The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 109 · Duration: 00:13:07
My Husband has Left the Bedroom
What do you do when your husband leaves the bedroom and won’t initiate any conversation?
Today we’re hearing from Diana, of Calgary, Canada
"My husband left the bedroom - it’s been at least a year. We listened to a marital self help book in December and I on my own listened to your podcasts and read other books by Dr. Lerner - I finally understand that I need to lower my intensity and find my center. My background: My parents are immigrants from Europe, and I did not go to college. My husband is a lawyer whose parents were professionals— I feel lost - I know what I am supposed to do - I feel my husband will try to do what is instructed but I do not want to instruct; he is not initiating any kind of self introspection to better understand our patterns. He does not speak and the very few times he has initiated a conversation he just says “do you wanna talk?” But he offers no solutions or even insight just stunned silence — he also drinks. "
Thanks for writing us Diana and brother, things are not good for you in Calgary, that’s for sure. You didn’t actually ask a question, but you did say that you feel lost, so what I’ll try to make sense of your situation and see if with some perspective I can help you find a positive path forward. You don’t say how long you’ve been married when things started to go down hill or if you have children, because those are relevant issues in trying to understand what’s going on and what to do about it. But here we go.
An Overview of the Problem
What you are describing is a relationship where neither you nor your husband are getting much if any good out of it. That’s tough and it is more than a relationship issue, it’s a mental health issue. We are social animals and have social emotional needs. The need to feel wanted, included, heard, understood, validated, safe, supported, cared for.
Not getting these needs met in your primary relationship will have a strong negative impact on your mental health and if you’re feeling depressed, unworthy, sad, lonely, confused, I wouldn’t be surprised.
In fact, Diana, what you are describing is a very disengaged relationship and that can cause poor mental health and poor mental health can be a strong contributor to a poor quality relationship, so at the end of the day here, I’m concerned about your mental health.
So let’s look at the two of you and try to understand what each of you are bringing to the relationship and how it may have arrived at such a disengaged place.
You describe yourself as intense and needing to reduce that and get more comfortable with your feelings, more grounded. You mention that you were obese in high school and that your parents are immigrants. Your mentioning these things tells us they were challenging issues for you and represent emotional problems.
So we can assume you’ve had serious emotional problems for a long time, got into a relationship that didn’t meet your emotional needs and now it’s devolved into a seriously disengaged relationship.
We don’t know about your husband’s childhood issues, just that he will go along as best he can with what you request, but that he isn’t introspective, has alcohol abuse issues and doesn’t initiate conversation or connection. About a year ago, he started sleeping in a different room, further estranging the two of you.
So the relationship you likely had initially is you brought connection and emotional engagement and your husband brought stability and acceptance. Then over the years, you became frustrated with what now seems like emotional passivity and get upset which encourages your husband’s avoidance and passivity to the point of leaving the bedroom. You’re feeling frustrated, lost and don’t know what to do. You’re reading and listening to podcasts trying to figure out the keys to unlocking the disengagement in your marriage.
What To Do In a Disengaged Relationship
So what to do? For starters, you are on the right track; yes lower your intensity and find your center. In other words, rather than looking to your husband to fulfill you, do your own work here. Yes, your husband is not engaging and has left the bedroom. Let’s not focus on that. What are the emotional issues you’re carrying from childhood and how do they interfere with your sense of self-worth? Do you have or can you create social connections outside of your marriage? Do you have interests, a career or satisfying job, goals outside of your marriage? Rather than stressing out emotionally about your marriage, focus on building your mental health and self-confidence.
Let’s talk about your husband for a second. You say he’ll do things you request of him, but you don’t want to tell him exactly what to do, and that makes sense, of course, you don’t. It’s one thing to talk with your partner about your needs, and another thing to tell them what to do or how to be.
You’re telling us he doesn’t know how to be with you. He’s an attorney so I’m assuming he can figure out what needs to be done at work and do it. Some kinds of attorneys need strong interpersonal skills as well as professional expertise and some much less so and it sounds like your husband is low on interpersonal skills and he doesn’t sound introspective, and I believe you.
Some people tend not to be introspective; I call them extrospective although that’s not a real word. In other words, they tend to see problems more on the outside of them than on the inside. Of course, substance abuse will keep people from learning and growing personally. So it doesn’t sound like your husband is ready to go on a growth journey with you right now at least.
Now here’s an important piece; we don’t all have the same need for emotional closeness or emotional intimacy. Some people need significant social interaction and some much less so. I’m guessing there’s a big difference between you and your husband on the emotional closeness scale, and that difference could be a constant source of irritation to both of you.
It’s best if couples are similar in their need for closeness but if they aren’t, it helps if they both simply understand that and the partner with higher needs has other sources of engagement and support.It’s best if couples are similar in their need for closeness but if they aren’t, it helps if they both simply understand that and the partner with higher needs has other sources of engagement and support.Click To Tweet
So Diana, for right now, the more you try to fix your relationship, the worse it’s going to get. Focus on your own mental health, sources of support, personal goals, emotional management skills. Progress in these three areas will improve your mental health enormously.Click To Tweet
Focus on your own mental health, sources of support, personal goals, emotional management skills. Progress in these three areas will improve your mental health enormously. Once you are more grounded, and your personal confidence and sense of well being up, you can talk with your husband about what he thinks and feels, what he wants, and what you think and feel and what you want. Then marriage counseling or even divorce counseling could help you both move successfully to the next stage of your lives.
Individual therapy for you right now would help you improve your mental health as well.
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to fix our primary relationship only to discover that our fixing attempts, are part and parcel of the problem. When our attempts to solve a relationship problem aren’t working, we need to step back, focus on our own growth and being our healthiest selves. Only then will we discover who our partner is and what the potential of the relationship is.
And, if you’re enjoying my podcast, I’d love it if you’d go to my iTunes site at Healthy Family Connections, and leave a review there.
And please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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