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The Relationship Café

Abandoned in Marriage

God is relational and He has created us to be relational as well. We were created to be in relationship, and marriage is one of the highest means by which God has ordained the meeting of our relationship needs.

Given the way we were created, it is no wonder that one of the most excruciating pains we can feel is abandonment in marriage. Joined together physically and spiritually, drifting apart feels terrible. The person with whom you have shared your heart and soul no longer cares to communicate with you.

Sadly, this scenario is not unusual. Thousands of couples are married on paper, but live detached, loveless lives. These couples pass each other on their way to work and while performing duties with their children. While they may sit next to each other in church, appearing related, their home is filled with silence and rejection. These couples often don’t eat together, have stopped praying together long ago, and rarely share humor or future dreams. Their meals are filled with an awkward silence or perfunctory conversation. Physical intimacy is a thing of the past—and is never talked about!

Do you remember the story of the frog that boils to death after sitting in a pan with the heat slowly rising? Many couples are like that frog, sitting in water slowly heating up, telling themselves that things cannot be as bad as they seem. For most, the problem is insidious, occurring gradually over many years. They began drifting apart long ago and didn’t take precautions or remedial action. Perhaps one partner suggested counseling, and the other resisted. The drifting continued, until they reached a point of crisis.

Abandonment in marriage is a silent killer. Many sufferers don’t complain about the problem until it is too late. Many move ahead with their lives, acting as if nothing is wrong, tolerating the pain. This is called denial—denying the severity of the situation; denying the pain they are experiencing; denying the fact that the situation will not remedy itself; denying that this situation can lead to the complete collapse of their marriage.

Studies suggest that two out of three marriages which dissolve are initiated by women who are tired of feeling emotionally ignored and rejected. Filled with unexpressed anger and resentment, feeling that their complaints fall on deaf ears, they finally seek relief by leaving the marriage.

The problem, of course, is not exclusive to women. Many men are frustrated that their wives are working long hours, come home feeling irritable and distracted, and they, too, feel the love and passion draining out of their marriage. Abandonment in marriage has reached epidemic proportions!

Consider this recent letter I received on the subject.

Dear Dr. David. I have been married to my husband for twelve years and we have two children. My husband is a workaholic and puts his work above our marriage. We haven’t taken a vacation in years, and his children are growing up hardly knowing him. Our physical life is non-existent, and when I bring this up to him he gets defensive, telling me things will get better, which they never do.

I am tired of trying to get my husband to be emotionally involved in our marriage. I have tried confronting him, but he only gets defensive. It puzzles me that he seems content, when he must be feeling as empty as I am. Does he not feel the same rejection I feel?

I am ready to give up, but wanted to know if there was anything more I could do before leaving the marriage. Thanks for your help.

This woman voices the feelings of thousands of other men and women who are married on paper, but not connected to one another emotionally and spiritually. What can she do to get her husband’s attention?

First, it is critical that he know your feelings. While it may seem amazing to you, he truly may not know how serious things are. His capacity for denial and tunnel vision may be huge, especially given the fact that he is a workaholic. By definition, his primary energies and focus are on feeding his addiction—work.

So, it’s time for the most serious talk you’ve ever had with him. Arrange it at a time when you’re both likely to be tuned in to one another, without distractions. Then, lay it out for him. Things must change if the marriage is to survive!

Second, prepare what you want to say to him. Don’t enter into this conversation overly emotional, or unclear. You must know exactly what you’re asking for, and say it. Tell him specifically what it is you need. What must change look like? Again, be specific. If you want him to be home for dinners every night, say it. If you want to go away once every three months for a getaway, share that with him. If you want to sit down every night for at least fifteen minutes to “connect,” make that clear to him.

Third, let him know the urgency of the situation. He has been able to deny the severity of the situation up to now. It is critical that you make it clear that your marriage is in desperate trouble. Don’t mince words—say it clearly, calmly, but with urgency. This is his chance for a wake-up call. Let him know that his marriage is in jeopardy.

Fourth, you need professional help. Insist that he attend counseling with you. Make it clear that a little bit of help is not what the doctor ordered. Minor changes are a recipe for future frustration. No, it’s time for change. Your marriage is in trouble—he must hear that, and understand that you cannot fix things yourselves.

Fifth, consider the ways you’ve enabled things to stay the same. Please don’t hear me blaming you for the state of your marriage. However, my hunch is that you’ve found ways to anesthetize your pain, and now it’s time to expose your pain. You will need the energy of your sadness, rejection and anger to insist on change. Don’t keep settling for half-measures, empty promises and being pushed aside. No more excuses.

In my book, How to Get Your Husband’s Attention, I discuss the myriad ways women often reinforce men’s distancing behaviors without intending to. It is critical that you understand any behaviors you use to “keep the peace,” rather than insisting on change.

Sixth, get support for yourself, and ask your support group to hold you accountable for change. You need to make very difficult decisions and will need support as you lead your husband and marriage into restoration. It will be tempting to slip back into old patterns, settling for less than radical change. Ask your friends to help keep you on track. Choose your counselor/ psychologist carefully, finding one who will help you take significant action.

Finally, make it clear that you are telling him this because you care about him and your marriage. Assure him that your motives are for the restoration of your marriage. Let him know you are willing to work on your marriage, and will put energy into creating the missing passion. But, insist on change.

I would like to hear from others on this issue. Have you experienced detachment and abandonment in your marriage? What have you done to help the situation?

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 4:19 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

I've been married to my husband for 3 years and he has abandon my children and I. We are not divorced he already has someone new, it hurts but that's life and I have deal with it! I've prayed and I've done all that I could do, now I live my life without him.
Left by ebonyb on Apr 21, 2008 6:09 PM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

I do feel that i have been abandoned in my marriage.I done something that i know i shouldnt of done.I know my husband loves me unconditional but they have been things messing in our relationship.i told my husband at one time that I loved him but I wasnt inlove with him what can i do.
Left by freetobefree39 on May 15, 2008 10:37 PM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

i do feel that i have been abandon in my marriage.i have been married for 8yrs and have two children.all he does is to take care of his parents and his siblings and we feel unloved by him. what can i do.
Left by radinaibati on Jul 25, 2008 1:56 PM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

We have been married for 1 1/2 years, only after dating for 6months. We both have our own houses and I have children that live with me. He stayed at my place for the first 6mo, but couldnt afford to contribute financially. Soon he was staying at his place more and more. Now we see each other 2-3x a week. He refuses to sell or rent out his place. I have offered to move in with him, but he is an extreme pack rat. Even though its just him all of his house is jammed pack with stuff. He refuses to clean or make room for us. I am drained and emotionally distraught. I have asked him for divorce but he refuses saying it is against God laws. I feel like I am being used and he is non-committal and irresponsible to me and my kids. On top of this his son lives with me. He is older and has graduated now from school. But he doesnt want to live with his father nor does his father want to be a parent. I feel trapped and lost in what to do. I made a terrible mistake on marrying this man.
Left by mmckay on Aug 24, 2008 11:03 AM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

my husband left me to. We are not divorced, but he has a girlfriend. And that really hurts. But he doesn't want a divorce(niether do i),I want to work on our marriage, we have been married for seven&years.He always saya people tell him stuff about me, like they saw me with someone.I know he's not telling the truth, because he likes to lay guilt on me to make him feel better. I am not cheating on him, but i will take the blame for the things i said to him.I am a acholic,so i said and done alot of things to hurt him to. He kept saying he was going to leave, but he never did. But ono day he stop coming home for long periods of time.Then i weny through his voicemil, and found out he was involved with this woman.Now im trying to fight for marriage. I feel so bad,and alone.
Left by sonya777 on Sep 16, 2008 10:41 AM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

We DESPERATELY need prayer! My husband has been suffering form depression and just this past weekend I found him in a hotel with another woman. This woman is quite a bit younger and they met on-line. He flew her here from another state and says he doesn't love her but he doesn't love me either... We are currently in the process of adopting 2 babies and currently have one son. I am so scared at the thought of raising 3 children on my own and of loosing him. We have been together for 17 years and have overcome so much. I am a christian but am not really sure if he is saved or not. He is filled with confusion and disbelief that our marriage could be restored if that is what he decides he wants. i am just stuck here in limbo and it is killing me... we have a date night planned for tonight and he is going to talk to a pastor friend of ours on Monday. he also has plane tickets to fly to her state for thursday of next week... i believe the date is Oct.9th... Please Please Please pray for us..
Left by txteacher234 on Oct 04, 2008 12:28 PM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

Dear friend, prayer is your greatest weapon. God is our only hope. I understand what you are going through, I have, and am, there too. God bless you. Stay as close to our Lord as you can!!!! He is your protector, your vindicator, and your HOPE. Don't concentrate on your husband, concentrate on our GOD!!!
Left by BAROGERS5 on Oct 11, 2008 12:14 AM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

Spirit in me from God.My husband and I have been together 10 years and married 7. I know that the word of GOD is my breath of life.My husband knows JESUS as our savior ;but still he has hit me on drugs and lied ,kept secrets,took a women out went back to her place in her bed room and talked on her bed for 2hrs so he says and has not had a job but 4mths a yr .My Daughter left at (13 1/2) moved with her dad and have not spoke to her in 3 yrs dont know where about and tried no uvail;but pray, but through it all I rejoice and sing hymns and I praise the Lord everyday of my life .I read my bible and know that through it all he gives me strength for my life to raise my son 3yrs old who points to the sky and says jesus.The things I want to do I do not the spirit of God that is in me makes me whole and I do not understand I know God will reveal it to me know my husband is back serving the Lord but it is the Lord in control not I and I believe divorce is a sin no option but to TRUST IN THE LORD
Left by ebc on Feb 26, 2009 1:13 PM

# RE: Abandoned in Marriage

I have been married for 8yrs to a man that has been unfaithful to me after our first year of marriage. i tried and tried to be a better wife I paid for counseling, I would encourge him to take charge as the head of the home. it just did not work my husband ( waiting on our final hearing ) is a man that love women different women is never pleased with one. things was never the same after our first yr of marriage I found out several yrs later he had a son. i fogave him so many times every time he would cheat on our marriage our vows i forgave him. i have prayed and prayed to GOD to help me to help me stay focus to help me stop crying because of all the hurt. counseling help for a moment then he would go right back to cheating again. now he is living with the female and we are still married for now i see them together and they laugh at me and he pretend he dont see me like he dont know who iam. the pain is unbarable at times but I know GOD will see me thu it all.please keep us in prayer.
Left by justme51 on Mar 23, 2013 6:09 AM