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He's Just Not That Into Me
January 21, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

He's just not that into me. The problem is he's my husband.

This is not a new problem/issue. My husband has always been distant and aloof. Rare is the day that he'll offer information on what's going on in his day, feelings, plans, etc. Also, rare is the day that he'll ask about events in my day. Even though I don't live an exciting existence, I try to talk to him about my day, things the kids did, errands I've run. I do this so that he feels a part of my life. He does not reciprocate.

He's always been like this. And for some reason I didn't put much importance on it and married the guy. We've been married approx. 15 years and have children together. I have brought this issue up with him and he'll be conscious about it for a week, if that. Then it stops.

I do not feel like I'm a part of his life. I am sad and lonely because of this. He does not (or is not capable of?) including me. I hear him talking on the phone with his family and he will share a lot of stuff with them - things he's never told me (not secrets or anything - just day-to-day stuff). So I've got it in my head that he's just not that into me.

Now, seeing as how he's unable, unwilling, whatever to include me in his life, I'm left feeling quite lonely and alone. I have friends that I frequently do things with, my children keep me busy, I have a few hobbies that fill my time. But still I'm left feeling so sad because I'm left out in the cold when it comes to him.

I do not nag him or badger him to "open up" nor do I inundate him with lame stuff that's going on in my life. I'm a pretty quiet person myself so I don't feel like I'm doing all the talking and he never has a chance.

My question(s): Despite this, how do overcome my sadness and loneliness? Despite this, how to I become a great person? How can I learn to not care about his lack of being interested in sharing himself? How do I move forward in life when this seems to drag me down? How do I not let it drag me down and instead turn it around into something that makes me a stronger person?

Throwaway email: justnotintome@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is not a new problem/issue. Rare is the day that he'll offer information on what's going on in his day, feelings, plans, etc. Also, rare is the day that he'll ask about events in my day. Even though I don't live an exciting existence, I try to talk to him about my day, things the kids did, errands I've run. I do this so that he feels a part of my life. He does not reciprocate.

This is not unusual for men at all, and implies nothing about whether he is into you or not.
posted by empath at 11:30 AM on January 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


Caring for your introvert.
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on January 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


How is he with your kids? How does he interact with them?
posted by Melismata at 11:31 AM on January 21, 2011


This is not unusual for men at all

I disagree. Being male or female has nothing to do with it at all. Also, introverts can still be open and affectionate. My husband and I are both introverts and we spend a lot of time exchanging tidbits about our daily lives.

OP, does your husband know how lonely this is making you feel?
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:33 AM on January 21, 2011 [38 favorites]


Also, and I know this might sound completely insane, but if his 'problem' is introversion, try texting him, emailing him or IMing him, especially if he's at a job where he has time to do that kind of thing at work. A lot of introverts are more comfortable communicating at one level of remove like that.
posted by empath at 11:33 AM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do you feel like he shows you affection? Do you feel emotionally close? Do you feel loved?

It's possible that sharing stories about his day is not a particularly interesting way to connect to him, and he only shares those items with his family because they are far away and it's the easiest way to stay involved.

Could you take up a shared activity to discuss? Watch a movie or tv show?

I can relate to your husband. I don't like sharing the details of my day to day. There are only so many times I can discuss going to the grocery store. Some people (like me) do not equate that kind of conversation with closeness or inclusion. It might help you feel better to try to understand what he may be attempting to do to feel close to you and learn to appreciate his connection styles.
posted by amycup at 11:34 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do not nag him or badger him to "open up" nor do I inundate him with lame stuff that's going on in my life. I'm a pretty quiet person myself so I don't feel like I'm doing all the talking and he never has a chance.

You need to talk to him (yes, again) like a grown up about this problem and why it's bothering you. Don't accuse or make any assumptions about his feelings--just use a lot of "I feel statements." Like, "I feel sad when I tell you about my day but don't get to hear about yours. I would be happy to hear more about what goes on in your day-to-day life."

Also, do you ask him questions about his life? He might be assuming you're not interested if you're just going on about your day.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:37 AM on January 21, 2011


My husband can be somewhat like this. I've found that while he really hates having a back and forth conversation about our days, he's happy to talk with me about other topics or to do activities with me that we both enjoy, like playing a game together or watching a movie. It's possible that sharing different aspects of your life with him will help you feel connected.
posted by shesbookish at 11:42 AM on January 21, 2011


OP, does your husband know how lonely this is making you feel?

Yeah, this.

Relationships are work, full stop, but it's often easy to forget that they're not lots of work all at once but little bits of work, small gestures all the time. Even though I (still, woot!) love my wife, I need to remind myself and periodically be reminded that these small gestures and communications are important.
posted by mhoye at 11:46 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I disagree. Being male or female has nothing to do with it at all. Also, introverts can still be open and affectionate. My husband and I are both introverts and we spend a lot of time exchanging tidbits about our daily lives.

I agree that introversion isn't really a gendered trait, but there are some general differences between how men and women tend to communicate and the idea of using conversation as a way to connect emotionally does tend to be more on the female side. Which is not to say that this is an impossible difference that can't be overcome or anything, just that your husband may not realize that you feel left out of his life if he does not have these sorts of conversations with you regularly.

Now, seeing as how he's unable, unwilling, whatever to include me in his life, I'm left feeling quite lonely and alone. I have friends that I frequently do things with, my children keep me busy, I have a few hobbies that fill my time. But still I'm left feeling so sad because I'm left out in the cold when it comes to him.

You mostly focused on conversations about things the two of you have done alone, but is part of the problem that you don't spend a lot of quality time together? Is there any sort of hobby that you can both participate in, even if it's just the two of you working alone in the same room rather than working on something together?
posted by burnmp3s at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2011


Oh, I am pretty much your husband! I have to make an extensive, entirely artificial effort to share things I could care less about because other people find it strange and off-putting when I do not. This is difficult for partners, I know--so at least I make an effort. But honestly I despise recounting what is, to me, unimportant minutia. The day is an obstacle course! When I have cleared an obstacle, I no longer give a damn about it.

One thing I've had to work to adjust more is the "plans" thing. I tend to make plans really conditionally or tentatively, and so therefore, I don't think to share them with a partner. So it's always a surprise to them--which is unfair. So I have to make myself calendar plans, and then expressly and overtly communicate: "I have plans to do x thing at y time." Or: "I may do x thing on y day; you are invited to accompany me."

I know this makes me sound like a robot! Which is how you feel, I think, about your husband. But I'm not *withholding*; I simply hate and feel uncomfortable and boring with chitchat and this kind of small talk about "what happened at work" or whatever.

All that being said? If there's not warmness elsewhere, then, something deeper is wrong. I'm concerned that you don't feel listened to. For instance I do not at all think my partner doesn't know how I feel about him in general! And of course I listen to him, even if he is conveying things I would never, ever bother to convey. (Despite his frustrations about not knowing my thoughts on whatever I had for lunch or whatever you people like to talk about.)

Despite our different styles, we both know and act as if the secret to a relationship is both putting the other person first and making the other person feel as if they are being put first. (Those are, yes, two different things.) If you're never ever feeling that you're being put first? Then things are definitely broken in your relationship.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2011 [25 favorites]


Yeah, just as another data point, I'm in a relationship with a woman, and I'm totally in love with her. Every night, she wants to talk about our days. Honestly, I could really do without that conversation. I mean, I'll do it, because it doesn't cost me anything and she likes it, but still. I have only a passing interest in hearing about the daily activities of someone I care deeply about. And I have even less interest in recounting the details of my own day - I just did all that stuff, why would I want to talk about it? And I'm not even an introvert! Some people just aren't wired to be interested in that kind of conversation.

Now, if this is part of a larger pattern, where he frequently makes you feel unloved in other ways, or withholds affection in general, then that's different. Do you two talk about other things? Because if you guys are just sitting in silence, you can disregard my response.

But if that isn't the case, it sounds like you're doing an awful lot of mindreading here. You have a behavior - your husband doesn't want to talk about his daily life, and you've jumped on the express train all the way to "he's not into me." I think it's possible that you're reading too much into this - he may just not be into this type of conversation.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm not a psychologist. I'm not even an armchair psychologist, but it sounds like he has an INTP type personality. He probably lives a complex life full of interesting ideas and theories within his own head. If he's in deep thought, entertaining himself with his own ideas, and you interrupt his internal dialogue by quipping how avocados are 25 cents cheaper this week, and the neighborhood dog took a dump in the yard, quite frankly he's going to be bored and detached to what you are telling him. None of this means he doesn't deeply care about you or he isn't interested in your life. It's just his personality, and it probably isn't ever going to change. Of course I could be wrong and he actually isn't that in to you.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2011


Man, I really wish people would stop posting that "Caring for your Introvert" flyer as if it is the answer to every question. The problem is not with how she's treating him, its with how he is treating her! Yes, her husband may be an introvert but its not an excuse to be rude or hurtful (assuming he knows what he is doing because 1) she's told him and 2) he's a grown man with a wife and he knows this).

I have to say, your question about how you can still become a "great person" really makes me sad. How does this stop you from becoming a great person? I can understand that your loneliness and sadness will affect other areas of your life and maybe dampen your ability to feel like a great person, but don't let this make you think that you are not! I see many traits of a great person in your post---caring, loving, trying to be understanding.

As you can see from the answers to this thread there are lots of different communication styles between couples and people vary wildly in how much they like to engage in chitchat or recounting their day. I think what is important here is that you make it known to your husband how much this affects you and ask him why he is this way. Maybe he can give you an answer, maybe not. Maybe this is something to discuss with a therapist. I think a great thing for the two of you to do would maybe be to come up with some sort of signal or gesture he can make or do for you (like a long, silent bear hug just to have him hold you for a minute or pausing to bring you a cup of tea and a kiss on the head) that says "I'm not really into chatting right now, but I love you and I'm thinking about you."
posted by ejazen at 12:14 PM on January 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


One thing to set your mind at ease about one aspect of your question -- after he's done talking to his family or whoever about all of the stuff that he never talks to you about -- ask him how he feels about those conversations. I bet he's going to tell you that he finds them draining and wishes he could avoid them.
posted by empath at 12:14 PM on January 21, 2011


A lot of people in the thread are missing the bit where the OP says:

I hear him talking on the phone with his family and he will share a lot of stuff with them - things he's never told me (not secrets or anything - just day-to-day stuff).

Dude is sharing info, just not with his wife.

OP, I agree that it's worrisome that he's sharing with others, but not with you. Do you and your husband talk about other things, or does he just clam up around you altogether?
posted by LN at 12:17 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the OP:
I just wanted to do a little follow-up on some questions posed in that thread:

If anything, I am the introvert - to the extreme - although, he does have introverted tendencies. I don't feel like introversion is the "problem" here. "Caring for your introvert" is my bible. He does not respond to emails or texts with more than a one or two word reply.

OP, does your husband know how lonely this is making you feel?

Yes, I have told him in a kind and non-confrontational way numerous times using the ol' "I feel" statements. He'll see my point and will then make an effort to include me on what's going on to for about a week and then reverts back to the old behavior.

Also, do you ask him questions about his life? He might be assuming you're not interested if you're just going on about your day.

All the time. All the time. I do not "just go on about my day." Hardly. I'll ask him about his day, his interests, things going on at work, new cases he's working, old cases he's finishing up, office politics, how his hobby is going, etc. It's only when I get non-answers that I'll offer things that have gone on in my day to fill the emptiness and also to let him know things that the kids have been up to and what I did during the day.

You mostly focused on conversations about things the two of you have done alone, but is part of the problem that you don't spend a lot of quality time together?


We spend zero quality time together. He's not interested in doing things alone with me - since day one, although I didn't see that until much later.

Do you feel like he shows you affection? Do you feel emotionally close? Do you feel loved?

I know he tries his hardest to be a good caring responsible husband, and he does show affection in his own way that I do appreciate. I do not feel emotionally close, because we really have nothing to be close about. I feel completely left out of his life. I have no
idea what he's thinking, feeling or doing. He shares little to nothing with me. It's most hurtful when I witness him sharing things with others that he didn't bother sharing with me.

RJ Reynolds

Great comment. Thank you. Perhaps part of the problem is what else do we have if not sharing our days with each other?


And for the record, I don't hound him for details on his day and I don't bore him with mine. But, I do expect (and this is my fault for having an expectation) that when something out of the ordinary happens during the day that maybe he'll share it with me. Honestly, I don't care what he has for lunch. But mentioning that he went out to lunch with a bunch of coworkers for Sally's birthday (a rare happening) or that on the way home he helped a stranded motorist or got a flat tire would be a nice gesture. I just want to feel included - and I never do.

after he's done talking to his family or whoever about all of the stuff that he never talks to you about -- ask him how he feels about those conversations. I bet he's going to tell you that he finds them draining and wishes he could avoid them.

He initiates them.

I have to say, your question about how you can still become a "great person" really makes me sad. How does this stop you from becoming a great person?

Because I'm always wondering. I'm always worried that his silence means I've done something wrong or that something is bothering him and he won't tell me what. It consumes me a lot and I can't move beyond not caring about it.

So, how can I move beyond this and not let it bother me?
posted by jessamyn at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2011


I don't think this is about being an introvert. This is about a lack of interest in one's spouse.
posted by modernnomad at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


We spend zero quality time together. He's not interested in doing things alone with me - since day one, although I didn't see that until much later.

Wow. Would it be possible to hire a babysitter one night a week and spend some time with your husband? So he can get to know you?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:33 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hear him talking on the phone with his family and he will share a lot of stuff with them - things he's never told me (not secrets or anything - just day-to-day stuff).

Dude is sharing info, just not with his wife.


I do this. I can't explain why - mostly it's minor stuff *I* don't care about so why would I share it? A co-workers birthday lunch for example. It can also feel like telling the partner a longer version of "same shit different day". But with other farther away people, the conversation organically evolves that way.


We spend zero quality time together. He's not interested in doing things alone with me - since day one, although I didn't see that until much later.

There is a much larger issue at play here than him not talking about his day. Is counseling an option? You just don't deserve this.
posted by anti social order at 12:36 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, how can I move beyond this and not let it bother me?

I don't know this answer but a therapist might if you were willing to go to one. Would your husband also be willing to try couple's therapy if you stressed how unhappy this was making you?

The bigger question is: do you want to move past this? Even if you could totally change your mind tomorrow and be all la-dee-da about him never talking to you, is that a marriage that you want to be in? Personally, I don't feel like you should move past this and if you did, I would think you are tricking yourself or settling because you don't feel you are worth it (and you are worth it!).

You said he shows affection in his own way but does he love you? Does he say the words "I love you"? From your description of your relationship--no emotional closeness, no sharing of unusual events, no curiosity about you---it does not sound very loving or as if he is in love. Is that the marriage you want to have for the rest of your life?

Really, you are asking these questions about how you can just swallow your lumps and be ok with it but it but I think most people would tell you that yes, this is an unusual dynamic (no matter who is an introvert or not an introvert) and that this does not sound like a happy marriage and I feel like you deserve better if you want it.
posted by ejazen at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, my first reaction was to DTMFA because he makes you sad. But it did occur to me that this is a further extreme of something my own husband does, viz., gets quieter and quieter the more stressed out he is at work. This can go on for weeks at a time -- he won't feel like talking about work once he's home, because he's glad not to be there anymore; and he's so stressed out that all he wants to do is unwind with a computer game or his online friends. It's like he can't think about anything but work; but he doesn't want to talk about work; so there will be no talking. I hate these phases, but I've learned that they're not indicators of him deliberately being unkind or not loving me.

Can you guys take a trip together, or go see an interesting play -- some activity that will generate its own set of experiences and topics of conversation? Or have guests over. Whatever, as long as it's a change of pace. I find this sort of thing has become increasingly important to my married life. I think it's typical that between work and child rearing, the average married home life is pretty boring, and often a grind, and it really does need deliberate injections of interesting experiences to be tolerable.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:41 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The elephant in the room here is that you seem to think your husband doesn't like, let alone love you. Has he said as much? You say he tries to show affection, but how?

I'm often reluctant to be the AskMe person that jumps in with therapy, but it'd be great to do some work either on your own or with a therapist on self-esteem. This is obviously rough on your self-esteem, and while you're still a great person, you obviously often don't feel that way. Being aware of your own awesome self will help you feel better, regardless.

Have you asked him if he would be willing to do something that you can do together to feel more bonded? Even if it's just having a TV show you watch together? And if not, does he say why he doesn't want to?
posted by ldthomps at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This sounds so hard! After your followup, I'm going to say that it's time to bring on the big guns. Enough with the "I feel" statements. Time to be direct. "This relationship is not fulfilling me. You are cold to me. You appear to have no interest in my life. What is going on with you? Tell me in explicit terms how you feel about me and out life together. Tell me what you get out of this relationship. I am feeling alone."

What kind of childcare do you have? I can't imagine how isolated I would feel if I was primarily a caregiver to my children and got no support or interaction from my spouse. I think if you want to keep this marriage together, making sure that you have time to pursue some outside interests is key.

Marriage therapy may help, too, if you feel like you can't have this kind of conversation or if it's not fruitful. I have a hunch that something besides personality us going on with this guy. At the end of the day, though, think about what you want to have happen and then ask for it. It's okay to be introverted. But relationships require care and feeding. It shouldn't really feel like work but you two together need to do some catchup work to fix things.

Good luck - you are not a bad or boring person - you are absolutely worthy of loving attention.
posted by amanda at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2011 [25 favorites]


We spend zero quality time together. He's not interested in doing things alone with me - since day one, although I didn't see that until much later.

As others have said this is not normal, there could be reasons for someone to not want to describe their day to a partner but spending time with each other is pretty much an absolute requirement for a healthy relationship. In my opinion at least this is not something you need to get beyond or feel better about, this is a serious problem that is going to make you unhappy unless something changes (which you probably already know).
posted by burnmp3s at 12:51 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Re-reading your post, I see the bit about him not being interested in doing things alone with you, and it always having been this way. Is this really true? Because if it is, if you're not exaggerating, then I think I'm back to the DTMFA stance. This is definitely not how loving spouses act. What is your marriage if not the sum of the time you spend together?
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:58 PM on January 21, 2011


Having read the OP's response, I've got to say, I beginning to get the impression that this guy wanted the trappings of marriage, but not the work. Is your hubby very concerned with appearances, or does he work in a setting where "family man" is an important image to project? Does he come from a family or culture where "married" is the accepted norm for an adult?

Alternatively, he could be in a rut. You say things have been like this since you got married - what was he like before? Was he attentive? Is it possible he let things slide out of a sense of complacency, and after 15 years, doesn't see a reason to change?

To actually answer your question, OP, I'd suggest that you need to think through your options. Your husband obviously gets something out of being married, otherwise he'd have been gone ages ago. What do you get out of the marriage (kids, higher cultural status, etc)? Is what you're getting out of it worth you staying and dealing with the status quo? What happens if what you're getting isn't worth it? How do you think he'd react to you pulling up sticks and leaving him? Or, frankly, to you giving him his overnight case and sending him to sleep on a buddy's couch?

I realize these are kind of drastic options, but honestly, part of feeling like a stronger person is about taking charge of what you don't like in your environment. Part of being a better person is not doing things that will hurt yourself or others. So, if I were in your position, I'd be having a frank discussion with hubby about the situation, pointing out how much you hurt and how repeated requests have not resulted in any real change. Know what you're prepared to put up with, and what you're not prepared to put up with, and point this out to him. The resolution to the issue should be one that's mutually agreeable to you both, and one which both can adhere to.
posted by LN at 12:59 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think amanda has nailed it. The big question is -- does he love you? And almost as important -- does he like spending time with you? He needs to be able to answer these questions, and if the answer is yes, demonstrate it for more than a week or so. If the answer is no, I'd seriously consider leaving your marriage. You do not deserve to be lonely and sad. Nor is it helpful for your kids that you feel that way.

You do need to ask him, and tell him, these things. I think you also need to have first made some decisions about the outcome you will choose depending on how this discussion and the followup goes.

I am a big extrovert myself -- no doubt this shocks you given what a blabbermouth I am here in MeFi land -- but I don't like telling my husband about my day or the trivia that has happened to me. Having said that, we talk a lot, we do a lot together, and I tell him often how much I love him and the particular lovable/admirable things I see about him. That's what I don't see happening in your relationship, and frankly you are entitled to be loved and to have some companionship.
posted by bearwife at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2011


.We spend zero quality time together. He's not interested in doing things alone with me - since day one, although I didn't see that until much later.

This is different than the original problem, and I think I agree with Amanda. You need to have a serious conversation with your husband about your relationship.
posted by empath at 1:22 PM on January 21, 2011


What does he get out of your relationship? Child care? Kept home? Sex? Not having to shop for groceries? By any chance did you get married very young and you took over being his mom? I can't believe he isn't anything but sad either based upon what you've mentioned thus far.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a common answer of therapy/counseling. OP, you're not a bad person, and from what you've described here, you're not doing anything wrong. Quite possibly your husband isn't doing anything wrong either. What you guys could do better is communicate. Since that seems to be a major area of difficulty for you (and has been since you entered the relationship), please seek assistance outside your marriage to help you learn how to communicate. If for some reason your husband won't go with you, go alone. I strongly feel that you personally would benefit from the attention of an individual therapist to help you with this.
posted by hansbrough at 1:44 PM on January 21, 2011


LN and RJ Reynolds have very good comments. I am leaning a lot with LN here.

This is not about being an introvert or not, or whether he loves you or not. I think those things are clear. He does and your conclusion that he is not into you is likely an exaggeration. Something deeper seems to be missing, possibly on your side and you’ll need to introspect and figure it out.

Something that I still don’t get from your post and update is that you say your husband has always been like this but you don’t really talk much what he was like before, other than this quality. What was it about him in your early relationship before and after marriage that made you want to be with him? Despite his silence then, as now, clearly you did feel loved then? Why? What was present then that is absent now and bothering you so much that it has lead you to the conclusion that he is not into you?

I know you know he cares and all (and that’s not the problem or the question), but we are talking about what does he do to show you that? Might want to look into the Five love languages as well. Does he do the same things he did 15 years ago that made you feel loved? Has he stopped bringing flowers? Has he stopped asking you if you need help with the kids? Has he stopped asking how your hobbies are coming along? Other than communication, has he stopped doing something else that meant a lot to you?

The fact that he doesn’t share day-to-day things with you but does so with his family only means that the dynamics of your relationship is different. There could be a lot of other reasons to it too, as others have pointed out. The thing is, once the dynamic is set early on, it’s going to remain the same unless you see serious effort from both sides. To me it sounds a lot like your husband has become very, very complacent. He is getting what he wants, doesn’t think he needs to really make an effort that lasts longer than seven days (albeit unintentionally) and so there is no reason for him to work at this. He has become a housemate you exist with. You don’t want that but he is happy with the current scenario. Many men have a tendency to get into this mode post-marriage (read Flow) but your husband has to realize that he has to put in consistent effort to make this work. Whether a therapist tells him that or your threats to leave is something you need to ponder. But unless you are relentless about a change, it ain’t gonna happen!

15 years is a long time to think about leaving a spouse but you do sound very unhappy. You really have to determine how badly you need him to change or whether you can live like this for the rest of your life. Rest assured you will have lots of voices from inside justifying why you are the one who should change and accept this (hey, he was always like that!) but that’s normal. It will take courage to step up for your own self but it will be well worth it. Also, the husband needs to realise that whether he says "I love you" with three words, monthly roses or in the sign language before bed-time, you are his wife, not his roommate from college. If you are sad, there is a problem he needs to help fix.

And by that, I don't mean to say that he is responsible for your happiness, or lack of it. You sound like a mature, balanced and caring person. I would also think about not letting your self-esteem stem from just one source. It really doesn't sound like you have to become a great person, it seems more like you are already there, but just a bit unhappy.

If you'd like to email me (address in profile), please feel free.
posted by xm at 1:52 PM on January 21, 2011


I am also like this, I don't like to talk about what happened throughout my day. I might do it out of convention, but I'm just going through the motions. It's much easier to engage me on what I'm doing right now, or what I'm doing at work tomorrow, than what I did at work today because I’m more focused on those things – it’s not really about minor vs. major things so much as past vs. now/future. Sometimes I appear distant, aloof or introverted to people, but that’s because I don’t think they’re interested in hearing about what I find meaningful. Instead, they want to engage in what to me is a meaningless social game where nothing is really said and no real connection happens. The irony is that small talk is mostly about keeping people at a safe distance, it’s used to fill up the silence to ensure that nothing real happens so we’re never really exposed to another human. I can see why you’d want to do this with strangers, but not people you’re close to.

So I would approach the question from the opposite angle: are you trying to make him talk (about very specific things) because you are afraid of what might erupt out of the void of his silence? Do you want to fill his mouth with words to prevent real speech, like a gag? You’ve already said something like this – what does his silence mean? But you’re afraid of what he might say about you, and maybe the real problem for you is what he might say about himself. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it’s worth thinking about. I see three possible answers: first, a technical problem of communication styles and misunderstanding about what’s meaningful or not; second, he’s just not that into you; and third, the psychoanalytic problem of the return of the repressed, receiving your own unconscious message back from the Other in inverted form.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:02 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because I'm always wondering. I'm always worried that his silence means I've done something wrong or that something is bothering him and he won't tell me what.


If he can't speak up, that's his problem. You are not supposed to read his mind or anyone else's mind. That's what language is for.

It consumes me a lot and I can't move beyond not caring about it.

Ask him. If he replies in the negative, nothing was wrong to begin with.

So, how can I move beyond this and not let it bother me?

I am not sure you can or you should. You are sad. You should be able to talk to your spouse about it. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your happiness. You have to figure out what you want and then go get it.

Just think about it-

And for some reason I didn't put much importance on it and married the guy.

That was 15 years ago. And now you are sad and lonely with a husband who, for whatever reason, doesn't get it. Sure you can distract yourself with children, hobbies and what-not but whether you can do so successfully is something only you know.
posted by xm at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2011


I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a common answer of therapy/counseling.

I bet the husband won't go with her (I assume, because they have kids) to couples counseling, because he doesn't even like to do fun things with her. Agree that individual counseling might help her a lot in with sorting out what next.

As for the gendered "Men don't like to talk about their days, but women do," you couldn't prove it by me. I am not a "talk about my day" person, but every man I have ever been with, including the Largely Mythological Husband (and, yeah, most of the women as well) have talked and talked and talked about their day every day until I thought my ears would fall off. These folks are all pretty much introverts, too.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this will help, but I'll put it out there. I am a total introvert and BF is a total extrovert. He'll talk all day long about what's going on in his day. Nothing is too mundane. He will rarely ask about mine, which is totally fine with me, because I don't want to talk about it. I endured the day, and now I'm safe at home and can relax...let's do something fun. When he calls during the day, i prefer to listen, and it soothes me for him to just talk and talk. I dont have to worry about making conversation. Otoh, when my sister calls, I'm all about talking about everything. I can tell you that there is a different comfort level with my sister and I just blather on with her. She is also an extrovert, so I think the comfort thing is just because I've always known her and she's my sister. We have a different connection and not necessarily a better one than I have with BF. Just different. I adore both.

Nth a little.

Also, I love text and email any and all days over talking, but will usually respond with short answers.
posted by TLCplz at 2:53 PM on January 21, 2011


Dude is sharing info, just not with his wife.

Just to play devil's advocate on this, there's no guarantee he's any more interested in doing this with his family. He's just got a paradigm with them where he's used to doing it. And really, pulling that out twice a month on the phone is very different than doing it daily.

He makes an effort when you prod him and then falls back into old habits. So clearly he's not completely disinterested in doing right by you.

I think you need marriage counseling on a regular schedule. Either he just needs to learn a new set of habits with you or you need to find out if this is an unsolvable problem.
posted by phearlez at 3:23 PM on January 21, 2011


From the OP:
Is what you're getting out of it worth you staying and dealing with the status quo?

I've thought long and hard about this. And, yes I believe what I'm getting out of this relationship is worth it. Maybe not personally, but practically. I have young children. I am a stay-at-home mother. I have very little work experience and not much of a college education. My husband does not make a lot of money - but enough that I can stay home with the kids, even though things are tight. Should we split, there is no way we could afford two households. I would have to get a job, the children would end up in childcare. I would not see my children for days at a time due to custody arrangements. So, as much as I'm sad I will continue to stay. He is not abusive, isn't substance abusing, cheating on me, gambling away our lives, etc. This issue eats me up but I will stay. And that's why I want to know how to not let it bother me.

And almost as important -- does he like spending time with you?

I don't think he does. He doesn't necessarily avoid me, but doesn't make an effort either.
Before we got married it was pretty much the same way. We never "dated" - just hung out. There were times that I made an effort to do something fun/plan a date. He went along with it, but never - not once - has he planned something for us to do together. Flowers, wooing - never happened. Also, there were times when it should have been just the two of us and he invited along friends and family to join us. In the past 10 years I can count on one hand the times we've gone out - just the two of us and each time he was hurried to get through the "date" and get home.

He tells me he loves me almost daily. He tries very hard to do nice things for me. It's just this one area that really leaves me out in the cold. And I sort of think that's my problem. I need to not care about it or take it personally.

So, let's assume dude isn't in to me. I'm not leaving. What now? How do I "swallow my lumps?"
posted by jessamyn at 3:33 PM on January 21, 2011


I don't know but your last follow-up makes me feel even worse about the situation. "Staying for the kids" rarely ever works and I'm sure your kids feel your desperation around these issues even without you saying a word.

You're basically asking us how to live a miserable life less miserably? If so, then he's your roommate and not a husband. I really can't imagine it any other way.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:57 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I haven't read the thousand replies, and I know he's your husband so you know him best, but to me this doesn't sound like he's not that into you. I find smalltalk -- and especially talking about myself and asking who I'm with about him or herself -- very draining. And I assume that if you want to tell me something, you will, and if you don't, why ask? Intellectually I know this isn't entirely true, but it's how I feel.

That is, it really sounds like you have a communication problem, and somehow you need to work on bridging that gap for the sake of your relationship.

Incidentally, you have great friends, kids, and hobbies. It sounds like you probably already are a great person.

I'm assuming everyone else said this, but therapy is an obvious solution. Individual therapy for yourself. Couples therapy for your relationship. He's making efforts and then lapsing into old habits, sort of like how I give up smoking and then relapse, so he's obviously willing to make some effort -- this suggests he'd be amenable to couples therapy.

I don't think accepting that he's not into you is a great solution. This is what's dragging you down. And if he tells you he loves you and tries very hard to do nice things for you regularly, "not into you" doesn't sound like it. More like, you have one problem. Framing it in those terms could help.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:04 PM on January 21, 2011


INTIMACY.

That's what is missing.

Emotional intimacy is very very hard for someone to live without. There is no way for us to ethically counsel you here on how to continue living with this situation because we'll be advocating for a life of quiet desperation, which you already have, and is clearly too much for you to live with.

Start making plans, get some schooling, a part-time job... start planning your exit.

Life is too short and you have great options.
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on January 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


This issue eats me up but I will stay. And that's why I want to know how to not let it bother me.

Distract yourself? You can always make yourself busier. When this problem comes up in your mind, remind yourself of the reasons you have decided to stay.

So, let's assume dude isn't in to me. I'm not leaving. What now? How do I "swallow my lumps?"

You can't leave now. That doesn't mean it's a permanent situation. You say you don't have job experience. Why not work towards getting one? Ditto for college education. Work towards changing the dependence that makes you stay today to leave tomorrow, if you change your mind. If you don't, you'll have more things to keep you busy and accomplish something in the meantime. Not saying that any of this would make you happy. It could make you more miserable for a while though.

And these things may or may not be easy depending on your situation but even if you stay for the kids, they will grow up someday. Plenty of couples split once that happens. Just a thought.
posted by xm at 5:24 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So is your problem that he doesn't talk about his life with you and spend quality time with you, or is your problem that those behaviors make you believe he isn't "that into you"? I mean, I'm sure it's a mixture of both, but if he acted the same way but you honestly believed that it wasn't a reflection of how much he loved you, would you feel significantly better? Or would you still feel profoundly left out of his life? Because if it's primarily about how you interpret the meaning of his actions, rather than his actions themselves, then you've got something to work with here.

Have you asked him why he shares stuff with other people and not you? Could you try changing up the way you talk about what you ask from him, and say "Look, when I've asked you to share more about what's going on in your life, that's never stuck. The issue is that I feel completely left out of your life and it's hard to feel emotionally close to you because I have nothing to be close about. Can we try to find something we can share that works for both of us? Do you have any ideas?" Maybe it won't work, but maybe you can find some territory to start with where he's not so resistant to including you, and then grow from there. Like, I don't know, tied into some hobby of his, or watching a TV show or movie together and talking about it, or talking through what you each think about some issue related to raising your kids and why you each feel why you do, or whatever it is. If he's put up walls and won't let you in, but he still has some interest in making things better, maybe you can find the place where those walls are weakest rather than running your head into trying to change patterns he's super-resistant to.

-----

I do have to say I wonder if you're projecting and reading too much into his behavior, when I see you say things like:

I'm always wondering. I'm always worried that his silence means I've done something wrong or that something is bothering him and he won't tell me what. It consumes me a lot and I can't move beyond not caring about it.

I know he tries his hardest to be a good caring responsible husband, and he does show affection in his own way that I do appreciate.

He tells me he loves me almost daily. He tries very hard to do nice things for me. It's just this one area that really leaves me out in the cold.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:03 PM on January 21, 2011


I'm newly married. And as a male I can tell you that guys don't "talk" about their days in the same way women do. And sometimes, as hard as this may be to hear, our wives or girlfriends are not the people we open up to the most. That being said...whenever my wife initiates questions about how my day was I am always genuinely receptive and enjoy telling her about my day when she seems interested. As far as opening up to people...many guys won't open up to their woman simply because they think it makes them seem week. Some guys will never...never...open up to their significant other. They'll open up to a sibling, a best buddy, or a parent, but not their significant other. Unfortunately that's just the way a lot of men are. Sounds like your man is like that. But even though he's like that, it doesn't mean that he's not in love with you. One thing I don't like that you've said....the dates. You guys never go out on fun dates? Movies? Dinner? My wife and I go out on dates all the time. We love it. It's casual and not pricey but it's still spending time together. That's something you should be more concerned about that him not opening up to you. Finally, I don't think this has been mentioned...How is your sex life? Do you guys have sex regularly? If the answer is yes, I'd say things are not as bad as you think. If the answer is no....again that's more of a problem then him not opening up. Hope this helps. Talk to him. If that doesn't work...see a therapist. Good luck.
posted by ljs30 at 9:00 PM on January 21, 2011


One thing you might consider looking into is whether perhaps he simply has a different way of expressing affection and interest than yours. I am like you-- very much an introvert, but I bond through talking. One-on-one, deep conversations are pretty much the idea for me. And since, when you live with someone every day, you can't ONLY have deep conversations, lighter talk ends up serving as a stand-in for me. I myself may not be so much interested in rehashing the details of my day, and I may know that his aren't that fascinating either. But I tend toward this anyway, because it's all about continuing the conversational bond.

My husband, on the other hand, expressed affection and love through touch. He's highly sexual and very cuddly, and can happily just lay wordlessly with his head in my lap while I stroke his hair (preferably after sex). Sure, sex is an important part of a romantic relationship. But it's not the same *kind* of important, to me, as conversation. However, touch is how my husband experiences the same bonding I get through talking. To him, it's far more important. Because, jeez, he spent his day at the office, why should I *care* what happened?

The fact that our relationship strategies are so different can lead to some awkwardness. But luckily, I overevaluate everything that ever happens ever, and have brought this to his attention. So we try to balance both of our needs, so that we both understand that we are loved. I can sometimes feel a little used when we veer too far toward mostly taking care of his needs, and he can feel a bit neglected when we're spending too much time on mine, but, on the balance, we make it work pretty well. And we have plenty of time left to practice.

I believe there are also other strategies for expressing and experiencing affection. Perhaps your husband feels that everything is all right because he's providing for you financially and you're taking care of the home and the children. Maybe that's what he feels he needs, and he doesn't really undertand that you might need something else. Don't give up on him without trying to figure out why he might be doing what he's doing without getting all apocalyptic. He wanted to marry you, and you wanted to marry him, presumably. Something was working. Figure out what, and why, and who it was working for. You say he pays attention to your needs for a week or so when you bring it up. That doesn't sound like he's completely apathetic. Perhaps he just needs a different explanation of why it's important to you?
posted by Because at 10:15 PM on January 21, 2011


I really needed to come back and add this...

OP, have you looked into "Emotional Withholding"? Because I think that's what you are dealing with.

Just an excerpt from some random blog on the subject:

"The wife or girlfriend tries harder and harder and the husband or the guy is just the way he is. If there is failure, it must be the women’s fault; my fault. I didn’t think about my father’s passive behaviour as a contributing factor to a failing relationship, contributing to both the failure of his marriage and the failure of his relationship with me. I didn’t question the inequality of the responsibility. I didn’t know that this was passive abuse, and I certainly didn’t know that passive abuse is as destructive as any other type of abuse."

Passive abuse. I kinda felt that applied here.

I came back into this thread because I can't believe how many people think you might not be trying hard enough or that you have some sort of "communication problem." Especially after 15 years. In fact, I'm sure you've tried everything to get through to your spouse.

Your original question and updates sound kinda text book for the withholding thing. And I'm not sure that everyone who engages in this behavior does it on purpose. I'm not saying your husband is passively hurting you on purpose. But he's withholding his intimacy from you, and you indicate he's capable of it with others...

So, I think you should maybe do some research into this, read up on the effects of being in a relationship where withholding is the dominant dynamic, compare that to the last 15 years of your marriage, and then weigh the consequences of living like this into the future.

Since you can research withholding and the effect it has on individuals and families, you can make an informed decision about whether this is something you and your family can continue living with.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:37 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


If I were you I'd be making plans to finish up my education and get work that I enjoyed and could support myself and kids with. I'd be saving money and maintaining a strong network of friends and family. I'd be making sure that I kept myself in good emotional and physical shape so that if/when I were suddenly on my own I'd be able to bounce back more easily and continue feeling good about myself.

Most of the replies in this thread are uncharacteristically sanguine about your situation; they seem to be assuming that your husband really does love you but expresses it differently than you. I'm sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it seems to me at least as likely that your husband was ambivalent about marrying you and is sticking with it for the kids and because of the inertia of regular meals and laundry service. This means, unfortunately, that when he meets someone else who really rocks his world, he's outta there.

He says he loves you every day? Words.

If you start living like he's gone already, and work on making yourself and your kids happy and fabulous, he may start seeing you as an interesting, compelling person, and want to spend more time with you. But you can't count on it, and you should make your own happiness your main project without the explicit goal of reeling him in. Work on letting him go. If he comes back to you, he's yours forever, blah blah blah.

Good luck.
posted by annabkr at 7:05 AM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow. I should set up a fuq-robot that searches for particular keywords and then says

"Y'all might be married but y'all ain't in a romantic relationship"

You two are legally bound together and for some reason have brought children into the world but you too aren't in any sort of relationship that marriage and parenthood normally entail. In a way you are wasting each other's time.

You should get on okcupid or craigslist or go out among your social network and find yourself a significant other who can meet your human need for a meaningful relationship. It wouldn't be "cheating" on your husband because aside from a marriage certificate y'all don't have a relationship except for being roommates.
posted by fuq at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2011


Wow, I don't know how you "live with it." Have an affair?

I think other people are really on the right track. No matter what, you sound trapped. Actually, you both sound trapped. Improving yourself as others have suggested seems like the only reasonable option. And it's a good example to set for your children.

Speaking of the kids... while it is wonderful to stay home and care for them, some kids really thrive in a social setting. I know that I *loved* pres-school (essentially daycare) at that age. Another option is getting some in-home care. I feel like you're becoming a martyr to the cause of your children and marriage. Eventually, they do grow up and they need a Mom that they can look to for inspiration and they need a mom who feels good about herself. I'm totally reading probably too much into this but I feel like moms who are just moms are actually kind of short-changing their kids.

But, I don't want to guilt trip you either. Just, think about giving yourself as much love as your kids get from you. I don't know what form that takes, there's been lots of great suggestions here. The status quo just sounds untenable to most of us because it is! And you sound so low. I wish you could get an easy answer here but there really isn't one. You need a spouse to help you out with this. Maybe that's a project you two can find common ground on -- Operation Help Mom Get Out of This Rut. Maybe, just demanding that kind of focus, which is goal oriented and growth directed will help you both. I don't know. Gotta think out of the box on this one. Trying to send you good vibes!
posted by amanda at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I moved out at seventeen, just a few days after I graduated from high school. My mother divorced my father when I was 18. My mom was able to stay at home when I was younger, and looking back, I can see that she was incredibly isolated from the world outside our immediate family for a very long time (you have friends and hobbies - that's great!). My dad worked, and then came home and avoided his wife. I think that this played a role in him spending less time with me and my brother. My father, brother and I were unable to give her the emotional support she needed. Years later, on separate occasions, each of my (much happier) parents told me that they feel that they would have been better off raising the family on their own. I believe that they were correct.

It is very difficult to take care of someone else (ie., your children) if you are unable to fully care for yourself - and this includes your complete range of emotional needs. It is far more draining when you're not getting what you need from a romantic relationship than it is to be single. You are already a strong woman - I can hear it in your posts - and you're going to need to be even stronger in the days to come. It is even harder to leave than it is to stay should you choose to do so, but in the long run, you and your children may be better off.

My point is not to tell you that you must go, but rather to offer that you can leave, and although it might be difficult, you can make it work so that you're all better off in the long run (even though what you have right now is working in its own way). Some potential options that you could look into include skilled labor, like dental assistantships or physician's assistants or nursing. With these options, you would be able to work 3-day shifts and be home for your children whenever they were in your custody. You could run a daycare. This last would have the added benefit of allowing you to stay home and for children to be social with other children. You could do telecommuting. I lived with a lady once who cold called from home and made a keen living. There is a TON of financial aid available to first-time non-traditional college students. I wasn't expecting any aid because my grades were mediocre, but my lack of money was enough that federal and school financial aid cover my tuition and most of my frugal living expenses. With children, you get more aid. If you were motivated to be a student, this would definitely be an option that was open to you that would allow you a lot of flexible time to be with your children.

Since you're coming at it from a very practical approach, you could go back to school while still married, give one last whole-hearted effort using whatever relationships suggestions appeal to you, and then whether or not the marriage works out, you will be in a more empowered position in your own life, which will set an example for your children to learn by.

Even if your husband has the best (or most neutral) of intentions, the status quo is teaching your children that it's ok to stay in an unhealthy relationship. Do not numb yourself to stay in an unhealthy relationship. It's bad for you, it's bad for your children. You are exactly the person you need to be in this moment. You have the power to live a vibrant, honest life. I wish you the very best.
posted by lover at 5:05 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


You need to work together to change this (or divorce). My goal in your shoes would be to have you both decide to go to couples counseling really seeking to improve things.

To make this happen, you need to come to really believe that you deserve more, and that you're willing to leave to get it. In old-school bargaining theory, an important variable is the Best Alternative To A Negotiated Settlement, or, what happens if we don't figure this out? If your BATNA is "I suffer quietly," you're a lot less likely to successfully negotiate for him to come to therapy wanting to make a change.
posted by salvia at 8:50 PM on January 22, 2011


"If you start living like he's gone already, and work on making yourself and your kids happy and fabulous, he may start seeing you as an interesting, compelling person, and want to spend more time with you. But you can't count on it, and you should make your own happiness your main project without the explicit goal of reeling him in. Work on letting him go. If he comes back to you, he's yours forever, blah blah blah."

I think annabkr nailed it.

Best wishes as you move forward. Hopefully he'll come along for the ride. If not, you'll still be in a better place.
posted by hms71 at 9:35 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Therapy. Really. Even if you have to work a few hours a week to afford it. The fact that you are deciding that you need to live with this indefinitely is what it is. But it also says something about what's going on with you. That you're to a point in your life where you've given up having something special and intimate and fulfilling. Get therapy for that. Get help from a professional who will come to know you and give you advice about how you can be happy. Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's not. But no one here can give you the kind of help you so desperately need. Get Therapy.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2011


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