Q&A with Geoff: How do I get my husband to engage with me?Nov 03, 2021
I have a relationship where my husband is either on the computer (although he works from home, which is fine) or watches television all the time. We used to watch programs that we liked to watch before. It seems like everything I say becomes argumentative, and he just does not take time to listen or hear me anymore.
He now falls asleep at night on the couch, and when I wake him up, he says he is not sleeping even though I have been standing by him for five minutes while he is snoring sound asleep. We have great communication when we are on the phone together, but all this changes when we are together. He interrupts me so often that I cannot finish my sentences anymore.
At one time many years ago, I picked up his computer and dropped it to the floor because I wanted him to come to bed as I was working two jobs. I know he is not cheating, but on his days off I would like to get out of the house. I am handicapped due to chronic pain, and I try hard to not let that get in the way. We have not had lovemaking in years, and he says it is due to him. What can I do?
It sounds like you’ve been struggling to create some type of connection to your husband for so many years that you either become explosive or give up. This pattern of pursuing and withdrawing is a signal to you that he still matters and is worth pursuing.
Let’s talk about how you can respond in a way that preserves your sanity and hopefully recovers your connection to him.
Like many couples, it sounds like you’ve co-created moments where you’ve felt close, connected and responsive to each other. These moments can become anchors of hope when you feel lost or lonely in the relationship. Obviously, savoring these past moments without re-experiencing them in the present isn’t a great long-term strategy for intimacy and security.
However, they can give you hope and courage to keep trying to find ways to connect.
When our initial bids for our partner’s attention go unanswered, it’s normal to either pursue them through repeating ourselves and getting louder or withdrawing from them by avoiding and giving them the silent treatment. Both strategies have strong energy and are essentially protests for connection and closeness.
However, when these attempts continue to be ineffective, we find ourselves in a deeper dilemma. Do we double down on our efforts to pursue or withdraw, hoping they’ll finally notice? You know how challenging this is, as it seems this is the reality you’ve been living for years.
Also, one of the biggest losses from getting stuck in this dilemma is believing that you are unlovable. Remember that there are countless reasons why your husband isn’t responding to you. There are likely challenging dynamics between the two of you. He may have attachment issues from previous family relationships.
There could be mental health issues that make it hard to see or care about connection. The list of possibilities is long, but one thing that I’m certain isn’t on the list is the belief that you’re not worthy of being loved.
When we’re in a long-term committed relationship, we’re highly vulnerable to believing that our partner’s treatment of us is a direct reflection of our worth and value. Yes, it feels amazing when our partner is attuned and responsive to us. We feel more confident and secure.
But when they pull away (for whatever reason), we run the risk of suddenly feeling a drop in our worth and value as human beings. We need something more than our partner’s response to us to hold us intact when we question our worth.
Even though your husband can’t value you right now, can you see your own value and the worthiness of your need to be connected? Can you let this knowledge help you find healthy ways to stand up for what matters in this relationship? I see how maddening it is, but instead of resorting to aggression or withdrawal, can you seek healthy ways to stand up for yourself and the relationship?
Use the strength of your connection to your worth to make it clear to yourself and your husband that this relationship is worth both of your best efforts. Even though you have very real physical and emotional challenges, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on love and belonging. I’m confident you’ll have ideas, inspiration and creative ways to find each other again.
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