What to Do if Your Spouse Won't Communicate

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By: Amy Morin, LCSW

When asked about their husbands, wives often respond with, "He won't communicate." When husbands won't talk, wives have a few choices in what to do next. The response a husband receives will either encourage him to talk more or may shut him down even further.

It's important to recognize that people can't "not communicate." Even when someone isn't talking, they are communicating. Non-verbal communication is very important to look at when considering someone's communication. Gestures and body-language can tell a lot about a person's thoughts and feelings. So even if he isn't talking, take a look at his behaviors.

Take a look at the times when he isn't talking to you. What happened right before that? Did you ask him a question? Were you telling him something? Were you trying to get him to do something? It is important to start to examine these things so that you can start to understand what may have caused him to shut-down. This is especially important if it is only an occasional occurrence.

Take a look at the timing as well. Do you expect him to be talkative when he comes home from work but he really just wants to relax on the couch? Are you calling him on his drive home from work and he doesn't seem to want to talk? Do you have a habit of wanting to talk right in the middle of his favorite television show? Try to notice times when he seems to be more talkative and try to communicate with him at those times.

Perhaps there aren't just instances where he seems quiet but perhaps his personality causes him to be quieter in general. Statistically speaking, men solve problems more often and talk less about emotions and emotionally charged events. So don't expect him to spill his guts about his day every day.

Try to communicate with other languages rather than just talking. Perhaps a back rub would be a great way to communicate your desire for closeness. Or maybe you could watch the game with him and instead of trying to talk, just enjoy his company. Pay attention to the ways you usually communicate and see what you can try to do differently.

Keep your emotions in check when communicating with him. Sometimes strong emotions, such as crying, make others feel uncomfortable. It may cause him to stop talking or he may not know how to respond to your emotional needs at times.

Anger can be another emotion that causes people to want to end the conversation. If you are becoming angry, he may want to stop talking to you, which is actually a good choice. Or if he's becoming angry, he may want to stop the conversation as well. If anger is becoming an obstacle, talk about taking a time-out and then resuming the conversation once you are calm.  People communicate at their best when they are able to be calm and rational.

Take a look at your emotional intimacy. Sometimes communication problems create intimacy issues. Sometimes lack of intimacy creates communication problems. Tackle the problem by working on both issues. Improve your communication and your intimacy will likely improve. If you improve your intimacy, you’ll likely communicate better.

If you are not feeling emotionally connected, find some ways to re-connect with one another. This may include things such as spending more quality time together. Focus on subjects that he does like to do talk about. Engage him in discussions about topics that interest him to help get conversations started.

If communication seems to be problematic to your relationship, consider counseling. If your husband isn't into talking much, he may resist the idea of talking to a counselor. If he does, consider seeing a therapist on your own. You may be able to learn some new skills to help the two of you communicate better, even if he doesn't go with you.

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