I have been married for 15 years and now have 2 children. Generally my marriage has been good. My husband and I are both practicing Muslims and we are raising our children with Islam. My husband is helpful with our children, dropping them off at school, helping with homework, and I take care of the laundry and cooking. The problems began in our marriage when I went back to school 5 years ago. Initially, my husband was supportive but slowly tension crept into our marriage, especially in my final year of training when we constantly began bickering. After I completed my education I began working fulltime and I have become financially secure. Over the course of this time my husband has become increasingly religious, with extra fasts and prayers, but has been distancing from me emotionally and even intimately. I love my husband and want his attention and support. However, instead of comforting me or giving me support, my husband tends to withdraw. He does not interact much with me and ignores me most of the time, preferring to be alone. I get so frustrated and angry that I end up yelling at him and then he withdraws more. I don’t want our children to be exposed to constant conflict. I have offered to quit my job. But my husband does not want me to resign, nor do I want to since I have worked so hard in my profession. I have suggested counseling and my husband refuses to go. I just don’t know how to make our marriage work.
You are feeling a deep loneliness in your marriage. It looks like you and your husband have grown apart and in that process have retreated emotionally in order to protect yourselves. You are both hurting emotionally and seek to be loved and cared for. The dynamic that developed in your marriage during your time in school made it impossible to see each other’s pain and the distance that has been created. Your experience is not unusual. If you both want to save your marriage, you would need to see a therapist to get back on track.
Therapy is not about placing blame on either individual; rather, it is about helping you two grow closer and begin trusting one another with your emotions and vulnerabilities. It may be that when you became less dependent on your husband (going to school and working outside the home), this may have triggered a vulnerability in your husband and further changed the dynamic in your marriage. Because you were not able to communicate those feelings deeply with one another, you each learned to cope in your own way, and the marriage slowly began to change without either of you taking notice. Your husband becoming “more religious” was probably his way of coping with the feelings of not having your full attention and connection. The way you coped with the distance in your marriage may have been by expending your energy outwardly to your co-workers and friends and furthering your career.
You sound like a committed couple who is having difficulty dealing with some of these life changes. This is very typical. Recognizing the issue is the first step, and taking action to improve it is the next step. If your husband continues to refuse to seek counseling, it would be beneficial for you to go to counseling by yourself to gain greater awareness and to begin personal change. As your husband witnesses your personal growth, the dynamic in your relationship will begin to shift, and this will inevitably begin to change your husband’s behavior towards you. Finally, you can only be responsible for your own happiness, and you cannot expect your husband to fulfill you emotionally. You must find inner happiness; then you will be able to better understand how to love him in the way that he needs. Developing an emotional connectedness with your husband will come from increased vulnerability and acceptance of one another. Unconditional love of each other will build into a spiritual connection that will give you each peace because you will both feel secure in the marriage. Making a commitment to save your marriage by investing in learning about one another and rekindling the love you once had can begin by scheduling daily chats with one another where you share about your day and life experiences. Making time to communicate with one another, speaking to each other, and more importantly listening to one another is critical to build an emotional connection. Showing kindness to one another will also build a stronger connection. Doing things like giving compliments, helping your spouse, sending love notes, etc. will help reduce the distance. If there is too much hurt in your relationship to even communicate, or show kindness and affection, then seeking a professional to help facilitate conversations would be beneficial to build intimacy and a stronger marriage.