Restoring a marriage requires both husband and wife to put work in their relationship. Their work may include going to counseling, reading books and articles about marriage improvement, attending relationship seminars, and applying their learning and realizations.
But what if you’re the only one putting all the work and your spouse does not seem to care and respond at all? What if your spouse is emotionally abusive, narcissistic, and manipulative? Should you continue on saving the marriage? But at what cost?
Studies after studies reveal the negative impact of chronic marital conflict on the physical and psychological well-being of the spouse who is holding on to the marriage. In addition, the children are also another casualties of these long-standing conflicts, especially if it includes intense and heated arguments. Apparently, it does no good to anyone involved when only one spouse is working on the marriage.
When holding on is causing too much pain and leaving physically is not (yet) a viable option, then emotional detachment is one way to protect yourself from the detriment of a painful marriage. These are the ways on how you can detach emotionally:
1. Accept your spousal needs and begin to realize that your partner can’t meet them
As a spouse you have emotional needs from your partner and marriage. One of these is security and safety to be who you are and to express yourself in marriage.
It should be safe for you to share with your spouse that you are happy, sad, angry, stressed, scared, and vulnerable among others. You trust that your partner accepts and honors your feelings, and can provide you with the support that you need.
In a toxic marriage, the basic exchange of sharing and receiving emotional support is almost impossible. It’s because your spouse refuses to work on your marriage or has some personality disorder that causes him/her to be emotionally unavailable.
As hard and as painful as it is, you need to realize and accept that you cannot depend on your partner to make you feel emotionally secured, loved, and important. Continuing to hope may prolong your agony and may make you fail to take steps in doing what is right for you.
2. Focus on yourself instead of your marriage
For years, your attention and emotional energy have been focused on your spouse and your marriage. Now is the time to shift your focus inward. The goal is to increase your self-worth and self-esteem.
There are many ways on how you can do this. Emotionally, you may enlist the help of a therapist/counselor and write a diary. Intellectually, you may enroll yourself on courses that improve your knowledge or skill in a certain area. Financially, you may embark on creating an online business of your own. Physically, you may register on that yoga class near you. Spiritually, you may deepen your relationship with God and join religious organizations in your church.
3. Avoid talking to your spouse about the status of your marriage.
Thinking about other ways to improve your marriage and discussing these with your spouse means that you’re still emotionally invested in your marriage. And when you do this you’re taking your attention and energy away from your efforts of personal healing and development.
Another is, it could mean that you’re still hoping for the better days to come. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t. That better day will happen when your spouse has the initiative to come to you, make you feel secure, communicate with you openly, and make behavioral changes. Until that day comes, there is no marriage to work on, there is only YOU to work on.
4. Confine your conversation on responsibilities regarding the children and the house.
Limit the content of your conversations to superficial matters only. For instance, only discuss about the activities of your children, the maintenance of the house, and other household matters. Sharing your internal life such as your thoughts and feelings can make you vulnerable to your partner.
Also, avoid requesting or responding for any bids of connection.Bids of connections mean calling your partner’s attention. You do this by sharing how your day was, asking if they have eaten, showing an interesting video, opening up about your stress.
5. Do not have sex with your spouse
Being physically intimate with your spouse will just stir those longings within you. Thus, avoiding intimacy is one way to guard your heart.
6. Create your own secure base.
Secure base means having a relationship with someone who gives you joy, provides you with support, and be there when you need them. Humans need to be in a supportive relationship in order for them to be healthy and thriving.
Your source of support could be your closest friends who you regularly meet or converse with. These friends know you inside-out and can give you the feeling that you’re in this together.
Another form of secure base is having an intimate and daily conversation with God, being aware that He walks and listens to you every minute and every hour. You can have a diary with Him, tell Him everything that happens to your day, the thoughts and feelings that swept you.
Having a secure base can give you the feeling that you are not alone and that someone is holding you in their hearts. But as a warning, never ever have a secure base with a friend of opposite gender. This can likely lead to emotional affairs. And you do not want that to happen.
There are instances when you’re only resort is emotional detachment. Your marriage is not healthy for your well-being anymore, yet separation is not a viable option for some reasons. Emotional detachment can also lessen the fights and shouting matches with your partner, which can be witnessed by your children.
There is a big possibility, that emotional detachment is just your first step to freedom. With proper self-care, healing, and personal development you will have the empowerment, happiness, and independence to leave your toxic marriage and live alone with your children and have a peaceful life you didn’t have.