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.
Help. Emotionally distant H - i am wondering about ending our marriage.(23 Posts)
I wd be really really grateful for advice from the many wise contributors to this board. I have NCd. Please Forgive Iphone typoes.
I am married - married three years, together for nine, and a beautiful baby DD 6 months, the light of my world. I am blissful with her. She is so great! But my marriage is just breaking my heart. And I am wondering if we should call it a day.
My H hasn't cheated or beaten me up. The problem is much less dramatic but still very very painful.
Basically he has always been astonishingly emotionally reserved. Like - amazingly. he says the problem is that he doesn't even know what his own emotions are most if the time. He is so strangely neutral.
he isn't demonstratively warm emotionally.
If he sees me sad about something for example, he will just stand or sit and look at m impassively. And perhaps if prompted will say 'that's sad' or something in a neutral tone. If he realises he is annoyed or sad he keeps it all hidden again behind this extraordinary impassive calm face and won't tell me. If something wonderful happens and I want to share the joy with him he will again stay really muted but might say 'that's good'.
Probably doesn't sound much. But It is exhausting and means we do fight a lot - always the same thing. (Lack of emotional expression/ zero spontaneity). And fighting is NOT okay because I want Dd to have a warm positive environment. Not one where emotions have to be painstakingly elicited and explained and where fights happen because of the total mismatch.
It also makes me feel so lonely. (Can't help choking up writing this.) I am an exuberant and enthusiastic person myself and don't find it hard to express emotions and this is so so foreign to me.
For nine years I have tried - I have tried to appreciate he just isn't wired like me, and I have tried to help explain the kinds if responses that would help me feel he was emotionally engaging with me. But it is exhausting. It feels like I have the job of stage managing emotions fir me and another adult.
I YEARN fir a relationship where I could say 'this sad/happy thing happened' and the person would just naturally, instinctively respond with 'wow that's great/ damn that's a shame' or whatever. Where we could chat naturally. Where I wouldn't have to either accept I can't ever share feelings or painstakingly help him access his own and express them.
The mars/Venus 'learn to empathise' books captured some of the issues but the scale is way too vast - as he says the problem is that he doesn't even know what his emotions are most if the time.
I have wondered if he may have aspergers mildly. But I think the issue, if there is one, is more upbringing - his incredibly weird mother is practically silent, never told him she lived him his entire childhood (mentioned it the first time when he got in a teain to leave home fir university). She is really strange and socially awkward - will sit in total silence and then say something bafflingly random and odd - and all through his childhood the family never talked about emotions or to be frank virtually anything else! It is very odd visiting them. Whole days can go by without any if them initiating a conversation. ( I of course leap in and chatter where possible, but in a baffled way).
But really the family background is only relevant insofar as it may give some clues and I am desperate to find a solution - to unlock his heart - so we can share things and be happy.
The only time his face softens and his voice gets spontaneously warm is sometimes when talking to our baby daughter. He can sometimes do it then. It is amazing to see. He says he doesn't know how he does it rhen.
Nine years is a long time. The issues have always been there. But now baby is here I haven't got time or energy to keep being the one doing all the emotional labour. and I increasingly think that being alone - breaking up - would actually feel less lonely.:/ nine more years sounds awful especially when there is beautiful happy baby I want to make a positive environment for. That is the crux frankly. I am determined to give her a warm loving home .
Oh gosh probably too incoherent. I just kind of hope someone might have a miracle suggestion that helps me unlock his heart - because locking mine up isn't an option - I want a loving spontaneous expressive home for her. Even if it has to just be one parent
Hi MummyofSunbeam, first of all congratulations on your lovely baby daughter. I'm sorry you are not getting the emotional nourishment you need, that must be so hard, especially now when you have become a mother.
Can I ask, what made you marry him and stay with him for nine years if he has always been like this? How was he at your wedding for example? How was he when he first told you he loved you? Is there any emotional stuff from him that you can remember? How was he when your daughter was born?
I ask these things to try and establish whether there was ever any emotional gratification for you in this relationship. If there was, then perhaps you will be able to find it again through counselling together. If there has never been anything, then perhaps it is time to reconsider.
If this is down to his strange mother and her behaviour, then maybe, again, counselling could help.
Sadly I don't think he will be able to change in any meaningful way. I say this from experience as I was married to someone similar for 13 years. It became too much for me and we decided to separate last year, as I felt that he was so 'grey' that living with him was draining all the colour from me too, as well as from our 3 DCs.
We tried Relate, but the counsellor said that couples counselling relied on empathy and he didn't seem to have any, so it wasn't going to work! He went for solo sessions too, but they didn't really help and he only took from it what he wanted to hear (that it was my fault for expecting too much emotional/family involvement from him, that someone else may have been able to bring out an emotional response from him - none of which was actually said, I'm sure).
Since we split he has spent more time with the DCs and seems to have really stepped up to the job of being a dad without my input. He has them once a week, which is enough for him (as he doesn't handle noise or mess very well!) and I have since met someone wonderful who is really my soulmate, he is as emotional and articulate as I am, he shares in the joy and sorrow of films, music and life in general.
My stbxh is happy in his own space, our DCs now have 2 warm and loving homes, 2 happy parents and a much better model of a 'proper' relationship on which to base their own future marriages!
Scarlet thanks so much for replying.
Those are really wise questions. Well - I think I stayed for a lot if reasons that aren't true anymore. This will sound odd, but I used to think I needed someone to rely on fir practical support. I thought of him as a kind of reliable person, distant but kind, and that was bearable some if the time. I guess in a way i found the idea if his reliability an emotional comfort, even if he wasnt expressive. But the 'he is reliable' angle is no solace now since I don't NEED him to be reliable - ever since I became a momma I have been joyfully confident and not needing the sense of someone to be a bedrock of practical support or whatever it was.
Your other questions are equally brilliant. If I think honestly I do think he feels things deeply for me - he cried when saying our wedding vies and slightly cried when he realised I am losing faith in our marriage. And he has really really tried to interact emotionally. It is rather heartbreaking to see that too! He sometimes tries to 'mirror back' my feelings - but totally deadpan and stilted. Poor guy :/
Doing your post is wonderful - I am so glad you are all so happy! That is awesome!!!
You put it really well - it is like feeling grey and drained. My own life is full o colours and I want to savour those. It is so so grindingly sad not to just be able to ..... Well ... Just be!
Going by your answers then, I think perhaps it may be a good idea to take yourselves off to couples counselling. In my experience, it is a good way to make the talks you need to have 'safe' for you both. It can also be a good way to end things if that is the conclusion that you reach.
The fact he cried when saying the wedding vows, and again when he realised you are losing faith in your marriage, and the fact that he is trying really, really hard to interact emotionally, and that you feel heartbroken to see this, may mean that because of his mother and childhood, he has been unable to 'unlock' his own heart. It does sound as though you love each other. And, although that is not always enough, it is a start. If he's trying that hard, then he will be only too glad to have the opportunity to actually do something which may resolve or help with these issues.
Could you just book an initial appointment at Relate or similar? It sounds as if you have everything to gain. If it doesn't work, then at least you will both have an understanding of why not. And you will be able to say to yourselves that you did everything that you could to explore the possibility that you could change things for the better.
Sunbeam, he sounds just like my ex, very 'steady' and dependable, but when you crave affection and fun and just some sort of connection with someone that's not enough - I felt more lonely when I was with my H than I did without him!
Its interesting what you say about 'unlocking his heart' Scarlet, that was one of the things ex's counsellor said to him, that he had locked up his emotions when his DM died and that he needed to find a way to access his feelings, which may take years of therapy.
It may be that if that is the issue Sunbeam, your H can work on it, but for me things had reached the end of the line and I didn't have any more support to give him by that stage, he'd become cold, bitter and critical along with his lack of emotional intelligence. If your H isn't emotionally abusive and it is more the lack of good stuff rather than the presence of bad stuff, you may be able to salvage your relationship, but it would need him to put in the work, this is not something you can do by yourself. Is he open to counselling?
I hope you can make some progress with counselling - it sounds hopeful that he will agree, if he was upset about the idea of losing you.
But I would be wary of relying on being able to "unlock his heart". That sort of suggests to me that deep down you think he is just like you emotionally, and he just needs encouragement/a kick up the arse/another nine years to let it all flow gloriously free. I've done something not dissimilar myself in the past - some women are suckers for an emotional "challenge"
You should be prepared for the possibility that this isn't the case. He might simply be a perfectly good and decent man who isn't like you, and isn't all the things you want him to be (and assume he is deep down). What you see might just be what you've got. If you can accept this possibility I think you will find the counselling a whole lot more valuable and interesting, whatever the outcome.
You are all seriously kind and wise. Wow. This is really helpful.
Scarlet and Doing - I have wondered about couples therapy. It is a but difficult because we have no family member or friend to leave DD with, though. She does get upset left w strangers and I would find it hard to focus on a session if worried about her. Also is the expense - Relate doesn't seem to exist in Scotland and the counselling and babysitting wd be v hard to do finance wise until back from maternity leave. But I could try if I wasn't worried about leaving her.
MadBraLady - your generous, frank, searingly applicable post made me cry. I think you are entirely right. Whatever happens I think I have to recognise I will never have the marriage I somehow thought we had since I have to notice he actually IS entirely different than me or most people I happen to know. And that us just how it is. So the question becomes - can I stay knowing that? At the moment I think I can't.
But I hope I don't try to forget these realisations and carry on as if it will all magically suddenly change.
I do hope it wasn't too searing Sunbeam. Have been there myself, as I say.
Good luck whatever you decide to do. I know what you mean about guarding against trying to forget the realisations. But at the same time you do need to contemplate them for a bit, so don't rush yourself into decisions.
MummyIfSunBeam, my mom was/still is in your situation. My dad is a g
Hit post too soon! My dad is a good person but he was always emotionally not there and my mom was and still is rather unhappy with him, mind you she has accepted the fact after 30 odd years that that is her bed and she has to lay in it, too late for drastic actions now when they are older and me and my sis live in different countries and her health is not great. As young kids/teens we heard many stories and laments about how unhappy she was and how much she yearned for someone who would share the colours of life with her. How he used to sit at parties/gatherings lifeless and silent to the point where other people would be asking her what is wrong with him and whether he is ok. I know she used to cry at parties because of that. There were/are other traits of him that made her life difficult too- he is adverse to any kind of change, making him wear something new was a struggle, he doesnt need anything and not only he doesnt need anything-he doesnt let her make changes, be it changes in the house, buying something new for the house etc. Everything was achieved through fights and we witnessed quite a few of them. As teens we heard mum talking about divorce and it was quite scary eventhough it never happened. Your DH might not be such extreme character but i recognize quite a few things you say. When i was a teen mum at one period used to party and get drunk quite often and we were sort of left to our own devices, we also were drinking from quite a young age and mum would be too hangover to notice we were hangover too!
Our dad wasnt really emotionally available for us as teens eventhough mum says he was good with us as young children. I guess as we grew up our emotional needs were too complex for him to be able to meet them eventhough intellectually he was always there and we used to have great discussions about science, philosophy etc. Our emotions were not addressed though. I never felt it was a problem however funnily enough i had a shitty first boyfriend, had zero self esteem and developed an eating disorder at the age of 15. There were of course other contributing factors and i never saw me dad in any way related to my problems until i had therapy and emotionally absent dad was 'discovered' and brought to the picture. He still is not the main factor in all of this, it is just one of things that contributed and led me to the situation i found myself in... Perhaps i would say my mom didnt handle the situation very well either as i now see she used to confide in us too much, she would in a way offload her unhappyness onto us without even realising that. Being a bit shy and sort of introverted i didnt need to hear how much negativity she placed on similar (much more pronounced) traits in my dad and how much she hoped we wouldnt turn out like him! I could identify with some of his traits myself, not to such a degree but still. And it made me think of myself as faulty, abnormal, needing fixing. As a result i was trying to get rid/suppress the introverted/shy part of me as i was scared of it. Whereas now i see that i simply needed encouragement and support instead of being indirectly criticized. Yes, i felt indirectly criticized because she would berate those qualities in dad which i knew i had myself.
I dont however think you must leave your DH or otherwise your kids will be unhappy. Only you know if you can work towards reaching semi happy place. What i am giving you is a perspective of a child who grew up with a similar dad to your DH. Me and my sister, we quietly worked out he must be Aspergers to some degree. His dad was exactly the same. By the sound of it your DH's mother might be on the spectrum as well and that is not something that can be changed. Moderated- i think yes, they can learn things but they just are born with a different wiring (not better or worse, im not criticizing, just different). It is up to you to make a decision if you can stay in it.
Looking back i wish my mom would not have had those emotionally charged conversations about our dad and her unhappyness with him. I loved and love him just the same. All it did it made me doubt myself and perhaps facilitated development of a disorder which lasted for many years and which frankly i could have done without...
Mosa thanks so much fir that. It is lucky neither H nor I drink at all really!! What you say is hard to hear but a hugely valuable warning - I don't want beautiful DD to ever feel that way so either way I wouldn't want to criticise him to her.
This has been an amazing few days. Thanks to MrsT I am now on a thread (above) that helps make sense of so much. It is very painful to recognise the patterns and realise that our marriage has never been what I thought. But I am trying to keep an open mind and just get my head around it - can't make any decisions yet - still in denial even!
But although I am consciously trying to think of positive aspects to staying I realised I have a tip off to my current unconscious inclinations! I sing to my baby all the time, one of her fave books being Julia donaldson's Singing Mermaid. It is a really long ballad but all day I have randomly been choosing one verse to sing - just kept popping into my head as I smiled at and bounced and cuddled her. Eventually I thought 'that's odd, why is THAT verse suddenly the one I keep choosing today?'
Answer came instantly! It is about wanting to escape and not being confident in the logistics. 'Escape! Cried the dog, Escape! Cried the cat, but the mermaid said 'I'd fail for how can I walk to silver sands when I only have a tail?'
I am not mobility disadvantages in a piscean way ;) but to be serious, I am very aware I have no idea how I could even afford to separate. All the logistics baffle me and I hope I don't have to overcome them and it all suddenly becomes warmer. I lack the self confidence to imagine single parenthood.
Forgive the whimsy! Wasn't an intentional verse choice but silly though it sounds it was definitely for that reason.
Do you think he may have something like aspergers? has he ever had any sort of counselling?
Noddy you have hit the mail on the head - after MrsT kindly showed me that thread and I went there and OMG it was like reading a blueprint. I have posted some responses there but basically yes it seems almost certain that he is at least mildly on the spectrum. (And that is a conservative statement - the things described are textbook, including lots I didn't include in my OP. I didn't really know much about AS before).
He has not had counselling but is open to it. Which I appreciate a great deal. He doubts the AS label though he is starting to agree we are differently 'wired'. But whether AS or not the characteristics on the AS thread are exactly spot on.
It is a start though and may help him in so many other ways.
So true Noddy - and he really deserves happiness. I am encouraging it.
Counselling almost certainly wouldn't change the emotional spontaneity thing though - I need to be realistic and do him the respect of seeing him as he is, as madbralady and others have said. A decent guy but emotionally not available. And that is causing trouble already in the parenting.
I still have a lot to get my head around and won't do anything rash. I care about him and hugely love dd. this thread feels like a space where I can slowly work stuff out.
Reading your post, OP, I had the same thought. Your DH sounds like he has AS and probably his mother does/did (not sure if she's still alive) as well. There is loads of literature on the topic and I remember a book about being married to someone with AS being published recently.
My stbxh was also told he maybe Aspie (by the Relate counsellor who told him he had no empathy, amongst others) but unfortunately he took this label (albeit not an official diagnosis, but supported by lots of reading around the condition) as his get out of jail free card - whenever he didn't want to do anything with us as a family he would state "that makes me feel uncomfortable".
It was as if having a label made it ok not to try IYSWIM. I think an official diagnosis may be helpful if you are both willing to learn new strategies to deal with life together, but the idea of, for example, having to hold up coloured cards to him to show him how I felt, or list the number of times a day I wanted him to hug me, left me cold to be honest!
Any chance of a link to other thread?
Join the discussion
Already registered? Log in with:
Please login first.