The Emotionally Unavailable Man

 

After a recommendation from someone on the blog I decided to read “The Emotionally Unavailable Man” by Patti Henry.  I guess the last week or so has been “emotionally unavailable” week at our house, as two books that we ordered on the subject both arrived at the same time (the other being “Emotional Unavailability”).

While reading the first chapter I found myself quoting aloud some information to everyone in my family while sitting around the pool. It was amusing to me that even my teenage daughters, as well as their boyfriends could relate to some of the material that was covered in the book.

In the beginning of the book, the author discusses how boys are raised so differently than girls.  I am sure this is not new information to any of you so I won’t go into great detail on this.  The main result of this upbringing though, is that men are taught at an early age to stifle their emotions.

They are made to believe that if they cry or express their needs that they are being a sissy.  When a man enters a marital relationship they are unable to express themselves and thus become emotionally unavailable.

The book is great because it offers two sections: a man section which both women and men are asked to read initially, then a section for women which helps us to understand and handle an emotionally unavailable partner.

The first part of the book describes what it feels like to a man when they are with an emotionally charged woman.  The author labels this woman as “the hurricane”.    From an emotional sense, if a man who has been taught to cut off from his emotions, encounters a female who starts cranking up their emotional hurricane, he feels powerless. It’s defeating and it’s overwhelming and “he doesn’t have his emotional self available to complete successfully in an emotional environment.”  So he gives up, retreats, or runs for his life.

A hurricane looks like tears, sobbing, hurt, rage, screaming, throwing, name calling etc.  The hurricane can be incessant talking nagging, ranting, raving, the cold shoulder and silence.  All of these behaviors were present prior to Doug’s emotional affair and definitely extreme after the affair.

Henry then goes on to give examples of what a man will do when he is up against this hurricane.    She labels these behaviors as “Flight or Fight.”  The flight behaviors are any “ism”, addictions, lying, underground life, checking out, running away and infidelity.

I especially want to quote what she said occurs during infidelity.  “Having an affair is an avoidance technique.  Men often describe their affairs to me as, ‘A Little oasis.  A place where I’m appreciated and valued.’”  Not having the tools to create intimacy in their primary relationship, men often substitute “pseudo intimacy” as a way to feel some sense of personal power.

Fight behavior included raging, battering, condescension, being unpleasant and passive aggressiveness. I am sure if you analyzed any of these behaviors you would see some kind of coping behavior in your spouse just as I saw in Doug.

I believe he did more flight than fight as a way to avoid dealing with my emotions. I also believe he didn’t know what to say or how to communicate how he was feeling so he would just walk away and leave me confused and hurt.

The author then goes on to give men ideas on how to face the storm.   She said a man must learn to respond to it rather than react to it.  She provided five tools that would help:

  1. The realization that you are not the victim.
  2. The realization that you have needs, too.
  3. The realization that your decisions and behaviors have been fear based.
  4. You’ll need a voice.
  5. You’ll need boundaries.

I feel this book has been very helpful understanding why men behave the way they do.  I have not completed the woman’s section yet, however I hope it gives me some kind of guidance on how to make our marriage safe for emotional intimacy.

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11 Responses to The Emotionally Unavailable Man

  1. E June 6, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Linda, thank you for sharing this! I feel like my H’s “flight” was his affair, and now I feel that I am likely dealing with his “fight” on certain occasions as he has ended it and is trying to deal with me (the hurricane) and my emotions. It is a struggle because I definitely feel like I deserve to be a raging, nagging, questioning, fearful and emotional wreck right now, and he definitely supports me when I am having those moments, but I also see him become irritated at times and says things like “I hate seeing you cry all the time, etc” So, I think I have to be reminded to keep my emotions in check for the purposes of allowing BOTH of us to heal. Am I on track with this thought? Thanks!

  2. RecoveringMommy June 6, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    This pegs my husband to a tee! Thanks for sharing Linda. I’m emailing this to him.

  3. InTrouble June 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Although I have not read this book (I have a peculiar aversion to psychology stuff), allow me to throw out here the possibility that men will be men, and women will be women, and sometimes we just think and react differently. (I know, that is not an original idea…)

    I feel I devalue my husband when I try to read too much into his communications or his actions. I don’t expect him to think like a woman, nor do I expect him to completely understand how I think. I don’t expect him to have the same emotions as me, or to want to get thoroughly involved in all my emotions (heaven help him). I accept the great divide in both thought and action that will probably always be there between us.

    That said, as the one who had the EA in our relationship, allow me to say that I believe my husband understands this happened because of ME not him. There is something wrong with ME that I got involved with this. That something is a reflection of my total life (yes, including certain imperfections that I allowed to exist in our marriage), my personality, and what the man I had the EA with brought to the table.

    I can not emphasize enough that as the BS (is that betrayed spouse?) sometimes you have to look at the event in very black and white terms. It happened: You can forgive and repair, or you can walk. You can try to figure out what role that other man/woman played in your spouse’s life and try to fill that role, but you have to accept that you might not be able to. A lot will ride on what your spouse ultimately wants. Sometimes life is like that, out of our control.

    Yes, men and women are different, but I sort of like that about us. In many ways I find men wonderful because of the lack of complicated emotional crap going on. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t expect them to be women.

  4. Candace June 6, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    I too beleive men & women react in very different ways, however, my husband is often the more touchy, feely, sensitive one, he just does not know how to “talk” to me. There was problems in our marriage that neither of us wanted to address prior to his EA, which by his admission would have become a PA. Right now I see him bending over backwards to make me happier & show his love to me, however, I still feel like it is me that has the bad end of the stick. We are working on things, however as InTrouble stated, life is out of our control, so I am not sure what our future will hold. He has admitted the EA was wrong and apoligized for hurting me & our family, however, I CANNOT shake the feeling that my H will do this again in the future. After D-day he even turned to another mutual female friend for advise/help, I had to put a stop to that because I know he would have ended up in an EA with her. As a good friend she respected my wishes. Deep down I feel my H is looking for something that he hasn’t found yet and I may not be able to help him with this as I am trying to find happieness in my life again.

    • So Sorry June 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Candace–you know it WOULD be a much better world if we could stop searching for that “thing” we think is missing from our lives,and just stop and smell the roses.I was so busy being depressed,feeling sorry for myself,and upset that my marriage wasn’t perfect that week or that month,that I didn’t stop to remember how lucky I truly am…..I have a wonderful H and son,a nice home,and an over-all great life. I think we are out there searching for things to make us happy,fulfill us, when we really just need to see how lucky we are with the things we already have. I hope your H figures that out,soon- that he has a wife who loves him,and thats alot more than some people. Always looking for the next best,or something better, can only lead to trouble. Appreciate what’s right in front of you-and work on that- Good Luck

    • HarrieB June 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      Linda – thanks for this post. I have bought a few books on your recomendation and this sounds like another definate purchase!
      Candace – you have expressed a lot of what we are going through too, or at least what I am. My H is trying his best to make me feel loved and secure, but I am stuck with feeling insecure, and I think it is because I am stuck feeling that neither he nor the OW really understand what they did or the effects it had on me. I feel that they have had their cakes and eaten them, and I have done all the paying.. He is glad we are trying so hard in our marriage, and has shown he is grateful for all the efforts I have put in in this respect …But he has said we should move on and not get stuck on the past. He has even said couple of times recently that he doesn’t feel guilty for anything. I really think he says this because he doesn’t understand, not because he doesn’t care. I have printed various things about EAs off for him and left him to read them. Soon I shall sit him down and try to talk calmly through them with him – and just hope he gets it. I do feel that if he could demonstrate that he understood and was sorry then I would move forward again in my healing – as it is I know I have stalled. Also, until he demonstrates that he feels shame or guilt I cannot trust that he won’t slide into this sort of affair again.
      I was also wondering whether to post copies of the EA info to the OW. I know that others have suggested getting the CS to read stuff on EAs, has anyone out there also tried to get the OP to do so?

      • ChangedForever June 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

        I, personally, would not ever lend any helping ‘hand’ to an OP (only 8 months TODAY from D-Day.) ANYONE who attempts and consummates either an EA or a PA with a married person, or finds out AFTER the EA or PA has begun and continues it, can go to hell. I read one of ‘our’ reader’s books, ‘How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair,’ and now my CS is reading it – it’s an incredible read. Thank you. In reading that handbook, I realize that persons involved in affairs are sick, and, as this ‘Healing Handbook’ mentions: ‘…an affair is considered emotional abuse, and, if an STD is experienced by the BS, that is considered physical abuse.’ Unfortunately, I can relate to both of these abuses, post affair (as I am the BS.) Here’s some advice (vs. posting info to ‘help’ any OP:) my priest understands I cannot forgive the OW, but asked me to pray that the OP will change so that it will never hurt another family again – as it’s hurt mine. So that’s what I pray for – suggest you try this too. Prayer really does soothe a hurting soul!
        And can’t wait to read this newly suggested book – thanks Linda!

        • HarrieB June 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

          Dear CF, thanks for your thoughtful response. Much appreciated. Sometimes I do wonder whether I should be making an effort to forgive the OW; whether it would be helpful for me – the anger I still carry is so exhausting – but at the moment I am just not sure I can. You are absolutely correct about the power of prayer as far as soothing the hurting soul goes though.
          Thanks again.

  5. karen June 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Linda: Boy, am I getting this book right away!! It seems many of us have spouses that have trouble communicating their emotions to us – both BS’s and CS’s. Thank so much for this post.

  6. Jem May 20, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    Linda,

    I have been married for 40 years, over the last 10 years of our marriage my husband had emotional affairs with several women in the same time period, of cause all behind my back. And 3 years ago he finally tune one of the emotional affair into a real sexual adultery.

    In order for them to meet up to do the sex act, he would push me out of the house to visit my daughter or my son. While I was gone she would move in with him and drove my car in and out of the house so the neighbors would not even know that I was away. That last about 6 months, finally he rented a condo for her and her children and the condo was only less than 10 minutes driving distance from my house.

    Over the two years, he had spend over $100,000 on her plus a new car $35,000, a boob and tummy job for $19,000 plus monthly allowance of $3,000. She was barely 28 and he was 63 at the time they started the sexual adultery.

    May 2013 after I found out the whole affair, he said they have already broke up a month earlier. After almost a year trying to work out on our marriage. It was very hard for me, due to the fact that during the whole time he was lying and trying to make up story after story to avoid the truth. I would be dropping back to my holes again and again due to his selfishness.

    I am 61 yet still looked very attractive, most people would said I look like in my 40th due to my nationality–oriental, yet I know I can’t never measure up to a 30 year young white female. Despite all that I was a pianist for the first part of my life, later I became a CPA and money manager.

    My husband’s complain about me was I became too independent, too good, too boring, too nice, too serious. The women he associated with are from lower class background, most of them are willing to talk and to share themselves with him, because he is always very generous with them financially. Most of them are nurses who worked with him one way or another.

    He is a changed man as he put it, and after reading Doug’s 24 things (thanks for that) he is learning to be more understanding of my feelings, my setbacks, my triggers, and my pain. Yet after almost a year from the D day, now I am having huge doubt on staying in the marriage.

    My biggest issue is how mean he was, how bad he was towards me during that whole 2 years, through out our marriage he has problem sharing himself with me. Yet with her, even after knowing she had several boy friends on the side, he continued the sexual relationship. He wanted nothing but her, he would give up his career( as a physician), his whole life just to be with her, yet she would not even give him a huge each time he saw her. The more she played hard to get, the more he wanted her. She pushed him to get a divorce, he refused again and again, yet he would not let go of her. At the end, she broke up with him twice, yet every month or so, she would ask for handouts,–always several thousand dollars to help her get by. She is still not giving him up, she wants to be his wife. She wants the life style, the money and the prestige. She has been divorced twice and each time during her marriage she would have numerous affairs, she lost her son due to infidelity caught by her 1st husband.

    How could I allow someone like this back to my life again? Don’t I have enough of his nonsenses during the last 40 years (as my children put it) He is extremely self centered person. Linda, should I just let go and live a life of my own (i do have the financial means) or should I continued working with him to save our marriage? I am to a point that enough is enough, I am tired of his way and his selfishness. Yet he would not let me go, he begs, he promise he would love me and me only. He is a good man and kind heated, but also a very weak man.

    Now after almost a year, the 23 of May, I started all these set backs again –crying a lot, heart broken cry, I could not understand myself, I pray a lot yet nothing helped. I just suddenly wanted out, wanted nothing to do with him. And he does not know what to do with me and how to handle my emotions.

    He does not want loss me, he is very sorry for what he had done to me and to our marriage. I am in a cross road, don’t know what to do with myself either.

    Linda, May I talk to you about setting up the Private phone sessions with you, please.

    Thanks, Jem

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