How do I get my husband to stop doing this?


For the last year we have been trying to sort our marraige out and things have improved a great deal. We are still separated and not sure when that will change. My husband has changed many things about himself for our marriage and everything was looking up, except for his sulking…
I think that we have normal marital issues now. Normal differences of opinions but it’s how we deal with them that makes them abnormal. He won’t talk to me for days, sometimes weeks. This time it has been 4 weeks of little communication, with one discussion that went bad.
We just cannot communicate. When he does this, if I try to talk to him or send him a text message, he ignores me.
He said to me the other day that when he’s hurt, he withdraws, but for 3 weeks???
I said the length of time was the problem and he said why?
We are not living in the same house, but imagine what it was like when we were, weeks of him ignoring me.
This gets me so upset that I tend to react badly. I just want him to stop this ridiculous game playing.
He says he is waiting for me to calm down… which is just not true. I am someone that fires up quickly but calms down just as quick. He holds grudges and feeds his anger and lets it fester for days on end.
We have tried counsellors, to no avail. We do not have Retrouvaille here and Marriage Encounter is not what we need…
Most marriage cousellors here are totally USELESS.
When he is like this, there is nothing I can do to reach him, and anything I try will be met with hostility until HE is good and ready to let things go. I really have had enough of this.
I have tried doing the same to him so he can see what it’s like (Please I KNOW it’s childish, no need to tell me off… it’s done out of sheer frustration!)
I just want him to STOP this! It is so immature we can’t have a normal life when we spend most of it not talking to each other!
It makes it hard to make any plans and can be extremely embarrassing when other people mention him and and ask whether he’s coming to x or y or what he thinks of z, I can hardly say, " I don’t know cause he’s not talking to me"
This also causes me to live with a high level of stress and a sick feeling in my stomach all the time, worrying about what will happen next.
I also read in an examinatioin of conscience in preparation for confession,
'Have you not forgiven injuries, refused to speak to others?'
How do I get him to see how damaging this is?
Any advice?


Ya lots,

This sounds a lot like the “Pursuer Distancer” or “Pursuer Withdrawer” dynamic.

You can read about it in Emotionally Focust Couples Therapy.

First thing to do is get couples therapy from an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist. This is considered one of the best forms of couples therapy right now.

Off hand I’d say this. Understand that you need to soften your attacks of him a little and he needs to be able to show you his vulnerability. He is operating under the principle that he doesn’t know how to love you, that he is afraid of being found out, that he is incompetent at love, and that he is afraid you will overwhelm him. Your issue right now is more that you don’t feel your getting the reassurance and love you need. Basically your both afraid of each other because of how important you have become to each other. You need to reach out to each other and be tender, sincere, and committed to the relationship. Do not think though that he is withdrawing because he doesn’t love you, he’s just scaired, as are you. Once he stops running away and comes back to you, you might be the one withdrawing and he is the persuer.

If you want more information PM me.

Blue Knight


Thankyou for your response. We do love each other very much, and you are right with your assessment of the situation. But i have tried to back off, (like now, the fact that it’s gone on for 4 weeks is me backing off) but backing off doesn’t work!!
He says he doesn’t want to argue. But this causes more arguments! I am more upset by this, than the argument that started it! And when I do see him, he is cold and distant. It’s all a game and I hate it.
I feel like a little kid in all this, but it’s not even my doing. I have no choice but to wait til he’s ready to see me again.
He says that I am confrontational but even when I am not he still sees me as that and uses that excuse. How could someone want to remain angry and upset for so long is beyond me!
And I doubt if we have that therapy that you mentioned. We have absolutely NOTHING here that’s purpose is to save marriages. Even the catholic cousellors push you to divorce.


though I have no experience with it, Routroville (I don’t even think I spelled that right) is supposed to be wonderful.

You are in my prayers.


We do not have Retrouvaille here. I can’t see it coming either. Unfortunately. I have heard it is wonderful and it’s sad that we can’t access something that would probably help us. My husband would listen to advice.


Hey, Jules.

  Well, unfortunately, I don't have much advice, but I can certainly commiserate with you, and sometimes commiseration in and of itself is a help.

  I am in a very similar situation, except that my husband, instead of withdrawing from me like yours does, yells at me and curses me.  For little stuff, too - stuff that normal people wouldn't get mad about.  I posted about this problem a month or so ago because I was having a problem with adultery.  Not his - mine.  But I found a buddy online and we made a chastity pledge to each other just recently, and that has been invaluable to me.  So now I'm okay there.  But to rewind a bit, we tried counseling.  I was willing to continue; he wasn't.  We haven't been intimate in months, and he shows me no affection whatsoever.  Bad to say, but the last guy I slept with was not my husband.  He claims he's not sleeping with anyone else.  I've asked him to get on some anti-depressants or something like that - nope!  Won't do it; won't even ask his doctor.  BTW, I'm on the stuff, and it works wonders for me.  I've been to my parish priest several times to talk and for confession, obviously.  He's been great.  He recommended a book for me, *The Solo Partner* by Phil Deluca.  It's a good book.  It hasn't helped our marriage, but it has helped me personally.  I have an appointment with Dr. Deluca himself Tuesday the 4th.  (Turns out he's semi-local.  Neat huh?)  I tell people that I'm going to go see him to see if he can tell me what my "chances" are in this marriage.  

  I've told my parish preist everything about what has been going on between my husband and I, and to tell you the truth, he's baffled.  He can't understand 1.) Why my husband won't sleep with me, 2.) Why he won't work with me.  Well, I told him that my husband said that he can't forgive a "cheater."  Of course, my husband forgets that the first time I cheated on him it was AFTER he said that he honestly did not know whether or not he wanted to work on this marriage.  

  So, honey, I'm in the same boat you are.  I hope it helps to know you are not alone.  If you're already living separately, it would be easy to get a divorce.  (Hard to get an annulment, I imagine, but you know what I mean.)  I asked my parish priest about annulments, too, and he said that they can only be applied for after the civil divorce is final.  I didn't know this.  I would probably leave mine, but we have a debilitating amount of debt.  We need each other's paycheck right now.  It really sucks.  And my daughter all the while is learning that this is how a marriage is supposed to be - cold and unloving.  She's three, but she's starting to pick up on things.  I think both of us will get responses, whatd'ya think?  :o 



I can’t be as charitable about it as the other poster. I was a victim of this dynamic also. The total withdrawal is a form of emotional abuse. Withdrawing all love and affection is a very passive aggressive way of doing things. It can be almost more hurtful than physical violence. I used to take it. I’d try to wait it out. Then I’d try to talk to him. I’d ignore him back. Nothing worked. I thought that’s how marriages went.

Then my brother and sister got married and I saw them deal with spouses where they were emotionally healthy. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face. No, other people didn’t live like that. Being given the silent treatment. What kind of example is that for the kids??

I agree marriage counselors are useless. If you need a referee, it’s beyond fixing. If he can’t come to you and deal with you with some maturity, then say goodbye to him and rebuild yourself emotionally so you can have the strength and composure to raise your children.

If he can go 4 weeks without talking to you, he really doesn’t need you. But then he says he loves you. When it suits him. Pushme/Pullyou, like that animal in Dr. Doolittle. You end up never knowing where you stand. You look like the unstable one. Then he points and says “You’re crazy. You come on too strong.” Well, you wouldn’t need to do that with a man who would actually talk to you like a reasonable human being.

I can only suggest that if he cannot handle talking, that you email each other and have a dialogue. All grievances, problems handled in writing. Then he can reflect on them and write an answer. That’s a big basis of Retrouvaille, writing to each other.

If he will not communicate with you, tell him your lawyer will communicate with him for you. He is abusing you, dear. His sulking and pouting is babyish. He knows it hurts you and that’s why he does it. It gives him power over you. Even when you try to stay calm, he does not change his tactics. He’s hostile until he’s good and ready to make up? That’s manipulation. He’s not treating you like a wife, he’s treating you like a disobedient servant.

You’ve been extraordinarily patient with him. You’ve been through a lot in the last few months. You’re grieving a miscarriage and he’s giving you the silent treatment?

That makes me mad. My xh gave me the silent treatment in the delivery room for several hours of labor because he was mad that my mother was watching the 2 year old and 5 year old. I don’t know what he thought we were going to do with them! Let them panhandle in the lobby?

Who the hell IS he talking to for four weeks? This goes beyond abuse. It’s torture. Emotional cruelty.

Don’t you deserve better? What would you counsel your daughters to do if they were in your situation?


Retrouvaille is a more intense version of Marriage Encounter. The system of communication they teach is exactly the same. Actually Marriage Encounter would probably be great because your husband could not ignore you weeks - not if you follow the Marriage Encounter guidelines on dialoging. (We been to both that’s how I know they are very similar.)


Hi Tracy,
Sorry to hear about your difficult marrige. Thankfully there has been no infidelity in our marriage on his part or mine. That part of our marriage has always been wonderful. I have no reason to ever worry about that with him.
I know that being in a difficult marriage can lead you to do things that you never thought you would, so there’s no telling off from me here!!
My husband used to be verbally abusive to me but he has stopped that completely now.
Most other areas things are ok but this one. We cannot communicate or resolve conflict. We never really have been able to. I have already been through one divorce and an annulment so I don’t want to go there again… but it has crossed my mind when things seem so hopeless sometimes!
My husband would go to see someone and we have, but the counsellor was not helpful. We had big problems and he did not want to be bothered with us, and I find this is the thinking of most marriage cousellors. They don’t want to help you keep the marriage together, they will help you to have an amicable divorce.
I am trying to be as nice as possible to him regardless of what he does, but it’s SO hard when you’re feeling hurt.
I wonder how he can say he loves me then not bother to see me or talk to me for 4 weeks?


Yes, you’re right, it is emotional torture and that is why I am so on edge all the time. I have turned from an optimist to a pessimist. Everything is bad and I don’t handle life very well at the moment.
But I know, no matter how many times I can say it’s over and look that way, my heart is not in it. I can’t convince myself that that is the right thing to do.
I have been through one divorce already. I do not want to do it again.
I did write him an email. I haven’t sent it yet.
I tell him that it’s childish to do this and he says, 'it’s better than standing up and fighting like you want to do!'
I would rather do that, than have it like this for weeks!
I actually get angrier when he does this, but he says that it’s not to control me, it’s to give himself some space and for me to calm down. Well, that’s his perception of it anyway.
But I don’t believe it for a second. There is nobody else he would be able to do this to. Right now, he is having coffee with my other four children (that are not his) for Father’s day.
I will drop our son off so he can see him today, but we won’t speak.
It’s SO ridiculous. I hate it. I feel like I’m in a relationship with a 12 year old. But he has his reasons and justifies it.


And the worst thing about this is when HE decides to come back or try to talk, I feel like telling him I’M not ready, just so he can’t think he controls everything… but I know that’s silly so I don’t.

But letting him take all the time and come and go as he pleases seems to make him feel powerful and in control. Which makes things worse.
He did suggest that we both see a movie together, last week (so he does try to let things go sometimes as he has tried a bit more lately) but because of a difference of opinion on something, we didn’t go together, he went on his own. Therefore he is not talking to me now.


Jules, you cannot change him. You can change you. You will either have to learn to live with him or learn to live without him.

Talking to him doesn’t work. Stop that. It gives him a stick to beat you with emotionally. When you talk to him he blames you for withdrawing. That upsets you.

If he doesn’t answer your email, just vow to yourself not to talk to him until he can treat you like a human being. When he comes and wants to be with you and a disagreement comes up, do not engage him. He probably picks fights and pushes your buttons so you will respond, giving him an excuse to retreat for a few more weeks.

Learn different tactics to respond to his behavior. Don’t take the bait.

Something tells me though that if you refused to take his calls for two months he’d be banging your door down demanding you talked to him.

I feel for you. Really. It sounds like a no-win situation.


Jules, you cannot change him. You can change you. You will either have to learn to live with him or learn to live without him.

Amen. I’m not much into the psychobabblers and I wouldn’t consider Dr. Phil one of the most profound people on the planet but I’ve got to say he does have one right. People do things because it works for them. They get something out of it. It might even be negative but they’re doing it for a very specific reason. Maybe it’s control. Maybe it’s payback, etc., etc. He’s getting something out of it. Jules can do one of two things. She can no longer give him what he’s getting out of it (which I’d guess would be satisfaction at seeing her upset) or she can find another, less destructive, way to give him what he wants. Jules, if he knows it makes you angrier and he still does it, apparently he wants you angry. I’d suggest leaving him alone and being sweet as pie the next time he makes contact. If he can’t get what he wants via the current method, maybe he’ll stop using it and look for a more positive way to find satisfaction.


Oh Jules, I don’t know what to say. I thought things were better in your marriage. I will pray for your marriage for I know you don’t want another divorce. You are suffering so much. I truly believe the Lord is making you a saint to go through all this suffering. I can understand some of what you go through, but I don’t have the silent treatment from my dh. I don’t remember if you husband was on medication, but that may help. You have to think of yourself also. I know you probably put everyone elses needs before yours, but please help yourself in order to be there for them. You may need, if you are not already on it, some medication to help you go through all this. You said some things in your thread here that makes me think you need some help in that area. I had to take antidepressants for some time and than things got better and I got off of them. I haven’t been on them since. I will pray for you and pray for your marriage.

It is true that you can’t change your husband, but if you are like me, you want to change so bad so that you can have a normal and happy marriage. That is understandable. I had to change in how I responded to my dh and change myself. I know you have done that and I know you know it is an ongoing thing with us in our marriage. I know with me, I struggle so much for I see others who are happy in their marriage and they can discuss things like adults and all that. I don’t have that. I too, like you, feel sometimes that I am married to a child. It is a very difficult cross to bear.

Jules we are hear for you. We will continue to pray for you as long as you need it. I will ask St. Rita and St. Anne to pray for your marriage as well. Hang in there. I know sometimes all you want to do is run from it all, but we can’t can we. I will pray that the Lord will continue to give you strength and courage. You are a woman of great faith, even when as you say you get upset at your dh. You are a woman of strength. You fall as we all do under the weight of the cross the Lord has given us, but you get up again with HIS help. Don’t give up and pray, pray and pray some more. I really have hope that things in any marriage no matter if real bad, can improve with the power of God. May he have mercy on you and all your sufferings.


How about couples retreat? You can go away to gorgeous areas and do various activites that build communication

I hope it works out.


Ignoring one’s spouse is a form of emotional abuse. He is controlling you by letting you know he will talk on his terms, when he chooses.
I’m sorry and will pray for you. I know what its like.


GIRL! This has gone on long enough! Abusers do not change because they find a sick form of happiness in it being able to “control” someone and you feed that every time this happens. Communication is #1 in any relationship. If you don’t have it, you might as well give up. You can make it on your own and build a happy life. I did it. God has forgiven me for making bad choices in marriage (twice divorced) and for my part in their failure. The church has granted annulments. I and many others make the mistake of hanging on to a bad marriage hoping things will change. They don’t. But we always find some excuse to stay.

The only man that you need in your life is Jesus Christ! He will never fail you!


Thanks Nana,
well, compared to the way things were, they are better. Much much better. He has been trying very hard but this is one area where he feels justified in doing what he does.
I haven’t been the most patient and kind wife lately. He has been patient and supportive for all that’s gone on. But then he gets to a point where he doesn’t seem to be able to do it anymore and withdraws.
He says he has changed everything he can think of for our marriage. He has, except this.
It’s so hard to know what to do. I could go either way… I certainly have had enough of this but do not know how to get him to stop.

Thank you so much for your kind words… I wish I were a woman of great faith, then maybe I could have a clear conscience with this…but I am trying now, to not react and to always be kind and BOY is that hard!
He actually came over today to see our son. I was pleasant and nice, he is the one who looks very depressed.
He is torturing himself as much as anything. It really doesn’t have to be this way.


This may be true that he wants to control, but I really don’t think that it is true that people can’t change. If we believe that God is as powerful as we say, people can change if they want to. My husband has changed in many ways, for the better. He does not verbally abuse me anymore. He never retaliates when I get upset with him like he used to. He does not fight back, that is why he justfiies this, because he says he is backing off and refusing to fight with me.
You are right, this has gone on long enough, but I can’t find it in me to walk away. I did, this last January, and told him it was over but he would not give up and promised me so much. We worked through some things and managed to sort some of our problems out. He does want to be married but has had absolutely NO training in the way of sorting out conflict.
He came from a very dysfunctional family.
At the moment, I thank God for the much needed peace I have. (Usually I feel so stressesd out ALL of the time, it’s just part of my life that I have learned to live with)
I think if I can try to do it right, at least I will have a clear conscience. I haven’t always done it right, especially not lately. I have had so much going on and have sometimes taken it out on him. But through that, he has dealt with it and remained calm, so he isn’t completely horrible. Don’t get me wrong, as much as this behaviour of his is wrong, he does try very hard at other times to be kind, considerate, supportive and loving. But he can be as bad as he is good.
I just don’t know. I’m living in limbo really…


Silence and ignoring you is as much a form of verbal abuse as it is emotional abuse. Yes, it is never only one person’s fault that a marriage goes wrong. It takes 2 to make a marriage. God does give each of us a cross to bear, but he also gives us free will. We can all make very bad decisions in relationships. God also forgives you when the marriage goes bad. He forgives us for not being able to change our circumstances and make the marriage work. He may not have wanted us in that relationship in the first place, but we humans are head strong and think “oh, it’s not that bad. I can change him”. Instead of “Lord what is it that you would have me do”. Marriage is not about changing someone. It is about working as a team for the good of the marriage. About putting our selfish ways behind us and working together.

Bless your heart. I was in a bad marriage for 19 years. It was all I could do to accept God’s will to let go. I’ve been there too. God wants us to be happy. It took me 3 years to accept what God was directing me to do and to know that I was not a failure. I just married the wrong man and spent 19 years changing and trying to change him before God told me that I had carried that cross far enough.

I will pray for you.

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