Thursday, 14 September 2000

My Rejecting Husband

Written by  Naomi Baum, PhD.

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,

I really need your help and advice. My husband and I have been married for just over five years. We do not have any children together, but we each have one from previous marriages. The kids are not the issue. When we met I fell "head over heels" in love with him, and he felt the same way. We married only one year after we had met (and only dated for four months). We worked together, were best friends, and did nothing without the other. Everyone referred to us as the "perfect couple." We both feel slightly "alone" in the world and often have said to the other, "You are all I have in the world." I do not trust people easily and desire complete honesty in a relationship.

My husband has now become emotionally ungiving and acts like he hates me. He says he just "can't open up to people" and refuses to discuss my concerns.

He decided about two months ago to accept a new job with a substantial pay increase. I asked him not to take the job but finally agreed to support his decision. He now travels all the time, returns home in the early morning hours to sleep, and does not get out of bed until his best friend and coworker pulls into the driveway. He says he does not want to talk to me because all I will do is " bitch." He resents my asking questions about his whereabouts and refuses to address my needs for love and companionship. I have told him I am lonely, incredibly lonely but that does not appear to matter to him.

While it is true that I probably gripe a lot, I feel he gives me a lot of reasons to do so. Not to mention the fact that he is never around anyway. He works with three very disreputable 30-year-old boys who, in my opinion, can not be trusted because of their desire for alcohol, drugs and strip-club dancers. He says I am over-reacting, and should not try to dictate his choice in friends. He says I have to trust him, yet he does not try to gain my trust by being honest with me. He rarely calls me when he is out of town (6.5 days per week), and says it is a chore that he "dreads" because I will "complain." He told me the other night during one of our arguments that he really didn't care what I did.

He says he does not want a divorce, but that I am making HIM miserable. I love him. I want him. I wrote a two-page letter to him the other day addressing my concerns, and left it by his wallet so that he would find it. He found it, opened it, read the first line, then set the letter on the fireplace. I picked it up and asked why he left it there... he said because his friend was there and he had to leave. He folded it up and stuffed it into his pocket, telling me that he would read it "later on the road." I was crushed but managed to stop myself from bursting into tears or a temperamental outburst. Without a backward glance, he walked out, telling me "I am going out of town. See ya later." I don't want to lose him, but I dont know what to do. Please help.

P.S. He refuses counseling and says it is stupid and he does not have time for it.

Miserable in Texas

ADear Miserable,

It sounds like you've just had the rug pulled out from under you. What started as an idyllic relationship has done an about face, and you are left trying to figure out what went wrong. Your partner is not doing a very effective job of explaining himself to you and all your attempts at communication are rejected. Even letters are left unread. What is so puzzling, according to your letter, is that this change seems to have happened overnight, after five years of bliss.

I don't want to focus on your husband and speculate why he is acting so differently toward you. What I want to do is to help you to take a look at what you're doing.

You're obviously scared about what's happening in your marriage. You feel that you're losing your husband to his work, to his friends, to whatever or whomever it is that is grabbing him. It hurts to have this distance with someone with whom you once felt so close. You and he were best friends and now you are on the verge of becoming bitter enemies.

It's difficult to be in a situation where something is obviously very wrong and you can't understand why. You're desperate to find answers that will explain your husband's rejecting behavior. So you write letters, you confront him, you cry, you complain, get angry -- all to no avail. The only response he gives you is more rejection. It's as if you no longer exist.

The Law of the Pursuer and the Distancer

The painful reality is that you can't control your husband. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many tears you shed, the only thing you'll succeed in doing is to drive him further away. It's the law of The Pursuer and The Distancer. You chase -- he runs.

My advice to you is stop chasing; stop humiliating yourself by running after a man who for some reason is so wrapped up inside of himself that he is destroying the most meaningful relationship in his life. It's tragic, but you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped.

Start to take care of yourself. Ask yourself what it is that you want for you and for your marriage. If you need help to cope with this difficult situation, find a suitable counselor to whom you can pour out your heart. Remember, you are only responsible for your own behavior.

I am quite certain that when you stop running after your husband, he'll begin to move toward you. Give him the space to work things out and if he doesn't, then maybe it's time for you to reconsider if he's the right guy for you.

Good luck,

Naomi L. Baum, PhD

Last modified on Sunday, 22 January 2012 20:29
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Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum is the Director of the Resilience Unit at The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma and the National School Resilience Project. Her work at ICTP focuses on developing programs to build resilience in communities that have been highly exposed to trauma and stress. She has successfully brought her approach to Biloxi, Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her work there included seven visits to the city, she trained teachers, social workers, school nurses, and counselors. She has also worked with the population in Haiti following teh earthquake. She has written about Trauma and Resilience in several published articles and books.

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