Why Won’t My Partner Communicate With Me
FAQ 1. My husband won’t talk with me. I don’t
want to become a nag, but I am afraid that is exactly what is happening
to me. I am so frustrated. How can I get him to talk with me?
Frequently Asked Questions
From Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
This material is presented for educational and informational
purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health
care professional for specific personal care recommendations.
It is likely that you and your husband are locked
into the “pursuer – distancer dance.” This is fairly
common behavior between a man and a woman; a dance with some fairly
predictable steps to it.
You want more closeness and intimacy with him and
so you pursue him with questions (which he doesn’t answer) and
then you get critical of him.
He wants more space from you, less of your controlling
efforts to bring him in close, and so he withdraws from you with the
You pursue, and he distances.
Rules of thumb can be helpful, but they can also be
In this case the rule of thumb is that men are more
threatened by being controlled than are woman, and woman are more
threatened by abandonment and loneliness. There may be some genetics
involved in this generalization. Think about it.
Men have been the hunters for tens of thousands of
years. The last thing you want to lose when on the hunt is your freedom
to act. Picture a group of men some ten thousand years ago out together
trying to bring down some big wild game. The women couldn’t
do this because such behavior was beyond them during pregnancy.
The more muscular man developed the skills it took
to feed his family and tribe. Men would communicate between each other,
not about their intimate feelings, but about the strategies and tactics
of the hunt. Men still get together and talk about strategies and
tactics, and seldom about feelings.
Women were the gatherers. They could wander out in
groups with the kids and gather nuts, leaves and roots. They were
the ones who nurtured the kids, tuned into them with their intuitive
feelings, and developed a sixth sense for how well each was feeling.
Ten thousand years ago the only diagnostic system for medical problems
was likely a woman’s intuitive feel for what was wrong.
Hormones got involved. Ken Wilber, the philosopher
and pundit, puts it rather bluntly. “Woman have the hormone
oxytocin, which says ‘relate to it, relate to it.’ Men,
on the other hand, have the hormone testosterone, which says ‘kill
it, or fuck it.’” That is sort of blunt, isn’t it?
But Wilber sure hits the nail on the head. There is a fundamental
biological difference between men and women.
But let me add that sometimes the pursuer –
distancer dance is done in reverse.
When a woman stops pursuing her husband, and in turn
doesn’t distance herself, he often stops and turns to face her.
I have seen this over and over again. When she stops and holds her
own hand (instead of insisting that he hold her to make her feel secure)
well then he is no longer threatened by control from her and he turns,
however gradually, to see what she is all about. Hence, my advice
to you in this situation is this: Get a life!
Get your own life. Tell him something like this: “John,
I’ve been trying to get more going between us for some time
now. I’ve turned into a nag and I don’t like it. I want
a warm and intimate relationship with you but I realize that you don’t
want that with me right now, and I am supposing that is because I
have become a nag.
The more I try to get you to talk with me, the less
you do. So, I’ve decided that I am going to stop as of right
now. This is it. I am going to talk with myself, with God, with my
friends and family, but yes, mostly with myself. When you want to
talk with me, you come right on and get my attention and start talking.
I’ll do my best to listen. But I am not going to chase you around
anymore because I don’t want to be that sort of person.”
Then, you follow through. Get a handle on yourself.
Take our basic eCourse and build up your self-concept. Find your type
on our homepage. You are either a Ready Adventurer, Loyal Caretaker,
Authentic Idealist, or a Careful Thinker. Then go and get the right
eCourse for your own self. “How to Know Who You Are, and Be
Who You Are” is designed for exactly this sort of situation.
You can purchase the “All-in-One” eCourse if you think
your husband is of a different type. Build your self-concept and just
watch; your self-esteem will come right along as well.
However, there is also the situation that is marked
by some clear pathology. Some people just don’t talk. That is,
they don’t self-disclose very much at all. You can follow all
the sage advice in the world, and he still wont talk. I’ve seen
it, and it is incredibly frustrating. Something inside of him is frightened,
hurt, damaged, and he has built some serious defenses around himself
to protect himself from real, or imagined harm.
Sometimes the fear of being re-injured is so severe
that a man chooses, consciously or unconsciously, to never go near
that injury again. In order to be safe, he distances. It is like the
child who got a mouth full of water while swimming, got scared to
death, and decided to never go near water again. Yes, it is almost
like a phobia of intimacy.
There is a “schizotypal personality disorder.”
That sounds more frightening than it is. Someone with this disorder
has been burned and they aren’t going near the fire ever again.
They have detached into their own world. This sort of distancing is
more than a dance. It is a survival strategy that is being employed
even when there is nothing real to fear.
So, the general rule when the pursuer – distancer
dance is going on is this: Stop and get your own life, hold your own
hand, and tell the big guy that he has a new woman to relate to! YOU!
But you are getting on with your life. With him, or without him, you
are going to have a great life.
If he is willing to go to a Marriage and Family Therapist,
then by all means, take the steps necessary to make that happen. With
a neutral third party present he might open up, break old habits,
and get the relationship moving again. Give this a real try.
But for sure, remember that nagging wont work!
Hopeful Solutions for Your Sexless Marriage is the BIG, 173 page eBook
written by Dr. Atwood. The companion volume is You Can Save Your Marriage.
You can find both, and more, at www.HopefulSolutions.net.
Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI
49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email DrAtwood@HopefulSolutions.net.
©2002-2004 Save Your Marriage, PLC. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The material presented on these pages
if for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional
medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical
situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health
problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider
in person. Please consult your health care provider in person if you
have any questions or concerns. Always use common sense and research
your own personal situation thoroughly.