Ask The Therapist: “My marriage makes me feel lonely…I feel an emotional disconnect.”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

I have been suffering from depression since a few years. The reasons have been many but I have processed some of them already to the point that they don’t bother me anymore. However, my marriage makes me feel quite lonely. We are two opposites with very different points of view, mindsets etc. Which is fine because that is how it is in most marriages, but I feel like he does not do the things with me that I like to do most of the time. Either I do, go, watch etc. whatever he likes with him, or else he says that you do your thing and I do mine. It has reached the point where I feel we are both living different lives. I don’t want to be the only one to make compromises and do things for him as I have my own likes and dislikes too. As much as I want to keep our marriage functioning well I do not want to lose myself in the process. It is not just the small things but also our outlook on big things in life is also very different. Apart from that, it is very hard to talk to him about my emotions as he tends to invalidate my feelings, belittle, mock and says that a strong person should not depend on anyone for anything and be self-sufficient, even emotionally. Otherwise you are a weak person. He says I am sensitive and just ends the conversation. I feel an emotional disconnect. Also, it’s hard to get him to ever admit that he could be wrong. He only gets self-defensive. I don’t know what to do. I want to feel better so that my physical health can improve too as I have a few chronic illnesses exacerbated by stress, a lack of sleep and appetite changes. I have a little kid who I love very, very much and want to be able to raise well, which is why I want to heal from the pain and depression. Could you please help?

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

It sounds like you really would like to connect with your partner, but it seems like there’s quite a bit of a gap in terms of the effort being put into the relationship. It sounds really difficult, lonely, even. Let’s explore some options for you.

Differences In A Relationships: Exploring Ways To Connect 

While it is common for two partners to have different interests, having some common ground is important in order to stay connected to your partner. In a relationship, it is ideal if both partners make the effort to understand and connect with the other’s life – this can be a great way of showing your partner that you care about their interests, and you make space for them. Of course, it is a give and take, and it seems that you are making that effort to understand your partner’s world. I wonder if he would be open to doing something you enjoy? As you said in your message, you don’t want to lose yourself in the process of making this marriage work – of course, and it’s important to stay grounded and in touch with yourself in any relationship, especially your marriage. But it’s worth asking what you need in this relationship that would help you feel more connected with yourself? 

Remember, while you have little power over what your partner decides to do, it’s worth exploring methods or activities that you could do in order for you to be attuned to your sense of self. So, what are some of the things you enjoy doing for yourself? 

Exploring New Things Together

In a relationship where there isn’t a lot of commonality, exploring a new activity together could work. There is a sense of neutrality in experiencing something new together. Watch a new movie? Pick up a hobby together? Go to a new restaurant? Whatever works for the two of you!

Your Emotions are Valid

You mentioned that your partner often invalidates your emotions – I can only imagine how hard that must be. I’m hearing some very strong messaging around emotions for your partner and from what I can tell, there seems to a belief system around emotions and how they are a sign of weakness, and that they should not be paid attention to. Whatever those beliefs might be, in a case like this, it’s worth communicating your needs in this relationship. While not everyone is naturally equipped to be attuned to the emotional needs of another person, it might be something they are willing to work on. So, if you haven’t spoken to him already, I would recommend having that conversation, walking him through the roadmap of your emotions and what you would need from him at that time. When communicating, it is important to avoid blame and to keep it your feelings by using “I” statements:

  • “I really would like some comfort and support right now.”
  • “I feel that I’m not being heard or understood.” 

In the meantime, it is also important to validate your own feelings, and acknowledge that emotions are a part of being human. Each person has a different narrative in terms of how they approach emotions, but regardless, it’s essential to create a place of acceptance within yourself when it comes to what you’re feeling. The journey of acceptance and love starts and ends within yourself. 

Counselling

This is something I recommend to most people, especially if they’re in a space where they are struggling to find a safe and nurturing space for their emotions. Whether individual or couple’s, I would highly recommend either or even both simultaneously. Any trained counsellor would be able to provide a safe space for you to talk about whatever you need to, as well as help you explore different strategies to help you stay grounded. Regular, weekly sessions are generally recommended in order for therapy to be truly effective and helpful. 

Anon, I know you’re trying your best to make your marriage work as best as you can and I wish you all the luck. I just want to remind you of one thing: you are doing your best. You might not be able to control how your partner feels or responds, but you do have control over the things you say or do. I hope you get some clarity soon. Take care and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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