I recently heard from a woman who outlined pretty dreadful living conditions with her husband. She described a spouse who had become pretty apathetic and cold. From the way that the wife described the situation, it seemed as if he either treated her with annoyance or pretended that she didn't exist. The wife said that they weren't even roommates anymore because "at least roommates talk to and interact with one another." According to the wife, she and her husband were not even doing that anymore.
But the wife said that none of this was her doing. She said that she had tried to talk to and interact with her husband. She insisted that she had tried asking that he be more kind or her and tried taking some of the initiative, but she indicated that he always responded poorly and that things only became worse. She wanted my opinion as to whether the marriage could be saved and if so, how she would go about accomplishing this.
I felt the level of kindness and communication would have to drastically change before we even worried about saving the marriage. You can't hope to transform your marriage if you aren't even speaking in a civil manner. So, in the following article, I'll share some of the insights that I offered the wife.
Uncovering The Underlying Resentment And Anger That Was Contributing To The Husband's Non Caring Attitude: What was most troubling to the wife was the fact that not only was the husband being distant, but he gave her the impression that he didn't care at all if she were present or not. The wife felt sure that if she were sick or injured, he would not react one way or another. He never talked to her, asked about her well being, or implied that he cared about her in any way at all. It was as if he was annoyed by her mere existence. I had no way to be sure if this perception by her was completely accurate, but the perception of this alone was very troubling.
However, I know from experience that sometimes people will distance themselves and shut down their feelings as a defense mechanism or as the result of some underlying resentment or injury. I asked her if there was any external thing that had recently taxed the marriage or her husband on a personal level. She knew of nothing that might fit into this category. Her husband rarely shared what was going on in his life with her. She had no way to gauge what he was feeling and experiencing.
I felt strongly that she needed to lay this on the table and straight out ask him what was going on. He may well rebuff her or pretend that he didn't hear the question, but I felt that the attempt needed to be made. I wanted for her to sit him down when she was calm and he didn't seem overtly angry. I wanted for her to try her best to keep the emotion and accusatory tone out of her voice when she very calmly stated that she had noted a distance and an underlying anger in her husband that was troubling.
I did not want for her to talk to him in terms of "me." (In other words, I wanted her to avoid phrases like "this hurts me.") Instead, I wanted for her to focus on him. (Yes, this isn't entirely fair but it is one way to help ensure that he's listening and gives you a favorable response. People are often more willing to talk about what directly affects them.) So, she was to say something like "I'm noticing that you seem troubled and distracted. Is there anything that I can do to help or to make things better. Is there anything that I should know?"
The husband may well have scoffed and rebuffed this, but the wife would know that she had made the attempt and had opened the door to communication. Sometimes, you will get a sarcastic response that will give you real and concrete clues as to what is really going on and exactly what you should be addressing. Other times, you may not get your answer right away but this discussion will lay the foundation for your getting it later.
Giving Your Husband The Caring Attitude That You Want To Get: Have you ever heard the phrase "kill them with kindness?" On the surface, this phrase might seem silly and unrealistic, but I've seen it help many more times than I have seen it hurt. The basis of this plan is that you give them what you, yourself are hoping to get, knowing that by them getting what they need, they will eventually in turn give you what you need. So, if your goal was to get your husband to show you more caring and affection, you would first give him generous amounts of these things.
This can feel unfair or wrong at first, but it's the most effective way to get what you want in a way that leaves your integrity intact. In a sense, you are showing them exactly how you want for them to treat you and your actions will often begin to melt their hard exterior. Sometimes this is a process that takes a little while to begin having results, but it's better than becoming angry and arguing with someone who is not listening anyway.
Sometimes, this attempt does not work on the first try because the other spouse is determined to remain nasty and hurtful. In these cases, you will sometimes need to make it clear that you're not going to put yourself in a situation where you're repeatedly being hurt. In some cases, it becomes necessary to visit friends or family and to take a break for the situation to make it clear that you're not willing to remain the second class citizen in the marriage. You deserve kind and fair treatment as much as he does. Sometimes, it takes opening up the communication, acting in the way that you want him to act, or showing him that you won't continue on in the same way to finally spur on some change.
I did feel that the marriage had a chance if she was willing to shake things up a little bit. She confided that the husband had not always been unkind. In fact, in the past, he had been quite loving. The key was figuring out and then addressing what brought on his change of heart.
My own husband became quite uncaring and unkind to me before he began to withdraw completely. Thank goodness I didn't let that stop me. I kept right on working on the marriage (by myself, since he wasn't interested at first.) Eventually, (though commitment and lots of effort), I was able to not only save the marriage, but make it stronger. So, it was very much worth the effort. You can read a very personal story of how I saved my marriage on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com