Dear Amber Fuller, LMFT,
My husband and I have been stuck in such a rut for the last 2 years. We’ve been married for 5 years and initially when we got married we were so “happy” and “in love”. Lately, it seems like all he wants to do is be alone and I’m feeling so lonely. I try so hard to do things for him that I think would make him happy, but I get no appreciation in return and I just feel like I don’t matter to him. I’d really like to have children with him soon as I’m nearing my 30’s but I don’t want to feel alone in child-rearing. We have been arguing often and our arguments tend to look something like this:
I present my complaint-”why didn’t you do the dishes last night like you said you were going too?” You really shouldn’t say you will do things and then not do them. I’m so tired of your lack of follow through.
His response-”well maybe if you actually did something during the day rather than sit on social media all day long we wouldn’t have dishes in the sink…seeing as how I’m the only one working right now. I shouldn’t have anything that I need to follow through on. I’m responsible for everything and you don’t even care!”
I continue to NAG (his words, not mine) him and he continues to disengage and not care and eventually walks away from me leaving me feeling so resentful.
As you can see, it is so dysfunctional and I’m not sure if I will ever matter to him or if he will ever care about what I want or need.
a lonely unloved wife
Dear deserving wife,
My understanding of what you’re saying is that you and your husband had a great start! Sharing things equally, feeling pursued and wanted by him, you viewing him as “super-man” and gazing into each others wondering how people ever get to the point you are currently at. That point being where you are feeling unloved, like you don’t matter to him, and undeserving of receiving the things you want and desire so in return working very hard to make him happy in hopes that at some point he will tell you how much he loves you and you will finally feel purpose in his life! Instead, you are receiving that icy cold stone-wall that leaves you feeling alone and isolated.
This sounds like you feel so lonely and awful! What a hopeless and helpless way to feel! What you are feeling makes total sense and I can’t imagine sitting in your shoes right now. It would rattle my world.
Let me explain this process of stone-walling that has left you feeling so alone and isolated.
You see, often times in conflict you have two people who have two completely different perspectives going on in their heads. You can’t imagine withdrawing from a conversation and leaving right in the middle only to go and “veg” in front of a tv or go shopping at the local mall. You are thinking, this matters, we matter, and our relationship matters! Let me let you in on a little secret: It matters to him a whole lot too. The same extent to which you are “fighting” is the same extent to which he is “flighting” and he feels the need to “flight” for reasons that are not relatable to you, but that I’m sure you can understand. You see, stone-walling, or flighting, is driven by shame. In your attempts to get him to see your side and hear you (which is often misinterpreted by him as “nag” when all you want is to be heard), you are causing that wall of his to build higher and higher and higher. Why? Because you are reminding him of all of those things that “he can’t do right”. He is being driven by “I’m no good. I can’t do anything right and I don’t want her to see this so I’m not going to do anything at all”. And what does this result in? Him withdrawing and you fighting that wall even harder as it grows taller and taller. Stonewalling is definitely not healthy and it does leave a partner feeling as though they are “in the middle of a fire” alone, and isolated. The best way to de-escalate these situations is for your partner to let you know that he needs to take a 30 minute break. Welcome his break. Tell him that you understand and that he can take all the time he needs, but to continue to communicate with you in the taking of this time. You, during this time, need to get out of your head and go do something fun! Go take care of you. Call a friend, read a book, go for a walk…go do something that will help you keep your anxiety at bay and calm you down. Remind yourself during this process that his need for a break has nothing to do with how “you don’t matter” but rather has everything to do with him not feeling good enough.
I often will tell people that if he didn’t care about you he’d treat you like a stranger in a mall who you just got done insulting by telling him his shirt is ugly. He would say, “meh”, walk away, and carry on with his shopping adventure while eating his pretzel. The very fact that he flights shows that he actually cares a ton about you and what you think and can’t imagine being without you therefore hides himself due to his feelings of shame in regards to who he is. Have empathy, and be right there to remind him that he is your super-man, because believe me, he doesn’t always remember this. And you, lonely wife, you tell yourself that you ARE deserving and worthy of getting what you need AND WANT and that your thoughts and feelings matter regardless of what other people say. You are you, and that is beautiful…stop working for love, you are worthy of it just being you!
-Amber Fuller, LMFT
For more information regarding stone-walling please see, John Gottman’s book: