Scallywag

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Happy Marriage Tips: How to Handle the Silent Treatment

January 24th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 36 secs

[For couples in real relationships]

Marriage wasn’t meant to be silent.

“Honestly, what’s the point? He never listens? I might as well be talking to a brick wall.”

If your man doesn’t listen to you, then you need to take action.

Many men, and yes I am generalizing, are often perceived by their marriage partner as ungiving. Sure they live under the same roof, and outwardly most people don’t notice anything serious. But often, they become locked down, confining their conversation to only saying what’s necessary.

If this is true for you then it’s highly likely you’re sitting on an emotional time bomb. Having a happy marriage requires open communication. Without that personal investment, a marriage can only fragment

When men don’t talk or want to listen they can be very hard to live with, can’t they? You can feel trapped. Caught in a storm of their own feelings, men can make a marriage relationship feel incredibly isolating. Being faced with an emotional brick wall is daunting enough. But, if nothing is done, the hurt only gets worse, making an otherwise good marriage turn into torment.

So what’s to be done? Many people eventually walk out of marriage, unable to take it anymore. Having no other solution and believing they deserve better, they quit. But if we are prepared to face the pain and create a lasting honesty, I believe there are more satisfying alternatives than breaking up.

For starters, if a man stops talking to you or listening, it’s likely he is harboring some hurt or a range of confused feelings. His silence may be an attempt at control, but fundamentally it’s just covering some upset.

Unlike women, who understand that talking things through is an effective means of solving problems, men lock up. Sometimes they will even deny they have any difficulties, as it’s way too painful to communicate.

On the surface, this is his problem. But I tend to believe his inability to express hints at bigger issues within your marriage relationship. If he isn’t talking with you it’s most likely that there are matters you both need to face but he doesn’t feel empowered to raise them. He might be thinking, “What’s the point? Talking about it won’t do any good.” So he’d rather try hiding it, just to get on with life. But of course, bottling things up doesn’t work. Shut down honesty and communication suffers. Deny feelings, and the term “tension” takes on a whole new meaning.

So when communication gets stifled, why not do something different? Rather than begging, nagging, or even demanding attention, apologize.

Huh? Yep, say sorry. Let your man know that you appreciate him, but find it hard to fully understand his needs. This tackles any flinty thinking he might be having like, “She knows everything about me. So she must be being mean to me deliberately.” By setting a new ground rule that you will freely receive what he wants to say and stating upfront that you just want to be his friend, you are constructively taking charge.

At this stage you might be feeling indignant with this suggestion. “Why should I apologize to him when he won’t even talk to me?” That’s true. Yet if you want to break down these marriage barriers, it’s best to minimize any sign of threat. After all, why else do people put the shutters up, unless they are feeling threatened?

As the resident expert on communication in your relationship, it is your expertise in encouraging your partner that makes the difference. Men, as a general rule, are completely incapable of communicating as well as women. So for a marriage to have good standards of communication, a husband needs training through example and encouragement.

This means listening to them without pressure and accepting that your mate sincerely does want to communicate.  It’s just that he finds it much harder to do than you.

Keep praising him for his obvious abilities and strengths, and let him know you are glad he is there. By providing a safe haven of praise, you are actively promoting a climate in your marriage for increased interaction.

Of course, you are right to think this is incredibly one-sided. After all, isn’t he the one hemming you in? All the same, I want to encourage you to work on the basis that his tension and resistance to talking needs skillfully drawing out. If there is a wound behind it then you can expect things to be painful and a little bit messy.  But rather than blaming him for his inability, let this difficult time be an opportunity to express your best.  Show him how compassionate and considerate you are. Realize and accept that what matters to him is not necessarily what matters to you. But at least you seek to respect your differences.

Facing this point of tension with determination and compassion is a sign of your own commitment to your relationship. It is the tough stuff that builds you up. Most importantly, it’s also what it takes to have a happy marriage, and nobody can do it better than you.

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