A very common complaint that we hear from women in our counseling office is that their men often “shut down” and will not talk about important topics to them. In fact, it is estimated that:
between 40-50% of married women
complain that their husbands will not open up
and talk to them in any meaningful way.
Unfortunately, far too many wives feel ignored by their husbands. The “silent treatment” is one of the top 10 biggest complaints reported by women regarding their relationships. So if you are one of those women who have been trying to get your man to talk to you without much success, you are not alone. This very common problem causes a lot of women a great deal of distress. We’d like to share some reasons why husbands “shut down” and some steps to get them to open up.
Three Things That Cause Men To Shut Down
Men Feeling Criticized, Judged and Attacked
Probably the #1 that reason that many men to shut down is that they complain that no matter whatever thoughts or ideas they attempt to share with their woman that she is likely to respond by being critical and challenges their ideas. Not only are they judgmental, their women take over the conversation and start giving a multitude of reasons to prove him wrong.
‘Why’, many men ask, ‘should I open myself up to a barrage of lengthy complaints about why I think the way I do?’
‘If I don’t say anything, then I don’t have to hear it!’
Many men simply do not understand why he cannot have his own thoughts or feelings without their women “pouncing” all over them and making him wrong. What men who feel this way don’t understand is that often, when some women, not all, get to the point of criticizing, judging or attacking him, it is because he didn’t hear or respond to her initial attempts to reach out to him in a more positive way. It is also true that when many women reach out to connect with man they love, she may express her message in “feelings words” that don’t make sense to him since, as men, we have been socialized to ignore our emotional feelings.
Men Complain That Their Women Are Far Too Controlling
Some men have reported to us that the reason they often shut down is because her women are far too controlling. They would like to tell their women to:
‘Stop trying to get me to do anything!’
‘Give me the time, space, and freedom to decide what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when I want to do it.’
They avoid saying it because they fear it could trigger a huge fight so they retreat and do the “silent treatment.”
Many men also resent their women’s attempts to manipulate them into following their agenda and timetable. Rather than responding with an angry outburst, they simply shut down and don’t respond. While this may be a “passive-aggressive” way of responding, most men would rather just not respond than to get into a fight. Most men hate fighting! We do understand that the term controlling is an interpretation of an experience that may or may not be accurate.
Wives Who Constantly Bring Up a Litany of Past Grievances
Another reason why men often refuse to talk is because they fear their women bringing up a multitude of past grievances.
Most men simply do not want to hear again for the “15th millionth time” a ‘laundry list’ of every hurt and transgression he has caused.
For example, some women may start off complaining about one thing but before you know it, they have brought up every “wrong” they believe that he has ever committed.
Unfortunately, what men don’t understand is the reason why women often keep bringing them up is because they probably have never been completely discussed and resolved. She probably still has some emotional hurt that she needs you to understand before she can move on. Until they get addressed and resolved, expect that they are likely to keep coming up. The problem is that most couples don’t know how to resolve them. They can’t get past the arguing.
There are several other reasons we could offer to help women understand why men “clam up,” however; we’ll stop at these three for now.
We would not be surprised if some women would take issue with these reasons. In fact, we would expect that a great many women would be quite upset with these reasons why men shut down and won’t talk. Our goal is not to “put women down” but rather to help spouses be able to open up and communicate with each other. This is of critical importance in successful relationships. Therefore, we would urge women to make a conscientious attempt to understand what we are attempting to communicate. We want to support you to be able to open the door to enable your man to open up and talk to you. If that’s what you want, then you might find the following suggestions helpful.
Three Things That Cause Men To Open Up
After Asking Your Question, Give Him Time To Think About It
Sometimes, women bring up things to their man that she has been thinking about for days, weeks, or months if not longer. The problem is that most likely, he has not been thinking about it and probably needs time to “think it through.” If you expect an immediate answer, you’re probably not going to get one. He may need time to go into his “man cave” to think about it before he is ready to give you a response. Yes, it’s going to take a little more time than maybe you would prefer so ask in enough time to give him the time he needs. And when he does respond, allow him the opportunity to share with you his entire thoughts without interrupting, asking interrogating questions, or interjecting your ideas. This brings us to our next suggestion.
Listen To Him—Really Listen!
If you really want to know what your husband thinks about something (as opposed to attempting to get him to agree with your already decided upon decision), then LISTEN TO HIM! We mean really listen to what he has to share without interrupting, interpreting, questioning, or belittling his ideas. In order to do that, it is essential that you control your urge to react before you hear and understand his complete message. He needs to know that you really want to hear what he has to say and that you truly value his opinions. If he senses that you are not really listening or are not interested in his opinion, he’s likely to shut down. Be aware that men, like women, want to be heard.
Demonstrate That You Value and Respect His Ideas and Opinions
By your attentiveness, demonstrate to your man that you sincerely appreciate him and value his ideas and opinions. You must perceive each other as valuable, important, and essential allies who share and respect each other’s ideas. By seriously embracing the ideas that both of you are sharing, you are able to make better decisions together than separately. Remember the old saying that “two heads are better than one.”
All of us want to be appreciated and respected. When we are, it motivates us to want to do more. If not, our desire to be a fully functioning partner is diminished.