Why You Live With A Mate That Is Unemotional

Learn why you live with a mate that lacks the ability to emotionally connect and what to do about it


Living with a mate who doesn’t express emotions can be one of the most difficult challenges of your life.  No matter how much you try to speak to your mate, it’s like you’re speaking to a wall. As one mate said, “Living with my unemotional husband is like living in two different worlds.”  Another said, “It’s worse than living in a prison or taking care of another child.” If you wonder why you live with someone who does not fulfill your emotional needs or you work so hard to make the relationship work with little to show for it, here are some characteristics of people like you. 


Since you grew up in a home where you did not experience trusting, close relationships with one or both of your caregivers, you struggle with developing and maintaining trusting, close relationships with others.
The greatest influence to your feeling loved was through the quality of relationships you witnessed and experienced with the people that mattered the most in your childhood and teen years. As you grew up in a home without experiencing emotionally close relationships, you were accustomed to lack of love and lack of attention.  This sets the stage for the type of relationship you would be accustomed to living throughout your life.  In addition, you have great difficulty (although you may not think so) with trusting others and maintaining long-term close relationships. People who struggle with getting close build walls to keep people at a safe distance. 


You are willing to work harder, wait longer, and do whatever it takes in order  to receive love and attention from your unemotional mate.
As a child you would desire a loving, caring, close relationship with your parents.  However, if your parents were emotionally or physically unavailable, you may have taken on the responsibility to establish the emotional connection that your parents should have initiated.  If the situation did not change, your innocent mind would take the blame for the relationship failure, which would motivate you to work harder to receive the love you wanted.  As you establish relationships in adulthood the same dilemma would happen by unknowingly finding a mate that is emotionally or physically unavailable.  Since you would not want your relationship to end as another failure, you would again fall into the same situation, believing you need to work harder to fix the relationship.  Since you have worked to fix relationships all your life, working harder, waiting longer, and doing whatever it takes to make the relationship work becomes a normal pattern of life. 

Since you did not receive affection growing up, you have a greater chance of becoming uncomfortable with affection when you receive it in adulthood.
If you grew up in a home where one or both caregivers did not provide affection (frequent hugs, kisses, tender touches, words of love and praise), you do not know what a heartfelt, tender affection looks or feels like. As a result, you may be more accustomed to a relationship based on surface love, such as being a good provider of your material, social, and financial needs.  You are more accustomed to the absence of affection in a relationship than you are with receiving affection. 

You put others first, to the point of excluding your own needs and feelings.
If you lived or live in relationships that are hurtful or unemotional, you are more accustomed to people that disrespect you than give you love, encouragement, and appreciation.  You have a tendency to believe you must work harder at everything in order to win acceptance and prove your worthiness.  Unfortunately, the ungrateful, disrespectful, or unemotional response you receive from the other person perpetuates the same belief that your work is not acceptable.  As a result, you will always consider the needs of others (at the exclusion of your own) in order to accomplish the task of winning their approval and feeling better about yourself.
You are willing to endure more insults and less respect because of one or 
more of the  following:

• When you received negative comments, insults, and disrespect in the past you are more likely to accept it as normal and endure it in the future.
• When you are hurting inside from the past, you are more likely to let others continue to hurt you.
• When you don’t feel good about yourself, you believe you deserve insults and you are willing to accept disrespect from others. 
• Because you must work harder to win acceptance, you are willing to take insults and disrespect to make the relationship work.
• Since you do not see the unhealthiness of the relationship, you are blinded to the disrespect and insults of others.

Your self-confidence is very low, and you struggle to emotionally and physically stand up for yourself.
When you do not feel good about yourself and struggle to express your feelings, you believe it is almost impossible to stand up to a distrustful and disrespectful mate.  You do not have much trust in relationships and chances are you do not have enough confidence in yourself to change your situation. If you live with a mate that controls with anger or verbal threats, you feel even more powerless in the already helpless situation. 


Since your mate has not been able to fulfill your emotional needs, you blame him or her for not living up to their part of the relationship, believing you can’t make a difference in the relationship until your mate changes.
If you did not receive much love and attention from your caregivers as a child, you would naturally have a strong desire to fill those emotional needs from someone as an adult.  However, when you look to the adult relationship to fill the emotional needs, you become disappointed again when your mate does not fulfill those needs.  The real problem typically is not that your mate does not love you; the core issue is that you chose a mate that does not know how to love you (similar to your caregivers).  Secondly, even if your mate did suddenly change by showing you love and attention, you would most likely not know how to accept that love since you are not accustomed to receiving it. 

You tend to live more with the dream of what an emotionally close relationship could be than with the reality of your situation.
After many years of trying to make the relationship work, you will be unable to see the reality of how unhealthy your situation truly has become.  You do not see how much you are allowing your unemotional partner to remain unhealthy when you do everything to make the relationship work.  When you are consumed with making things work you neglect your own needs, wants, and desires with the hope that someday you will have a loving relationship.  Unfortunately, that “someday” never comes and you find yourself dried up emotionally to the point of dying inside before you get help for yourself.  

The bottom line is if you are working harder, taking on more responsibility, or showing more affection than your mate (and your mate has the capability to do more), something is definitely wrong.  Your mate is taking advantage of you and you need to look in the mirror rather than point the finger.  It is always easier to point the finger believing your mate is the problem for not getting fulfillment in the relationship. The truth is, you will never be fulfilled if you look to your mate for the things you did not receive as a child. The reason for this is that you cannot fill an emptiness created in childhood through an adult relationship.  You must resolve your childhood emptiness before you can fully accept and receive the love from another adult.  Both mates need to learn how to mutually give and receive love to have a satisfying relationship.  Even if one person struggles with showing love, get professional help to understand why you either cannot show love or must live with the one who cannot show you love.  Get a copy of my book, When Your Mate Has Emotionally Checked Out for more details of what to do.  You can go to my web site for more resources and my email to contact me at talkwithcraig@juno.com or receive counseling if you are able to come to our clinic at Masterpeace Counseling in Tecumseh, Michigan.

Excerpt from the book:
When Your Mate Has Emotionally Checked Out, Craig A. Miller 2006©