Do you feel like your husband doesn’t care about your emotional needs?

This month, on Wednesdays, we’re talking about intimacy on three levels–emotional, spiritual, and physical, and how we can feel closer. Last Wednesday I introduced our theme for the month, talking about how God designed us for intimate relationships, and how it’s that intimacy that keeps us happy and healthy throughout our lives. It really does matter.

And yet all too often we do things that make intimacy hard to attain.

God created us for intimacy on different levels, too. And today I want to talk about that quest to feel close to our husbands–to feel that he truly loves us.

I received this letter from a reader recently which is quite similar to many desperate cries that I read. She writes:

Reader Question

I’m feeling hopeless in my marriage. I’m a very affectionate individual and it is not difficult for me to pre-organise anniversary plans for birthdays, Christmas, etc.. My husband on the other side comes from a completely different background. He didn’t grow up celebrating anything and he didn’t grow up in a home where a family is loving. I’ve always had attention and affection given to me by my parents. Now I’ve been struggling with that lack of communication and affection for five years, and he just doesn’t plan anything. I’ve been so miserable lately because I feel that I’m only good enough for sex. There’s no intimacy. I am so drained and I’ve spoken to him many times but I’m at a point in my life where I’ll just compliment myself and buy myself gifts, but that will just frustrate me more. I am a born again Christian and heaven knows I’ve been pleading for my marriage to better.

I see this a lot, though sometimes it’s with slightly different issues. She feels unloved because she feels as if he doesn’t make an effort, and so she pulls away further.

And she feels hopeless.

When you feel like your husband doesn’t care about you, there are really only two options. Either:

  1. your husband truly doesn’t care that you are upset and that you are hurting, or he may even revel in it; or
  2. there’s simply a disconnect between you, where you both love each other, but you’re not able to feel it right now.

Now, #1 definitely does happen. Some spouses truly don’t care, and even take perverse pleasure in wounding their spouse. If that’s the case for you, I’d highly recommend my friend Natalie’s book Is It Me: Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage. She’s posted before for me about emotional abuse, and she’s an amazing writer.

But #1, statistically, is not that common. Yes, it happens, and I’ve talked about emotional abuse a lot on this blog. But most marriages are not emotionally abusive. In most marriages, both spouses truly do want the best for each other. What happens, though, is that because we have different primary ways of feeling loved, we focus on what we need, and not on what our spouse needs. And we create a disconnect that doesn’t need to be there.

Looking at your husband’s failings may be natural; but it is also completely counterproductive if you want to feel close.

Quite frankly, she needs to stop doing that. And if you’re in her shoes, I’d say this to you (and sorry if it’s harsh):

Stop looking at yourself, just for a little bit, and look at things from your husband’s perspective.

Here’s a guy that you know does love you. He does want the best for you. So how about asking yourself these two questions:

  1. How is he showing it?
  2. How does he want to feel close?

In the vast majority of marriages, I can guarantee you that he believes that he is showing her that he loves her (even though she’s not feeling it), and that’s making him supremely frustrated. And he is hurting, too, because he wants to feel close to her, but she is pulling away.

I have seen this dynamic in marriages of people that I know. They are so sure that they are the “good” ones in the marriage, who do everything right for the spouse, and the spouse is the sluggard who never thinks of the other. And yet to those on the outside, we can see that he’s trying to love her the best he knows how, and she’s constantly criticizing him and putting him down. And it’s so sad.

I don’t want you to talk past each other. I want you to bridge the gap!

So try these mind shifts to bring emotional intimacy:

Ask yourself: What can I be grateful to my husband for today?

Notice what he’s doing. Scan for the good that he does. Say a prayer of gratitude for it, and then speak it out loud. That one shift will help you to see the good in him far more than focusing on all the things that he fails at!

I think there’s a reason that Paul reminds us:

1 Thessalonians 5:18

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning you.
It’s God’s will that we focus on being grateful. Why? Because when we say thanks, we get our eyes off of ourselves and onto what we have to be thankful for. This was a major “thought” for me in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and I explained it this way:

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

When we look for the bad, we’ll see the bad. But this can work to our advantage too. When we choose to look for the good things that our husbands do, we also tend to notice those things more. In fact, we’ll notice them so much that we often will fail to notice when they do things that are more likely to tick us off.

And that’s how God created our minds to work. Whatever we focus on expands. If you focus on God’s goodness and on being thankful for your marriage, you will tend to notice the things that you have to be grateful about. When you focusing on the things that bug you, you will tend to feel significantly more bugged.

So choose to focus on the good!

Ask yourself: how does my husband feel close to me?

Our letter writer has explained that she feels loved when he buys gifts, when he’s affectionate, and when he pre-plans things to show that he’s thought of her. This is how she was raised, and this is what she associates with feeling loved. But this isn’t how he was raised, and he likely doesn’t put a lot of value in these things. That doesn’t mean that they don’t matter–only that they matter far more to her than they do to him.

What this means is that she can pre-plan dates and anniversary nights all she wants, and he may go along with it, but it doesn’t necessarily connect with him. She feels like she’s doing all the work in the marriage, but here’s what I really want you all to understand: he may feel exactly the same way. If they feel loved differently, and she is doing all of this work being affectionate and pre-planning dates, and he experiences love another way, and he’s putting effort into that area, then they could be talking past each other.

That’s why it’s so crucial to ask: what does my husband need to feel loved? And though we all have different love languages, in all the work I’ve done with marriage, I’ve found that two things are almost universal: Feeling appreciated, and feeling sexually desired.

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So let’s look at feeling appreciated. Men tend to put work into the areas where they feel competent. That’s why if a man feels he’s lousy at marriage he’ll start working more, or playing on the computer more. He retreats to areas of competence. Make your man feel incompetent and irrelevant, and he very well may retreat. I’m not saying that’s right–I’m just saying that’s what happens, again and again.

Then, of course, there’s sex. I know some men don’t want sex, and if you’re the higher drive wife, I’ve got a series on what to do if your husband doesn’t want sex! But for most men, enthusiasm for sex tends to equate with love for them. When you start refusing sex, your husband will feel like you’re rejecting him entirely.

And here’s a cool thing about sex: when we make love, we release the bonding hormone “oxytocin”, which makes us feel more affectionate and loving to the other person. So the more you make love, chances are the more affectionate your husband will be, anyway!

Ask yourself: how can I bridge the gap?

One of the main themes in the New Testament is that we need to take care of our own stuff first before we try to deal with someone else’s stuff (Matthew 7:1-3).

Philippians 2:3-5

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
Paul also told us, in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes it doesn’t depend on you, absolutely. But God asks you to do what you can. God asks you to not just focus on what you need, but also on what your husband needs.

Can you do what you can to bridge the gap? As you do that, you bring the tension level down. Your husband feels more accepted, and so he’s more open with you. You can laugh again. You’ll feel closer. You’ll start noticing the good that he is doing (because most men are doing good). And then, as the tension level decreases, it’s easier to say things like,

“Honey, I love you so much. You do an awesome job for us. You know what would make me feel so special? If you planned a birthday dinner for me. I’ve made a list of 15 things that I enjoy doing, and I’d absolutely love it if you picked one and planned it for us to do together.”

Can I issue you this intimacy challenge?

If you’re feeling like your husband doesn’t love you, doesn’t care about you, and is hopeless, try these things for two weeks:

  1. Thank him once a day for something that he is doing
  2. Have sex more frequently
  3. Say prayers of gratitude for the good you see in your husband.

See if your relationship changes!

Look, you can keep being bitter and feeling like it’s all his fault. But that will get you absolutely nowhere. So why not try this?

These are the kinds of challenges I issued, by the way, in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. After talking about how to bridge the gap as far as it depends on you, I then talk about how to address real issues that do need to be resolved. Check out the book here!

When it seems like your husband doesn't care about your emotional needs, here are some things to consider before you talk!

Now let me know–do you and your husband ever talk past each other? What helped you bridge the gap? Let’s talk in the comments!

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