Dear Carolyn: I waited a long time to get married because I couldn’t imagine spending every day with someone. My husband was that person.
Fifteen years later, I don’t know if that is still true. Every three to four months he emotionally/mentally checks out — spending hours each evening by himself, reading or playing video games. When I remind him he has checked out and needs to get back to “us,” he agrees it is the right thing to do, but the cycle continues.
I’ve tried talking, yelling, threatening (to leave), marriage counseling. He wants another chance. What do I do now?
Mostly Happily Married
Have you tried backing off?
Everything you say you’ve tried — from yelling to counseling — sounds oriented toward getting him to stop checking out. I wonder whether you’ve tried to change any part of your behavior.
For example, have you tried giving him more space in the months between his check-outs? Have you tried treating his check-outs as a chance for you to spend some time on yourself or other things you don’t do much as a couple? Does he come back from these check-outs recharged? Could you?
What I’m reading into this is your husband’s need to retreat into himself occasionally. If that’s true, and if you can find a way to grant him that time in a way that you don’t perceive as a personal insult or threat, then accepting this need of his could be better for your marriage than eliminating these phases of his (which neither of you seems able to do anyway).
Flip side, the more shrill your responses get to these check-outs, the more frequent and enduring they’re likely to be.