It was Gracie Allen who asked her husband, George Burns, “Why don’t you tell me you love me anymore?” To which he replied, “I told you once on the day I married you. If it ever changes, I’ll let you know.”
The audience erupted in laughter at the reality those words represent. They related to the guy who says and expresses little and to the girl who longs for more from him.
But why is it we can laugh at this reality on a TV show setting but grieve this reality in our own life? It’s interesting that we know it’s often true, but we don’t accept it as reality in our own relationship.
For so many—sometime after the wedding—something changes. The emotional connection we felt with him before seems to change.
I am not proud to say this, but early in our marriage, I would try to provoke an emotional response from my husband because I got tired of his unemotional responses.
Dating was not that way for us. We talked about feelings for hours, but after getting married it’s as if he “flat-lined” emotionally.
So, I write this to the gals who have said these things:
- “We used to talk on the phone for hours, but now we stare at each other over a 10-minute dinner.”
- “He would leave love notes on my windshield, but now he leaves sticky notes listing the food we need from the store.”
- “I feel no emotional connection with my husband. He never shares his feelings, but he can talk about politics or fishing for hours. How am I supposed to be intimate when I feel so disconnected?”
To my female friends who feel a sense of loneliness or emotional disconnection from your husband, this is for you—but it may not be what you expect.
Are you ready? Could it be that you are trying too hard?
When George Burns was asked what Gracie and he did to make their marriage work, he replied, “It's simple—we don't do anything. I think the trouble with a lot of people is that they work too hard at staying married. They make a business out of it. When you work too hard at a business you get tired; and when you get tired you get grouchy; and when you get grouchy you start fighting; and when you start fighting you're out of business.”
Marriage takes work, yes! But are we forcing unrealistic expectations on our husbands or are we trying to build a natural and authentic relationship?
We expect him to talk about his feelings more and to share what he is thinking about. We want him to talk about why he feels the way he does. We desperately want our relationship to grow, but the whole time he is thinking everything is fine, and he’s happy that nothing’s changed.
We struggle to get him to tell us what he is thinking, and most of the time he isn’t thinking anything at all.
We watch the latest Hallmark movie or chick-flick and we ask, “Why can’t you be more like that?”
We assume it is his fault that there is a disconnect, but have we taken a look at our own emotional expressions.
We women are sometimes a complicated breed. We say we’re “fine” when we’re clearly not. We say we “aren’t hungry” then eat half his fries. We tell him we want two servings of the triple-chocolate-molten-lava-cake, and then get mad at him when we can’t button our jeans the next day.
Let’s face it, sometimes we can be difficult to connect to.
So, instead of working on changing him, may I humbly suggest that we begin by working more on changing us. After all, forcing him to be someone or something he is not, does not make for an authentic and true relationship.
What can you do?
Start by accepting him for who he is and all that he does offer. Accept that he is created uniquely and has other gifts to offer.
Then, celebrate who he already is rather than who you want him to be. Celebrate that he has remained faithful. Celebrate that he provides financially for your family.
Year ago, my husband had a piece of art made for me. It was a drawing of a giant tree that represented our relationship. It was crafted in such a way, that you could see the leaves and branches blowing in the wind while the roots remained steady and grounded.
At that moment, I realize he wasn’t emotionally void; he was steady and strong, and truth be told, it has been his lack of emotional highs and lows that has held our marriage together.
Now, I celebrate what once frustrated me.
Celebrate the unique story that you share with your husband. Those moments of laughter that are just between you. Those silent moments in which you can be still in each other’s presence. I encourage you to see the emotional connection you gain by the fact that the story you share with him is not shared with anyone else.
Finally, the hardest question I have asked myself was, “Am I trying to change him out of my own insecurity.” If I am nagging him to be someone he’s not, maybe it is because I am unhappy with who I am.
Never stop working at your marriage, but maybe it is time to change the focus of whom you are working on.
You can’t change him, but you can change yourself and the way you respond to him.
Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.