Hi there! This post was removed from Psychology Today by the author, but you can still read it in its original form here:
Women become a pain in the ass to deal with.
Er, not exactly my point. Though I suppose it is true for some women, just like it is true for some men.
Most women eventually become not worth the effort.
Marriage is a losing battle.
I think men go silent as a result of having marriage kill their reason for living.
Once your soul is dead, what's there left to discuss?
Thank you for this blog post; I look forward to the follow-up.
I am in a relationship with a man who does just that (we actually got in a fight yesterday night over email while he was on a business trip, and he would not pick up the phone when I tried to call him to talk it out). I cannot describe the anxiety his withdrawal leaves me in.
It helps to think about things from the man's perspective.
Currently in this situation. Retail therapy worked for me today..
I think it has a lot to do with some men being raised by overbearing mothers, whose argument styles were never intended as a discussion. Fast forward to marriage, and the now-adult son has a big problem in communicating with a powerful woman who is supposed to be his equal.
I got the feeling that this essay - despite its merits - places blame on the man who keeps quiet.
This is most clearly illustrated in the passage "The retreat-pursuit pattern is particularly anxiety provoking for the person on the receiving end of the silence. It can leave her feeling abandoned and discouraged." which to me purports that the silent party is in some way victimizing the other.
I believe that while communication is of obvious necessity, the person hiding in silence is not the victimizer.
For example in section 2 "We feel outmatched" -
“She comes prepared with her arguments and I don’t.” - is it considered a good thing to be *prepared for argument*? If I walked into a bank *prepared to rob it* that wouldn't make me the victim when they respond.
“She seems to remember everything I’ve ever said or done. My mind doesn’t work like that.” - Indeed, if someone remembers one side of an interaction and their partner doesn't remember details of the interaction, it's hardly valid. It's one side and fails to consider or acknowledge the other side. That's rude, at best.
“She brings up old arguments that I thought we had settled. I don’t know how to defend against that.” Drudging up old topics can hardly have any validity in a current topic, unless it is specified to establish evidence of a pattern. Otherwise the only purpose it can possibly serve is as a straw-man argument or an attack on character to confuse the current issue.
Sometimes, it seems the more vocal party becomes so frustrated by their partner's silence that they become deliberately mean in a desperate attempt to provoke a response. Becoming deliberately mean is never a good or healthy thing.
Despite my disagreements with parts of your essay, I do believe it is a good one overall and can be helpful to those who read it.
The reason I go silent (& I'm a woman) is because I know talking won't do any good. He's solid in his opinion & offering mine won't change his mind.
Women talk things out to make sense of them, they're more verbal/ passive. Men see things as problems that need to be solved, and tend to be active, doers. If I say things the wrong way, he'll assume it's a problem that he needs to solve, and we'll then have to discuss the best plan of action, and that's tedious & usually ends with someone's feelings being hurt unnecessarily.
It's easier for me to just make sure things are pushed away from the dog's reach, or the dog is put away when I leave for work.
It's easier for me to just make sure things are pushed away from the dog's reach, or the dog is put away when I leave for work.
Even better is not having a dog. Having a pet is like saying "My house is too clean, I have too much money, not enough of my stuff is broken and there's not enough hair on my clothes nor enough stains in my household textiles... how can I change all that in one step?"
Healthy men and women express and communicate their feelings. Unhealthy men become silent (passive or passive aggressive) or they scream (aggressive). Unhealthy women nag, pester and otherwise attempt to control the situation to wrangle 'love' out of their husbands or boyfriends (borderlines, narcissists, codependents).
Why do most men tend to go silent...probably, as people have suggested, he has mommy issues or major insecurities from some kind of past trauma or wounding. The boy learned expressing feelings was a trap and now he is afraid of intimacy (and honestly, if the movie Hitch is any example, when the male Ego takes a hit, LOOK OUT! You guys love to point the finger at the crazy, baseball bat toting scorned woman, but I think you guys are in the running) he resents the expectations being placed on him, feels entitled to have his mind read and his belly fed without ever participating in Life...and more than likely, he is with a woman (I don't have the rundown on gay male couples and silent treatments)who has her own issues...pathologies are kind of like magnets, I think.
It's a big swimming pool of fear, insecurity and anger...get out and dry off, and that goes for men and women. I think at some point, a healthy woman will tap out of the emotional tug-of-war...like okay, you have deep seeded trust issues, you think I am some kind of enemy out to get you and I'm tired of asking, and I'm not going to beg and this sin't a contest or a trap...no trust, no love, good bye.
I think this post is very insightful. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Well, you nailed my last relationship and the problems in my current long distance relationship. Whether (or not) nature vs nurture, we all deserve the chance to figure out how to be happy from within ourselves. Getting out of this patterning can feel like emotional suicide till you figure out that staying is emotional suicide
My husband clams up and I don't think it's b/c of my nagging (i rarely nag) but b/c of his self esteem. He's always told me he doesn't think of much of himself, he's ugly, he's got a weird shaped head, he's too fat, he makes women depressed. I disagreed with one thing with his parenting style once and asked him to do it differently and he hardly spoke to me or the kids for nearly 2 days. MAN when his ego gets bruised it effects us all. I'm so sick of it!!! I don't nag specifically b/c i'm trying to think of things to make him feel better, all the while i'm going crazy myself. "More likely he is with a woman who has her own issues" true, i have issues galore but surprisingly all the ones i have with him are typical man things. he won't play with the kids and when he's home he wants to be on the kindle or on the computer. anyways..just wanted to say thanks for ur insight.
You sound like a real charmer.
I would never marry an A-hole like you.
Sometimes I wonder who died and made "communication" king? Is it because it's something that psychotherapists can actually work on in the room, as opposed to, say, basic sexual compatibility?
What I've seen more of is not that the couple has a hard time communicating, it's that the partners can't stand what's actually being communicated!
Focusing on communication as the key marital issue is like looking for lost keys at night. Yeah, it's easier to look under the street lamp, but that doesn't mean you'll find them.
What I've also found in most happy marriages is that when sex is working, there are very few communications problems. However, the inverse is not true. There are plenty of good communicating couples where the sex is a mess, and the partners in that relationship are still miserable.
Don't reify the street lamp.
Hi Anonymous, you make a good point. One of the things I've observed in working with couples (and in my own marriage) is that it is not necessarily healthy to discuss every little thing. There should be a few benign and benevolent walls in a marriage. And yes, things seem to go better in a marriage when the sex is good. That may be a chicken-and-egg question (which came first, the good sex or the good marriage?) but what does it matter which came first? Good sex makes everyone happier. You're right, a good relationship doesn't always boil down to words.
Umm I have had hot and heavy sexual relationships where the communication was horrible. Sex isnt king and neither is communication. The real reason I didnt communicate well with those I just mentioned is because besides the hot sex we had absolutely nothing in common.
I have noticed that those who think sex is overly important are those that value sex above everything else, those who have had limited sexual partners or those that are hardly getting any.
What I'm saying is not that sex between two married partners is overly important, but that it is JUST as important as talking.
Do you agree?
In my experience, it depends entirely on the couple. Some couples are happy with a minimal or no sex life. The key is whether they negotiated it together, or whether one partner is imposing celibacy on the other.
The real issue happens when people's feelings about sex change during their relationship. It seems you are allowed to change your job, change your faith, change your geography, change your politics, change what you eat, change your friends, change your therapist, change your interests, change your hobbies....but if you change how you feel about sex, you're in trouble unless your partner changes exactly as you do.
6) Silence is often better than critique.
I do this and my husband wants to talk. Not sure if its the same with males but I know for me, I need to process things or i go silent first to keep myself from saying something hurtful. I am an introvert also so perhaps waiting to speak is more normal for me even though I am a women.
As a mother of three, I have come to believe there is some truth to gender stereotypes. I really tried to keep Barbies away from my daughters and get my son talking about his feelings. As a young mother, I just knew I could raise my kids not to follow gender stereotypes. Wrong. My children aren't forced into gender stereotypes... they trot along quite willingly. The first time my girls saw a Barbie, it was over. They loved them. Ug. And my son was quite verbose from the age of 15 months on. He was my youngest so by the time he came along, I had read several parenting books, including those about helping your children learn the language of feelings, and I thought I was pretty good at it. My children are now teenagers. My daughters can express quite well (sometimes too well!) how they feel about a particular situation. My son can give you a detailed explanation about black holes, supernovas and things I still don't understand, but the minute feelings come up, it's like a barrier comes up in the part of his brain that controls speech. I think people are just wired they way they are wired. And while my kids do live out many gender stereotypes, I guess the good thing that has happened is that they aren't forced into them or stuck in them. But, this article about men being silent definitely rings true in my house.
Yes, was true in my marriage too. And I can assure you - it´s the worst feeling ever when you are getting a silence treatment. You can´t ignore the other person more than that.
I tried working my side of the silent treatment... I read "Women cant hear what men dont say", I studied Non-Violent Communication (NVC). But I came to the conclusion that silence is disrespectful passive aggressive act that women need to actively protect themselves from.
I'm not talking about silence at the time of a heated moment, which is then overridden by the silent party checking back in to resolve the difficulty. I'm talking about a pervading silence that prevents anything from ever being resolved.
In the book Too good to leave, Too bad to stay - this pattern is referred to as "off the tableitis". One partner puts an issue on the table to be resolved and the other refuses to acknowledge there is anything on the table or engage with their partner to resolve the issue.
I realized that this was infecting my marriage and I couldn't maintain my self respect and tolerate this any longer. I moved out, after being with my husband for over 20 years as I had no ability to resolve any difficulty when the difficulty would not even be acknowledged. I thought that was the end of the relationship but then something changed in those 3 months .....either he 'got it' but tis more likely I 'demanded' (damn straight), that I would no longer tolerate what, i believe, is an intolerable immature defense mechanism! Beware - making this healthy choice for yourself could have you labelled a "ball-buster".
Interesting that as a psychologist you too have been known to go silent during conflict.
Good luck to all you "turtles" and "hailstorms" - a description picked up at a "Get the love you want" workshop (see told you I tried lots of stuff). Participants were asked to go on one side of the room if they were a turtle and the other if they were a hailstorm......yes...you guessed it it was an almost perfect segregation of the sexes..... Of course we only become hailstorms because that shell is so goddamn inpenertrable :-)
I also think maintaining silence is a power play.
The greatest threat to marriage is long term disengagement. And wehn you get older you don't put up with it.
But for slightly different reasons for me. This might sound unbelieveable, but at 30 years old, I have never experienced an argument with a woman I was in a relationship with. Not one, even a small one. The only two women I've ever been with (at age 18 and at age 23) were long-distance (think Kip from Napoleon Dynamite) and the first 'fight' ended those relationships, they cut off all contact. I have no experience whatsoever with that kind of intimacy, trust and emotional intensity. The point is, when I read an article like this I think, 'wow, I'm just like any other guy who would go silent, feeling overmatched', but if this happens to guys WITH experience, or married guys, what hope is there for someone who can't even conceive what it's like to be in an intimate relatioship on that level (good OR bad aspects)?....I don't even know if this flurry of electrons will be read, but I don't care, I'm that desperate for knowledge about it...
There are people for kip n you'll find your lafawndah one day and when you do just answer her honestly if she tries to argue. try not to fix every thing if she comes to you with complaints about things all the time. Women often complain to men wanting sympathy, not a fix unless .. But sometimes they do but always with an underlying need to just be heard.
I have never felt like a good communicator myself and I am a now twenty five year old woman (which is still hard for me to believe). I have a few close friends that seem stuck in their teenage years so I feel like its hard to ask for advice and I scare a little at the prospect of talking to new people, exciting but scary when those situations actually present themselves.
I am now in a relationship with a very sweet humble guy who defends women is above the whole male domination thing. He seems to be quiet when he has to address things...like he won't even if it is small it's like he is really afraid to question me which just makes me wonder. I try to be a better communicator but I feel like I need him to step up too, and he doesn't always. Is it better to let things slide? It just seems kind of insulting sometimes like he thinks I wouldn't handle something so small very well. If I am not given a chance I will never know though. Sometimes I wonder if it is still my fault for the silence that I try so hard to get away from, like it has tramatized me.
"I came to the conclusion that silence is a disrespectful passive aggressive act that women need to actively protect themselves from.
I'm not talking about silence at the time of a heated moment... I'm talking about a pervading silence that prevents anything from ever being resolved."
I experienced this, too. Even our marriage counselor couldn't help my husband with it. I finally gave up and withdrew more and more myself. I made my own life as happy as possible and finally had to leave. Perhaps it was what he wanted all along? Even if he'd tried, however imperfectly, it would have helped. I wasn't looking for dazzling verbal skills. I was hoping for signs that he cared.
Hi Shawn really interesting article I truly believe its very important for women to understand how men act in relationships. The five points that you have outlined are bang on point. Its really been conditioned in men to not talk sometimes, and many are doing this out of a false sense of identity as you have stated. I can understand why this is fustrating for women but inorder to unlock them women are going to need to know which key fits the lock! Thanks Shawn.
Hi Dr. Smith, I really enjoyed this read. It's been a few years since I've been in a relationship, well actually, found someone that was of my high level in standards. It's rare to find a female like me ambitious and ahead in life at my age so it was rare to find a male that matched me. I always thought there was something wrong with me for the longest time because drinking, smoking, or doing drugs was never appealing to me. Fitness and achieving goals is what makes my life feel happy.
When the relationship started out, I thought it would go better since we were so similar and my degree in Psychology. I only have my Bachelors, but I will be starting my Masters program this Sept- along with PsyD afterwards, also becoming a licenses psychologist as you are now. It's funny how I know the ways of making situations better yet I find myself in those situations and emotionally, I ashame myself.
I'm good at communication but after my boyfriend is quiet, it starts to anger me more. I guess because I feel that I'm making an effort and I assume he's not. I've pushed him a few times to open up and talk and when I do, he starts to raise his voice. He says it's because my voice was loud but to me, it wasn't. Usually when I say... hey.. why is your voice loud? Mine isn't.. then he stops and lowers his voice. I think sometimes people aren't aware of the volumn of their voice when upset.
It's always over simple things too and he seems to draw it out. When something gets me mad, okay.. let's talk about it and move on. I hate things to be brought up again. Even though we are so much alike in interest and future wise, our communication styles are different. However, we have both been dealing with a lot of stress... job issues with him and my mother having heart issues.
He has told me before that people get the wrong idea of him because he is quiet. I try to remind myself that he might be that way towards me too sometimes but he's told me I'm the one person he talks to the most right now.
He's good at seeming to take an interest in me though emotionally... literally, everytime I sigh, he asks whats wrong? But most of the time I sigh bc I'm breathing or because it feels good to relax. When I say just breathing or not a thing, he usuaully drops it which is nice.
Our relationship is fairly new, it's only been a month and we have spent every day together. We have not had a big fight yet. We support each other and work out every day, cook food together, watch documentaries together, and try to be active. I would never spend this much time with someone but I've never found anyone like this before. Usually, guys annoy me.
Anyways, thank you for your article. I really enjoyed reading it, even though in the back of my mind, I knew this. It was nice to have a refresher. I'm going to try to give him space when he's upset and also try to think more before I speak so I don't start any friskyness.
I've noticed when he's mad and being quiet, I'll tell him to stop and like kiss his cheek or something or say something funny, usually hell crack a smile and it will break that wall hes holding up... a suggestion for other females I think.
Thanks for a great article - this was really helpful!
Just want to update you, that Luis came to my work today, he was amazing towards me, just wanted to hold me and kiss me, I don't know what you've done, but that was absolutely amazing, he was all over me, I want to thank you so much for that, you are my angel send from God. I don't know what to say, that was amazing, I have never seen him like that. He just wanted to hold me and kiss me. I thank God everyday for knowing you and having you in my life. I promise to tell whole world about your good work. Ancientfathersandmothers@gmail.com That is the email to get to this kind man Dr. Lee again it is: Ancientfathersandmothers@gmail.com
This is the third time my partner has left me and went silent. First time was when we bought a house, even though it wasn't the one he really wanted he went along with it anyway. We had been together 3 years. He is the most generous kind man, but he has an alter ego and can be very cruel. A couple of months down the line after buying the house one morning he just told me he didn't love me. I was stunned and devastated. Anyhow, he actually moved his stuff out and left. I tried to move on for the sake of my two children who were young at the time (he isn't their father) but he treated them very well. He has a son from a former marriage who he kept in regular contact with and his son came to stay with us often and we all holidayed together, although his son was quite distant and wanted his dad to himself, which I could understand when he was young. To cut a long story short, he came back asked for forgiveness and made up a story about why he left, one of it made sense. Then five years down the line he said he was leaving again, no reason. I think it was because we had an extension to the kitchen, again he didn't really want to but found it easier to agree ( this was realised in hindsight) So instead of breaking down and letting him see I was devastated , I booked a holiday with the girls, put the house on the market and said this is the last time you leave me. After weeks he came begging back and asked me to marry him. At first I refused but after his persistence and the fact I love him deeply, I agreed. We have just had many happy years together, but for the last year his son , who's now 26 came to live with us. He doesn't make freinds as he is obsessed with money and doesn't like to spend so he was sitting with us every night while my partner waited in him hand and foot and would not let him do anything. My kids just sad it wasn't natural. After a few months I started mentioning that it wasn't right him sitting with us each evening and he also cam with us when we went out and wouldn't pay for anything. I began to mention this a lot but my partner would not discuss it. Eventually I was so angry I told him what I thought and said it's about time his son stood on his own two feet. He has a good job but just saves his. He would just tell me to leave it it was not up for discussion. One night when I said this couldn't continue he said we should split up as we weren't getting along? The day earlier he had made me the most fantastic dinner, as he usually does, and was just holding my hand and being affection at as he was previously before he left. I said it's about your son and the fact that you won't admit I am right not to put up with this. That was four months ago and I have seen him once, he has his own company and one of the ladies who works there has said he talks about me the whole time as if we are still together. My partner had a domineering mother and an abusive step father, so I know he has issues,that's why I stand by him, because apart from these 'episodes' you couldn't meet a more generous or kinder man. I'm still in limbo as he won't talk but I think this is really the most extreme case of withdrawal? I would be interested in any comments people may have.
Shawn Smith is a licensed psychologist in Denver, Colorado.