“My husband won’t communicate with me, how do I get him to talk?” is one of the most common questions I receive from wives.
I understand the frustration of trying to engage with an uncommunicative husband: it was the story of our marriage at the beginning.
I also know the complications of destructive communication habits because we made the mistakes: He withdrew, I pursued him and we never caught up.
In this post, I will show you how not to follow in my steps by sharing 12 things you should do when your husband doesn’t communicate.
Now, I am well aware that a husband not communicating is his problem, not his wife’s.
I am in no way affirming the notion that wives are the keepers of the marriage, that whenever a husband does wrong, it’s likely the wife’s fault: that she’s not doing enough.
That’s not my belief: A healthy marriage takes two. Two mature grownups who had the mind to get married should have the mind to stay married.
My goal with this post is to help you take responsibility for the part of marriage you are responsible for – yourself. Your husband has his own considerable responsibility. He should grow and learn to engage because that’s what he signed for when he married you.
But (yes, the dreaded but), just because your husband has his own growing to do doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you to do. Marriage does not have a “fold my arms and wait for change” lane. Instead, marriage is a relationship built on love and love is active, giving and growing.
So this post is about giving you ideas so you can be an an aid (and not a hindrance) in your marriage.
With that clarification out of the way, let’s dive in.
12 things a wife should to do when her husband doesn’t communicate
1. Remember, he might be feeling overwhelmed
Some of the communication issues my husband and I experienced at the beginning of our marriage stemmed from the fact that I expected him to be like one of my female friends.
I unloaded a lot of emotions and information, fully expecting him to connect the dots with me, ooh and aah in all the right places, and keep that loop going. But the conversations left him exhausted.
Generally, women are used to talking about their emotions and connecting through conversation with other women. Men are not used to talking about their emotions with other men or using conversation for emotional connection. Source: Joanna Childs
When your husband doesn’t communicate, consider that what is familiar territory to you is foreign to him.
Certainly, he should wrestle through and eventually overcome that feeling of wanting to run away any time he’s overwhelmed. But as his wife, knowing some of his internal struggles can ease the sting of withdrawal.
2. Know your differences
This point is closely related to #1 but let’s explore another angle.
As women, we tend to use communication to hash out a problem. We like to solve through talking. On the other hand, men tend to solve the problem first and then communicate the solution and action plan.
According to an article by Focus on the family, “Men tend to use language to transmit information, report facts, fix problems, clarify status, and establish control. Women are more inclined to view language as a means to greater intimacy, stronger or richer relationships, and fostering cooperation rather than competition.”
His different communication style may very well be rooted in his basic wiring.
If you feel like your husband is less talkative than you’d want, perhaps take a peek into his world: Understand his default first and then make adjustments in your communication as needed.
3. Check your timing
When it comes to communication, timing is half the battle.
As newlyweds and whenever we had conflict, I wanted to sit down and iron out every single detail right away. Thus, to me, it felt very reasonable to wake my husband up at 2 am to discuss an issue from the previous evening.
Of course, being woken up at 2 am to talk about how he refused to talk was not his cup of tea.
So off we’d go on another roller-coaster ride.
Timing is key: Just because you are feeling burdened doesn’t mean any-time is talk-time.
Overloading your husband with information about the day, the kids, the house, or what’s going on with the family very late in the night, right when he’s about to leave home or right when he walks through the door in the evening might not give you what you are looking for.
I’ve learned that many husbands appreciate some buffer time when they get home: a time to decompress and switch modes. Timing your communication to allow for this may yield more favorable results.
4. Yes, he might hate conflict
Some people genuinely dislike conflict. And so they will go to any lengths to avoid it, including withdrawing from the issues (or person) that is causing the conflict.
Tommy and I love feeling connected, so we don’t like conflict. But we’ve also learned that avoiding conflict in the name of keeping the peace will ultimately lead to the absence of the said peace.
One way to encourage a husband who avoids conflict is to avoid have conversations that feel like nagging or negative talk. Not easy, I know. But it’s possible to commit to trying.
(I acknowledge some husbands will use the “my wife is a nag” line to avoid taking responsibility when a wife is raising up important relationship problems. A wife can use her good sense to figure out when a husband is deflecting. Most good-willed husbands will recognize when a wife is raising important issues and try not to address them.)
Husbands are actually more sensitive that wives realize, and they may choose no communication at all over going through the communication grinder.
If your spouse is passive and withdrawn, I invite you to check out my new course How To Navigate Conflict in Marriage, where we cover, among other topics, what to do when your husband is passive or withdraws. This course is for the wife who is tired of living with unresolved issues and desires healing and connection in marriage. Check it Out Now.
5. Sift your expectations
A while back, my husband was talking to another husband, and he observed that most men don’t appreciate the amount of talking and connection marriage requires.
And most wives don’t understand they have an advantage over their men because talking and connecting comes naturally to them.
His point was that men should embrace their “disadvantage” instead of acting out or withdrawing because they feel like failures. He believed acceptance is key to growth. And instead of fighting the obvious, embrace it and then work on how to get from where you are to where your marriage needs you to be.
My husband made a great point, and I learned something as well: wives too must make adjustments in their expectations.
When your husband seems like he’s in-over-his-head, show empathy, and understanding instead of emphasizing the gap. If he is generally a good guy, he might very well be wrestling with the complexities of a marriage connection and your high expectations of him.
6. Create space to just listen
This one may seem confusing in a post about what to do when you feel “my husband doesn’t communicate,” but the idea here is to try and create space for him to talk without interruption or expectation.
In other words, don’t let all your communication be all about his lack of communication. Do your best to model how healthy interactions look like.
For example, you can ask him about a topic he enjoys, such as a sport or activity, video game, movie, TV-series, or book he loves. Let him share as much as he wants and just listen.
Pursuing this type of connection can affirm him, reduce tensions and begin to build goodwill.
7. Balance deposits and withdrawals.
The idea here is to balance out the “withdrawals” and “deposits.”
When you are intentional about creating positive interactions, you can balance out the negative ones.
According to the Gottman Institute, there is a ratio of positive to negative interactions that are needed for healthy, balanced relationships, “That “magic ratio” is 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy marriage has five (or more) positive interactions.”
Positive communications can include affirmations, declarations of love, humor, sharing a funny story from your day, apologies, or making plans for the future.
8. Don’t forget you are on the same team
When your husband doesn’t communicate, it’s easy to feel like it’s “you” Vs “him”, fighting to get what you want. But the truth is, you and your spouse are in this marriage together.
You are on the same team, and you’re likely after the same goal: a happy, healthy, satisfying, and sanctifying marriage.
But maybe you feel like your husband has a different goal. Even then, you are only accountable for your choices and decisions, not his.
You can’t force him to share your dream for a happy, healthy marriage, but you can do your part because that’s the only space you control.
Please note: I am not talking about enabling unhealthy behavior or being manipulated and controlled. If your relationship is toxic, make sure to also read these posts, Why Couples Divorce – 7 Common Reasons , Christian Marriage and Divorce – When You Have Done Enough
9. Avoid blaming
Going back to the “you” Vs “him” phrasing when your husband doesn’t communicate (#8.) When he doesn’t connect, the temptation is to let him know exactly how his disconnection is affecting you.
I know the pull because I was the master of details when my husband withdrew. I thought explaining everything to the last possible detail, using the “you made me feel” framing, would inform him and inspire him to reconnect.
Unfortunately, it seemed the more I explained, the more unsettled he became.
Later, I came to learn that “You” messages, such as saying, “you made me feel ….when you….” communicate blame, not connection.
Instead of communicating perspective or information, these words can come off as an attack and put your husband on the defensive.
But “I” messages communicate what you are feeling without putting the blame solely on him.
“I” messages are self-responsible statements that include your perception of a situation, your feelings, your interpretations, your needs, desires & wants, or even a contract statement, such as “can we agree to….” that start with “I.” Source
10. Don’t yell at your spouse
When you are frustrated, it can feel really good at the moment to vent your anger at your husband. Unfortunately, that feeling is fleeting and does more damage than good.
Sometimes we assume that words said in anger or the heat of the moment don’t count. That we can go back and undo them with other words, “I am sorry I yelled. I was upset.”
But being angry does not justify hurtful behavior. Words spoken in anger or the heat of the moment count. They continue to play in the background, long after the moment has passed.
When your husband doesn’t talk, remember your end goal: deeper and more frequent communication. Raising your voice in a heated exchange will not serve that goal.
11. Don’t look to your spouse to satisfy all of your needs
*In which wives clutch their pearls*
Because we’ve believed that marriage is supposed to meet our deepest desires and longings.
Here is the truth though: Marriage is not meant to satisfy our deepest desires and longings. If it did, it would be god.
The One who was meant to fulfill all our deepest longings is Jesus. When we look to Him first, before we look to our spouses, we get perspective and that perspective regulates our expectations in marriage.
Further, Christ gives us the wisdom and discernment so we know when to go the extra mile and when not to. (see #12)
Yes, we should enjoy marriage and seek to make each other happy. Misery is not the goal of marriage! But for the most part, happiness is something we all cultivate from the inside and then bring into the relationship.Yes, we should enjoy marriage and seek to make each other happy. Misery is not the goal of marriage! But happiness is something we all cultivate from the inside first..
Moreover, the beauty of humanity is the variety of relationships we’re afforded, including family and friends. They also serve to meet our relational needs.
When your husband doesn’t communicate, remember those other relationships in your life. Call up a friend, go for coffee or a walk. Have a sit-down with a mentor.
Pick up a hobby you love and develop yourself. Enjoy your family and friends. You do these things, not to ignore a disconnected husband or alienate him, but to be all God created you to be.
You are more than your marriage. You can have a life; you can enjoy other relationships that God has blessed you with. And in so doing, you will find refreshment and affirmation at the soul-level, and your marriage issues will feel less overwhelming.
12. Clearly communicate your boundaries and expectations
As a marriage coach, I have observed two scenarios when a wife feels her husband doesn’t communicate.
Scenario 1: Wife craves deeper emotional connection through communication, and she hopes the husband will know it, intuitively.
She doesn’t tell him what she wants because such communication feels unnatural, unromantic, or weak (she’s struggling to accept her needs, often sees them as a defect.)
Scenario 2: Wife has communicated her needs over and over again. She has clearly expressed her desires and tried to do all the things we’ve discussed in this post. But her husband is still withdrawn, for the most part, and she’s at her wit’s end.
If you are the wife in scenario 1, and alongside practicing the things we’ve talking about in this post, I propose you check out this post: Embracing My Need to Talk and Understanding His Need to Process. Unknown needs cannot be met.
If you are the wife in scenario 2, consider creating some boundaries in your marriage. You are not helpless. His withdrawal, hurtful and paralyzing as it may be, doesn’t mean the end of yourself. You can cultivate a healthy environment and communicate that environment (firmly and respectfully) to him.
Taking the step to create a healthy atmosphere for yourself in a difficult marriage can make the difference between living a frustrating life or a healthy life.
In my course, How to Navigate Conflict in Marriage, we talk about how to live with a difficult spouse and the importance of marriage boundaries, among many lessons. I share why boundaries are a must in a problematic marriage, and we cover the exact things to say, so you don’t leave anything out. Sign Up Now.
Navigating seasons of conflict with an uncommunicative spouse is hard. But I hope these 12 steps offer some ideas and possible next steps to help heal communication with your husband.
Your turn: I’d love to hear from you! What can a wife do when her husband doesn’t communicate? What’s one thing that has made the difference in your communication? Let’s talk in comments!
Acknowledgement: With thanks to Ashley Harris, who holds a psychology degree for helping frame thoughts in this post.