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My DH appears to have no emotions

(77 Posts)
coffeeisusuallytheanswer Fri 16-Nov-12 21:56:54

I've just been reading another thread about men who don't show emotions. DH and I have been struggling for a long time due to his apparent lack of emotion and affection. We are at stalemate - I think he lacks emotion, he thinks I am too emotional. Hugs are rare. He doesn't know what to do if I cry. He doesn't get excited for me or even angry at me. Yet he seems genuinely confused if I question whether he loves me.

So I am well aware we have issues. However I have just realised in ten years of being together:

I have never seen him cry
He has never got angry or raised his voice / shouted
We have never had an argument as he does not engage
I have never known him get truly excited about anything
I don't think he has ever laughed 'properly'

I have always thought his lack of emotions strange...but this isn't normal is it?

And more importantly how do you cope? I think I am likely having an emotional affair - certainly I turn to a male friend for emotional support not DH but that is because DH just doesn't seem to recognise emotion. Without leaving I'm not sure what the solution is...

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Sun 18-Nov-12 08:38:50

Thank you again for all the responses - sorry, running about with the DC's.

Ok...he has no hobbies. He doesn't really appear to enjoy anything.

He is an only child.

I don't necessarily want a heart on sleeve type man ... I'm fine on a day to day basis.... But say when I have an awful time in work or an argument with someone I would like a hug or him to be kind. The other day for example I had a very stressful conversation with my dad ( he has had a breakdown) and when I got off the phone in tears his response was simply 'don't know why you're crying, nothing you can do'. Or a few months back I got a great permanent job.,. His response 'well done' ... Or I got my phd ' that's good' . No excitement etc.

Regarding it being my fault. Hmmm. I rarely initiate hugs as he doesn't like them. He doesn't like being touched (makes sex very strange). If I more than give him a peck on the lips he tells me to stop. He has hurt me a lot emotionally so yes I have stopped being affectionate but I think most people would.

Dazzle - spot on. He also loves dogs. Just it seems not people.

I feel I can't leave because he is a stable dependable man. The kids love him. He also doesn't earn much and got himself into a lot of debt so I financially support him really. So if I left what would he do? I can't do that to the children. Things are fine - as I said no arguments and as long as we are doing something practical or talking about something descriptive it is all ok. I just long for a partner who gives me a hug and asks how my day has been. Or I can watch a film with and laugh over. Or have a meal with him and have a conversation - if we eat when the kids are in bed he won't sit at the table and have a nice meal - he sits on the sofa and eats off his lap as he can't work out why you would sit and chat. He watches the tv during sex FFS!

Why did I take ten years? I had very low self esteem. Thought I was worthless (emotionally abusive, drunken father). Then i got caught up in having babies. Now I guess the youngest is two- I have a well paid job where people respect me, have lovely sociable friends and men finding me attractive. It highlights the disparity with home - he has said he doesn't think I'm beautiful...why would he need to say I look nice ... Didn't notice when I lost three stone of baby weight etc...says I'm fat or not as pretty as when he met me.

As for not getting excited about things - yes that's spot on. I make all the decisions and he just goes along with it. What to eat, drink etc. He just says 'whatever you want'

Sorry for length of this!

amillionyears Sun 18-Nov-12 09:39:24

That is all very sad, coffee.
And your reactions to it all are very understandable.
Even the sayin you are not as pretty as when you first met, is probably to him just said in a matter of fact way, not intended to hurt you in any way. If you said the same thing to him,about him, he would probably nod in agreement, and think no more about it.

I dont know where you go from here.
Have you ever mentioned any of it to your colleagues?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 18-Nov-12 09:44:06

"If I left what would he do?"

He would carry on exactly the same way, presumably. He doesn't seem to need you in his life aside from covering his debts... and I'm sure he would treat your absence as matter-of-factly as he does any other event.

As for the children, it's utterly possible for children to have a very good relationship with parents when they don't live under the same roof. In fact, some would say it's damaging to raise children in the environment you describe because they will see your dysfunctional relationship with your emotionally illiterate DH as the norm... and this could go on to negatively affect their own adult relationships in turn. Modelling what it means to be a happy, independent woman with self-esteem high enough to call time on a bad relationship OTOH could be a very positive message.

What's most important in your life, is your life. I don't know how old you are but are you prepared to spend the next 30, 40 years tolerating this cold fish of a man just because ... what..... you made your bed and you think you're honour-bound to lie in it?

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Sun 18-Nov-12 10:51:30

Thanks. Yes his comments about my appearance are logical sadly grin. He would never call me the most beautiful woman in the world because I'm not. He doesn't understand lies. He has said I'm quite attractive. True but not what you want to hear. I'm not that fat ... Again true but argh!

Im not worried about him coping emotionally if I leave although he would be utterly bemused. I worry about what type of lifestyle he could lead - and what experience the children would have living with him. He would either have to rent a room in a shared house or go bankrupt. Then where would he live? I'm trying to work out if I could afford to move out but keep paying the mortgage for him to stay there ( but take the children with me). Madness perhaps but I do feel responsible for him.

My colleagues I have mentioned it to - on a professional level they think AS. On a friend level they say leave.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 18-Nov-12 10:58:01

If he lived solo he'd be like thousands of other people i.e. reliant on their own earnings, various benefits and having to cut their cloth accordingly. It's very noble to feel responsible for him but isn't that really why you're in the fix you are now? Because he behaves like and is treated/spoiled as an older child rather than an equal status life-partner? If you start down the road of subsidising his lifestyle post-divorce you'll be saddled with him for the rest of his natural. Even children have to cut loose the apron strings eventually.

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Sun 18-Nov-12 11:07:22

Yes ... I know ... You speak a lot of sense and simply echo what my colleagues say. I guess it's not the responsibility to him but the impact it would have on the children. I don't want to think I 'did that' to their dad. I guess I have perhaps old fashioned feelings of guilt that I married him so ...

As an almost comical aside my dad was an alcoholic who didn't work and my mum paid for everything and supported us. He was worse - violent and verbally abusive but she still stayed. You can see who I'm modelling can't you (as a psychologist I do realise the irony of me ignoring this).

It's just hard to break away as he is a decent amiable man. I feel like I'm putting my emotional needs above the childrens.

Sometimes - and I know this is wrong - I think the solution is almost to have an emotional affair as he wouldn't notice or care. He wouldn't see the issue as emotion passes him by. I KNOW this is not actually the solution though for lots of obvious reasons.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 18-Nov-12 11:18:58

If you feel guilty about having taken on this decent, amiable, 'sparrow with a broken wing' for the wrong reasons & if you want your children to have a decent standard of living when they stay with their father then make arrangements accordingly. But be clear why you're doing it in the divorce agreement and make it a finite agreement that expires when they hit 18 or something similar.

Yes, the parallels in your parents' life are clear but, if anything, that should spur you on to break the cycle. If you've gone on to copy their dysfunctional behaviour, don't condemn your children to perpetuating the pattern.

Polecat2011 Sun 18-Nov-12 11:19:32

Is it not called "ANHEDONIA"?
As I understand it this can be a reaction to alcoholic parents or abuse in childhood of any sort. The child learns to hide his emotions so that the parent cannot "enjoy" distress and prolong it or put an end to "happiness" and make sure it doesn't happen again. It is harder for the abuser to learn to "press your buttons" if you conceal what makes you sad and what makes you happy. There are parents who will deprive you of things that make you happy, so you don't let on what makes you happy. Displaying emotions just does not seem safe, but with one's own babies it is safe and just pours out.

Stellarpunk Sun 18-Nov-12 11:44:21

Well, I reckon I know what this is.

It is called 'Alexithymia' from the Greek meaning no words for emotions

Alexithimics and Aspergers share aspects of not being abe to articulate emotion so that's why there may appear to have a superficial similarity.

My DH is a Alex, it has caused a lot of heartache and pain. Living with someone who cannot demonstrate emotion is heartbreaking, been there, got the tee, totally with you OP.

In our case, we have only just made the connection, this has taken us 16 years! However, nw that we both know that this is the issue, things have got better. There is hope OP.

In my DH case it was exaberated by emotional neglect from his DM. This was triggered by the breakup of his parents marriage and his own mothers inability to show emotion. He literally shut his emotional response down in order to survive. Being brought up in poverty in a remote village didn't help either. Dad abandoned family early on, I've never even met him.

Alexithimia is a peculiar thing. In my DH's case, he can love and is a wonderful father. But he Los doesn't argue, doesn't find fault or pick. But equally would never plan a romantic trip away, misses out on the nuances of emotional communication, struggles with empathy. Unfortunately, the build of unexpressed emotions can lead to addictive behaviour in order to self soothe. My DHs was porn. This led us to the very brink and me to a suicide attempt.

You can work through this but he will need to explore his past. I would look to childhood, especially his parents. Was there a traumatic event that quite literally 'shut him down'?

Un MNetty hugs to you OP.

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Sun 18-Nov-12 11:57:45

I've just done the alexithymia test 'for' him guessing what he would put. 90 out of 100 ... Anything above 60 suggests it.

You may have just hit the nail on the head ... Especially the logical solution to problems avoiding the emotions.

And the physical sensations ... He is often at the doctors because of some pain or discomfort that they have no solution to.

His parents are very ... Given up would be the word. His dad is disabled with physical problems. They just kind of exist.

Hmmm interesting.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 18-Nov-12 11:59:35

He's your husband, not a case-study.... You want him to be your post-doctorate thesis or a life-partner?

Stellarpunk Sun 18-Nov-12 12:58:56

Ohh ouch Cognito A little harsh methinks? OP needs time to understand this on both an intellectual and emotional level herself.

Once I finally had the word for what it was (ironic isn't it considering what Alexithymia means?) I had the missing piece of the puzzle. The jigsaw all slotted into place and I needed to work through that.

Once I began to work though it, that patterns in my DH's background were finally brought into focus. My MIL for example saying that his Dad was 'very cold'. The deep level avoidance of any triggering emotional response in his family - ergo all communication has now totally broken down. His Dad's upbringing - his own mother (so DH's grandma) would never hug or show affection to her boys in case they 'turned soft'.

Stellarpunk Sun 18-Nov-12 13:04:59

coffee take your time with this. Have a good think. Come here and rant away if you need. PM me if you want to ask any questions.

I too had an emotional affair so I do understand how you feel. You can both get through this if you both want to. For the record, DH is happier now that he has finally begun to express himself.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 18-Nov-12 13:16:33

Is it harsh? The OP has said all along that they find him interesting professionally but disastrous personally. Hence why, on some level, she feels responsible I would suggest. A lot of us have hooked up with flawed characters naively thinking love can cure all and been resoundingly put straight when we find out it doesn't. The OP, by failing to cure this project, has not only emotional investment at stake but also professional pride. No... I don't think that's harsh.

amillionyears Sun 18-Nov-12 14:15:30

Cogito, the op was 21 when she married him, and says she thinks she married him because he was the opposite of her abusive dad.
At that point she did not realise totally what he was like.

The alexithymia, having looked up wikipedia, seems to be it from what you have posted, Coffee.
It looks like your DH gets pains from it. Perhaps your GP, if you tell him about this, may now be able to help him better in that regard?

You sound like a lovely person, op. Perhaps now that you might know what it is he may have, that you might find out how some other couples cope with it.
I feel for you, you are in a difficult position.

Stellarpunk Sun 18-Nov-12 14:27:13

cogito quite a few judgments in your last post. We have not been told by the OP that she feels she professional pride at stake. Wisely, she concludes that she is at risk of projecting onto him because she is emotionally involved.

Actually, it would be a very wise thing to understand the implications of living with someone with this disorder rather than simply reacting.

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Sun 18-Nov-12 14:35:28

I don't feel judged, honestly. I am glad of the insight from someone who doesn't need to say the right thing to me.

I am very aware that I can see him as someone I should deal with or fix. I guess if I understand him in my own language I can do what I can to help him.

BUT I also know it is not my role to help him. I guess I'm just used to it. My mum is essentially my dad's carer...I am my dad's carer (on a more distant level).

I certainly didn't get together with him to cure him. I was a very, very naive 19 year old. I don't do changing people or manipulating them or making them better. I just want to work out if there is anyway of coping with the situation - give it one last chance before I leave I guess. If there is someway I can gain emotional support from this situation then I want that rather than leaving. Or - alternatively - I was willing to be told on here that I was being melodramatic and it was my fault (as he thinks).

It comes down to the fact that I do love him...but I'm certainly not in love with him. I want things to improve...understanding him might be the first stage of that but I think I need a good think about how my background might affect this.

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Sun 18-Nov-12 14:36:29

I don't feel my professional pride is at stake. However I do feel awkward when I go for evenings out / weddings / any social event whatsoever on my own and everyone else has their partners there.

Stellarpunk Sun 18-Nov-12 14:39:49

Honest answer would be.. Is coping really a viable option? I suspect that you know the answer. How would it make you feel long term?

I would tend to agree that having a think is good. Would it be possible to separate temporarily to give yourself some space?

Best of luck op.

DiamondDoris Sun 18-Nov-12 18:13:08

I was married to a man very similar. He wasn't demonstrative and didn't censor what was on his mind. Didn't like kissing or touching. Couldn't be bothered with sex, didn't feel it was important. Never paid me compliments etc. I left and found happiness with another man (in my 40s), the DC and I moved out of the marital home and I've never looked back. Think of yourself OP and your DC - nothing wrong with leaving a "relationship/marriage" (which it isn't), you don't want to spend the rest of your life like this, surely?

Zazzles007 Mon 19-Nov-12 02:07:18

Mirai, in my father's case, I realised that his behaviour was wrong in so many ways, from a very young age. It was only when I started dating a guy with a certain social dysfunction (ie he could not interact with people in a normal, social fashion, but tried very hard to appear normal), that I started researching my father's issues.

It seems that my father has something called a Schizoid Personality Disorder. His mother (my grandmother) was diagnosed as bipolar, and there is a theory that schizoid personality types do arise from an interaction with bipolar.

When I showed the information about Schizoid Personality Disorder to my mother, the penny dropped for her as well. My father hides it well with people he doesn't want to know about it, but with us, the cloak drops and he shows us who he really is.

Coffee it seems that there are a few of us who have an experience that is similar to yours. I hope that some of these stories do help.

coffeeisusuallytheanswer Mon 19-Nov-12 08:28:34

I think from all these great responses I have come to the conclusion the problem is 'his' (rather than being my fault or in my head) [by problem I am not blaming him just realising he is different].

The next stage is me I think - I need to get over my guilt and feelings of responsibility. Diamond - you say there pretty much that you left for how I am thinking. I need to get to that place without feeling I should make more of an effort.

I also need to work things out financially.

Thank you.

needsomeperspective Mon 19-Nov-12 08:59:40

My father is exactly the same. Even down to the no hobbies or own friends and only child. It's just him.

orchidee Mon 19-Nov-12 10:42:10

Coffee- for me, once I'd realised "this is it, it's how he is, nothing I can do will change it" it was easier to make the split. Like I said previously, ex-p couldn't understand why I wanted more from a relationship, and there's no point trying to explain to outsiders beyond "we decided to split" as unless you've lived this, it must be difficult to understand. Yes on paper these people seem good partners, stable etc but there's no emotional connection, it looks good superficially. I did feel like flatmates.

Anyway, the point is that we get on a lot better now. I have different expectations from him. I think this relationship (co-parenting) suits him better too as there's none of the messy emotional stuff. I've spoken to ex-p about how important it is to teach our toddler about emotions, social rules etc, but not in a "look at you!" way, just that all toddlers need this. I have no expectation of meeting another partner but am concerned that any future relationship has to be a good role model for my child (unlike ex-p's experience with his parents, it seems.)

Everythingwillbeok Mon 19-Nov-12 18:20:30

I also could have written your post. Although my partner on paper a lovely man he shows no emotion whatsoever.Things like when my eldest DD was being bullied at school he just listers and then says nothing or goes upstairs it's so annoying I feel like shaking some emotion into him.He also is affectionate with youngest DD but no one else he doesn't even speak to his parent when they visit its as though he feels awkward.So shuts off and plays on his phone or goes in garden.

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