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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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this question is for Kate... I have an autoimmune disease

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this question is for Kate...
I have an autoimmune disease and am frequently in pain with limited mobility. It became severe about 9 years ago. My marriage of twenty years suffered since our bond was always centered around shared activities. We had a rough several years and no longer are intimate together. Their has been some improvement in the home environment and our marriage. yet, I still deal with him living his own life, focused on work, chores and his favorite activities. our communication has improved, but when he is angry, disrespectful, or insensitive, I try to talk without blame to him, but he gets angry and we get nowhere. To me it feels more like roommates than husband and wife. He has adapted and accepted. For me, it's very painful to not have emotional needs met, plus be limited by disease. The psychologist (male) we used to go to said "Emotional needs are off his radar screen, and are not his strong point." During private sessions, he always tried to get me to accept his emotional limitations. I've tried, but it's still painful.
My emotional needs and capacity are greater than when I was healthy. I had time to connect with myself (illness), which increased my capacity to connect with others. I know he is still in the fast lane, working, responsibilities, and has not had the brakes slammed on him physically, because he is healthy. When I ask for him to share time with me, it feels like another thing to do and I am usually the bottom of the list. Yet, he will do it for me. I recently asked him if this marriage is as painful for him as it is for me. He said it could be better, but it's because I have no life. I told him that even if I was healthy and working it would still bother me. Then he gave me a kiss on the forehead before going to work. it was an honest attempt to make things better on his side, but I didn't like the comment and often feel like he is throwing me crumbs. I realize he will never have the level of emotionality as myself, but the "glue" is missing in this marriage. He's compensated by excessive busyness, while I still grieve the loss. A larger issue is emotional safety. I need to feel that before any possibility of intimacy. I can be met with blustery, chaotic, sometimes angry behaviors, which keep me off balance. (possibly a sign of depression). Ive made an appointment to meet again with this psychologist hoping at minimum it will give us a forum (a place without angry behaviors) to speak. I do not have the strength to take on a new psychologist. So I am going back to the guy who tried to get me to accept things as they are, rather than try harder to bridge the gap. I need to bring up foremost the importantance of improved communication because when my husband showed angry behaviors, it hurt me for a week and he continued to get angry when I tried to explain my feelings. Next, we need regular, and shared time together, despite what the psychologist said about accepting things status quo. Can you help me guide the psychologist in what I am trying to achieve? How I can go into his office with my husband and what goals and suggestions should I appropriately suggest?
Thanks much

Hello! It's good to talk with you again. I am sorry that I did not get to your question sooner. It did not come through as a request for some reason, which would alert me via email that your question was here. I apologize for not answering sooner.


I can hear the pain you have experienced with the loss of your physical abilities and the affect that it has on your marriage. It sounds like you have been grieving for your loss and that grief is amplified by the loss of intimacy and bonding in your marriage.


Although I respect the psychologist's point of view of your situation, I do not agree with it. While your husband has every right to react to what has happened to you and grieve the loss as much as you have, he does not have the right in the marriage to carry on and ignore your needs, including emotional. Marriage is a bond between people that includes trust and putting the other person first. It is a sacrifice and is to include whatever happens in the marriage, including illness.


You count on your husband to be your closest ally. He is supposed to be the person you can turn to first to be there for you. Instead he has withdrawn emotionally and left you alone by keeping himself busy. Being angry and taking that out on you can make you feel your illness is your fault and cause you to feel more alone.


Your needs are just as important as your husband's. You may not be able to participate in the relationship as you could before, but your relationship should be more than just bonding over activities. And it should change to accommodate your illness and new needs. However, your husband seems to be reacting to your illness by thinking of himself first. He does make some effort, like the kiss he gave you, but if you come out of it feeling that you are still not important and that the kiss was a favor, then the kiss means very little.


Going back to the same psychologist is worth a try. He may still hold the same views and attempt to get you to accept how your husband is handling your marriage, but you can always tell him that you do not feel that works for you. Let him know that you wish to have a bond with your husband that includes sharing feelings. You also need to know ways that the two of you can connect with each other and re establish your closeness, modified of course for your illness. And your husband needs to address his anger. You should not be told to accept his anger. Rather, the psychologist needs to help your husband see that he is not expressing his feelings in a way that helps solve the problems. Also, staying busy is avoiding behavior, which also does not help. Ask the psychologist to help your husband address his feelings and find better ways to express his needs with you.


If you find that the psychologist is resistant to your suggestions, you may want to consider finding a new one. You should not leave his office feeling the same or worse than you do now. You should feel there is some improvement or changes in your marriage. If not, then it's time to find someone who can help. Try asking your doctor for a referral. If you attend church, you can ask your pastor for help. And you can also search on


Let me know if you have more questions or want clarification. I am happy to help.



TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I apologize for the delay. Thank you for response.

You articulate and describe my issues quite well.
I am thankful for the degree of understanding and insight you have provided.
I agree with the areas you've outlined that need to be worked on.

My husband had always been task oriented and helpful with a high sense of duty. He feels things need to get done, and hes quick to act. That is why I must ask how can I differentiate between avoidant behavior and simply having emotional limitations(according to the therapist).

Thanks again

You're welcome!


I hope everything works out well for you. You are trying what you can to make the situation better and that is all anyone can do.


I'm here anytime you need to talk,



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I am just going to ask clarification on how can I tell the difference between avoidant.behaviors and simply being task oriented and emotionally limited?

Avoidant behaviors, or someone who does not address certain issues as opposed to someone who has avoidant personality, which is a different diagnosis, is a person who does not address a need either within themselves or with another based on a motivation to avoid. For example, a person who does not show up for a test in school is trying to avoid the consequences, a bad grade, since they have been getting bad grades all year. They can also be seen as avoiding responsibility.


A person who is task oriented is going to put a priority on completely tasks. If they do this and are still able to focus on important parts of their lives, like relationships, commitments and personal issues, they are acting in a healthy way. But if they are task oriented above all other parts of their lives to the point of detriment, it can be seen as an issue.


An emotional limitations can be for a variety of reasons. One, they could have a disorder such as Aspberger's or Autism. Two, they can be affected emotionally by neglect as a child or other abuse, and third, they can be narcissistic or self centered to the point they avoid certain situations because they put their own feelings as priority.


In your situation, your husband is avoiding you and your emotional needs in favor of his. He may have learned this behavior from childhood, where there was a similar dynamic played out in his family or he could be narcissistic or self centered in some way. There also may be a component of being unable to face someone with an illness. Some people have difficulty dealing with anyone who is needy, ill or hurt in anyway. It threatens their own sense of being ok and causes them to feel vulnerable, as if the same thing or something similar could happen to them.



TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
That may explain why when I am suffering greatly, and it's obvious, he don't ask me how I feel.
Thanks a million for insight.

You're welcome! You are making a great effort here and I hope he is able to see that.


Take care,