Married for 13 Years & Still Feel He’s a Stranger

Question and answer details
A (31_female_India)
As-salmu `alaikum, I’ve been married for the past 13 years, but I still feel like I am living with a stranger. I say this is because even after all these years, I cannot express myself to him, I have to think a thousand times before trying to say anything to him. He hardly spends anytime with me. He goes to work in the morning and comes by midnight reason being that his workplace is far from our home. This hardly leaves any time for us, he comes home, has dinner, watches movie, if desired has sex and goes to sleep, that’s it. I’ve been very frustrated as it makes me feel that he is just using me for his desires and doesn’t care or love me. I’ve discussed this issue with him quite a few times, told him how depressed, deprived and unloved I feel, he says he'll try to give me time and he does for a few days, he'll talk with me spend time.. and then it’s all back to the original way. We rarely talk! And because of this attitude of him I resorted to online chatting in the initial years of my marriage, as I could not speak my heart out to anyone. I even fell for a man. We were in touch through net for 5-6 years, though I knew I was doing wrong. I couldn’t stop myself because I felt loved by him. I don’t know why I am saying all this here. It was too late when I realized how deep I had gone into this to the extent of having cyber sex a few times. I later repented from heart and haven’t been in touch with this man since then Alhamdulillah, but I am too tempted to talk to him again, but I always stop myself. Many times it has cross my mind to run away from home, take khul`.. but I can’t thinking of our four kids. I cry alone in my room, praying to Allah to sort things out for me. I don’t even like to be with my kids anymore. I yell at them frequently and even raise my hand on them. I don’t like them coming to me, I make them run away from my room. I feel so guilty afterwards for telling them bad words yelling at them. I ask forgiveness from Allah and ask His help to control my temper. I feel so lost don’t know what to do. I wish I could talk to someone, someone could be there for me to listen to me to give me their shoulder to cry on and let me pour my heart out in front of them, but I do this all alone crying in front of only Him, and Him alone! but as a human don’t we all wish to have a loving and caring partner? Whenever I tell him all this he always says I am taking him in the wrong sense that he truly loves me, maybe he does, maybe this is his way of loving. giving full pleasure during lovemaking. I won’t deny that our sex life is very good, but other than sex. I haven’t seen anything good through him. I don’t know what to do. Please help
Aliah Azmeh, MSW

Assalamu Alaikum dear sister,

Thank you for sending us your question. It is very apparent that you are truly suffering from your current family life. I ask Allah to give you the strength over your anger and desire to be proactive and to do what is right.

Sister, you mentioned that you have been married for over 13 years and have four young children. You say that throughout your marriage, your husband has been emotionally distant from you and does not give you proper emotional attention and affection. I am truly sorry to hear that and you have a right to feel emotionally neglected.

You also mentioned that you have spoken with your husband countless of times regarding your feeling emotionally neglected and he reassures you that he does in fact love you and that you are overreacting. He changes for a few days than he goes back to his old ways.

As a result of your frustration with him, you have started to become an angry and bitter person. Because he is not the way you wish him to be, you have become very impatient and angry with yourself, your children, and even resorted to online chatting and cyber sex. I thank Allah that you have repented and ended all kinds of chatting. Alhamdulillah you realized that nothing is worth your falling into sin and false hopes.

Please continue to be strong and never allow yourself into the cyber world again. If you feel weak and find yourself spending too much time online, then please don’t even be a part of social networking sites like facebook, myspace, or anything of that sort. Even though facebook is different than chatting, it can still be a trap to eventually go back to things similar to chatting. Please do this for your own honor and self-worth.

Now, let us examine in detail your reactions to your husband’s lack of emotional availability towards you. We talked about your resorting to chatting and how that is haraam and not even real to begin with and certainly that all should end. Now we need to focus on why you are allowing yourself to become an angry and bitter person.

It has been established that he lacks the emotional closeness towards you and even though you have talked to him several times, nothing seems to work. He goes back to being who he is. Your husband is not an outwardly emotional person. That is who he is and he cannot help it.

Certainly, you should continue to show him emotions and continue to communicate with him about what traits you like, but at the end of the day, he is who he is. If you continue to push him, to show him anger, and get frustrated because he doesn’t act the way you want him to, nothing will change about your condition. Instead, you will continue to fall into misery.

What you should do instead is change your way of thinking entirely. Instead of being frustrated that your husband isn’t the way you want him to be, focus on accepting him the way he is and loving him.

The word “love” is a verb, so it requires you to do actual work. At this point, you have to be proactive and you start to make a change for yourself instead of waiting for change to happen.

What I mean by “loving” him is to show him love based on your definition of love, whether it is by keeping good company, showing him attention, talking to him, serving him, etc. You must reframe the way you look at this situation and make some kind of change in your behavior.

Since you have tried for the last 13 years to change him, you have continued to see more frustration. Now try something different and change yourself, then you might actually see a positive difference.

You might find yourself feeling more calm, your children will feel more at ease, and your husband might actually see a difference in you and also start reaching out in a more genuine way. You have to try this first in order to see change. But remember that this takes time and dedication, so if you do not see results quickly, you should not lose hope.

You have also mentioned that your sex life is very strong. Alhamdulillah that is something positive in your relationship and you can also use this strong point for your own benefit. Sex is also a time in which you can not only physically connect, but emotionally connect with your husband. Use this time to talk to him and to make conversation. Remember, you lead the way, do not wait for him to initiate the conversation.

Thank you and may Allah help you through all difficulties.

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About the Counselor:

Aliah F. Azmeh is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Detroit, Michigan. Aliah graduated with a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2007 and has experience working in the United States and overseas. Aliah currently works as a clinical social worker and provides individual, family, and marital counseling at Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. You are strongly advised to seek face-to-face counseling and consult your physician or therapist when making a drastic change in your lifestyle in terms of behavior, medication or diet etc.