My Husband Has Shut Down After His Affair

By: Katie Lersch:  I sometimes hear from wives who aren’t sure how to handle it when their husband suddenly clams up and shuts down after the wife finds out about and wants to work through his affair.  Often, the more the wife feels that she absolutely has to have answers, the less the husband wants to provide the same.

I heard from a wife who said: “I found out that my husband had a month long affair with the home health nurse that takes care of his mother. Basically, they were together only when he was visiting his mother. Once I found out, we requested a new nurse and he broke it off immediately. He insisted that he wanted to save our marriage and I wanted that too. But he’s not acting in the way that you would expect from a man who is trying to keep his wife. I expected him to share his feelings, tell me what lead up to his cheating, and explain how he planned to work through this. Instead, he has completely shut down. He barely says two words to me. He rarely looks me in the eye. He no longer laughs or touches me. If I ask him what’s wrong he tells me nothing is wrong. But obviously something is. He’s like a shell of who he was. I don’t want to fight so hard to keep him if all I’m getting is a shadow of the man that was once my husband. Why is he acting his way?” I will try to answer this question in the following article.

Why Men Shut Down After An Affair: There are many reasons that you might see what is called flat affect from your husband. Often, he is feeling a slew of conflicting emotions that he is trying to suppress. The process of him trying to push those feelings down can contribute to that sort of indifferent stance you are seeing now. He’s often feeling ashamed, guilty, confused, and even embarrassed. And he’s afraid that if he shows any emotion, there will be a crack in his armor and it’s all going to come pouring out.

Additionally, many men will give you a cold and distant response because they are trying to discourage you from digging too deeply. They don’t want to answer a lot questions about what or who started the affair, why it happened, or if it might happen again. (And this isn’t necessarily because they intend to cheat again.)  Sometimes, they just don’t have all of those answers. They aren’t sure why they acted in the way they did.  And the idea of self exploration just doesn’t appeal to them.  Plus,  they hope that if they don’t give you anything whatsoever to work with, you will eventually be grateful for what they can give you and back off. In short, they are trying to condition you to not expect or demand too much, which of course in not fair to you. And it makes you question if they really care enough about you to open up or to show some emotions.

How To Handle It When Your Husband Shuts You Out Or Shuts Himself Down: I know that it is probably very tempting to want to take him by the shoulders, shake some sense into him, and demand that stop acting like a child or like the victim that he most certainly is not. Many wives actually try to make him mad just to get some sort of response out of him.  They figure that anything to bring him out of his funk is worth a try.

But, even when the wives are successful and get some emotional response, this is usually just a momentary solution. He may lose his cool for a second, but usually he will resort right back to his old shut down self. That’s why it can help to try to call him on it and address it. You might consider saying something like: “listen, we can’t heal if you won’t open up to and communicate with me. I understand that things feel very awkward between us and neither of us know where we stand, but your shutting down and withdrawing isn’t going to get us anywhere. Instead, it makes me feel as if you don’t care enough to share your feelings with me or you’re not committed enough to push through this. I’m not your enemy. I want to work through this with you. Can we work together to make that happen? Can you start to open up a little more.  I need to see how you really feel about this.”

I can’t promise that this speech is going to suddenly make him a chatterbox willing to share everything, but it can be the first step toward him making small strides. Sometimes, you will just have to settle for little improvements that build upon themselves as he becomes more comfortable and he sees that you are sincere in wanting to work things out.  It’s also important that he believe that you don’t intend to punish him or hold out on him forever. In short, you both need to feel safe with one another and this takes a bit of time. Usually, someone has to break the ice. And since your husband has pretty much shut down, you are probably the most logical person to do so, at least in the beginning.

My own husband shut down some after his affair.  He was embarrassed, ashamed, and couldn’t look me in the face.  It took a while before he felt comfortable enough to begin to let down some of the walls.  But once he did, we made real progress and eventually saved our marriage after the affair.  If it helps, you can read the whole personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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