In Part 1, I tossed out a question to think about: Why doesn’t he talk? Is it a communication skill reason or a relationship reason? Having thought about your situation and your husband’s choice to be silent, you are ready to look at why you need him to talk and what you can do to improve communication with your husband.
Why do you need for him to talk? Aside from the fact that speech is a uniquely-human ability and you’d like for him to prove his humanity from time to time, why do you need for him to talk? Is it…
Procedural: As a couple sharing the same space, some conversations are procedural. “Can you pick up toilet paper on your way home?” “I have a dentist appointment on Thursday.” Couples need to hear and respond to these simple procedural conversations, even when they are excruciatingly tedious.
Approval: It’s not that you always need affirmation and approval from your husband. It’s just that his silence can sometimes feels like disapproval. You value his endorsement of your endeavors, or at least you need to know he doesn’t disapprove.
Leadership: You are looking for him to invest in your relationship and to provide leadership. In most situations, the first step in leadership is to communicate a vision with those in your sphere of influence. Your husband’s silence communicates a lack of leadership to you. Because he’s not talking about the direction of your lives, you assume he has no vision.
Companionship: From the start, it was never good for man (or woman) to be alone. To many women, a relationship without communication feels the same or even worse than being alone. The presence of his body in the same house does not equate companionship. Companionship means camaraderie, communication, and connection. His bodily presence without talking to you feels empty and hollow. You need him to talk so you know he’s not walking out on you.
Dreams: We have “from this day forward” ahead of us. You find great enjoyment in dreaming about a place to live together and children, careers, ministry and vacations. Those dreams that you communicate with each other give you reassurance that you have a future together.
Abolish silence: Some cultures are more at peace with silence than 21st Century American women. Your husband may not need the constant buzz of chatter that you like. Silence is awkward, painful, and disapproving to you. You’d like for him to obliterate the awfulness of silence by saying something.
What can you do?
Evaluate the reasons why you want him to talk and the reasons why he’s not talking. Different scenarios need different strategies.
If he is an analyzer, give him time. Whenever possible, let him know about upcoming situations. “Our lease runs out in two months. We need to give a 30-day notice if we’re going to move. I’d like for us to talk about where to live in the next couple weeks.” He doesn’t get blindsided; he has time to analyze, consider the facts, and make a decision.
Try to have established routines in place so that the need for tedious procedural communication is minimized. Appointments are on the family calendar. Dinner is always at 6 pm, etc. He may be thankful for you to take the initiative to say, “I’ll get home late tonight. After work, I’m taking the car to be inspected so we can get tags next week before they expire;” Instead of… “Did you remember that the tags on the car are going to expire?” Silence. “Did you remember that we have to get the car inspected before we can get tags?” Silence. “When do you think we should get the car inspected?” Silence. “Do you want to take the car or do you want me to?” Silence.
These procedural requirements have to be sorted out within every relationship. If they weary you and you don’t like late fees, see if your husband would like for you to handle them without trudging through the tedious Q and A.
If he says that it “doesn’t matter” (whether you eat Mexican or Thai for dinner), assume it doesn’t matter. There may be days he’d rather live with the less desirable of two choices than talk about it. If you also don’t care and don’t want the decision making for daily decisions dumped on you–flip a coin. Get a decision and move on.
Avoid the taboo topic. Most relationships have a topic that incites anger and ill-will. At times when you are striving to build bridges and create a means for effective communication, stay away from discussing the in-laws or Thanksgiving or travel directions or whatever conversation it is that consistently gets ugly for you. When things are going better and if you’re bored one day and feel like a good fight is what’s in order, you have those subjects to fall back on.
Look for a solution. Communication is clearly something that matters deeply to you. Because it’s important to you, invest in it; invest patiently and graciously. Seek out ways that make communication easier for him, ways that allow him to be himself and not that bad guy that won’t communicate with his wife.
Some communication problems can be solved with patience and endeavor because they are indeed communication problems, not problems of the heart, not signs of an unhappy marriage. After you’ve tried some of these tips, if communication problems worsen, you can evaluate whether your marriage is facing problems that manifest themselves in communication problems. Determine if communication is the problem or if communication is the evidence of a relationship problem. Whichever problem you diagnose as the real issue, be encouraged that you are investing in your marriage and you will find a solution.
This series is continued in Part 3.
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