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Weekly Marriage Blog

What's Wrong, Honey?

By Dr. David Clarke, Ph.D

The Big Idea

What to do when your spouse is upset and says: "I don't want to talk about it."

The Teaching

Your spouse is angry, upset, hurt and you know it.  Everyone in the family knows it, including the pets.  But, your spouse doesn't want to talk about it.  When asked what's wrong, the typical man may say: "Nothing."  Which is a big fat lie.  Instead of yelling, "Liar!," say: "I know you're upset about something and you're not ready to talk about it.  When you're ready, let me know and we will have a private conversation about it. I love you and want to know what is bothering you, whether it is about me or not."
If he does not come to you after one day, I recommend you ask him one last time to talk to you when he's ready.  That will be the last time you ask. 

When asked what's wrong, the typical woman may say: "Really? I think it's pretty obvious why I'm upset. If you don't know, I'm certainly not going tell you." This response drives men crazy, because we really don't know what is bothering you. It's easy to get frustrated and angry at this point and to  say something snarky about how you can't read her mind.  I have been guilty of this.  Of course, this does not motivate her to tell you what is wrong.  It makes her even more hurt and angry.  

I recommend that you men say to her: "Honey, maybe I should know what is wrong, but I don't. I love you and want you to talk out whatever is bothering you, whether it is about me or not. When you are ready to talk, I am ready to have a private conversation about it." 

If at that point, she walks away without telling you, let her go. Wait about 5 minutes, and then go to her and say: "Honey, I am sorry you are upset.  Are you ready to talk?" Women like to be pursued and they need to know you truly want to hear what they have to say.  So, this kind of pursuit is important.  If she still isn't ready to talk, say: "That's okay.  I am ready to talk when you are."  At this point, let it go and wait for her to come to you. 

You will find a ton of effective communication strategies in my book: Honey, We Need to Talk.   

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