Q: What do you do when respect doesn’t work? I’ve tried “respecting” my husband so many different ways, but he doesn’t offer love back. He is the silent type and we have no communication. I am tired and lonely. Yes, I have also disrespected him in my attempt to reach him, which I know drives him further away. But I am fed up with living in an empty marriage for 12 years and doing all the emotional work while he does nothing to try to change. Can you help us?
Dr. E says: Start by asking yourself some questions. What attracted you to your husband when you were dating? What did you enjoy doing together? Why did you marry him?
Be His Friend
Somewhere deep inside, he is that same man you fell in love with 12 years ago. Can you try to find that friend again? Ask yourself, “Does he have confidence that I am his good friend and that I like him as a person?”
Based on your question, I would say he doesn’t. That’s harsh, but are you willing to change your approach?
Men do need to connect with their wives, but they don’t connect in the same way as women.
Have you ever studied male friendship? For example, notice how guys “bond” while watching a game together. They have little to no conversation except to comment on the plays, or to shout once in a while! Yet, they enjoy this time together immensely. It energizes them.
Shoulder to Shoulder
Rarely do you see two guys sitting across from one another at a coffee shop in deep conversation, unless they are talking business. Women, however, are much more comfortable with that kind of intense, face to face interaction.They enjoy talking about issues of the heart.
So my first suggestion is to think of something your husband enjoys doing, whether it’s watching a favorite sport on TV, playing a videogame, or washing the car. Sit next to him shoulder to shoulder, or watch him do whatever it is he enjoys doing.
Don’t talk, just be with him. If he asks why, say “I just want to be with you.”
Yes, I know you have a million things to do, but let things go for an hour or so. Believe it or not, this will energize him! It worked when you were dating, right? You likely were willing to do anything he wanted to do back then, just to be near him.
Don’t Talk So Much
Secondly, refrain from discussing your relationship for several weeks. This may sound very strange, but if he has shut down on you because he feels you are disappointed in him, or are trying to change him, you need to win back his trust.
Be interested in him and don’t talk about your needs. Greet him when he walks in the door and ask him about his day. If he doesn’t say much, don’t badger him. Be positive and upbeat, but be content with less interaction. Try this for 6 weeks and see what happens.
Many women, in their desire to connect and draw closer to their husbands, end up driving them away by using words that are demanding and critical. They actually push their husbands away because they come across disrespectfully, and no man feels fond feelings of love and affection for a woman he thinks does not like him. As a result, he spends more and more time away to have some peace.
So even though a wife is crying out for love, she is actually pushing her husband away. Her methods are counterproductive.
Try Something New
What I am asking you to do may sound unfair, but in the long run you will more than likely achieve your deepest goals. Don’t expect your husband to be a woman who desires to sit and talk each evening for a couple of hours. But as you focus on developing a friendship with him, he will want to be with you and will open up more.
Over time, if you are consistent, he will view you as his friend and when there is friendship there is communication.
Do this for a solid six weeks. He may not trust your changes at first, so be patient. Be his friend, and expect nothing in return. Yes, I know that friends do reciprocate and I know that you are tired. But this type of friendship, no expectations and little or no talking, takes very little effort.
Is your marriage worth making this effort to try something new?
Eventually, I believe he’ll move toward you. He’ll want to spend more time with you, his good friend.