Okay, I know it's Thursday, and not Wednesday, but I'm camping and I couldn't get to the library to use their wireless access yesterday! So here I am, a day late, and I'm just posting now. Better late than never!
I answer a number of marriage questions by email, and received one this week from a woman who was really hurting. I've edited what she said for privacy sake, but here's the gist of it:
I have a husband who doesn't show me love. I'll be emotional, and I'll want to talk, and he'll turn away from me with his arms crossed. I keep telling him that I need him to care about me, that I need him to love me, and he just doesn't. He doesn't care if I'm crying. He just goes back and watches TV. I feel so lonely. Is it right that a wife goes to sleep crying every night? What should I do?
I can really feel this woman's pain. I know she must feel just horribly alone. So this is what I wrote in reply. Tell me what you think!
This is a very complex problem, so let me offer a few general guidelines that may help.
First, it sounds like you are committed to the relationship and committed to your husband, even though you feel alone. That's good, and it helps us get off onto the right footing.
Next, you have to understand that men and women speak two different languages and need two different things out of marriage. Women tend to need affection and emotional connection. These are our lifeblood. Men just don't to the same extent, and often don't understand why they're so important to us. Men, on the other hand, need physical intimacy a lot more than most women do. We women tend not to understand that! I often say that men make love to feel loved, whereas women need to feel loved to make love. It can definitely get complicated.
So women's main need is for love. Men, on the other hand, really need respect.
In your letter, you focused on what you need. It's good to be able to articulate your needs and to know where and why you are hurting. However, to find a solution, you need to keep two things in mind:
1. You may get further if you start focusing on what HE needs. You may be more than willing to give him affection and emotional attention, but that may not be what he genuinely needs. We tend to want to speak to our spouses in our own language, but what they need is often something very different. If you can focus on what he needs, then he may be more willing to focus on what you need.
2. You have to come to the realization that no one person will ever meet all your needs for emotional intimacy. That isn't to say that your husband shouldn't be more attached to you; of course he should! But ultimately he isn't going to be able to meet all your needs. And the more you focus on his failings, the more he senses that and pulls away. If you are always communicating to him that he is failing to meet your needs, it's easy for him to want to tune in to television instead, or to turn away in general. Why would he want to do something he's not good at?
What I would suggest is that sometime when you aren't stressed and he isn't stressed, sit down and ask him what YOU can do to help meet his needs. Tell him that you haven't felt really emotionally connected lately, and you want to make sure that you connect. So what can you do to make him feel loved? And then genuinely listen. One activity that I often recommend to couples is that you make two lists of "20 ways my spouse can show me love". You fill out your list, and he fills out his, and you list twenty things you'd like him to do, and he lists 20 things he'd like you to do. The trick is that they can't have to do with sex and they can't cost money. So it could be things like: giving me a back massage, complimenting me in front of the kids, thanking me for working so hard for the family, etc. etc. Then exchange lists, and make a commitment to do two or three of these a day.
If he isn't willing to do that, try to pick up some books on what men need in marriage, like Love & Respect, or Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Those are great at explaining the problems we often have communicating.
Then I would suggest that you try to find ways to meet some of your own emotional needs. Find a female mentor who is a little older than you that you can talk to. Often churches are great places to find someone like that, who can guide you through these hard times in marriages. Try talking to God sometimes, and see if you can feel His love that way. Maybe if you can talk to God about some of your issues, you won't be so desperate when you come to your husband.
And then, when you do talk to your husband, do it out of love and not anger. He will sense if you are bitter, and it will push him away. Let him know what you need, but go out of your way to show him that you love and respect him. When he senses this, rather than condemnation, he's more likely to relate to you.
I know that doesn't seem fair, and that he should just show you love already, but the truth is that you can't change another person. You can only change yourself. So work on how you relate to your husband, and work on your own issues, and you may just find that he comes along for the ride!
I hope that helps. I'll say a prayer for you.
Now, I know it's not Wednesday anymore, but if any of you want to participate in Wifey Wednesday and share some great marriage advice with us, or even your marriage questions, here's how you do it. Copy the picture at the top of this post by right clicking it and then saving it to your hide drive. Go back to your blog and write your own marriage post, and then come back here and type in your URL for that blog post. And we'll all come and visit!
About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.