In Parts 1 and 2, we considered why a wife needs her husband to talk, why he’s not talking, and what can be done to improve communication. Much of what was written was baby steps and procedural, hoping that seeing life from the other spouse’s perspective will help smooth out communication glitches.
Marriages can have more than just communication glitches. Marriages can have communication breakdowns indicative of problems in the marriage. Communication is one of several barometers that measure marriage conditions, including emotional closeness or distancing. The more you attempt to move toward him, using good strategies for communication, the more he moves away. When you approach, he gets defensive. He shuts down. Communication breaks down. What happened and what can be done?
You’re not communicating respect.
Couples can play ugly, destructive games.
When your husband refuses to talk, you feel the pain of silence deeply and personally. When you withdraw your respect, he feels the dishonor deeply and personally.
Wife thinks: You won’t talk to me, I won’t respect you.
Wife communicates: No one would ever respect you.
Husband thinks: You won’t respect me, I won’t give you access to my thoughts.
Husband communicates: You’re a non-person. That’s why I won’t do that little, “We need to talk” thing.
Couples Neglect the Essentials
Your failure to communicate respect may not be a conscious game you’re playing. It may be life. Work, the kids, social media—maybe it has gotten in the way of energizing your relationship with your husband. Ultimately, his needs are only met in God not in you as his our spouse; but humanly speaking, his marriage needs aren’t being met. Before you read that to mean he wants more sex, remember his other marriage need: respect. It’s quite likely that your marriage vows included the word respect. This is a respect that is unconditional. It is unrelated to his employment, his performance, and his physique. There should never be a day when you don’t communicate, “You’re my man, and I respect you above all others.”
He’s hiding his escapades
Another reason he may not be talking is that he’s rejecting you. He’s not talking because he’s distancing himself. He has secrets he’s not about to tell you. He doesn’t want you because you represent honor and cherish. He wants nothing that interferes with his secret. Crippling debt, addiction, porn, another woman—maybe he’s exploiting and abusing your covenant relationship (read the article, “How To Tell If Your Spouse Is Having An Affair”).
You can still love
When love has no evidence, it believes the best. When the evidence is adverse, it hopes for the best. And when hopes are repeatedly disappointed, it still courageously waits. (Source: Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians)
Tips for communicating respect.
If your husband can appreciate that you want to talk with him and that your insight is valuable, he may agree to a scheduled conversation. If so…
1. Stay on one topic. Once you get into a conversation, it’s tempting to jump into everything you’ve wanted to discuss for the last six months. That could be overload. See one topic through to completion before moving on.
2. Be prepared. Think of the one or two most urgent topics. There could be a major decision that has an approaching deadline. There could be one root cause for the stress that has entered your marriage. Plan the topics that need to be addressed.
3. Limit the time you expect to stay connected. When the conversation goes too deep for too long, he may shut down again. Even if the conversation is going well, you can ask if he wants to continue to talk. You want the conversation to end with both of you reflecting positively on what happened.
4. End with “I appreciate you listening to me.” The conversation may break down. He may stonewall. You may explode. It’s still likely that there was a point at which he listened. You know he has heard you, and it is respectful to express your appreciation to him.
You can seek help. If you’ve made repeated attempts to communicate and your husband rejects all efforts to sort through your issues, your relationship is in danger. Seek help. In looking for an intercessor, consider who your husband would welcome. Finding someone who will take your side isn’t the goal. You need someone who can show both of you hope in the midst of pain.
When he won’t talk, honor your marriage vows and honor your spouse.
If your marriage isn’t happy, we can help. Get more information on our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages by completing the form below or calling us at (866) 903-0990.