I ask my husband a question; I wait 30 minutes. I promise. Thirty minutes for him to respond. Sometimes I wait for an hour. Sometimes I wait for 2 days. What is that?
Let’s look at some possible reasons why he’s not talking.
He can’t talk or can’t talk as fast as you do: When presented with a decision that needs made, some people (male or female) have an instant answer; some people have to over analyze every angle; most people are somewhere in between. If your husband is one of those who needs to analyze every angle, that takes time. He may be unable to spout back a response (the way your mom and BFF can). Compare it to something you can’t do that he wants you to do. “Just get happy.” Or “Just stop worrying about it.” You’d love to get happy or stop worrying, but right now you can’t. Maybe that’s how talking is for him. He’d love to “Just say something,” but right now, he can’t.
He’s already said it once: There’s an old joke: “I told her once that I loved her; if I change my mind, I’ll let her know.” If he has answered once, that may be his answer. Even if you desire more affirmation or you’ve presented him with new information, he may feel that he has answered sufficiently already and not know why you want him to re-affirm his answer.
He doesn’t care: Do you want to go out for Mexican or Thai? He really doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want to exert the mental effort or take the risk to make even a minor decision. If he cared, he would choose.
He doesn’t know: You each have areas of expertise. He knows about real estate; you know about landscaping. He knows cuisine; you know nutrition. Attempting to have a conversation where one spouse is the expert and the other is the amateur takes concerted effort and patience. If what you want is to share what you’ve researched, tell him that. “I’ve been researching home-school curriculum. I’ve found some things I’d like to share with you.” That is profoundly different from blindsiding him at dinner with, “What curriculum do you want the kids to use this year?” He’s trying to figure out why he’s in a conversation where “You already know what you want.” There can still be healthy dialog between the expert and amateur, but avoid expecting him to contribute meaningful content and to be as excited about the organic baby food conversation as you are.
He doesn’t want to disappoint you: Situations come up in marriages where spouses differ. He knows what you want; he knows what he wants. Rather than disappoint you or go against his own beliefs, he silently delays and avoids for hours, days, weeks…
He doesn’t want to start a fight: He remembers the last time he was drawn into a conflict. He’s not about to go back there. Rather than risk a clash, he chooses to stay silent.
He’s at peace with silence: He’s listened to the women at work gossip all day. He’s been teaching since 8 am. The bidding on the stock floor is exhausting. He wants his home to be a place of peace—and for him, that is peace and quiet.
He’s checking out emotionally. Your husband may be distancing himself emotionally from you. He may be rejecting intimacy due to unforgiveness, callousness, or denial. He may be hurt due to some concern in your relationship or due to some concern outside your relationship. He feels a need to protect himself from further hurts, so he’s shutting people with the ability to hurt him out of his world. One way he conducts this shutdown is to avoid making himself vulnerable through talking about meaningful things with you.
Think about it.
A good first step to resolving the talking dilemma is to consider why he’s not talking. As a gift of love, think no evil toward him. Stand in his place and consider why he’s not talking. Don’t assume that he wants to inflict torment on you by not speaking. Don’t assume that he’s unhappy in your marriage. Was he quiet and deliberate before you married? How long has talking been an issue? Is there a problem that he needs time to sort through? Work on minimizing your frustration with his silence. Respect his individuality and extend the grace that we all need to work through our weaknesses.
That does not mean to resolve yourself to a one-sided marriage devoid of meaningful conversation and intimacy. In Part 2, we talk about why you need him to talk and what you can do. Click here to read Part 2 in this series.
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