Silence Feels Safer

January 20, 2016

in Uncategorized

I was a bit nervous about my Rejecting What We “Don’t Deserve” post. I knew what I wanted to say, but I was unsure I could say it so women would hear it right. Based on the comments I managed.

This makes me think of something some husbands deal with all the time. Their wife doesn’t always hear what they mean when they share their thoughts and feelings. In fact, some would say she never hears what they mean. They know there’s a gender translation issue, but they feel unable to bridge the gap. I’ve heard men express frustration, confusion, and anger over this issue. Some have no idea how their words will be heard until they get their wife’s response, and some feel it’s a moving target.

Man covering his mouth © Igor|

More than a few husbands decide the safest bet is to say as little as possible. If opening his mouth gets him grief, silence is safer. If his attempts to share his feelings could end with his wife angry about something he doesn’t think and doesn’t think he said, saying nothing seems like the wiser choice.

I don’t mean to suggest this is the only reason men fail to communicate with their wives, but it’s a very real reason for many and a major factor for some.

~ Paul – I’m XY, but I speak broken XX. 

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon January 20, 2016 at 4:36 am

I go through this all the time and I’m a female. Hubby reads into wh as t I share all kinds of things I don’t intend. Cue argument. Hence silence. But God knows I faithfully listen to his sharing. I feel so cheated about this. He doesn’t even know my innermost thoughts; he doesn’t know me as a result.


Paul Byerly January 21, 2016 at 6:35 am

@Anon – So sorry he does not care enough to listen and learn.
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Me January 20, 2016 at 5:07 am

Paul, I hear what you’re saying and it’s an interesting way to look at this. My husband’s silence drives me insane, especially during a discussion or an argument, and ESPECIALLY if he rubs his forehead while being silent. I have always assumed that his silence means, “you are simply not worth talking to. You are not worth the breath or the energy it would take. You are not important enough, and you are not deserving of conversation.” And the forehead rubbing? To me that says, “this woman is driving me crazy. I don’t care about what she says or feels and I wish she would just shut up!”

We don’t argue nearly as much as we used to, but the worst is if he gets up and walks away. That is the cruelest thing a man can do. That’s like saying “I care not one whit about you. You are so worthless I will not even sit here and waste my time listening to you, even if your concerns are valid. I’m sure there’s something better on TV.” If he walks away during an argument it infuriates me. It is the most unloving thing he can do. And I think he knows it and does it for the sole purpose of making me very upset. Thankfully it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to.

I think you translate his male to my female and my female to his male way more than you realize. So thank you for that.


Henri January 20, 2016 at 9:30 am

@ME – some food for thought, from my own life.
Maybe he isn’t trying to come across the way he is. My husband is very good at walking off in the middle of MOST conversations unless he is actually sitting right next to me, even then there is no guarantee. There are a few reasons for this: 1 – he uses it as a way to diffuse a situation 2 – he uses it as time to process whats going on 3 – if he doesn’t act on something while he is thinking about it, he will forget. 4 – he is just tired and doesn’t want to deal with any of it. Yes, it would make sense to actually state all of that BEFORE you just walk off, but……..*shrug*
The rubbing of his head, he might not even realize he is doing. Mine does something similar, and it makes me feel like he is spacing out on me. But I’ve watched him do it with other people, and began to slowly realize (like years I am that slow of a learner) that its just a habit he has.
And the silence! Oh boy the silence. Some guys take a little longer to catch up with us women. Lets face it, we get other and can bounce back and forth with innuendos and what not and in the end know exactly what page we are all on. Guys, not so much.
You aren’t alone in this. Many of us, myself included have either gone through it, something similar or are still in the trenches with you.


1980B.C. January 20, 2016 at 11:01 am

I would bet a closer translation of what’s in his head is “She is too important to upset. As much as I have already upset her, I know if I say the wrong thing I’ll pour gas on this fire. I already feel like I’ve been forced to defend a position I wasn’t advocating. What am I supposed to do with that? If I let this go on, she’ll take something else wrong and that’ll upset me for days. I don’t want to be upset with my best friend. Maybe if I let her have the last word, she’ll just win and calm down. I can live with losing to her. Anyone else, I would destroy, but she’s too precious.”

A lot of it comes down to the why of the argument. Guys argue to win or there’s no point butting heads with someone. As I understand it, women argue to probe the depth of the relationship, or test the lines of communication, so to disengage is the ultimate failure of the test. Or at least that’s how I’ve learned to think of it so that I can push through the inclination to clam up when getting it from my wife. If I think of clamming up as me handing her a failure instead of me handing her a victory, my protective instincts will keep me fighting until I’m not hurting her with the resolution of the fight.


Paul Byerly January 21, 2016 at 6:39 am

@1980B.C. – Excellent thoughts all around! If I’ve not done a post on this I need to.
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Paul Byerly January 21, 2016 at 6:37 am

@Me – I get filling in thoughts and intentions when our spouse failed to give us such things – I think it’s human nature.
Lori and I have learned to check such assumptions. We do fairly well, but even after 31.98 years and a lot of good communication we still miss it regularly.
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Rico January 21, 2016 at 7:14 am

I don’t know about your husband, but in the midst of an argument I rarely am able to put together a coherent thought. Let’s face it, women are typically far better at talking on the fly than men are. Personally, in the heat of the moment I need distance in order to compose myself, figure out what it is I’m really trying to say, rather than try to match my wife word-for-word and potentially say something that could be misconstrued or hurtful.


IntimacySeeker January 20, 2016 at 10:01 am

This reminds me of your post about assumptions. The problem with the silence is we start filling in the blanks and arriving at inaccurate and sometimes ridiculous conclusions.

I have learned to give my husband the benefit of the doubt. I know he loves me and looks out for my best interests. When he doesn’t speak or says something that sounds less than loving, I know that is not because he doesn’t love me or is thinking negatively about me.

Several times, when he has grimaced at what has just rolled off his tongue, I have reassured him: “It’s okay. I know you don’t mean that the way it came out. I know you love me and do all you can to ensure my happiness. You’re a good man and I’m honored to be your wife.”

If we are going to keep making assumptions, let’s make positive assumptions. Set the bar high.


Paul Byerly January 21, 2016 at 6:41 am

@IntimacySeeker – But the truth of our assumptions is so clear in our own minds! Then confirmation bias kicks in.
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