My husband and I have a good marriage. Sure, we’ve had our hard times (plenty). And we don’t always communicate the best, despite 21 years of marriage. We still drive each other crazy when it’s his turn to drive and my turn to navigate. But we are each other’s best friend and primary confidant.
When I have a problem I have to work out, I like to go to my husband or close friends for advice. Most women like to hash things out with their significant other or friends.
But I often feel like it’s something I have to mull over on my own. I’m a problem solver and like to process my thoughts alone. Usually, I’ll grab my pack and head out for a solitary invigorating hike. Often, I’ll drive with the radio off, so it doesn’t distract my train of thoughts.
So why is it so difficult for me to give my husband his space to figure things out on his own? Why do I repeatedly question what he’s dealing with, going through or thinking about when he gets a little quiet?
If a relationship is healthy, I don’t think there’s a need to worry if a man is unusually quiet. In every marriage or relationship, we will have periods in which we feel closer than other times. It’s probably okay to let him stew for a couple days, but when it goes past a week or two, of course, it’s time to start talking or get some help.
Over time, I’ve learned my husband is working through things that have little to do with me or our marriage. Sometimes he’s not ready to talk about it. Here are six reasons I learned that might keep him from sharing.
1. He’s working through a conflict at work. Maybe he let a client down or has a problem with employees he’s managing. He doesn’t want to bring work home with him, but it doesn’t disappear from his mind the moment he walks through the door at night. Instead, he may work through it with his supervisor or one of the managers that work for him. And keeping in touch with his mentor helps him to resolve more workplace issues than I could.
2. He doesn’t want to burden me with something he knows will be painful for me. When my husband started working in hospice, he would share stories about his patients and their families. After a while, he noticed I’d be thinking about these distressing stories days later and would become depressed. So he quit sharing because it was of no benefit to me or our relationship. Instead, to work through his grief of losing a patient, he would go see an afternoon movie alone, write in his journal, or lace up his boots for a hike.
3. He isn’t feeling good about his career, health, fitness, kids, or life and is trying to figure out how to resolve or change it. Midlife can be rough. There’s no end of things to worry about. If I told him everything I worried about (much of it irrelevant in the long AND short run), we would have the most boring relationship. I think my husband wants to solve at least a few dilemmas without my advice. He needs to feel competent. He doesn’t want me to come across as helpless. He wants me to think he’s responsible and strong.
4. He knows we don’t agree on something, so he chooses to keep quiet because keeping the peace is more important than the issue. Five homes and renovations later, we will never agree on a paint color. He likes it ridiculously cold in the house, and I worry about the AC bill. He wants me to pick the restaurant even though I can’t make up my mind. I give my husband a lot of credit for giving into my wants. He doesn’t care about the issue enough to argue about it.
5. He’s concerned about finances but doesn’t want to worry me or knows talking about it will get him angry. It could be a dissatisfaction he’s not earning more at this stage of his career. He’s not pleased with the performance of his IRA. And he can be ticked his workplace switched insurance companies and now his premium is going up. I manage most of our finances. I’m the one who worries too much. I appreciate it when he handles these financial matters that don’t necessitate my input.
6. He hasn’t figured out how to communicate what he’s feeling. Okay, sometimes he’s brewing on something he does want to talk to me about. Maybe he hasn’t figured out yet what’s bothering him. Or, he doesn’t know how to bring it up in a positive way. Communication does not work well at 9:00 at night after a stressful ten-hour day when you have to get back up at 4:30 tomorrow morning.
If I feel like he’s been stuck for more than a few days, I want to help him through it. I’ll wait until a relaxed time and tell him I’m worried about him. I remind him how proud I am of him and what a great dad he is. I affirm his abilities at work. I want him to talk to me without me pushing or nagging. Giving him the time and space to let him open up shows respect.
Photo: Flickr/ Bob Jenkin