bridging the gap

When You Can’t Seem to Bridge the Emotional Gap in Your Marriage

Loneliness in marriage is deeply hurtful and exhausting. You might have tried everything to get help — including professional counseling — but it feels like your spouse can’t or won’t connect with you.

Consider three easy-to-miss issues that might contribute to the emotional distance in your marriage: autism spectrum disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and traumatic brain injury.

Autism spectrum disorder

Your spouse might be faithful to your marriage while at the same time unable to connect emotionally or physically with you. These behaviors can be evidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

When a person has ASD, their brain’s wiring lets them successfully hyperfocus on hobbies, tasks, or routines. But reading social and emotional cues is difficult. They can get agitated or shut down when they feel pressured to connect with others.

Reactive attachment disorder

Reactive attachment disorder, or disrupted attachment, is normally reserved for diagnosing young children. However, if attachment was compromised during your spouse’s childhood, they likely can’t connect emotionally to you because they never learned how.

Proper professional care can help your spouse develop an earned attachment. Earned attachment involves working through the disrupted attachment, understanding the impact that past has on the present and future, and choosing to make healthy attachments as an adult.

Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) could be a closed-head injury, like a concussion, or it could be an open-head injury. TBI can change a person’s personality and ability to manage

sensory stimulation — especially anything that requires them to read others’ emotions and intents.

Rehabilitation specialists and trained counselors can work with the injured person to manage and improve physical and emotional well-being. Also, understanding TBI can help loved ones recognize negative triggers and adjust their expectations and styles of relationship interactions.

What now?

Find mental health and medical professionals

Be prepared to interview several because there might not be a single therapist in your area who’s competent in evaluating for all three of these unique issues. Still, developing a strategy to move forward in your marriage will be easier once you have an accurate understanding of what’s impacting your spouse’s behavior.

Set realistic expectations and achievable goals

Working toward healing doesn’t mean your spouse or marriage will be “fixed.” But it’s possible to gain insights and tools that will help your marriage be successful, joyful, and God-honoring — even in the face of ongoing challenges.

Be intentional about your support system

Build relationships with wise people who will support your marriage and this journey — not those who will give opinions about what they think you “should” do.

Remember where your hope lies

God loves you and your spouse, and He cares about your future. Trust Him with your exhaustion, trust Him with the counseling process, and trust Him with the outcome.

Read our complete article for examples of what autism spectrum disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and traumatic brain injury can look like: 3 Not-So-Common Issues That Can Cause Emotional Distance in Marriage. You’ll also find a list of recommended resources for deeper insight.