There is no one reason why your husband won’t talk to you –there are many. Here are some of the reasons why:
Biological differences between men and women
From time immemorial men have been packaged quite differently than women. Women have been the chatterers and keepers of the hearth. Men have been the hunters and the warriors. Not too much has changed since. Women still maintain most of the conversation, and men want the bottom line. They imbibe an economy of words. Read emails sent by women and compare the amount of words from emails sent by men. This is the way we were biologically and neurologically constructed. Women want to solve problems; men solve the problems they consider to be a problem. Women need resolution. They require “working things out.” Men are more prone to tuning out, checking out or numbing out. They would prefer to avoid the issues that women find upsetting. Avoidance is a common denominator among men. Women are far more approachable and require answers for their central nervous system to calm down. Mark Gungor’s The Tale of Two Brains, a comedic video that can be seen on YouTube exemplifies the differences between the sexes. It’s an accurate description of what I have just described. We can’t expect a cat to bark anymore than we can expect a dog to meow. It’s the nature of the beast.
There are books flooded on the bookshelves of bookstores with content filled with information about the differences between the sexes. MEN ARE FROM MARS, AND WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS by John Gray depicts the differences in his best seller. All one needs to do is go onto Google and search the differences between men and women and a plethora of books and articles can be found instantaneously.
If a woman becomes aggressive in her frustration to resolve an issue, getting in her husband’s face, shouting like a shrew to get his attention, you can be certain that most of the time he will check out and deliver the “silent violence. His response is not unlike a turtle, withdrawing into his shell, constricting himself into sulking, avoiding or disassociating. John Gottman defines contempt and stonewalling as two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, sure ways to destroy a relationship. Virginia Satir, renowned psychotherapist widely regarded as the mother of family therapy, defined four stress styles: Blamer, Placater, Super-reasonable and Distractor. The blamer castigates blame on the other. The placater is submissive and subservient to the other, giving in to avoid an argument as to not rock the boat. The super-reasonable goes into their head to avoid feelings and argues their point through reason and logic and the distractor cops out with finding something else to talk about. Depending on the personality, history and filters of each individual, determines which stress style of communication works best. None are effective. Each lead nowhere except to sweep the issue under the carpet until it comes up again, which it always will. Perhaps the content might differ, but the structure of resolutions is the same. This is when the relational space becomes polluted and the carpet begins to resemble the Swiss Alps. It soon becomes uncomfortable and we react to the discomfort in the space. When not resolved, then the relational space becomes dangerous and we react to the danger in the space that was co-created. The relational space is where you and your husband live, and your children play. They learn from you and take what they learn into their future relationships.
Timing is everything in life–knowing when to hold and when to fold. The last thing you want to do is bring up an issue or complaint the moment he walks in the door after working all day. There is a time for everything says Ecclesiastes—a time to be born, a time to die and in this case, a time to have a discussion. Your husband has worked hard all day. The day may have been filled with numerous problems that needed to be addressed. Some may have been resolved, others may still be unresolved, and some may have ensued complications, arguments with no resolution in sight. The last thing he needs to hear when he comes into his refuge, his home, his family and his favorite chair is how the air-conditioner broke or the dog vomited or one of the kids didn’t do their homework. Have some empathy for the guy. He needs time to unwind, clear his mind and relax. Bringing him more adversity will only cause him to shut down or perhaps become angry and aggressive. Use you good judgment to know when to discuss an issue with him. He’s been problem solving all day and needs to chill out.
Family of Origin
Each of us brings with us into our relationships what we know—that is our history and how we grew up. What were our models of a relationship? How did our parents resolve conflict? How did we learn about love? All these questions must be considered and understood to learn how to navigate through our own relationships. If you grew up in a home where your mother wore the pants and your father never set boundaries and just capitulated to her wants and needs, then it is likely you will do the same. We only know what we know. If your father played a dominant force in your family of origin, then you might take on the same submissive role as your mother. Learning how to mitigate issues that arise in your relationship takes skills and tools that you may not have known or have been exposed to. This is when couples counseling can be helpful.
It is important to note that boys are raised differently than girls. Boys are too often told not to cry of not to be afraid. “Only sissies cry. If you want to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.” They are shamed for their feelings, so they learn early in life to split off from their feelings. It’s easier to talk about football or fishing than it is to show feelings.
Therapists who are trained in couples counseling can offer valuable tools to help you resolve conflicts. Remember, everyone has a history that is recorded in their neurology. Without consciousness, we tend to repeat what we learned in our families of origin. Doing what comes naturally, is not always healthy. There is no right and wrong. Learning how to negotiate the differences is what couples counseling can teach. It is a learned behavior that acquires time, money and commitment.
What to do?
What are the best ways to get a response from your husband?
Find a time when there are no distractions to hijack your communication
Be conscious and mindful of his need to relax and choose a moment when he is receptive. If you have young children, wait until they are in bed for the night and make a request to your husband to have sometime to speak to him and hear his thoughts. Set the stage where there won’t be any interruptions. I suggest going out to dinner and finding a restaurant that isn’t too noisy where you can hear each other and not be distracted by the chatter of others. This takes some planning and creativity.
Use “I” messages as opposed to “you”
The change model that I teach my couples works best. I wrote about it in my last article, Why Doesn’t My Husband Ever Listen to Me? It is applicable to this article as well. It takes being conscious and in attunement with your husband. It takes time to integrate the model, so it doesn’t sound staged or scripted. If you did not have a chance to read it, I will provide it once again. It is worth repeating.
There are five parts, all with “I” messages that are self-responsible statements. They include:
- your perception, (what you see or hear)
- your feelings, (anger, sadness, frustration, etc.)
- your interpretation, (what you wonder, fantasize, think, surmise, assume or imagine)
- your needs (your desire, wants)
- and lastly, a contract
For example, it sounds like this:
Perception: When I heard you shouting at the kids last night
Feelings: I felt angry and upset
Interpretation: I imagined that you didn’t take the time to hear their side of the story and became reactive in the moment.
Needs: I need you to be more understanding of their side when there is an issue and not so reactive when you haven’t given them an opportunity to share their story.
Contract: Can we agree to be more sensitive to their needs instead of jumping to conclusions?
Of course, in normal conversation this can be expanded. You want to be careful not to use “you” statements. It’s an invitation for a fight, the very thing you want to avoid.
In summarizing, there are many reasons why your husband won’t talk. It takes a skilled therapist to help you learn ways of achieving the outcome goals you want. However, it takes a big fat YES from both to effect positive change. I won’t see any couples that don’t give me that big fat YES. Afterall, I want to be successful with my couples, so that’s something I require from the get-go! No therapists, no matter how skilled can be effective without the big fat yes from each partner.
In my new book I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success that will be released on May 11, I address the issue of communication and conflict resolution. I even provide an opportunity for the readers to be a fly on the wall as if observing a couple’s session to see how discovering the landscape and learning the language of your partner can be productive. I illustrate ways of achieving understanding of differences and learning to empathize instead of finding fault.
It was Marcel Proust who once said, The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success to be released May, 2020. To learn more about how Encounter-Centered Couple Therapy can renew and restore your relationship, contact Joan