Question: Dr. Dobson, what advice would you give to a woman whose husband just won't respond to her emotionally? That's my situation. Darrell is a good man, but he's not romantic, and he'd rather keep his thoughts to himself. How can I deal with the longing inside me?
Answer: Some men will never be able to meet the needs of their wives. They don't understand how women think and have never been required to "give" to anyone. Those who are married to these unromantic and non-communicative men must decide what is reasonable to expect and how they can forge a meaningful life together. Or they can seek an early divorce. I think the former is better!
If Darrell is such a man, my advice is that you attempt to show him, without nagging or becoming angry, how you are different from him and what your unique needs are. Work to change that which can be improved in your relationship, explain that which can be understood, resolve that which can be settled, and negotiate that which is open to compromise. Create the best marriage possible from the raw materials brought by two imperfect human beings with two distinctly unique personalities. But for all the rough edges that can never be smoothed and the faults that can never be eradicated, try to develop the best possible outlook and determine to accept reality exactly as it is. The first principle of mental health is to accept that which cannot be changed. You could easily descend into depression over the circumstances in your life. But you can also choose to hang tough and be contented in spite of them. The operative word is choose.
Can you accept your husband just as he is? Seldom does one human being satisfy every longing and hope in another. Obviously, this coin has two sides: You can't be his perfect woman, either. He is no more equipped to resolve your entire package of emotional needs than you are to become his sexual dream machine every twenty-four hours. Both partners have to settle for human foibles and faults and irritability and fatigue and occasional nighttime "headaches." A good marriage is not one where perfection reigns: It is a relationship where a healthy perspective overlooks a multitude of "unresolvables."
I don't mean to imply that the advice I've given is easy to implement or that it will take away the longing you described, but every human being eventually encounters difficult situations that are beyond his or her control. At that point, a person is either going to collapse, run, become angry, or do all three. I submit that acceptance is a better alternative.
From Dr. Dobson's book Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide.