Questions from readers

Hello Readers,

Here is an interesting question that we hear a lot about people married to avoiders.

Although the avoider in this case is a man, it could also be a female in another marriage.

We also hear from a lot of men who are married to avoider women and just as frustrated.

The Question:

My husband began avoiding me several years ago.

He always blames me for interrupting his sleep with my snoring.

I think he wakes himself with his own snoring, but he insists that the does not snore;

– only I do.

He moved out of the bedroom when our son went away to college in 1993.

For several years he slept on the living room floor.

Later he moved into the empty bedroom.

Being married (for 35 years this year) to him is like having a live-in
next-door neighbor!

There is no affection unless our adult children are in the house visiting or unless we are occupying the same pew at church.

Then my husband will put his arm around me and stroke my shoulder.

If I approach him at home and ask for a kiss or hug, he flinches or turns away.

Last weekend I saw something on CNN about “andropause.”

I then looked up the term on the Internet and discovered a list of symptoms that could have been made by me about him.

Our marriage counselor has not mentioned this condition.

I need help in dealing with my frustration.

I am ready to begin learning how to drink after being a tee-totaller for my 60 years of life!

I hope you address this situation in a future message.

What hope do we long-term wives have when our husbands remain physically visible, but emotionally absent?

Ten years ago when I finished my masters degree, he asked for a divorce. I didn’t want one.

I went to a lawyer who frightened him with the forms that he’d have to complete and the money he would lose by separating our property.

We entered marriage counseling and are not enemies, but I don’t want a neighbor.

I want a loving, affectionate husband.

You know–like the one I married in 1972.

Any help or advice you can give me will be appreciated.

Some thoughts from Kay:

If we have been married for a while, we could probably all say we are missing the spouse we married.

What happened?

Where did they go?

Remember primary relationships bring the attachment wounds to the surface.

Our injured loved styles “bloom” in marriage.

For you baby boomers, “andropause” is like male menopause.

The symptoms are very similar to depression.

Low testosterone is the cause.

Irritability, fatigue, depression, reduced libido and erection problems are hallmark signs of andropause.

Now this is tricky for these are also symptoms of depression.

A good medical evaluation to distinguish between depression and andropause is important.

We find avoiders may sometimes suffer from a low grade chronic depression called dysthymia.

Often they have lived with a low grade depression for so long, they do not even know they are depressed.

A medical evaluation is an important first step.

From this reader’s letter, we can see the tendency for avoiders to distance.

Moving out of the bedroom and contemplating divorce are extreme attempts to distance.

It is almost impossible not to take all this personally.

Spouses of avoiders must keep in mind the lack of bonding in childhood is at the root of the problem.

No one was affectionate and loving with the avoider and they have difficulty with showing love and affection.

It is very easy to get so frustrated with the behavior; you forget the wound that drives the behavior.

Here are some suggestions. 

Ask your spouse if they will let you read section of the book to you.

Ask if they have a memory of comfort from childhood.

If you know anything about their painful memories you might say something like, “I was reading this book that talks about the impact of childhood.

Over the years,  I’ve been very frustrated with you because you don’t want to connect, but this book helped me realize that you  never had enough experiences of someone caring about the inside of you to even know what I’m asking for or what you are missing.

I’d like to set aside the blame and anger and start over.

”Would you be willing to help me understand some of your experiences when you were young so I understand you better?” 

Use the questions in the workbook as a guide.

If he was open to counseling, perhaps he will read the book and do the workbook with you.  ASK!

Plan short day trips (or longer trips) to get out of the house.

Doing a fun activity together can restore some pleasure.

Show an interest in anything you spouse enjoys.

One wife I worked with, asked her husband to educate her about his political views that were different from hers.

Instead of defending her own views, she took a genuine interest in understanding his views and why he held them.

This was a turning point for them.

Most likely, no one noticed or commented on the positive character traits of avoiders when they were growing up.  (Not tasks and abilities: character traits).

Find a positive trait and express appreciation.

If this is difficult, it’s all the more important.

Nobody is ALL bad.

If your spouse stubbornly refuses any efforts toward kindness and caring that you offer you might say something like:

“It is sad that our life together might end without you experiencing the love and affection you missed as a child.”

“We finally have time to spend together and I’m willing to learn and grow and understand your hurts.”

“I want to give you what you did not get as a child.”

“If you refuse that, I will find happiness with my friends, hobbies and with the Lord.”

“ I’ll be sad, but I want to keep growing, with or without you.”

At this point acceptance is the only answer.

To keep being angry and frustrated only makes the avoider distance further and keeps you stuck and moving toward bitterness.

Continue to grow and enrich you own life with new interests and new friends.

Love and blessings,
Milan and Kay