“How do I reconnect with my husband?” That’s a question I get in various forms from so many of you who email. Life has gotten too busy, you feel like you pass like ships in the night, and you just want to feel like you know each other again. As we progress into the new year, I thought it would be a good idea to look again at how to reconnect with your husband if you feel as if the previous year–or years!–has made you grow apart.
Here, for instance, are two questions quite typical of many that come in to the blog:
I am married to an emotionally distant man. We go through the motions of being married, but I have no idea what’s actually going on in his heart. In fact, I doubt there’s much there at all. And he certainly has no idea what’s going on in mine! We only have one child left at home and I’m afraid that when he leaves for college we’ll have nothing left between us.
I’m tired of feeling all alone! My husband doesn’t want to do anything except play on his computer or play video games. We never spent any time together. Shouldn’t marriage be about the two of you? I don’t know how much more loneliness I can take.
Okay, those are rather sad to start off our year. But I know many of you are lonely. So let’s set the stage here on what emotional connection looks like, what it doesn’t look like, and how we can move towards reconnecting.
Some truths about emotional connection
Connection is based on communication. In order to reconnect with your husband, there are five different levels of communication: cliches, facts, opinions, feelings, needs.
We can share facts about our day–“It was so busy today, the last client didn’t leave until 5:15, and I didn’t think I was going to get out of there.”
But we can also share feelings: “I’m not even sure I like this job. People put so many demands on you and it all seems so pointless. We’re not producing anything worthwhile anyway.”
And then you can get to the point of sharing needs: “I just feel like there’s more to life than this. When I’m in my shop with a saw and some wood, I feel like I’m creating something. But all day long at work I feel like I’m just chasing paper, playing some big game, that doesn’t mean anything. I need more than that.”
Do you see the difference?
Many couples never get beyond facts or opinions.
Here’s the problem: when you’re stuck at the facts or opinions level, tension is going to start to build up, because you’re not really emotionally connected. You don’t know anything about what’s going on in each other’s hearts.
And so with each interaction that is only surface level, it’s going to feel like you’re actually growing more distant. That’s right: talking may actually make you feel worse, if the talking isn’t about something important.
And you can’t just jump over several levels of communication and expect to be able to reconnect with your husband and get truly vulnerable or talk about your needs without starting to share consistently at some of the other levels.
That’s why the answer to grow emotional connection isn’t necessarily to do something big. If you start insisting on a date night, for instance, where it’s supposed to be all romantic, you’re almost guaranteed to be disappointed and hurt. There’s too much tension there to have the date night go well! Instead, it’s better to start with little things to put into your day that can help you connect, and then, once that connection is starting to be there, add some bigger things to your life regularly that are low-stress and low-pressure.
But first, a few more truths about how to reconnect with your husband:
Truth #1: Most men are not emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable
Some men may indeed be emotionally unavailable, but what I’ve found in so many marriages is that the couple has built up patterns of interaction that have made sharing feelings hard.
So ask yourself this–when we were dating, did I know what my husband was feeling and thinking? Did he talk about his needs? Was he vulnerable to me? If so, it’s unlikely he’s suddenly become completely emotionally unavailable. It’s more likely that life has made him stressed, or that you’ve gotten into negative patterns of relating that have cut you both off from each other.
If he never opened up to you, and you never felt emotionally close, that’s a bigger problem, and may require a licensed counselor.
Truth #2: Most people actually want a good marriage
The vast majority of people rank having a good marriage as a major goal of theirs.
Often when we’re distant, though, we assume: “he must be angry at me and doesn’t really love me anymore.” We project negative feelings on our husbands that they may not actually have. He just may feel awkward, stressed, or unsure of what to do. Most likely he wants to feel closer to you, too! But he probably feels a lot of failure when he’s around you, because you’re likely upset at the lack of communication, and he senses it. And when a guy senses that he’s disappointed you, he will tend to retreat.
Of course he shouldn’t do that! But that’s not really the point right now: the point I want you to grasp is that your husband most likely wants to reconnect with you, too! Few people honestly want to go through life feeling distant from their spouse.
So here’s your assignment: assume the best of him. Assume that he is not deliberately keeping you at arm’s length. It will make a huge difference!
(Again, if he honestly doesn’t want the best, then I’d suggest seeing a licensed therapist, but in the majority of cases, the husband does care).
Truth #3: Most people are lazy
We fall into these ruts, like playing video games all night or watching Netflix and never talking. And then those turn into habits. It’s hard to break a habit unless there’s something else vying for our attention. If you guys are used to separating at night, it’s going to be hard to start doing something together unless there’s an actual option ahead of you. So when he goes off and gets back on his computer after dinner, it isn’t necessarily that he’s deliberately abandoning you. He’s developed a habit. And he isn’t likely to break that habit unless there’s something else on the agenda for that night.
Truth #4: Men tend to appreciate low-key communication
Or, to put it another way, women tend to be more comfortable communicating face to face, when we’re sitting across the table sharing our hearts. Men tend to open up more when they communicate side by side, when they’re doing something together. If you try to force him to sit down and talk to you, he’ll likely feel very uncomfortable, like he’s on the spot. So try reconnecting by actually doing something!
Again–these are generalities. In your marriage it may work the other way, and sometimes different personality types make communication preferences quite different from what we’d normally assume. But often the generalities ring true!
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.