growing up with an unfulfilled mum and a distant father. Not good.

Do take care of yourself, please.

Audrey666 Fri 28-May-10 13:22:48

I could have written your post!
It's so frustrating I feel like it's making me prematurely 'old'!
I really feel for you.
I don't have much advice though but I have been following the wise words from people on here like Grace, and it has been doing me good, and I have been getting out separately although I still (I'm sure you must too?) walk around with a permanent 'sinking' and angry feeling in my tummy at my OH.
Good luck

jamaisjedors Fri 28-May-10 13:30:45

I can sympathise.

I would like to avoid getting as far as you but it's heading that way I feel sometimes.

I'm sorry I don't have any advice for you as he is basically stone-walling you.

Malificence Fri 28-May-10 13:36:42

One of the most important needs within a relationship is to know that your partner is always there for you, they will support you and be there for you whenever you need them to be.

You are clearly not getting this support from him. He sounds incapable of meeting your needs, for whatever reason.

You sound like you've exhausted every avenue but it's a one way street in reality, I think it's time to put yourself and your needs first.

wonderingifthisisit Fri 28-May-10 13:45:25

Thank you for your nice words Grace. As depressing as it is, and you're right - totalling heartbreaking - I know you speak sense. I do worry a lot about the damage we're doing to the children. Hardly a great example of a positive and loving relationship.

Thanks also Audrey and jamaisjedors. I hope you can both find help and support, and jj, I do hope you can prevent your relationship getting as bad as ours. I could definitely see similarities in your thread.

Mal - you're right. Support is the key, isn't it? Thanks for stating it so clearly.

Looks like I can't keep burying my head in the sand over this any longer.

LittleBudaOnLine Fri 28-May-10 14:30:14

Marking for later

OnlyWantsOne Fri 28-May-10 14:48:03

mmm... I think I should show my DP this thread.

You've pretty much described our relationship - and yet, he doesnt seem to think there is any thing wrong

LittleBudaOnLine Fri 28-May-10 16:21:11

Same with me too. I've just come to realize why I have been hurting so much these last few years ie mainly that DH was never there emotionally (and physically as he was away either on business or pursuing his own hobbies 50% of the time) when I really needed him (eg bad PND, 2 children under 2 etc...).
Also explains some of his comments (like
- I'm not sure why I was there our children's birth.
- Because I found it helpful.
- Why??)

Now that I have a clearer picture of I am not happy with, I will have to talk to him. Haven't really done it yet as each time I tried to approach that subject, I've ended up feeling even worse ie feeling rejected when I was asking for some help/emotional support.

Not a lot of help for you OP. You are further down the line than I am.

babehunmug Fri 28-May-10 17:01:35

Sounds just like my DH without the interesting conversation cos he's usually pissed. His mother gets equally frustrated with him as he will visit her but sits and reads the paper while she apologises for trying to talk to him. I should have seen it before when I first met him we would visit his folks and he always went to the pub for a couple of hours - duh! We were connected at first but then his ego and drinking took over and he disconnected from me but connected with OW.
Now I'm disconnected from him.
don't think there is much hope with guys like that.

FrogInAJacuzzi Fri 28-May-10 17:04:31

I'm new to MN, and have never posted, but seeing your post Wondering, I just feel I have to say that there really is no need for me to start my own thread. You've summed up my marriage exactly, except we've been married for 20 years, and together for 25. Our situation is a bit more complicated in that we have no family support (literally, none) and my DD, who is 11, has autism. I know there's supposed to be a genetic factor with ASDs so makes me wonder whether DH is also on the spectrum.

It's been years since he said that he loves me, and we also have no affection - holding hands, cuddles, hugs or anything. We have sex fairly regularly but that is the only time he touches me. We BOTH forgot our anniversary this year, and I only remembered when my mum phoned. I'm also not the most romantic or emotional person in the world but I'm so sick to death of feeling like this. I have been to see a therapist when I felt very down last year, but wild horses wouldn't drag my DH to see anyone (and I have asked). DH has a lot of baggage from his incredibly dysfunctional childhood (his mum died from motor-neuron when DH was in his teens and his dad was full-blown alcoholic who drank himself to death shortly thereafter). God you couldn't make this up, could you? My therapist said that being in a poor relationship is like being a frog being boiled alive (gruesome I know!) The water gets hotter and hotter but you just adjust to it..

A friend, who is currently getting a divorce from her emotionally detached stxDH, asked me the other day "how different would it be if you were on your own?" and the scary thing is, I had to admit "not much". I currently do everything to keep the family going, from housework, to arranging for babysitters, to paying the bills and I work, although admittedly, PT. We get on well enough, have interesting chats and so on it's just that I know he's not "in love" with me and doesn't ever put me first. I don't know if he has the capacity to be "in love" and certainly wasn't with anyone before he met me. He's a workoholic and works all the hours. Although apparently this is a common coping strategy among men who have kids with ASDs.

I have tried my hardest to discuss my issues with him, but he belittles my concerns and makes out I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, that I'm just looking for an argument. The last discussion we had a few months ago ended up blowing up into the worst, and ugliest row we've ever had. I caught sight of a truly awful side to him - a real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde moment. I walked out for the afternoon, and afterwards he was obviously very contrite, doing loads of stuff around the house, but I didn't get a word of apology.

When I told him I was going to see a therapist because I felt as if I was burning out, his only response was "well, I don't have the time to burn out do I?". It seems to me as if he goes through life in an impermeable bubble of self-absorption. It has effected my DS, who is 15. There is no emotional connection between them, and I think DS is quite scared of DH. Certainly DH has had DS in tears on numbers of occasions, even fairly recently.

I'm so gratified in a way, and also heart-sore for us all, but knowing that I'm not alone is a relief. I'm hoping some of the very wise MNers will come along and provide some help!

helicopterview Fri 28-May-10 18:03:00

Sounds like you've reached a watershed moment, which is a good thing, otherwise you could sleepwalk through the next 10 years. Especially if you basically get on with him as a friend.

I'd guess one or other of you will eventually have an affair, which would force your hand.

Do something about it. Give yourselves a chance to improve or move on, before the nastiness of an affair, which would make it much harder to co-parent.

wonderingifthisisit Fri 28-May-10 20:15:10

Frog - it wouldn't be a lot different for me by myself either. I do everything around the house, legally, financially etc. He pointed out that he puts out the rubbish. I said I thought I might just be able to cover that off too...

So sorry to hear things are the same for you. I feel sick with the idea things might be just the same for me in another 10 years. As depressed as I have become with this, I do still believe I deserve more.

Thanks helicopter. I too think it will end in an affair on my part (not that there is anyone else), and would much rather move on while we still have some respect and, I think, can co-parent fairly successfully. After all, it's what we're essentially doing already.

But I'm not sure how to give ourselves a chance to improve it when he won't engage in the process. It makes me furious, but like everything else, it looks like I'll have to do it. I have to make the decision.

It's sad to read of so many others with the same problem - but also the same conclusion. These men don't change. sad

ItsGraceAgain Fri 28-May-10 20:42:36

But WHY??? Why resign yourself to the idea of an affair, with all the emotional dissonance, hurt and dishonesty that will entail?

Why not just quit? Why not tell him you're considering an uncontested divorce because you are so emotionally incompatible, and proceed calmly from there?

confused

howsad Fri 28-May-10 21:00:39

This could be me, it sum up how I have felt for years. I'm now in the process of leaving my dh after meeting another man who has shown me that men can be emotionally attached.

Things would have been so much better if I had left dh before the affair and I would not have hurt my H in such a painful and humiliating way.

But in my defense I had not felt loved or appreciated for a long long time, Once the honey moon period went after approx 18 months he became detached and I foolishly went on to marry him and have children and now this.. If only I had the strength to walk away years ago.

LaDietrich Fri 28-May-10 22:05:57

my heart goes out tpo those of you in this situation - it REALLY does. And it was me too, up to the new year. When I told my thoroughly emotionally detached H, whom I had been separated from in our house since the sept before, to leave. He could NEVER give me what I wanted/needed in terms of relationship. And my needs were not outrageous, like syours aren't. Just the natural needs of a person in a long term relationship with children. ie committment, emotional engagement, a feeling that you and your relationship with him actually mattered. I too had been miserable for years, on ADs for past three, in therapy myself for a year. We'd done relationship counselling (he found it wasn't for him, too demanding I sppose) he retreated more and more into drink and work. Iasked for change, finally pushed it so much and he left. He moved into his flat in march, I found out he'd started a relationship with someone he'd known for ten years before that and this weekend he is visiting her in france. He told me he "needed someone who could accept him with all his faults" (like she even knows anything of that side of him yet). I've been through hell and back the last couple of months but I can HONESTLY say I am happier than I've been for years. The finances are tricky and about to get trickier, but dear god not having his sorry self obsessed ass around the house more than makes up for it. And now I have met someone else, who seems to adore me, is affectionate and loving, doesn't drink much and has been "there" for me more over the past few months of turbulence than H had been for years. My advice: get out and get out fast before you end up regretting yet more wasted years with someone who is blatantly disinterested. And good luck.

wonderingifthisisit Fri 28-May-10 23:25:26

Grace - I don't mean I will have an affair. I meant that if I didn't quit the marriage, I could see that I would in time find someone else to meet my needs. I don't intend to let that happen. Unless somehow in the next couple of months he engages in the counselling process and decides he wants to work to change things, we will be separating.

Thanks LaDietrich - good to hear you are happier now. Blatantly disinterested does describe it.

howsad - sorry to hear you've felt the same way and its ended up in an affair. I can see how you will have got to this point.

mumtofour Fri 28-May-10 23:36:03

just to say so sorry to hear how things are for you. When you have no emotional support in life it can feel very lonely. Women are very emotional and very often men just don't know how to deal with it. I know I don't receive much emotional support from my husband and he can often blame me for times i am finding life emotionally difficult or challenging. Men like to "fix" things and with emotions they find that so hard as very often it isnt something you can just fix by a task or job. This can leave us women feeling unloved and misunderstood i think and then resentments occur. How do we sort this?...wish i had that answer. You must do whatever you feel is right for you as an individual. No-one wnats to be alone and yet sometimes living with someone who doesn't understand you or support you can be just as lonely as living alone. I wish you all the best in you choices and you future x

linamex Sat 29-May-10 17:24:05

Hi everyone. It's amazing to see that no matter what nationality, race or background a woman can have, we are basically the same. I'm a 28 year old Mexican going through exactly the same situation in my marriage, except I have 3 kids. It's been an on and off relationship, we were in fact divorced for 3 years and have been together again for almost 5. It's a horrible feeling being with someone who is not really even there at all. Anyway, I don't want to make my kids suffer by getting divorced again and have decided I'm going to stay in the relationship until they grow up. This means letting go of my youth and of the dreams of being with someone who cares about me as a woman, not a mother, professional worker or any of the other roles we women play in life.I hope that I can find some people to talk to who understand how I feel and share my happy and sad moments. See you soon....

wonderingifthisisit Sun 30-May-10 11:35:42

Thanks for your kind words mumtofour. You make a good point about men wanting to fix things.

Sorry to hear you're going through the same thing linamex, but interested to hear you decided to get back together again, and nothing changed. I hope you don't let go of all your dreams. It sounds sad and lonely.

I'm struggling again today. More arguing because I won't let it lie. He thinks I'm just unhappy in myself, and blaming it on him. He admits that our marriage isn't perfect, but says that as long as we don't spend too much time together, muddling along is fine. He says he just wants me to be happy, but I really believe he just wants him to be happy and me to be quiet and accepting of whatever minimal effort he's willing to put into our marriage and our family as a unit. sad

I realise again how disinterested he is when I go to book a holiday for the school holidays, and know that he isn't interested, that I will struggle to justify it, he will come along, but won't join in the planning, will make no suggestions - and will then criticise the weather, the rooms, and be on edge and bored and can't wait to go home. Meanwhile, some mates of his have suggested he come visit (alone, obviously). And he's very keen to plan that. Just nothing that revolves around of family of four. We're the boring bit. We have no plans as a family. Nothing to look forward to. No dreams for our future. I'm devastated by that because I think the kids and I are great and worth so much more. And because I had a happy childhood and think this is not good enough.

He's right that I'm not particularly happy, but mainly, I think, because my marriage is crap and I don't have the love and support I need. I don't believe he, or anyone else, is responsible for my happines. I get that. But I do think I need and deserve a certain amount of care and tenderness. Especially from my husband.

But he might be right that I'm just pinning everything on him. I certainly have turned into a miserable nagging person who cries all the time. I would hate to be married to me now too.

I'm off to the counsellor again tomorrow, but am going alone this time. I hate this all, especially being the one who has to make the decision.

FrogInAJacuzzi Sun 30-May-10 12:23:34

TO be honest, Wondering, it seems as if your husband is more than happy to go along with the domestic convenience of you being there and sorting everything out for him, and doesn't feel much love. They say that men will seldom leave a marriage, no matter how unsatisfactory, unless they have another "housekeeper" waiting in the wings. I asked my DH yesterday, as we were having a discussion about a colleague of his who has left his wife for the OW, if he had ever wanted to try living separately / trial separation. I was a little surprised but not shocked when he DIDN'T say "No darling I couldn't imagine life without you", saying, "do you want a separation?" instead. He then went on to mumble something about how costly it would be to run two households. Message to me is that he wouldn't mind having a separation whether it be permanent or temporary (as he's having a bit of a mid-life crisis thing himself) but doesn't really want to do his own laundry, and doesn't want to be the one to initiate it or make the decision.

How about if you just said to him outright "I want a trial separation" and see what response you get? Be prepared for him to agree, though. I've got to the point where I've fully worked through in my head what it would be like to be on my own and I know I could handle it. Financially we could manage, I have more support from Social Services now, and I belong to several parent's support groups. I think that I could manage to push the f**cking wheelie bins out once a week (also his main contribution to the smooth running of our household).

Life really is too short to settle. Don't sacrifice your life and your happiness - and for what it's worth, from what I've read it doesn't always work out when you just stay together for the children. They always figure out, sooner or later, that daddy and mummy don't love each other, and don't behave towards each other as their friend's parents do (those that aren't divorced lol).
I know it's easier for me to say this because my DC are a bit older already.

Carry on with the counselling if it helps. My therapist said to me that only I can answer the question "is it good enough?". I doubt that your H will ever be the one to make the call and will be contented to drift along with full domestic service until someone else comes along. My H is the same. In many ways they're like men-children, still stuck at some pre-adolescent emotional level. In your first post, you mentioned that things got worse after the DC came along, and it was EXACTLY the same for me. The emotional withdrawal, the coldness, the retreating into work. It's as if they aren't emotionally evolved enough to be a parent and are only really happy being children themselves.

This is all really helping me - I didn't realise how much it helps to get it all out on paper (virtually speaking). I think I've pretty much made up my mind, just waiting for the right time. And it feels quite good.Do something really nice for yourself this week - you deserve it!

MadMadamMim Sun 30-May-10 13:04:58

I'm a long time lurker, very rare poster, but came on here intending to make a post about the mess my marriage is in, and found this, and it totally sums up my relationship.

DH and I are having a trial separation - he went to stay at his Mum's on Monday night, after I told him that he hasn't seemed happy with us for so long, that he needs to figure out what he wants. It was a really horrible conversation, one I didn't want to have. Asking him to leave so that he can work out if he wants to stay was so hard. My children are 4 and 2, and so far we have dodged explaining to them by telling them DH is at work (he works shifts, so not too unusual for them not to see him).

He admits that he has been selfish, that he doesn't know what makes him behave the way he does with people (He's like it with his family as well, which they find hard to deal with). He was never like this with me, but in the last year or so I have felt more and more alone in our marriage.

I look at our beautiful children and feel so guilty that this is what they have. I want him to come home, but I want him to understand that he needs to be HERE, in every way - just living here is not enough. It infuriates me that he would happily spend the day playing computer games but never take his sons to the park or out for the day as a family.

He told me that when we do go out it is all my way, that I'm overruling his ideas. But the fact is, he HAS no ideas. He's never suggested that we go out somewhere, or do anything. He doesn't want to plan, or talk about the future, unless it relates to his job which he started just over 8 months ago - this is the job he's wanted to do his whole life, and he loves it - but almost to the point where there is no room in his life for anything else.

So, he's been gone for a week, and it hurts, but mainly for the children. I really want them to have a father who is living with them and involved. He has come to take them out for the day today, and it seems like he's doing more with them now than when he was living here.

In a way, I need to figure out why I want him back if that makes any sense. I'm not sure whether it's because of the children, or because I love him.

I'm sorry, this is rambling and probably doesn't make much sense, but I need to anonymously share this with someone. In a sad way, it's nice to know I'm not alone.
sad

LaDietrich Sun 30-May-10 21:12:18

sad sad sad - froginajacuzzi, wondering, mmm and anyone else in this situation - it really is SHIT! the thing I have reflected long and hard on since by previously inert and disengaged H took up with his OW swifty after separating (even though he claimed he didn't want to separate at all and basically manipulated (probably subconsciously to give him some benefit of doubt) the situation so it was me "making all the decisions") - anyway, th ething I have reflected long and hard on is that I am GLAD GLAD GLAD I did push and force so that I am out of that dead relationship now while I am still relatively young (41) with a life ahead of me, than at some point in the future when he would have met someone else anyway (he was SO disengaged it was always on teh cards) and would have moved on when it suited him.

It's very passive aggressive this thing they do, sitting back, accepting a shoddy relationship because they are being serviced in whatever way, domestically, socially, sexually...making the woman feel it is all her problem. IT'S NOT!!! and any decent man would accept that and seek to resolve issues in the relationship WITH his partner.

I've had GPs and therapists pointing this out to me since, and only recently am I coming to accept it. TBH i feel almost as though my expectations had gone so low as a result of the years of disinterest (basically grateful for any scrap of engagement, affection or sign of love) that I was almost brainwashed into acceptane of something that no-one should have to be part of.

I hope that each of you can find the strength to do what you need to. And remember, by doing nothing these men ARE making decisions. Worth pointing that out perhaps. It's something that really made a difference to my perception of the situation I was in when I realised it.

btw, my kids seem much happier and calmer since, it's absolutely AMAZED me.

Please, do yourselves a favour and if they can't come and meet you at least halfway start thinking seriously about whether you'd be happier on your own.

I realised today that the mass of seething resentment I had become in the last years of our relationship is a thing of the past now. I am so so much happier I almost wouldn't have believed it possible. And I loved that man. I really did. But one person's love and comittment simply isn't enough to keep a relationship afloat as far as I am concerned. I can see that now.

Good luck.

wonderingifthisisit Sun 30-May-10 21:20:06

frog and madmadam. Looks like we're all in the same lonely boat.

frog - I know with a sinking feeling that you're right, and that while I've been trying to excuse it with 'he's not in touch with his feelings' type thoughts, he just doesn't care or love me, but what we have is convenient for him. Well it's not for me anymore. I have told him I want to separate. He doesn't think I really mean it and that this isn't so bad, if only I could stop starting arguments and running him down. Well done for making progress yourself. It is helpful to see it written down, isn't it? Although as soon as I did I saw how pathetic and hopeless our situation was, when before I think I thought there was some hope.

madmadam - I think you're a couple of weeks or months ahead of me, but we're going down the same path. So so sorry. It seems unbelievable doesn't it that anyone could place a job and other minor stuff ahead of a loving family? And our children are similar ages. You could be describing my DH when you say "He admits that he has been selfish, that he doesn't know what makes him behave the way he does with people." That's it exactly.

I also get confused when we have days that are not so bad and when he does lovely things with the kids. But then I remind myself that I'm not his daughter. So being a good dad isn't enough.

Chandra Sun 30-May-10 21:26:15

Sorry, Linamex I had to stop reading at this (which is not by the OP):

"Anyway, I don't want to make my kids suffer by getting divorced again and have decided I'm going to stay in the relationship until they grow up. This means letting go of my youth and of the dreams of being with someone who cares about me as a woman, not a mother, professional worker or any of the other roles we women play in life"

That's absolute bollocks, if you have girls you are teaching them that their dreams are of no importance, if you have boys you are teaching them to disrespect women. Get out of it, its a terrible example.

My mother told me something like that when I said I wanted a divorce, the only thing I remember was looking at her while thinking, gosh if this is where I am heading, bloody hell, I want out!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now