All too often, husbands who come into marriage therapist Becky Whetstone’s office have already experienced what she calls an “emotional divorce.” “Sometimes, people get so fed up and disgruntled, there’s a disconnection process,” she said. “When that happens, the husband will mostly be apathetic about their partner and the relationship as a whole. That’s when an emotional divorce takes place.”
Below, Whetstone and other marriage therapists share some of the most telling signs that a husband has emotionally checked out of their marriage. (Note that either spouse could experience these problems ― but therapists say men tend to bring them up more often.) These signs however may apply to both parties in a marriage.
1.He’s hypercritical of everything you do:
When you’re in love, you overlook certain personality quirks your spouse possesses. You forgive them for every oversight or mistake. In other words, in most instances, you’re generous toward them.
If your husband has become less generous of your mistakes ― and grown critical of small things that were never much of a problem before ― there’s a good chance its part of a larger issue, said Debra Campbell. “Maybe he doesn’t know how to express it or fears causing a blowup if he expresses what’s really bothering him,” she said. “There may be more going on. Directly ask him if there’s something bugging him and how you can help.”
2. Stonewalling becomes the norm:
Nothing cripples a relationship quicker than stonewalling. In fact, renowned researcher John Gottman has said it’s one of the greatest predicators of divorce.
Consider stonewalling an elevated version of the silent treatment: It occurs when someone gets so upset about an event or situation that they shut down and disengage from the conversation. There are some tell-tale signs: Your spouse’s body language may be closed off and they may offer zero verbal feedback in conversation.
3. He’s noticeably irked when you don’t follow through on something:
When requests to get something done around the house repeatedly fall on deaf ears, it’s only natural for a spouse to get annoyed and start to feel like they can only depend on themselves, Whetstone said. “In this situation, they watch and wait for their spouse to act, then just get fed up and do it themselves,” she said. “During this waiting period, the partner may begin to dismantle their emotional connection to the other.”
To remind your partner that you care and want to be equally responsible in your marriage, acknowledge his requests. When you say you’re going to get something done, see it through. Otherwise, “ambivalence will set in and your partner will develop a damn-it attitude toward your marriage,” Whetstone said.
4. You aren’t as playful as you used to be:
Every couple has bad days, but for the most part, you should get the feeling that your spouse genuinely enjoys spending time with you. If the sense of playfulness is gone and your spouse rarely laughs with you, it could be a sign that one of you has pulled away.
Ask yourself honestly if your partner is happy hanging out with you, or if he’s just going through the motions, in a distant, disengaged way. If that’s the case, one of the best things to do is to introduce laughter back into your marriage, in whatever way you can.
5. He’s impatient and short with you:
If communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship, your husband’s grunts and eye rolls aren’t going to cut it. When your spouse has become non-verbal ― or verbal language has shifted from kindness and tenderness to impatient and short ― it’s a big red flag, said R. Scott Gornto, a marriage therapist in Plano, Texas.
“Timing is critical here. At the first sign of this behavior, start the process of talking about it. Talk about ways to shift this. Long-term impatience and being short with the other is an intimacy killer and can to lead to avoidance.”
6. He confides in other people:
It’s healthy to have a network of support outside of your marriage. After all, you’ll exhaust each other if you depend on one another for everything. But don’t let it go unnoticed if your spouse suddenly begins to confide and rely on someone else (a coworker, or an old friend from high school) for emotional sustenance.
In the end, you should be the person your husband is primarily sharing his marriage frustrations with, not a third party.
Watch out for any of these signs and any unusual signs that your husband has checked out of your marriage and get help to salvage your marriage while you can.