13 Worst Emotionally Distant Husband Signs

emotionally distant husband signs man in a blue shirt wearing a Apple watch with his head in his hands showing despair Middle Class Dad

There’s nothing worse than being in a relationship or a marriage but feeling more alone than ever. We try and pull closer and they just pull away. If you are living with an emotionally distant husband, you’re not alone.

Here are some of the signs you might be seeing:

An emotionally distant husband may show some of all of the following signs: being indifferent to activities, being inflexible, defensiveness, he is overly critical of you, he gives the silent treatment, is unwilling to talk about his feelings, and takes from the relationship more than he gives.

Let’s face it. Life is hard and having a partner who has your back and is in this fight with you is incredibly rewarding.

But for the wife with an emotionally distant or broken husband, that’s just not reality.

The first step in solving any problem is to be aware of the issue. Then and only then, can we begin to take the necessary steps to fix it or at least help ourselves.

So in this post, we’re diving deep into the emotionally distant husband signs.

Once you know the signs you can decide if that applies to your husband. Then we’ll walk through some crucial steps to try and fix your broken marriage.

An emotionally distant husband can make you feel so alone; even in his presence. And while it can take some marriages down, it doesn’t have to mean the end.

The turning point in a marriage is when a couple hits rock bottom.

It’s not until they’ve been through the worst that things start to get better. So if you think you might be there, you should take a moment and learn about the website Regain.

Regain offers licensed therapists who specialize in couples counseling and will work directly with you and your spouse online; anytime and from anywhere.

This quote from Anne M. perfectly sums it up: 

“Our counselor, Richard has literally saved our marriage. My husband and I communicate so much better and have fallen back in love with each other these past few weeks. It has not been easy, there’s been ups and downs, but we are in a better place for sure. I’m sure my husband and I will face stuff in the future, but having Richard just an email away has made a ton of difference. I find him very personable, patient, knowledgeable.”

Serious about saving or improving your relationship?

CLICK HERE to answer a short quiz and see if Regain is right for you.

Is the emotional distance permanent or temporary?

Before we get into the emotionally distant husband signs, it’s worth asking whether his behavior is new or if he’s always been this way?

A temporary emotional distance typically happens following some sort of traumatic event like:

  • An affair
  • The death of a close friend or loved one
  • Something that makes him feel like a failure (such as a job loss)

In those cases (especially if you had an affair), he retreats into his shell because it feels safe to him.

He’ll stay in his shell, avoiding talking about his feelings or being vulnerable, at least until he’s had time to process his feelings and deal with them.

If, however, your husband has always been emotionally unavailable, that’s a different story.

If he’s always been that way, the good news is it has nothing to do with you and is either rooted in some childhood trauma, or it may just be how he was raised and who he is.

That doesn’t make it easier to live with necessarily, but if you can come to terms with it, you may find peace with it.

But now, let’s review the . . .

13 Worst Emotionally Distant Husband Signs

emotionally distant husband signs headshot of a man not smiling with the shadow of mini blinds across his face Middle Class Dad

1. Indifference

An emotionally distant husband may often seem indifferent or indecisive about decisions:

  • Vacation destinations
  • Conflict resolution
  • or even where to eat dinner

At the end of the day, the big problem with his indifference is the burden it puts on you to be the functioning adult in the relationship.

It also puts undue pressure as if things don’t go as planned the “fault” falls to you alone.

2. All flirt and no action

One of the big emotionally distant husband signs is when a man (or woman) is overly flirtatious.

I know that doesn’t sound right, but in my experience, emotionally distant or damaged people often try and mask the underlying pain with a bold personality.

While that doesn’t always translate into being extra flirty, it certainly can.

When they are extra flirty, but it never leads to real emotional intimacy, that’s a clear sign.

3. The dreaded silent treatment

The silent treatment is a real relationship killer.

It is not, however, the same thing as just one person needing some space to cool down. The silent treatment is intentionally manipulative and designed to gain control over the other spouse.

Essentially they put themselves the driver’s seat of when or even if you get to share your feelings about the conflict.

I go into much greater detail on just how damaging the Silent Treatment (click to read on my site) is in another highly shared Pinterest post. How much it can damage your relationship will definitely surprise you.

So if that’s one of the emotionally distant husband signs you’re seeing, make sure and check out my tips on how to work past that in your relationship.

4. Unwilling to talk about damage from his past

We all have a past.

Some of us, of course, have a more damaged past than others. But even something as commonplace as a divorce when your husband was a young child can have devastating effects.

If every time you bring up something from his past he clamps down like a clamshell protecting a pearl, that’s a clear sign.

While the post is designed for the damaged, my most shared post on Twitter walks us through how to Let Go of the Past (click to read on my site) and move forward.

But it’s also great for those of us married to someone unwilling to talk about his or her past.

5. He takes more than he gives

An emotionally distant husband is uncomfortable really sharing who they are with anyone else.

One of the big downsides of that is it may often feel like you give and give and give and get nothing in return. As you give and get little in return the net effect is you’ll feel exhausted, emotionally drained, and the love you once felt for him will be replaced by apathy.

6. Inflexible on his routine

The emotionally distant husband is essentially hiding from their feelings or emotions. Often (but not always) it’s because of some type of emotional trauma they experienced as a child.

One of the effects of that is that now in adulthood, they seek to control everyone and everything since whatever the underlying issue is made them feel helpless and out of control.

Thus, if this is one of the emotionally distant husband signs you’re seeing, don’t be surprised if you find him completely inflexible on what he does, where he goes and maybe even what he thinks you should be doing.

His insecurity essentially turns him into a control freak.

7. He’s filled with excuses and defensiveness

When people are control freaks and seek to control everything and everyone around them, they often also have trouble admitting mistakes.

Thus, it’s not uncommon for emotionally distant husbands to come up with a lot of excuses instead of taking true ownership of something they did. When pressed about their actions, behavior, and mistakes, they also tend to get overly defensive.

Don’t get me wrong, no one likes apologizing when they screw up.

But one of the key emotionally distant husband signs is when nothing is ever their fault (and often he’ll claim it’s yours).

8. No matter how much you get from him you feel empty

When we’re with a spouse that gives us little to no true emotional connection we sometimes find ourselves feeling like a man dying of thirst in the desert.

And when does do something for you, like buy you flowers, treat you to a surprise dinner, or some other gesture, it can still feel really empty.

The reason is that those types of things, while thoughtful, don’t require an emotional investment. Thus, since you’re already starved for emotional connectedness, it has the effect of giving that dying man a thimble full of water and expecting it to quench his thirst.

9. He lies to you (and it doesn’t seem to bother him)

If someone is emotionally shut off from you then lying about things to you is no big deal. 

It’s not that he doesn’t care for you, but the defensive wall is built up so high, it becomes easy to justify the lie and in his head, make it seem like it doesn’t matter.

A truly emotionally whole man who lies is literally torn apart out of feelings of guilt over the lie.

Thus,  emotionally distant husband signs almost always point to a sort of indifference towards you or his own misbehavior.

10. You have no idea what he is thinking

We all crave an emotional connection with our spouse.

After all, this person should be the one we confide in the most, with whom we share our most personal thoughts, and who we trust the most.

But for the wife of an emotionally disconnected husband, that connection just isn’t there (or barely there).

As a result, while he most likely makes small talk, you often have no idea what he’s really feeling inside or what the details are of the things he’s doing or working on.

11. He is overly critical of you

We’ve already covered defensiveness, an unwillingness to take ownership of his actions, lying, being a control freak, and often they all lead to him verbally abusing you.

At best, while perhaps verbal abuse is too strong of a word, he’ll become overly critical of you.

The reasons for this are it gets him out of the hot seat. You’ll be so busy defending yourself you won’t have time (he hopes) to shine the spotlight on him.

12. You feel like you’re going it alone

We’ve already talked about how he can make you feel like a person dying of thirst in the desert.

When this is a long-term pattern of behavior, the end result is it often leaves you feeling completely alone in the marriage.

Life can be challenging and one of the chief benefits of being married is having someone who has your back and who can be your shelter in the storm.

It also means having someone you can count on to pick you up when you’re down.

Without that support, it’s like being single (but with someone else in the room). At best, you’ll get financial support, but still be craving that emotional support.

13. He withdraws when you try to draw closer

When we feel like we’re all alone in the marriage, as these emotionally distant husband signs make us feel, it naturally makes us want to pull closer.

After all, we aren’t getting our needs met.

Going back to that man dying of thirst analogy I used above, the man will obviously be drawn towards the nearest source of water (in this case your husband).

The downside is, of course, he isn’t likely going to be able to fulfill your needs.

In fact, most likely, he’ll withdraw the closer you try and get and it will end up like a game of cat and mouse; a lot of movement but neither of you feeling much satisfaction in the relationship.

Why is he emotionally unavailable?

For many men, we are raised and taught to be the “strong silent type”.

We aren’t always encouraged at a young age to show emotion or be vulnerable. We often feel like we’re supposed to just get a grip, bite our lip, and keep going without showing any signs of weakness (paraphrasing Miranda Lambert intentional).

Ultimately, wives need to accept is that only their husband can decide to change his behavior and allow himself to be more emotionally connected with you.

While it’s always ok to tell him how his behavior makes you feel, make sure, and focus on your feelings and not your expectations of him.

When men feel like a failure it can have devastating and often opposite effects on us. While it might feel good at the moment to vent, it isn’t likely going to help reduce the emotionally distant husband signs.

No; it will likely make them worse.

Also, remember that him being emotionally unavailable or distant has nothing to do with his love for you.

So don’t take it personally.

He may love you deeply, but just be shut off from his ability to express it.

One of my best blog posts goes into the repeat negative behavior (click to read on my site) many of us engage in despite knowing better. More importantly, that article looks at how it CAN be overcome with awareness, time, and focus.

The terrible role childhood trauma can play for emotionally unavailable men

emotionally distant husband signs a young boy peeking through a hold is a wall Middle Class Dad

For some of us guys, the roots of being emotionally unavailable can go a little deeper.

In my case, while I wouldn’t describe myself as emotionally unavailable (I tear up a little watching The Notebook), I used to sabotage relationships before they could get to the next level.

I did that because at a young age almost everyone of importance left me.

This left me feeling scared of being rejected or being abandoned. Thus, I had a tendency to end things first so I was at least in control of it.

My mom and Dad divorced when I was about 6 months old and by the time I was 2, she was remarried and we were living 1000+ miles away from my dad.

I did see my birth father, but not often and it was decades before we became close. He too was exploring who he was as a closeted gay man coming to terms with being a gay father (click to read my story on my site), and thus was focused more on himself than being a dad.

My mom and step-father then divorced when I was approaching 11 due to his increasing alcoholism and physical abuse. He passed away just a few years later.

Despite his alcoholism, I still loved him very much and he was the man I called Dad until I was well in my 30’s. 

Still, Growing Up with an Alcoholic Father (click to read more of my story on my site) was tough as well.

If his distance is the aftermath of an affair

Life isn’t always perfect and neither are we.

Sometimes when a spouse cheats on the other, it can have devastating effects on both. After all, even if he cheated, only the most heartless sociopaths don’t feel regret or remorse.

So if these emotionally distant husband signs are new and one of you had an affair, that’s obviously the issue here and what needs to be focused on in order to move past this.

The good news is that despite the devastating effect cheating has on a relationship, it doesn’t have to mean the end.

Your marriage CAN recover from an affair. In fact, you will likely find that once you go through the crucial steps to Save Your Marriage After Infidelity (click to read my article)

I outline the crucial steps that must be taken after an affair, in my most pinned Pinterest post. An affair doesn’t have to mean the end, and with the right work, your marriage can be better than ever.

It will take time, but with patience, 100% ownership, and accountability, almost any marriage challenge can be overcome.

How to rekindle a broken relationship

If your marriage or relationship has gone years you have probably seen a lot of the sparks of love fade and die.

It’s totally understandable, but it’s not where we want to stay.

Rekindling a relationship IS possible though. Even if your husband remains emotionally distant, that doesn’t mean you can’t get some of that initial passion back.

You may also find as the passion increases, his emotional connectedness does too.

We just need to go through the right steps:

  • Talk openly with your spouse about the issue (it’s not like they don’t see it also)
  • Be committed every week to do something small for each other (a sweet text, a surprise lunch visit, or buying something nice)
  • Practice patience (rekindling a broken relationship isn’t a quick fix; it either took time to diminish the relationship or a serious breach of trust)
  • Be open to both talking (without expectations) and being willing to listen (without getting defensive)
  • Go back to the places where you went when your relationship was new (and most passionate)

But there’s a LOT more to be said about how to Rekindle a Marriage (click to read my article)!

So if you’re in that boat, I highly recommend you take a moment and review some of the crucial steps I outline in one of my most shared Pinterest posts.

Can marriage counseling help?

Marriage counseling is a great resource.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s also not just for couples on the verge of divorce! Believe it or not, but it’s great for regular maintenance to keep your marriage strong too.

A great therapist doesn’t take sides or tell you who’s right and who is wrong.

They also aren’t there to “fix” your husband or criticize these emotionally distant husband signs.

Instead, they listen and play back what they are hearing. Often times we don’t realize how our spouse is hearing what we are saying. Sometimes we don’t even realize the power of the words we are speaking.

But often it’s actually how we are saying things that are the big problem. Or in the case of the emotionally distant husband signs, it might be what he ISN’T saying.

So a marriage counselor can really help couples learn to strengthen their communication and listening skills that can really work wonders.

If you’ve ever asked “Can Marriage Counseling Help (click to read on my site)? You won’t want to miss one of my most shared posts that really goes into detail about exactly how and if it can help you and your marriage.

How to “fix” your emotionally distant husband

emotionally distant husband signs an apple on a table with 2 heart shaped cookie cutters next to it with a heart shaped bite out of the apple Middle Class Dad

In a nutshell, when we have expectations of someone else, we’re setting ourselves up for frustration. We’re also setting them up to be resentful.

That doesn’t mean you have to just expect that these emotionally distant husband signs are something you have to live with. But you should strive to get to a place where you:

  • Communicate how his actions make you feel
  • Avoid being critical or sarcastic about him or his actions (but do focus on the impact you feel)
  • Don’t set expectations on him (people don’t like to feel judged or controlled)
  • Do focus on appreciating the nice things he does do

I see this all the time in friend’s relationships and in some of the marriage groups I am part of.

Often wives (but some husbands too) have very set expectations for their husbands and then explode when he doesn’t meet those.

Now if we’re talking about things like expectations that he won’t drive drunk or do drugs, that’s one thing.

But in many cases, we are drawn to our spouse because of certain personality traits and then, once married, have this false expectation that they should now change that behavior.

That expectation will set most marriages up to fail (or at least be miserable).

What to do instead of trying to “fix” him

Instead of trying to “fix” these emotionally distant husband signs, or your husband himself, focus on doing things to connect with him.

We already covered not having expectations of him.

So if you go into working on your marriage without placing expectations on him (which feels like pressure and stress to him), just focus on having fun, communicating, and getting back to the basics of your relationship.

1. Have sex

It can sometimes be hard to want to have sex with little to no emotional connection, but this is crucial for building (or restoring) long-term emotional connection.

Sex is an important part of a marriage, and as I detail in a much-read article, it can be hard for a Marriage to Last Without Intimacy (click to read on my site).

2. Have set times each week where you connect

Put the phones down.

If you have kids, put them to bed (or if they’re old enough just let them hang out and watch TV in another room).

Just talk. Maybe enjoy a cup of coffee together Sunday mornings or a glass of wine together on a Saturday night.

Connect about your week and how things are going. It may be small talk at first, but it’s about building (or rebuilding) connection and it will grow.

3. Share your feelings without blame

When we are angry or frustrated, it’s natural for us to want to vent.

In the aftermath of something like an affair that’s OK for a while, but we want and need to get to a place where we share our feelings without blame. Focus on how it makes you feel and not on criticizing him.

4. Schedule regular date nights

Date nights are great! Date nights probably built the original connection that drew you together in the first place.

Thus we need to get those back into our schedule and routine. Have a new baby in the house or too broke to go out? I’m familiar with both of those things.

The place, time, and cost of a “date night” is irrelevant.

Make time to do something fun (even with a baby in tow) where you just enjoy one another’s company. Even if that’s putting the baby in a stroller and going for a walk.

Did I cover all the emotionally distant husband signs you were expecting?

In today’s post, we took an in-depth look into what they used to call the “strong silent type” of man.

We talked about why a man might be emotionally unavailable and what to do about it. But specifically, we looked at some concrete emotionally distant husband signs; some obvious and some not so obvious.

Once you know the signs, then you can explore solutions!

Has your husband always been emotionally distant?

The turning point in a marriage is when a couple hits rock bottom.

It’s not until they’ve been through the worst that things start to get better.

The website Regain offers licensed therapists who specialize in couples counseling and will work directly with you and your spouse online; anytime and from anywhere. And they can also work just with you if your husband is unsure or unwilling.

Serious about saving or improving your relationship?

CLICK HERE to answer a short quiz and see if Regain is right for you.


Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

4 thoughts on “13 Worst Emotionally Distant Husband Signs

  1. I said some mean things over the years in anger. One thing specifically hit his nerve and he has thrown in the towel. He doesnt know how to move forward. It hit me what I need to do and what i need to change. I apologized, listened, prayed, begged for forgiveness from him and he still is cold and unbending. He keeps saying he doesnt think he can move forward. I ask what i can do to help and he said nothing. That he has reached the point of no return. He has not asked for a divorce but hasn’t told me that we are staying together. He is purposely keeping me in limbo while i beg him to stay. Everything is “we will see.” I feel like this is some weird punishment…?

    1. Hi Melissa

      Yes, you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. This is, essentially punishment, although it probably isn’t him doing it with that intention. This is him asserting himself in the relationship and gaining control back, having previously felt powerless or out of control. If he truly didn’t want to move forward, he would be gone. The fact that he stayed proves (at least to me), that part of him DOES want this to work. But he’s hurt, he’s angry, and he doesn’t know how to release those feelings (in a healthy way).

      If you haven’t tried marriage counseling, I would definitely recommend it. A great therapist can help you both learn to communicate better and more effectively and can help him learn to express what he’s feeling in a way that makes him feel heard but also a way that doesn’t feel like punishment to you.

      If he refuses to go to counseling, I would still consider going yourself to get some strategies you can use to deal with this is his behavior, no matter how bad yours was, is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation and isn’t acceptable.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this and I hope he will go to counseling. Spinning in limbo doesn’t help either one of you and it sounds like from your comment that you’ve done everything you can do to fix the wrongs on your side.

      Good luck and comment back and let me know how it’s going.


  2. My husband and I recently had a big fight, we talked things through, I realize what my mistakes were. Now, he’s told me that he’s not feeling that emotional connection with me like he use to. He’s sees me more as a friend. He doesn’t know if it’s Norma after a fight? He hasn’t touched me in weeks, doesn’t try to hold my hand or simply hug me. Although we try to do dates here and there least once a week. I as a wife am not sure on what I need to do as far as, do I give his space, and if I do will it benefit us or drift us even further. I’m afraid that he’s going to keep drifting further apart and I will lose him. What should I or we do?

    1. Hi Connie

      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you’re going through this. If things were good before the big fight, then obviously the talking through wasn’t really enough for him. You don’t say what the big fight was about, but he’s feeling hurt or rejected in some way and has put up an emotional wall to protect himself from further hurt.

      I wasn’t quite sure what you meant by “He doesn’t know if it’s Norma after a fight?”, but if you want to clarify that and what the original fight was about, I could comment more specifically.

      I think the best thing to do is to go back to discussing the original topic of your fight and really allow him to express his feelings. Let him know what your mistakes were; fully acknowledge them and apologize for them. You may have already done that, but something about the fight really hurt him and is preventing him from moving on.

      Let him know that you understand he is hurt and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make things right. Ask him what he needs, and again, really listen and let him get these feelings he’s bottling up off his chest.

      If that doesn’t work, then my next suggestion would be to go to marriage counseling together.

      Sometimes a 3rd, neutral party is great for helping couples really hear what each other are saying. I hope that helps.

      Thanks for being here,


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