How to Improve Communication With Your Spouse
You want your partner to help around the house. But instead of responding to your complaints, he clams up, buries his head in the newspaper, computer or television, or just leaves the room. Sound familiar? Silence may be golden, but when youre fuming, it simply fuels the fires.
Most men want emotional intimacy, but they lack the language and ability to describe how theyre feeling, says Martha Straus, Ph.D., a New Hampshire marriage and family therapist and author of No Talk Therapy. So they retreat into the comfort and safety of private, solitary thoughts.
Dont be fooled by their passivity, she adds. The silent treatment speaks volumes. Your quiet partner may be giving you any one of the following messages:
- I cant talk about this because I dont know how.
- I dont know why Im upset; I need time to figure it out.
- If I talk to you now, Ill say things I dont mean.
- I know I blew it, but to admit it would be devastating.
Strauss suggestions: say, I can see you need space right now, but I hope we can talk about this when youre ready. Then, when your silent partner is ready to open up, stay solution-focused, use soothing words and keep your cool. Remember, your partner needs to feel safe before he can share his feelings.
Robin Westen is the author of Relationship Repair (Sterling, January 2011)