I watched this husband shut down right before my eyes. In their counseling session, his wife shared her frustrations with his lack of emotional participation. She angrily talked about all the things he didn’t do. I asked him how he felt when he heard her feedback. He said, “I feel like I can’t do anything right anyway—so why bother?”
Wives say, “My husband won’t communicate.” We want them to talk, but unknowingly, some of the things we do to get them to talk are the very things that shut them down. Here are 4 common things wives do that shut husbands down and some better ways to get them to listen, participate, and open up.
We all feel defensive when told we are the reason someone is upset. Telling your husband he is the problem will cause him to protect himself and disconnect from what you need him to hear. You, instead of his behaviors, become his problem. Getting him to engage actively in what you need is more likely if you tell him what you need and how his actions affect you.
Use the formula When you___, I feel___. I need___. Don’t say, “You only think of yourself and I’m tired of being the only person who cares around here!” Say, “When you play video games at bedtime, I feel abandoned and overwhelmed with responsibility. I need your help to make bedtime go smoothly.”
Walking in the house after a long day of being apart is not the right time to hit him with a ton of information or with your needs. It’s important to have a transition time where connection is the priority. Don’t discuss all the difficult things you’ve had to deal with or problems the kids are having. Do tell him you missed him and how nice it is to see him. Save the hard stuff for at least 30 minutes later—and only after you’ve made a connection with each other.
If your husband won’t communicate, be mindful of how frequently you correct him, criticize his actions, or make demands of him. Most of us do it without really thinking about it. When he hears mostly corrective communication from you, he will feel inadequate and shut down. He may start to passive-aggressively avoid the things you want from him. Try to give seven positive affirmations and words of appreciation for every one corrective or critical thing you say.
Try to give seven positive affirmations and words of appreciation for every one corrective or critical thing you say.
Not Trusting His Parenting Style
Moms and dads approach parenting differently. Don’t expect your husband to think and act like you do toward your children. Men and women think differently. Children benefit from these differences. Dads are typically less emotional and more behavior-focused. It doesn’t mean you can’t give him input about your child’s emotional needs. It does mean you may also learn something from how he parents your kids. If you run interference, he may decide that fighting you isn’t worth it and defer to your way of doing things. That would be unfortunate for your kids.
Which one of these do you think is the easiest trap to fall into?