Let’s face a simple truth: men and women often have very different communication styles. From the words they choose to the details they find most important, the inflection they choose to the sheer amount of words spoken – there’s a divide between the sexes that, well, most of us are probably painfully aware of.
…And because of this problem, many women complain that they don’t have meaningful conversations with their husbands (or at least fewer than they would like). This feels like a lack of good communication, of course, which can leave spouses feeling disconnected and worrying about the state of the marriage.
Now, before we get too far into this, it’s important to note that these are broadly stated, common behaviors that many women engage in. Every person is different, and so is every marriage. Take these tips in stride (and not too personally), and use this information to improve your marriage.
So, with that said – here are a few of the key reasons your husband is so close-mouthed:
1. You’re Too Stuck On Your Own Point
A conversation is supposed to be a two-way street, but many women have a bad habit – especially in contentious conversations – of getting so focused on their point, their point of view, that they steamroll their husband’s attempts to share “his side” or contribute his opinions.
It may be because they think that if their husband’s are talking, they won’t get their point across. Or worse, they’ll leap at a tiny piece of what he has to say, and jump right in with their take before he’s gotten a chance to finish. This, coupled with a need to “always be right,” makes for some pretty unpleasant and unfulfilling dialogue.
For many men, this kind of behavior just makes them shut down. If you’re only focused on your thoughts, your solution, your opinion – and ignoring his – eventually he’ll just stop sharing it with you… And just do things his way anyway.
It’s not really about who’s right or who’s wrong - it’s about having the patience and compassion to truly listen to what he has to say before leaping in with your own thoughts, as well as recognizing that “your way” is not synonymous with “the only way.”
2. You Don’t Know What To Talk About
This goes back to some very basic differences between men and women. We aren’t all going to share the same interests, or even be interested in the same details of a given situation.
When it’s not about solving an issue or something SHE is interested in, plenty of wives simply don’t know how to engage their husbands – or when they try to, they don’t talk about things that interest him, or know how to respond when he talks about the things he likes.
To help overcome this, you can take two “tactics” into account. First – practice! Talk about music or movies, ask him questions, tell each other childhood stories, just get used to chitchatting when you don’t have a particular point to make or problem to solve. Pay attention to pacing and rhythm and give him ample time to speak.
This will help you get used to a healthier dynamic of conversation.
Second, take an active interest in his hobbies and passions! The more you know about what he’s into, the more you can engage with him about it (and actually know what he’s talking about if you get him going on a subject).
This goes both ways, of course, but men are more likely to just keep their mouths shut if you don’t seem interested or engaged by what they have to say. The more you can get to know their interests, the more likely they will be to share with you!
3. You Don’t Listen
So many of us, male or female, are guilty of this – and it has a way of stopping a good conversation dead in its tracks. Instead of truly listening, focusing our attention on the other person with the intent to understand and absorb what they have to say, we just sort of wait for our turn to respond.
It’s a bad habit, and many of don’t even know we’re doing it. We’ll be listening, but as our minds wander, as something said triggers a thought or memory, we stop listening attentively and start getting lost in our own heads. Then, as there’s a break in the conversation, we can’t help but “respond” with what we were just thinking about.
From the other person’s perspective, though, you’ve derailed the conversation. They were trying to share something with you, and instead of responding with concern for what they had to say, you hijacked the discussion with your own thoughts and intentions. This is not listening.
It feels demoralizing to make the effort to share something, and be responded to with something largely unrelated. Similarly, if your husband is trying to share some concern of his, and you respond with something focused on you (instead of on HIM, where the conversation started), it makes him feel unimportant.
Practice active listening. Try to quiet some of your own thoughts or desire to interject. Above all, try to stay on topic if he’s willing to open up to you.
4. You Talk Too Much
This one is going to be hard for many women to hear… but it’s likely true – and it’s not your fault! On average, women say nearly twice as many words as men in a given day. It’s a simple difference in communication styles. This isn’t to say that you talk too much all the time – but it can have a negative impact on your marriage.
If your husband feels like he can’t get a word in edgewise, if the time you do spent talking to each other is about your issues, your day, your friends, your interests, your ideas… He may very well be “talked out” by the time you get around to asking about his day!
This also manifests itself in social situations where, for example, someone asks your husband about a given topic that you also know about, and you dive right in – offering your opinion AND your version of his opinion, what’s going on his life, etc.
Like some of the points above, this might just cause your husband to shut down. If he never gets a chance to speak, why should he even try?
You don’t have to hold your tongue all the time, but maybe it’s a good idea to be aware of how much of the “conversational space” you’re taking up, and if your tromping all over your husbands attempts to be part of the conversation (with you or when you’re both in a group).
Again, don’t take these recommendations too personally! Instead, remember that the point is to improve communication with your husband, do your best to look at your own behaviors objectively, and do what you can to help get him to open up and talk to you more!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com