There’s an old joke that women like silent men because they think they’re listening. My experience is that the opposite is true. When men are silent about their wants everyone suffers.
Women are often able to talk to their girlfriends about everything and anything (Sex in the City is evidence of this.) Often men don’t have the same level of intimacy with their golf buddies or rotary friends.
I’ve had several experiences where a woman arrives wanting a bigger home and after the man is invited to be truthful he reluctantly admits he thinks economically it’s a bad idea. There have been at least three occassions where the couple did not return to therapy after the man shared an honest opinion. There was an episode of Friday Night Lights where the central couple of the show went through the same buy-a-house dilemna only they listened to each other. The wife didn’t want to be dismissed, she wanted to be taken seriously and then she was able to listen to the practical “No” from her partner. I loved that it could be different on T.V.
Too often men don’t say what they really want and don’t want. Then the couple ends up in divorce or separation negotiations or the man has an affair. It’s very sad to listen to a man say he’s scared of his wife (or vice versa) and then they go on to list all the things that they’ve swallowed. “I don’t want to always go on vacation with your family.” “I want money to go towards a new car not a new sofa.” “I want to have fun, our routine is stifling.” “I want to be respected when I express my ideas.” etc. etc.
Trouble in relationships is always about both people. Men are silent and women make up how to fill in the blanks. He must feel _______ and then women get in the habit of telling men how they feel. Something I’ve heard thousands of times is “Don’t tell me how I feel.” Assumptions are lethal to all relationships. I often teach women to ask men more questions and work to interrupt a waterfall of statements and conclusions. Men (& Women) keep silent; to go along, show love, not rock the boat, because talking is painful and avoiding is easier.There are always a myriad of reasons to deflect discomfort in the short run which creates huge long term problems. One test of an honest, healthy relationship is that there is always room for disagreement. There must be room for two opinions because there will always be differences. Acknowledging differences offers a richness of perspective because two points of view have merit.
If a woman has high expectations and builds her idea of life without input from a partner…..she will be left high and dry. If you assume your sex life naturally fades away and since he’s not talking about it, it must be o.k. You are Wrong. Most Men are very grounded in an active sex life, they feel close because of sex. Women can too easily let go of sex as being important. Men allow this to happen with their silence.
Men want sex. Men want their opinion to count. Men want to feel respected. Men want to feel they have equal power instead of just being along for the ride. Men must learn to speak up before it’s too late and they’re ready to leave or have affairs. Women and Men partnered with silent men need to ask questions and listen to disagreement. You may really be wrong about what’s important to your silent partner.
What compounds the silence is when men give up. They give up and decide it’s not worth it to fight for what they want. Then they show up in therapy when it’s too late. One of the hardest things I face is when a couple comes in and one partner knows in their heart it’s too late. That point of no return makes me feel like a eunuch, because I have no magic.