When Silence in Marriage is Deadly

when silence in marriage is deadly

I couldn’t explain to my husband that day why I was so angry, why I was sobbing, or why I was hurt. You see, nothing that major had happened between us. What had happened is that I had developed a habit of “stuffing” things that irritated or disappointed me for a few months. Over time, that collection of minor frustrations and hurt feelings had morphed into one big powder keg of resentment. Predictably, I finally blew sky high.

In many marriages, the great struggle is to keep yourself from saying too much. But if that pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, a different set of problems creep in. iMOM director Susan Merrill has watched this principle play out in her own marriage at times. A healthy relationship requires frequent, honest communication that allows little conflicts to be dealt with before they have a chance to become bigger issues.

Silence in your marriage is a problem when:

You’re hoping a serious problem will disappear on its own.

Whether it’s an addiction one of you struggles with, or an issue with one of the children that concerns you, it’s naive to think that serious problems will correct themselves without being addressed. Yes, these things are hard to talk about and have the potential to create conflict. But if you approach them with a level head and a calm, generous spirit, you might be surprised by how much progress you can make just by airing the thing out a little. Just make sure you steer clear of these 4 Negative Styles of Fighting.

You’re afraid of the conversation.

We almost never make great decisions from a position of fear. If you have a genuine, practical reason why the discussion would be more productive at another time, that’s fine. But running from a talk because you’re afraid of the outcome isn’t healthy, and may even make the situation worse. Read Explaining Your Marriage Needs to Your Husband to think through how you want to approach the topic.

You begin to feel emotionally distant from your spouse.

Keeping secrets—even about our own hurt feelings or disappointments—is never a relationship-builder. The more you “stuff” your irritation about little things, the more difficult it will become to feel open and at ease with your husband. Be smart by talking about the little conflicts so you can let them go. Even if you have to agree to disagree on some things, you’ll feel better knowing that your feelings are on the record. Your unresolved conflict can sometimes grow into an Under the Radar Marriage Killer.

You’re doing all of your venting to someone else.

Loyalty is a huge component of a good marriage. Even when your spouse lets you down or makes you mad, give him a chance to realize it and respond, rather than raking him over the coals to someone else. Everyone needs advice from a wise friend from time to time, but if you’re routinely talking to others about your marriage problems more than you talk to your spouse about them, that’s a problem.



  • Maximus_Manimal

    I think you have a few interesting things to say, but I also think you’ve barely managed to scratch the surface of the topic. I am on the other side of the article you’ve posted here, a very frustrated father and husband who feels he cannot express his feelings openly without significant reprisal and putting the future of the marriage at risk. I have been bottling up issue after issue for years and have grown so emotionally distant that it now seems an unrealistic and daunting task to try to connect again.

    The times I try to reach out or comment on behavior that is bothersome are either met with complete apathy or a wall of emotion that shuts the entire conversation down.

    I feel trapped in this relationship with no positive way forward (a different article on this site “Why men feel trapped” is what brought me here, and likewise barely scratched the surface). I can honestly say, that if I had it to do over again I would never have gotten married (and would not have the two children I have now). We go through the daily grind with nothing to say to one another until bedtime.

    I could go on for pages, but no one wants to hear me rant. Suffice it to say that, if you’re interested, there is a wealth of material in this idea that remains unexplored.

    • BJ_Foster

      Just read this comment – a little late. Sorry to hear you are in this situation. It sounds really hard. I wouldn’t mind hearing more. Don’t lose hope. A couple of questions – Has bottling things up and growing emotionally distant put the marriage at less risk than expressing your feelings? Is there a different way to express your feelings that might be received better? Have you considered couples counseling?

  • Name

    So many things in this article ring true for me. I found this on the web as I was searching for something to justify how angry I felt rather than communicate this frustration to my husband.

    I know the key changing my marriage is letting him understand my needs but he is so defensive however careful I am about the language I use and the time I discuss it. We are trapped in a cycle where has learnt that if he opposes what I ask for strongly enough I will back down and let him have his way beacuse I love him.

    This behavior has built up a huge ball of resentment inside me whilst conditioning him to respond in a negative way to my requests rather than openly discussing them. Now I’ve reached a point where I’m no longer willing to keep surpressing my needs he seems unable to talk an issue through without being judgmental or critical.
    I still love him. I know he is unhappy and needs help to be the man I fell in love with again but it becomes harder to keep going every day. I also need his support and respect to be true to myself in return.
    Each time we have a rocky patch like this the emphasis is on the need for me to change. He won’t consider joint counselling and despite some steps forward things keep slipping back. I don’t want to loose him but at the same time I can’t get him to open up to me calmly.

    • Liza

      Name, thank you for opening up and sharing your story and experience. I truly sympathize with you and find your love for your husband inspiring. I can’t help but wonder what might happen if you ran to your husband in need of help. Perhaps you can frame up the conversation this way…”I want to be closer to you and relate to each other in a better way. I need your help. How can we fix this?” It is difficult to predict how a person will respond, especially when they assume confrontation. You can’t change him, but maybe you can frame the conversation in a way where he doesn’t feel indicted. Most importantly, I would just beg God to provide the words for you to speak and cause a heart change and ultimately bring your marriage to a good place. I will be praying for your conversations to come. Don’t lose hope.

  • Lila

    I think the first thing I would do is get on my knees (literally) and thank God for my spouse; their bad attitude, pride/selfishness, all of it. Then ask for forgiveness for my own shortcomings. I would ask Him to show me how He sees them, and to give me the heart and the words that will begin turning the ship in the right direction. Release your spouse and your marriage to Him, and give Him permission to do His work in them. I am lifting you both up in prayer.

  • Jeneen reed

    I would like to read more on this topic. Do you have a book that covers this in more detail?