Help for the Emotionally Distant Spouse

Keys to Help the Emotionally Distancing, Pulling-Away Spouse or Significant Other… You really are NOT a Schmuck

If you are the reluctant spouse that is pulling away, wants emotional distance and is unsure, I want you to feel better: no guilt, less paralysis and less frustration. I want you to understand your dilemma so you might move ahead, wherever that takes you, in ways that honor you, your spouse and your family.

You probably have been feeling the heat: to give more, to talk more, to connect more and in general to “work on” the marriage.

But…something powerful holds you back.

You may feel angry, cold and frustrated.

Or, find yourself walking on eggshells, fearful that the smallest word will bring an eruption and a fight that will go on …and on … and on – until you capitulate, walk away or explode.

You feel tired and worn out and have given up on trying to give him/her what s/he wants.

You don’t want to touch, let alone have sex. You just can’t do it. Or, you do it with little enthusiasm.

You don’t understand. You hate it!

I’ve walked with many couples in my private practice since 1981 and I want to share some insights that might help you recover your sense of well-being, break the impasse and help resolve all that now is ugly within you and between the two of you.

1. There is ALWAYS a reluctant spouse.

Yes, one spouse always seemingly wants more (intimacy, talking, connection, time together, etc) than the other. There is ALWAYS an imbalance. Usually, but not always, it is the male who backs away or displays hesitancy.

Lisa saw me for a number of sessions, complaining about her marriage to Ted – his distance and emotional “detachment.”

Finally, Lisa was able to persuade Ted, a prominent business person in the community, to join us in a joint session. Lisa walked in the door, followed by Ted. I had this powerful impression of Ted with a ring in his nose joined to a chain that Lisa was gently but firmly yanking. Ted was not a happy camper to say the least.

And this is not unusual.

This pursuing-distancing dance is a common theme in most marriages. (It occurs most powerfully in the Yellow Marriage, one of three types of marriages I’ve identified).

One is gripped in the Yellow Marriage by the pursuing-distancing phenomenon. One spouse pursues, attempting to obtain from the distancing spouse what the pursuer believes s/he needs or wants. Of course, the more s/he pursues, the more the distancer moves away; often out of a myriad of fears and thoughts of inadequacies.

The pursuing-distancing “dance” is played over and over again, with the same results. Neither flourishes nor experiences joy in the marriage or relationship.

Fear of moving close and of truly addressing the underlying issues comes to characterize the marriage. Fear maintains the distance and the dance.

Frequently, the pursuer tires of that role and becomes the distancer. The pursuer eventually says, in essence, “I’ve had enough. I quit trying to make this work.”

The equilibrium of the marriage is upset and the distancer is upset with the change of the status, frets about losing what was and frequently becomes the pursuer.

This situation often results in a confusing, emotionally intense crazy-making-time for a couple.

Remember, the distancing-pursuing dance is NORMAL. Every marriage I’ve encountered has it. The major issues are: how intense is the dance, how often does it occur and have we found ways to change the dance?

This entry was posted in Emotional Distance, Emotional Infidelity, Infidelity and Intimacy, Infidelity Marriage, Rebuilding the Marriage or Relationship, Relationship Communication, Relationships: Sex and Intimacy, Surviving Infidelity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Help for the Emotionally Distant Spouse

  1. Ellen says:

    Hello Dr Huizenger,
    You are awesome for providing this information. I consider you to be an expert among experts. I intuitively “knew” all that you have written in your course but, alas was always for decades up against a force that tried vehemently to correct my Truth and distort it into a lie that would kill reality to protect the ugly damaged deity ( a fantasy) that was shoved down the throat of my spouse. I now know how yo relate to ” this” without causing more damage to this altered person through no fault of their own except for remaining in ignorance. We Are responsible to test the waters of our briefs from time to time.

  2. Dave says:

    If the distancing spouse, in a yellow marriage, is having an “exit affair”, the music may stop when the pursuer gives up, which is likely the plot created by the distancer, or distancer starts to dance again if that affair doesn’t work out and looks for another affair. Viscous circle

  3. wifefedup says:

    the person who is turned into the distancer from the other person insisting on keeping distance, is forced to be or die from insanity or emotional break down. I learn just leave the person, separate for real. Emotional distancing yourself from your spouse is checking out without going out the door. It is keeping your spouse a prisoner in a lovelless marriage all cause you want to save your image and not deal with the talk of separating and answering to others about it. I see people who insist on playing pull and push with their spouse emotionally, as narcissist. I am leaving my marriage, because I been tortured by it for years now and I just exhausted from it to even deal with it anymore.

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