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Question

We have been married almost eight years and have three kids. We recently hit a rough patch in our marriage. He has been relocated to another city for work and I am a stay at home mom, so we are putting our house up for sale and moving there with him. I’m just so worried that we are moving there and he is going to stay the way he has been this last year. He doesn’t talk to us.

Even though he is a very quiet person (and always has been), he has never been that way with me until the past year. He doesn’t help me with our children. I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful, but he really does nothing around the home except fix something he knows I can’t. He pays the bills, so I assume he thinks he doesn’t need to do anything else. I would love to go to counseling but he won’t and he doesn’t want to talk about our problems and thinks they’ll just disappear.

Answer 

Your problems will only disappear if you let them disappear. You have a voice and I encourage you to continue using it to fight for the lost connection. This isn’t the same as fighting with your husband. Your husband isn’t the enemy. The disconnection is the enemy. Your purpose is to fight the disconnection by refusing to let your marriage go cold and silent.

You have God-given strengths to strengthen your marriage and family that cannot be ignored in this critical time.

President Russell M. Nelson championed these gifts in women when he taught:

We, your brethren, need your strength…your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind as directed by the Spirit? We need each married sister to speak as a contributing and full partner as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence. We need your strength![i]

If you’ve had seven good years where your husband communicated with you and one difficult year where he hasn’t communicated, then you should have a foundation underneath you marriage to support you both while you figure out this new challenge. Your husband’s distance has an explanation. Since it’s not like him to cut you off, then I hope you won’t settle and allow the distance to grow.

Transitions are the perfect time to make changes in a relationship. Even though lasting change takes time, transitions are natural opportunities to evaluate and examine how things are going in the relationship. Now that you’re not living together, use this time to talk about your observation of the distance you’re experiencing. This will give you both a chance to talk and then have some space to think about the relationship.

Instead of telling him what he’s doing wrong in the relationship, focus on letting him know how important he is to you and how you want to have the closeness back that you used to have. He might hear this as criticism, but as you emphasize how important he is to you and what this connection does for you, he might be more likely to hear you and respond.

Stay curious and see if he might be able to talk about what may have happened in the past year that has caused him to pull away. He might have some concerns and feedback for you. He might be going through something he doesn’t know how to discuss with you or anyone. Whatever the reason, insist on reclaiming the connection with him.

This is a long process of bringing things up with as much softness and directness so he knows that this is important to you. Don’t let his avoidance, anger, and irritation keep you from trying to address this.

The other areas you need him to care about (childrearing, housework, etc) are all areas that need to be addressed, but those will be easier to talk about if you are both connected. If disconnection is so severe that he won’t respond, then make sure you get some ongoing professional help for yourself to know how to continue responding. You’ll have many other decisions to make if he refuses to let you close to him.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com 

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/a-plea-to-my-sisters?lang=eng