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Emotional Shut Down

I just joined the group so I don't know how my story may compare to others.   I have been married for over 15 years and much of it was happy.  A few years ago my wife just shut down emotionally.  This was after a discussion of family finances, always a sensitive topic for her.  I told her I was sorry if I said something offensive to her.  Believe it or not, our marriage has not been the same since.  Obviously, there are other issues but she won't talk about them.  When she shut down emotionally, she shut down physically as well.  At first, I thought there was someone else but there is not.  She just seems to have no physical or emotional needs anymore, or she has just suppressed them.

I have told her over and over how I want to be close.  I have tried giving her space.  Nothing has worked.  I have gone for counseling because she won't.  She actually went for a few sessions and then dropped out.  There has been no infidelity but there is a lot of loneliness and sadness on my part because we once had a very close marriage.  My wife now seems to have rewritten history (forgotten all of the experiences we had together).  We are raising a child and I don't think she understands the impact all of this has had on him.  She just seems content to have this kind of a marriage with no emotion. 

I have always thought that talking about things would help.  I have told her I want more affection and have asked her what I can do to make things better.  Always I get the same answer, that it takes a long time for her to heal.  When she was a teenager, she immigrated to this country to live with a relative and she was emotionally abused.  I think that experience causes her to just shut down whenever she gets hurt.  From my standpoint, the lack of sex and emotion is very heartbreaking.   We have been through a lot together.  I supported her for many years when we got married while she went through school.    I know that a part of her craves independence.  She has never been on her own and she doesn't get the concept of interdependence, something I told her I believe marriage should be.

I am left with a difficult choice.  I love my wife but don't want to live this way forever.   It is possible that the threat of divorce will jolt her out of this place she is in.  She may be depressed but won't seek help.  What other options do I have?  I am thinking of teeling her that if she doesn't go for counseling with me, then I will file for divorce.  Anybody have any other ideas?  Thanks.

 

westcoastman westcoastman 41-45, M 14 Responses Mar 13, 2010

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If you are still married, if you are still having this problem, I really would suggest you doing research on living with a passive-agressive wife. I have been married to a passive agressive husband for 5 yrs. now. Going around in the same circle, chasing my tail, banging my head against a brick wall... not literally but it sometimes feels that way... finally, FINALLY I found some sense of it all. It's crazy that you - a man - are begging for the things that I do and my husband acts as if it's just not normal for a man to do those things. I thought I was losing it and demanding too much of him. Now, I am shutting down emotionally out of defense from all the emotional stress, hurt and confusion. I am just so tired... We have kids and a rather large family and I have invested so much time, effort, tears.... I am at a point where I would rather take care of my own needs rather than to get anything from my husband. Neither one of us want a divorce but we really don't like each other anymore. I totally understand the concept of not wanting to be with each other anymore but not wanting to end it either.

Marriages are hard work.... there just comes a time in your life when you are forced to deal with your issues you cannot bury them. If you were abused then you must go that place in yourself and resolve it because it you do not it shows up in your relationships, personal and at work . Relationships end because people grow in different directions , grow at different rates of one person or one persons continues growing and the other person does not. I think the time comes when you s simplyt state" I have a time and energy investment here and I'm requesting that you go to counseling with me to save our marriage." And if no action is taken then that is then you have the answer...: By making no decision you've still made a decision. So you cannot continue acting out your illness from the past abuses in your relationships ...being an adult isn't easy and there is no way out, denial and avoidance just prolongs the inevitable ! Which is life progressing , the person must learn new ways of coping and seeing the world plus they must forgive whoever they need to forgive and get on with it or the universe will inevitably dissolve it before your eyes....

I am reading all this and it has been very helpful my boyfriend and I got into an argument about parinting my son. My boyfriend is not his father but possably going to be his step dad soon and after our conversation he said I put words into his mouth but he wont tell me what it was???? I have an idea of it but I am confused he shut down and wont communicate Im a Leo and he is tooo so I will just give him his space and tell him I love him and move on from here no use being alone and out of love over silly arguments and miss communication's life is too short and I put my heart and soul into this man I can't give up on him now even if he is pushing me away caus of his own past trauma !!!!

That is interesting, striverman, because I was thinking just as you are. Where are all of the successful resolutions? Are there any? All of this talk of goal post changing and hardline resistance to change are things I understand and there seems to be plenty of it. I guess there probably are some happy resolutions but those people have no need to be on a forum like this. They have a supportive partner and want to continue investing their efforts in making their marriage even stronger, which is exactly what I would be doing as well if I had a supportive partner.<br />
I guess what I find interesting is how many people are experiencing the same thing. That is a revelation to me. I thought my situation of having a partner that neither wants a divorce nor wants to work it out, was strange and uncommon. After all, who wants to be in a marriage that is not close? Apparently, some people do and that has been the biggest revelation to me.<br />
I could never have imagined a situation like mine. I could imagine a troubled marriage where one or both spouses want to divorce or work it out. But I couldn't imagine my marriage, where one spouse wants to work it out and the other wants to sit on the fence and never budge. If there was infidelity, it would be easy to leave. If there was a desire to work it out, it would be easy as well. But when there is neither, just an emotional shutdown, well that seems like the hardest of all.

That is interesting, striverman, because I was thinking just as you are. Where are all of the successful resolutions? Are there any? All of this talk of goal post changing and hardline resistance to change are things I understand and there seems to be plenty of it. I guess there probably are some happy resolutions but those people have no need to be on a forum like this. They have a supportive partner and want to continue investing their efforts in making their marriage even stronger, which is exactly what I would be doing as well if I had a supportive partner.<br />
I guess what I find interesting is how many people are experiencing the same thing. That is a revelation to me. I thought my situation of having a partner that neither wants a divorce nor wants to work it out, was strange and uncommon. After all, who wants to be in a marriage that is not close? Apparently, some people do and that has been the biggest revelation to me.<br />
I could never have imagined a situation like mine. I could imagine a troubled marriage where one or both spouses want to divorce or work it out. But I couldn't imagine my marriage, where one spouse wants to work it out and the other wants to sit on the fence and never budge. If there was infidelity, it would be easy to leave. If there was a desire to work it out, it would be easy as well. But when there is neither, just an emotional shutdown, well that seems like the hardest of all.

That is interesting, striverman, because I was thinking just as you are. Where are all of the successful resolutions? Are there any? All of this talk of goal post changing and hardline resistance to change are things I understand and there seems to be plenty of it. I guess there probably are some happy resolutions but those people have no need to be on a forum like this. They have a supportive partner and want to continue investing their efforts in making their marriage even stronger, which is exactly what I would be doing as well if I had a supportive partner.<br />
I guess what I find interesting is how many people are experiencing the same thing. That is a revelation to me. I thought my situation of having a partner that neither wants a divorce nor wants to work it out, was strange and uncommon. After all, who wants to be in a marriage that is not close? Apparently, some people do and that has been the biggest revelation to me.<br />
I could never have imagined a situation like mine. I could imagine a troubled marriage where one or both spouses want to divorce or work it out. But I couldn't imagine my marriage, where one spouse wants to work it out and the other wants to sit on the fence and never budge. If there was infidelity, it would be easy to leave. If there was a desire to work it out, it would be easy as well. But when there is neither, just an emotional shutdown, well that seems like the hardest of all.

Hey Westcoast - I just joined, and I feel for you, because the similarities between your situation and mine are remarkable. You can't continue on given the way things are because you need to at least have the opportunity to seek the closeness you're missing. Good luck with the difficult next steps. I'm hoping to work things out with my own wife, but the more I read here, the less likely it seems. If anyone has any stories of resolution where the couple actually stays together and develops the closeness we're all longing for, please point me to them. Because this is what I am hoping for, but everything I read is about endings, preparing for endings, appropriate ranting about unbudgeable, actionless refusers, or hopelessness because of choosing to stay to keep things stable for children. Soon, I'll write up my own story - thanks for all the people active on here - it stinks to be in this situation, but at least I'm not alone.

Yes - youve hit the nail on the head. They dont want to face up to it. Immedialtey after our recent councelling session we went for a pub meal before she had to go to work (she has been in work every day since then so uses that as another "excuse" - so go figure!). A lot of the session was how she didnt think I listened to her. She said she "didnt mind" going back (I have since insisted on it when we come back from our hols - this is about me not her !). As we kissed goodbye and had a "proper" hug (not the sort where she hugs me like Im an ugly smelly dog) I said about the lasagne I was going to make with the kids. She said oh well weve just eaten (shes on a diet and will only eat daily now). I pointed out lasagne was good as she could just take what she fancied - she said "Oh OK then thats fine". I struggled round the shops with the kids and made a big effort with the meal having put the kids to bed. I literally sat down as she came through the door and the meal was ready (having tidied up - another bug bear of hers - me post-cooking!!!). She said "oh you made lasagne? we ate earlier and I dont want any now!". Goal post shifting and hypocrisy is the name of the game - "dont do what I do - do what I tell you but if you do I will punish you for it". A refusers perogative.

Thanks for the responses. It is nice to see that others are so understanding. Sometimes it feels like no one can understand. I have gone to a marriage counselor (alone, as my wife dropped out after a few sessions) and realize the problem is not me. Or if it is me I am willing to talk about it. I think my wife avoids counseling because she is afraid of confronting the real emotional issues. She was emotionally abused when she was young and fears bringing that up. My view is that there is nothing wrong with having a problem. But if the problem makes your family suffer, you have to get help with it if you love them.<br />
Divorce seems like the only option. Tough choice but when the pain gets bad enough, it beats the alternative.

She is making excuses like most refusers. I can't believe the capacity of a refuser to sulk. They can do it for years - I think my husband is sulking but he won't say why. His latest was that he is shy sexually. I just could not beleive my luck to get stuck with the only man in the world who thinks like a refuser woman. I am so out of it and you should be too, they just want to drag you down with them but don't let her. Good Luck.

I read somewhere that buried abuse revisits an adult when their children reach the age he/she was abused. This really hit home for me. My stbx's dad left him when he was 4 and now he's leaving his 4 yr old son . This could be happening to your wife. I guess I don't know if it matters or not if she won't get help, but it might help you get answers.

He is a teenager. My wife has a good job. It may be hard at first but she would manage. It would be hard financially for me if we divorce (although I earn more than her) but I can't continue like this forever. If I can't see light at the end of the tunnel, there is no point to stay together. I only want to continue if there is some hope of improvement.

I think it is time to have the famous (infamous?) ILIASM "Talk" with your wife. Her behaviour is not acceptable in a marriage - it is a deal breaker in fact.<br />
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Calmly and without laying blame, explain to her that the situation as it is can not continue any longer. Either she makes definite efforts NOW to recover the marriage OR you leave.<br />
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Don't accept excuses like "It takes me a long time to heal". Years - that is TOO long IMO.<br />
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Don't allow her to blame you. If she starts on that, don't defend yourself or you'll get sucked into an argument. Simply say:<br />
"We are not discussing that now. We are talking about what you are willing to do to save this marriage."<br />
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If she commits to doing something, ensure it comes with a reasonable time fr<x>ame - say "within two months". And if she doesn't do anything about it, then you will have your answer . . . sadly.<br />
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Please read widely here - you will get lots of information, ideas and suggestions - altho' very few unfortunately on how to turn your marriage around! Sadly this almost never happens - as we can tell you from our own experiences.<br />
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I hope your's can be the exception to the rule . . .

How old is your kid?<br />
<br />
If your wife wanted to divorce you, could she afford to live independently without alimony from you?