Living with An Emotionally Closed-off Spouse

The Unloved

I’m not just the counselor, I’m also a client.

I have been told that I have come a long way in the past years. I have difficulty writing that, it feels arrogant to a good Canadian. The truth is, I had a long way to come. There was a time in my life when I was a mess, even though I was still pretending to be an authority on life. I have been needy. Very, very needy. There was one point in my life when I had such an enormous hole in my heart I was quite sick emotionally. I made decisions and did things that were based on poor reasoning and a brokenness that shocks me when I look back.

There are many reasons why we develop dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Some of us are in abusive relationships and have a sick sense of guilt that has been beaten into us emotionally and perhaps physically. We know we should leave, people tell us all the time, but we just cannot seem to pull the trigger. After all, he has many good qualities we remind ourselves. You have a profound and deeply entrenched belief that you are not worthy of a healthy relationship. He or she has told you a hundred times that you are unlovable  unworthy, and you believe them, at least on an emotional level. It taints everything about you.

Perhaps you were physically or sexually or emotionally abused as a child. You find that you have a hard time enjoying normal sexual contact or perhaps you tend to be drawn to poor choices when dating or committing. Maybe you have a hard time with impulsivity or finishing projects. Many who were abused as children are control freaks, have an aggressive startle instinct, or consider themselves more discerning or intuitive than others around them. No one has ever told you that everything I have just listed, and many more weird quirks besides, are often associated with trauma. It can affect your entire life.

Back to my neediness. I fell in love with an emotionally unavailable person who was everything I was not – chill, mature, mysterious, a good listener. I had no idea how that decision would profoundly affect my life. Living with someone who never told me she loved me, ever, who did not need me (I am a caretaker by nature), who was not interested in sexually intimacy or emotional connection, fundamentally changed who I was as a person. I became needy. I found myself experiencing emotional starvation and as a result would act out or say or do things to attract attention. I became sarcastic, judgmental, provocative. I can look back and psychoanalyze myself, see where I went wrong, and learn. I could not do that when I was young, madly in love, and emotionally less self-aware.

Many of you know what I am talking about. Women who are attracted to the bad boy or the strong and silent type, who love men who are quiet or passive-aggressive really know what I mean. Looking to someone else to complete us, even at the best of times, is a dead-end street with  guaranteed disappointment at the best of times. Living with or loving someone who is emotionally unavailable can destroy your self-esteem, your dignity, and your sense of worth if you let it. There is a constant feeling that you can never measure up, that your lover is disappointed in you no matter what you do. You try harder and harder and harder until one day you are disturbed and frustrated beyond your capacity to cope.

We cannot change the past, we can only learn from it. I have learned that we cannot always trust ourselves when it comes to romance. We tend to be attracted to people who we believe complete us. Apparently opposites attract. This can be a very flawed arrangement if we tend to fall for someone who does not share their emotions or is unable or unwilling to emotionally invest in a relationship.

It is never to late to become self-aware.

6 thoughts on “Living with An Emotionally Closed-off Spouse

  1. I could have written much of this from first hand experience. If we don’t learn from the past, we are destined to repeat it, and I did. Then I learned. Self-awareness saved me.

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