It’s a complaint regularly heard from people looking for help for their marriages: “I feel distant from my spouse.” “I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.” “My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.” “I don’t know if I love him anymore.” Instead of physically leaving the relationship, one spouse checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death. Sometimes it’s a slow slide into complacency, and other times it’s a little more sudden. If it’s a sudden abandonment, there is likely some event or incident between the couple that needs to be resolved. If more gradual, there are probably a lot of little things that have gone unresolved and are taking their toll on the relationship.
Emotional abandonment is unforgiveness taken to its extreme conclusion. When we feel that our spouse has hurt us and we refuse to forgive them, we look for ways to protect ourselves from being hurt again in the future. Closing off our heart from the other person is an easy way to do this, but carries the consequence of isolation. Overcoming unforgiveness requires humility and seek forgiveness for our own wrongs, and it also requires that we be willing to graciously extend forgiveness. This forgiveness step is based on a desire to re-unite.
Callous treatment gets old really quickly. Whether it’s discourteousness, unkindness, or something worse a small hurt us created that grows into deep wounds. Each partner needs to look at their own behavior regularly and consider whether they are treating their spouse well. A mate, above all people, needs to be treated with gentleness and respect. They deserve to be treated as something precious.
Sometimes the problem is a little less obvious. It is easy, especially for men, to just assume that the relationship is going along just fine, and so don’t put in as much effort as perviously. Starting to take their spouse for granted, leading them to think that they are not important. When the marriage slips from being one of the top priorities in the heart of one or both spouses, the other person feels abandoned. Other times it is insufficient time for the truly important; things like romancing and talking. A marriage relationship cannot thrive if contact with one another is limited to a quick bite of supper or a brief chat before bed.
Emotional detachment does not just happen out of the blue; there is always something behind it. If one or both of the spouses has an inability or fear of talking through the issues in their relationship, then this kind of disconnect will be the likely result. Usually both know there is something wrong, but they are hesitant to bring it up for one reason or another or prefer to deny the truth.
Identify the cause and to begin to deal with it. Don’t settle for living in isolation. Agree to talk about the problems that exist between you. If you’re going to resolve issues, there needs to be a mutual commitment to listen to the other person’s concerns and to work towards improving the situation. Don’t corner your spouse with an unexpected lecture, but set a time and agree to start to work through your issues. A healthy marriage demands that both partners actively work to discern the needs of their spouse, and work to meet those needs. It’s time to re-enter one another’s lives again. Small gestures of warmth, acts of kindness, and efforts to rekindle the romance between you will go a long way toward renewing your bond with one another.