How to Be Happy With an Apathetic Husband- Alexithymia
In part one of this series, we’re going to explore the frustrations of being with an apathetic partner/husband. I’m also going to write a little about Alexithymia which is a personality trait where one has great difficulty with empathy and understanding or expressing their own feelings- perhaps this will help you to decipher whether your husband is narcissistic and likes playing head games, or if he’s just apathetic and doesn’t hurt you intentionally.
Part 2 will be detailing Affective Deprivation Disorder also known as AfDD, which is like Seasonal Affective Disorder in a lot of ways, only the symptoms are the result of being emotionally deprived. And what we can do about it.
When did I meet my Apathetic Husband?
16. That’s how old I was when I met my now husband who was 20 at the time.
I was moved out of my house and living with a Grandmother whom I barely knew. I felt alone and scared, myself against the world so to speak. I had no anger about my situation really- I was at peace about it but I can see now that I was definitely wanting to move into a future with more stability than I had lived with.
I wasn’t looking for a man but I did meet one in good timing while I was just having tea with my sister at a steakhouse. At age 16. At 2 am.
I won’t go into details, but I knew the moment that I saw him that he was the one. I couldn’t put my finger on it and pushed it to the back of my mind but fast forward a couple weeks and we were inseparable and one.
I found him attractive for sure and I was intrigued by his mysteriousness, the fact that he was always laughing, and it didn’t hurt that he had a car, a job and paid bills. I certainly wasn’t used to that- my stepdad barely lifted a finger and was evil and verbally abusive to my mom- God rest her soul.
We were engaged three months in, got pregnant when I was 17, married at 20 when I was pregnant with my second child. We had 5 more children after that too over the years- 6 kids in 10 years (more on that later) ♥
Then something happened. It’s hard to say when, as it was a gradual shift, but it was dark. I got on anti-depressants thinking that I was depressed (chemically) and I may have been, but I realize now that it was much more situational.
You see, my husband is a great man and things look pretty good from a birds-eye-view but there’s more boiling under the surface and he can be a very difficult man to communicate with.
First Signs that my husband was Apathetic
When you get to know him- really really get to know him, there is something “off”. It’s unintentional, but it’s there and can cause many negative side-effects in a partner. Personally, I feel as though I’m a shell of who I once was and I have been for a long time- (read more about Affective Deprivation Disorder in part 2)
Let’s back up a little and talk more about what’s different about my husband and maybe yours too. I’ve wondered for a long time but never knew how to word it- how to ask Dr. Google.
Until one day he finally, SOMEHOW, mustered up the words to say that he felt like something was off with him- like he had a disorder that somehow kept him from being able to express himself. This was about 15 years into our marriage, and I was taken aback. 1 that he did notice it and 2 that He SAID it. I was silent.
We only got to this place because I was so so frustrated with him when I’d ask a question and get zero response, ZERO. I know him well enough to know that he wasn’t being rude because rude just isn’t who he is, but that there was something going on in his head.
Even though I realized that he wasn’t doing it intentionally, I was SO SO confused as to why you could say something to someone and they not answer. Was he raised that way? what?
And this happened the regular and made me feel invisible, small and unimportant.. Unloved and so so confused. And then depressed. The bubbliest of people will shut down after years of this- and more that I’ll explain in a bit.
GOOGLE Here I come, right!? I searched and quickly found the word “alexithymia”.
To explain further-
alex· i· thy· mia | \ ə-ˌleks-i-ˈthī-mē-ə \
Medical Definition of alexithymia
: inability to identify and express or describe one’s feelings
NOTE: People with alexithymia typically display a lack of imaginative thought, have difficulty distinguishing between emotions and bodily sensations, and engage in logical externally oriented thought.
Individuals with high levels of alexithymia are usually aware of their emotional arousal; however, they have difficulty differentiating emotions and verbalizing them.— John S. Ogrodniczuk et al., The American Journal of Psychotherapy, 2004
I believe that Alexithymia makes my Husband Apathetic
People with alexithymia often have other mental health conditions or developmental delays, particularly autism-spectrum diagnoses. The defining characteristic of alexithymia is difficulty in naming, noticing, or reacting to emotions. This can lead to problems with empathy, and many people with alexithymia struggle in relationships with spouses, friends, and family. People with alexithymia are especially likely to struggle with conflict resolution and avoidance because of their difficulties in recognizing the effects their words and deeds have on others.
Symptoms of alexithymia include:
- The inability to verbalize one’s own emotions or the emotions of others
- Limited fantasy life and, among children, little pretend play
- Difficulty reacting appropriately to other people’s emotions
- Struggling with empathy
O GOSH yes! Check check and check- to the explanation, but I’ve read a lot and question the autism thing. I do not believe that part fits my husband.
I’ll explain how these things work in my marriage and then I’ll tell you why that’s huge and how being married to that can be MONUMENTALLY difficult.
Alexithymia is The inability to verbalize one’s own emotions or the emotions of others.
Signs of Apathetic Husband
His own emotions-
Let’s say that you’re wondering how your husband feels about anything really. (he’s in blue below and I’m NOT using quotation marks although I do know how to use them lol)
- hey babe, did you like dinner?
Well, should I add that recipe to the rotation?
I dunno -shrug
Blank stare ……
This might seem like normal man stuff but just wait- not every husband is completely apathetic
(I got into photography and became pretty good if I do say so myself)
- Honey when you’re not busy, would you come and see how this picture turned out, I love it so much!
Growls a little- get up begrudgingly, looks at a portrait of his child and then looks at me moving only his eyes, and then it, and then me as if to silently say “what am I supposed to say?”
- Do you think that child should go to the dance tonight- she was grounded for xyz.
Shrugs as if to say “why are you asking me”
Because she is also your child……..
- How do you feel about always being the last to know about family gatherings? (get somewhat of a rise so that he’ll speak up because they aren’t MY parents)
- Your mom doesn’t even try to get to know our children yet your brother’s children are little royalty babe, does that bother you at all?
Not really.The fuck, man!? (shakes until he wakes the hell up) kidding, but I wanted to.
No feelings. None. aughhhhh
2. Understanding other people’s emotions-
- I can be crying on the bed and talking to him about something very important and he’ll literally walk out of the room.
- He’s very insensitive to my depression just. Does.not.get.it. Now he’s pretty good about taking care of me physically when I’m not feeling well, but depressed people need empathy. Emotionally, he just can’t.
- Disciplining children is not going to go well when you can’t place yourself in their shoes and see the world from their point of view. That is how you shape and mold the consequences and discipline to the situation instead of a one-size-fits-all approach of “other than corporal punishment, I don’t know what to do.”
We have had this conversation a few times. I’ve had to say “DONT SPANK HIM” super fast to catch him from doing it or rush in from another room to save the day when he’s trying to “discipline” and then I have to model what to do and be his teacher. If one had empathy, one can see clearly that hitting (spanking) a child for hitting their sibling is not going to teach them anything!
- Husband, we need to go to marriage counseling – (tenses up) no, we don’t need a stranger to tell us our problems, if you don’t like the marriage then leave!
Blink blink, defeated- multiple times. I’ve asked him enough in the past that if he suggested it today, I’d say no- I have no fight left in me.
- I bought this marriage book that might help us- I was hoping you could read it.
+ sighs heavily….
- Three months later-
hey did you ever peek into that book?
I’m guessing that’s a no- can you tell me why, please?
I have very limited downtime.
That was it. Nothing else.. Just that. Like a caveman, man. Me no time. There is plenty of time and what he meant to say was “it’s not worth my time”
3) Little fantasy or pretend play-
This one is a little more difficult to explain but I can say he is the opposite of a dreamer- and I’m a dreamer and I have to keep my mind and body doing new things, new adventures, new life experiences. He’s more of a Mr. Steady, nothing fazes him
I’m like a bouncy happy terrier and he’s maybe the bulldog or basset hound if that’s a good analogy lol. I often call him “Tons O Fun” when he’s just sitting with no expression and we’re all having fun as a family. or “Bump on a Log” Don’t worry, these are terms of endearment and good news, he can’t feel much anyway so I’m not hurting feelings!
With pretend play- I’m not sure how to explain that. – maybe you guys can help me out if you’re going through this too- feel free to hit me up!
But he definitely doesn’t have nor does he desire a fantasy life-
I have dreams, aspirations, and things that I want out of life. He is perfectly happy to live in this falling apart house for all of eternity, whilst working the same dead-end job he’s had nearly 20 years.
- He will not humor the idea of moving- we can’t. Not much of an explanation really- or ideas of ways to fix the house to get it ready etc, just. “No”
- Let’s turn the garage into a room- “too hard”
But what if we “no”
- What if won a million dollars, what would you do?
I felt shut down. Time and time and time again, to where I just don’t even ask anymore, or if my excited little brain does, I immediately wonder why the heck I’m asking in the first place- and he has no idea he’s doing it or that it’s disrespectful or even how to fix it.
4. We’ve already touched a little on reacting properly to other peoples emotions-
- Okay, for instance, my daughter who’s 15 was in her room crying with a broken heart. I’m feeling sadness for her- wishing there was something I could do. I told my hubby and he chuckled. I know him well enough that I’ve deciphered his chuckles and it meant “eh, she’s experiencing life.” if that even. THIS IS NOT THE PROPER RESPONSE!
- This might not fit the category perfectly but I’ve NEVER seen him cry at a movie. Maybe this is typical, but I really think it’s related. He’s peachy keep, stoic, but laughing at me like I’m silly- or something is wrong because I’m bawling my eyes out lol
Oh here’s a biggie!
- If I say something to him like for instance last night I brought up something about moving and he gets defensive. It was just a simple question- an idea really and he thought it was confrontational I guess? He gets mad, tries to leave the room (but makes himself stay sometimes, I guess cuz ill follow him if need be? lol) and says something in an angry voice, loudly. Like well, that escalated quickly.
Huh??? Did he think I was angry? Did he just get angry cuz I made him think? I honestly do not know for sure.
Basically what I’ve discovered is that anything deeper than surface talk is not happening. I have to tiptoe on eggshells if I need to talk to him about anything of any sort of importance because he’ll just blow and close up or walk off. It’s just so difficult, but I do love him and I know that he loves me- even if it’s in a language that sometimes doesn’t speak to me the way I desire to be spoken to.
My Apathetic Husband is a good man. He is:
- kind and everyone likes him
- thoughtful in small thoughtful gifts and that I’ll miss.
- He couldn’t hurt a fly- he once picked up a cricket that I asked him to put in the toilet and he put it outside.
- He has been faithful (as far as I know) for 19 years
- He has stuck with me for all these years (I’m not perfect either)
- He likes to buy the kids little things that he can
They are the qualities that keep me here, and I’m learning ways to deal with the downfalls because tearing a family apart is not in anyone’s interest, not if I can work my ass off to make this a better environment for us all to be in because if I’m honest, our situation is in no way solely his fault. I have BIIIIIG improvements to make and I will write more about them asap. ♥
This is all I can type for today but stay tuned for part two coming tomorrow (hopefully) that is about symptoms partners (I) experience when they have been with someone with alexithymia for a long time.
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