Why Husbands Don’t Communicate

Why Husbands Don’t Communicate

Why Husbands Don’t Communicate

Communication in Marriage

In my work as a Denver couples counselor, a number of frequent patterns occur. In heterosexual relationships a common complaint that I hear coming from the female partner falls along the lines of, “I can recognize that something is up with my husband, but I just can’t get him to communicate or talk to me about what is going on?” This complaint can take any number of forms, but the common trend amongst all of them is that wives frequently struggle to talk with their husbands about problems, emotions, and difficult things occurring in, or outside of the family. This dynamic leads to extraordinarily high levels of frustration and loneliness for BOTH partners.  

Why Doesn’t My Husband Communicate?

It’s important to take a quick look at why husbands frequently struggle with communication or refuse to engage in conversations revolving around emotions. In general, men are socialized differently than women when it comes to communication and emotions. The classic examples would fall to methods of play encouraged between boys and girls growing up. 

Traditionally, while girls may be encouraged to engage in play centering around relationship building and communication (i.e. playing with groups of dolls, playing “house”, etc.), boys are encouraged to play in more competitive formats (i.e. sports). These themes, while not as widely displayed today as in years passed, have still largely played out in the present day. 

Additionally, boys are constantly given role models that highlight certain traits or qualities that do not lend themselves to good, emotional communication later in life. Either role models existing in their own fathers, or from movie stars in Hollywood movies, boys are given the message that to be emotional is to be weak and that the only emotion that is useful or “ok” for them to feel is anger. 

If boys do not see examples of good emotional communication in their male role models growing up it becomes increasingly unlikely that they will develop the skills to effectively manage, communicate, and share their emotional experiences with anyone.  

Any number of these factors results in a fairly common experience between couples— one in which the wife is constantly reaching out to her partner to connect emotionally or discuss any perceived dissatisfaction or perceived problem, either from within the relationship itself or outside of the relationship, and her partner either cannot or will not engage.  

Why Does My Husband Shut Down When I Try to Communicate with Him?

Often, the act of opening up to a partner puts these men into a situation where they don’t feel comfortable, either because they feel like they don’t know what to say, what/how to feel, or even that there is no use in examining their own or their partners feelings. 

The end result being that men are more likely to ignore an issue and just press on in life until the issue goes away or simply try and solve the issue on their own instead of talking about the issue itself.  

What I know as a couples therapist/coach is that, although this may be largely effective for a man operating in isolation, it can be disastrous for a couple. It tends to lead to a cycle where the wife constantly tries to connect with her husband on these topics, is rejected, and the husband annoyed, ultimately leading to one or both partners feeling isolated, upset, or lonely.  

This leads to resentments building up over time and significant relationship distress. So how can wives help their husbands learn and move into this sphere of communication and connect?  

Grow, Together.

Before we sought help from you, I was at a point in my relationship that I had really given up on hope... you have changed our lives.

— Couples Counseling Client

Provide Space and Time for Processing

If you find that you try to talk to your husband as soon as an issue or problem occurs, this may be something that is leading them to shut down. Due to the ways in which men are socialized, they may be slower to process, draw conclusions, or adequately determine how they themselves feel about an issue or problem at the same speed that their wives do.  

It is important to give them the time to do so, for if they have the time to process it will afford them the ability to communicate more clearly and genuinely when you do come and approach them to talk about something.  

Try soothing statements like: “I can see that what has just happened is bothering you, I know that it is bothering me as well and I’d love to talk through this together. I want to make sure that we both have time to think about this and process it, could we convene tonight before bed to talk about it?”

Don’t Try and Tell Your Husband How They Should Feel

Sometimes, when we get into intense conversations with our partners, they may not have responses or feelings yet about what has happened. Similar to the point above, husbands may need additional time to sort these things out. 

Well-meaning wives may jump in utilizing some empathy to make assumptions about what their husband is feeling and speak for them (i.e. “You must be really angry right now that this happened”) but this can ultimately lead to a bigger wedge in the communication. By letting your partner come to their own understanding of how they are feeling and what they are feeling – you are giving them the space to build trust and comfortability in communication. 

Try to Talk to Them While Doing a Shared-Task or Activity

Something about sitting down for a “serious” talk in a formal setting can increase feelings of anxiety, fear, and reluctance for difficult conversations. One way to help alleviate these feelings is to try and engage in these conversations while doing a neutral, shared-task or activity together. Talking while going on a walk, washing dishes, or any neutral activity that involves some degree of physical movement. If the traditional setting that you try to engage with your husband in difficult conversations isn’t working try to change the setting!

Be Patient and Clear About What Your Needs Are

Frequently, wives tend to give up and forgo their own need to communicate and connect over difficult topics/emotions with their husbands. While this may lead to a certain degree of harmony/peace in the short term, the long term emotional impact can be severe for wives and make the conversations more difficult down the line. 

Always try to be patient with your partner, but it is absolutely ok and appropriate for you to make your own needs known. Your husband deserves the chance to show you that he is willing to step into an environment that is uncomfortable for him to meet your needs. He can only do that if you are able to clearly communicate to him what your needs are.  

Express Gratitude

When your husband is able to meet with you and engage in difficult conversations, be sure to tell him how it makes you feel. The most difficult thing about trying to engage with a partner about an emotional topic and being rejected is the mystery of not knowing what is going on with your partner.  

The anxiety that results from seeing a partner in distress but not knowing how or why is what leads to the feeling of isolation and loneliness that results in the longer term resentments. So, when your husband is able to be open and honest with you, be sure to reflect to him how he lead to some relief in the anxiety for you. This will incentivize him to continue opening up in the future. If he knows that he is capable of creating relief for you, he will become more likely to keep doing that moving forward. 

When to Seek Couples Counseling

If you still struggle with creating open communication with your husband, it may mean that you need more professional help. It is still absolutely okay to either pursue individual coaching or therapy for yourself or couples therapy with you and your partner

A good couples therapist/coach will meet with both members of a relationship individually to get each partner’s take on what is going on. Once doing so, a couples therapist/coach can tailor a treatment plan and interventions specifically to help you both overcome any difficulties or struggles with authentic, open communication.  

That being said effective couples therapy comes from commitment and “buy-in” to the process from both partners. If at first your husband is reluctant to try couples therapy, it may be helpful to tell him that most couples therapists (and all therapists and coaches at Growing Self) offer a free consultation, where the husband can meet a potential therapist face-to-face to see if that therapist seems like a good fit.  

It is important for both partners to feel comfortable with and trust their therapist. If your husband doesn’t feel comfortable with the first few therapists you meet with that’s okay! Sometimes finding a therapist that is the right fit for you takes time, but there is a therapist out there that can definitely work for you.  

A Note to Husbands…

If you are a husband reading this and finding that you do struggle to communicate with your wife on difficult topics, there are some things that you can do as well. What your wife may be needing, more than anything else, is to not have to guess at what you may be thinking or feeling.  

If she doesn’t know what is going on with you or what you are thinking/feeling she is going to try to find out— especially if she perceives that something may be wrong (even if there really isn’t anything wrong). If she doesn’t know, she may start to feel anxious about it and keep asking or trying to figure it out until she knows.  

As her partner and husband, it is fully within your power and ability to help ease her anxiety about not knowing. If you can, do everything you can to be as fully genuine about what may be going on for you internally, this will help your wife a great deal in easing the anxiety of not knowing.  

It may be really difficult for you to do this at first. It can be scary to open up, or even not seem important to open up about what is going on internally for you, but by doing so it will lead to a genuinely happier and more harmonious relationship for you and your wife in the long run.  

Wishing you the best,
Silas

Broomfield Marriage Counselor Online Gottman Couples Therapist Online Relationship Coach Broomfield Couples Therapy Silas

Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC is a couples counselor, therapist and life coach with an easy-going, humorous, and down-to-earth style that makes personal growth work both enjoyable and effective. His tireless support, encouragement, and expertise helps you get motivated to make real and lasting change in yourself and your relationships.

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress

Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress

Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress

Habits of Healthy Couples

In my work with couples through online marriage counseling and relationship coaching, many of my couples clients report that their conflicts become unavoidable and difficult during stressful conditions. Even the most healthy, successful relationships will admit that when outside stressors begin to permeate the protective barrier built with patience, perseverance, and care there is an underlying discomfort that starts to engross itself into the relationship.

Now more than ever as we face social isolation, city-wide quarantines, and the threat of a highly contagious virus we need to rely on our closest relationships for support. Unfortunately, the stressors due to the state of the world we are currently living in make our relationship conflicts heavy and difficult.  

When under perfect conditions, relationship conflicts are easily manageable and negotiable. Stress, however, awakens a fight-or-flight reaction that requires a mindful response from both partners. If you are looking for ways to protect your relationship in times of stress, here are five easy ways to look out for your partner and your relationship when things start to feel a little heavy.

5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress 

Look for Opportunities to Show Grace

When we are experiencing a great deal of stress, anxiety, or worry we’re far less likely to be as forgiving, thoughtful, or mindful of other people as we would be normally. The lack of patience we feel when stressed (especially when stuck at home) can lead to a great deal of conflict in any relationship. 

As such, simply being aware of your or your partner’s shorter temper caused by stress can allow the flexibility of compassionate understanding. Looking for opportunities to show grace is an excellent way to protect your relationship in times of stress. 

If your partner is likely to experience high levels of anxiety and decreased patience as a result of stress, give them grace for it. Make these moments an open conversation and ask them how they’re doing, how they’re coping in spite of the increased stress, and if they need anything.  

When we show grace to our partners in their time of need, they are more likely to reciprocate for us in ours. Being supportive of your partner’s feelings and reactions to stress (even if you don’t fully understand) will strengthen your bond.

For more on communication in times of stress, read: Communication That Connects

Consider Your Partner’s Love Language

Every one of us has a special way we understand and process love. For some, it may be spending quality time together, while others may enjoy words of affirmation. When asking what your partner needs, consider their love language. If you don’t know what your or your partner’s love language is, here’s a link to a quick quiz to find out:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

You can better support your partner when you know how they prefer to give and receive love, and vice versa. Stress and anxiety may prevent us from showing love in the best way, but if we understand our partner (and them us) on this deeper level, it makes showing up for one another easier.

Showing your partner love in the best way that they receive it can make a huge difference at the end of a long, stress-filled day. Sometimes, however, no matter how love is shown our loved ones may simply not be in the best place to receive it. When this is the case, it’s okay to give them adequate space to work through and process what’s happening internally.

Remember, your partner loves you! And if their “flight” response is initiated in times of stress – give them the much-needed space they may need to heal, so that they can show up for you when you need them the most!

Know that Time Apart is Okay!

Sometimes, after long stressful days what we need is a period of time alone to reset, recollect ourselves, and reorient to being at home. This can be extremely difficult for partners whose boundaries are drastically different from one another. 

If you are a “reacher” and always down for attention, but your partner tends to retreat when stressed or tired you can help them by giving them some alone time to process their day and feelings. This will help avoid conflict and maintain a healthy relationship. 

If you or your partner are encountering a lot of stress within the home environment, encourage one another to find a quiet space to be alone for a few minutes. This simple act helps to reset our internal stress meters allowing us to “show-up” more attentive and empathetic for our partner.

Looking for other ways you can practice empathy? Read: Empathy: The Key to Connection and Communication

Maintain Your Individual and Relationship Routines

Stressful situations often cause us to forego certain routines: relationship care routines, self-care routines, and professional routines. We NEED these routines to feel normal, be successful, and feel a sense of security in ourselves and our partner.

If you and your partner try to keep a regular date night once a week, do everything you can to maintain that routine. That means if you’re stuck at home, bring date night home. You can light candles, cook an easy meal together, and find a fun activity to do.

If you’re accustomed to an early morning workout in the gym but can’t go to the gym, find a few guided yoga videos or in-home exercises to keep your regular routine going. Maintaining your self-care routines will help you feel more comfortable in an otherwise stressful situation. Not to mention, exercise and a little R-n-R can refresh your mind and lower stress cortisol levels.

When working from home, it’s important to maintain your professional routines. Set a schedule, connect with coworkers via phone or online video, and meet your deadlines just as you would at the office. Also, stepping away from your work when the “workday” is complete will help you keep healthy habits around work / home boundaries.

These are just a few ways that maintaining routines can help protect your relationship in times of stress.

Externalize The Stress And Unite Together

We can all be guilty of bringing external stressors into our interpersonal relationships. The more stressful things become the more it impacts our day to day with our loved ones. Eventually, we find ourselves snapping at our partners, angry at them for little things.  

It may seem at these times that we’re angry or frustrated with our partner when what we’re really experiencing is loss. We miss our partner in the stress-free environment that allowed us to fully enjoy our partner’s company. Our partner isn’t our enemy during these times, in fact, they’re our greatest ally. 

Unite together, recognize how the stress is impacting your relationship, and talk together about how you both can work to lower stress and protect your relationship. 

These 5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Relationship in Times of Stress are all contingent on safe, open communication with your partner. Always communicate openly with your partner and do everything you can to listen and empathize with them. 

Wishing you all the best,
Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC

Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC is a couples counselor, therapist, and life coach with an easy-going, humorous, and down-to-earth style that makes personal growth work both enjoyable and effective. His tireless support, encouragement, and expertise help you get motivated to make real and lasting change in yourself and your relationships.

Let’s  Talk

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Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Communication Skills For Couples Under Stress

As an experienced online marriage counselor and therapist who has been doing Denver marriage counseling for many years, I know that couples communication can feel challenging under the best of circumstances.

Couples Communication Can Be Challenging Anyway

Many couples struggle with effective couples communication that helps each person feel heard, cared for, and understood. Couples always come to the table with different communication styles, attachment styles, and ways of relating that can lead to misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. It’s hard to communicate with a withdrawn partner, and it’s also hard to connect with someone who is emotionally flooded.

All married couples and cohabitating couples face these issues, and need to intentionally learn how to practice positive communication strategies in order to achieve the kind of “love your relationship” experience they want to have.

Couples Communication is Harder When You’re Both Stressed

This is true for all couples under the best of circumstances. As we say around here, “Great relationships don’t just happen — they’re grown!” But as lives, relationships, jobs and families have been upended due to the mental and emotional reality of coronavirus quarantine… these are not the best of circumstances. 

Just the opposite. Couples all over the world are suddenly in a situation where they are together 24/7, and having to reconfigure everything including their daily routines, re-work boundaries, wrangle suddenly ever-present children needing to be homeschooled, re-organize their homes to accommodate seven cases of canned soup, cope with a sudden loss or significant drop in income, and, oh yeah, figure out how to stay physically safe from the invisible threat wafting through the air. (How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety, right here.)

Others among us are coping with even harder things like a loved one who is on the front lines as a medical professional, first responder, or grocery store worker at risk of contracting coronavirus as they work to serve their communities. Still other families are now grappling with loved ones getting sick, becoming gravely ill, or losing their lives to coronavirus. 

I could feel my shoulders tense up as I just sat here typing the words, and — friends — this is now our shared experience. 

Don’t Let Coronavirus Ruin Your Relationship

Going back to my first point: Good communication can feel hard for couples anyway, but when you’re both grappling with enormous amounts of stress it can make positive communication even harder…. And at a time when you both need it the most. 

Communication can build your relationship up, or it can tear it apart. Today’s podcast is all about helping you turn towards each other right now, and it starts with the way you talk to each other.

Couples Communication That Connects

It’s exactly at times like these that you need to be able to turn towards your partner and feel that they care about you, are listening to you, and are an emotionally safe person for you. It’s vital that you feel like your partner understands you, and is responsive to you — showing you that they love you, in the ways that matter the most. The world may be crazy, but as long as you have the love and support of your number one person, it can all seem more manageable. 

Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

However, here’s the rub: Stress, predictably, makes it harder for any of us to be the compassionate, patient, unconditionally loving person our partner needs us to be. We all cope with stress in different ways. Sometimes it’s along gender lines with men and women handling stress differently, but these differences can lead to emotional mis-matches and a communication gap between couples. This can lead both partners to feel disconnected from each other at the time they need each other the most. 

Communication Tips For Couples Under Stress

To help you improve your communication during this stressful time, I asked my colleague, online marriage counselor and relationship coach Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFT-C to join me on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to share his couples counseling communication tips, and some of the communication exercises for couples that he does with his clients. 

Actionable Relationship Advice

Silas was incredibly generous with his relationship advice and his perspective. He is uniquely situated to provide fantastic relationship advice for any couple having communication problems right now, because 1) he’s a man, with great insights into how to understand men and how they deal with stress and 2) Silas is trained in the evidence-based Gottman Method of marriage counseling, which emphasizes couples communication training and positive communication skills for couples.

He discussed:

  • How some people (often men) tend to internalize stress and withdraw
  • How some people (often women) tend to exernalize stress and need to talk
  • How this (predictibly!) creates a communication gap and emotional mis-match
  • How to stop the ensuing pursue / withdraw cycle and start connecting again
  • How couples can understand each other so they can be more compassionate with each other
  • Exercises that couples can do to improve communication
  • How to get on the same page and create agreements and understanding
  • Ways of communicating with your partner in tense moments so that you can grow closer as a couple, instead of creating conflict

 

Communicate To Connect

I was so grateful to Silas for sharing so much really useful information for how to improve your communication when you’re both stressed. Better communication between couples leads to emotional safety and a more secure emotional foundation for both of you, and for your families too. We’re all powerless to change our current harrowing circumstances, but having a safe harbor of support and comfort in your marriage can help you get through this — together. 

I sincerely hope that the excellent, actionable communication tips Silas shared are helpful to both of you right now.

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LP, LMFT, BCC & Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFT-C

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Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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