I know what it’s like to take a daughter to college, and it’s not easy. So when a man shared this story with me, I could understand why his wife was acting the way she was. And it wasn’t her that needed to change; it was him.
After they dropped off their daughter for her freshman year of college, they intended to add a few days on to their drive home and do some sightseeing now that it was just the two of them. The well-meaning husband had planned it, thinking of his wife and how hard it might be for her to let their “little girl” go. But on the second day of their drive back, just when he thought it would be getting easier for his wife, she became moody and uncommunicative. He asked more than once what was wrong, and she simply said, “Nothing.” It really bothered him, to the point of a quick return home, because it was something she’d done before—after all, they had a college-age child, so they’d seen some highs and lows in marriage. It drove him crazy when she wouldn’t open up, even after he persisted. Finally, she told him that she had been upset since their first day, when he needed to take a work call that lasted two hours. She thought he was going to take the entire two days off. He explained that it was a busy time at work and she knew that. He also told her not to let that one little thing ruin their trip.
So what was really behind her hurt feelings and his frustration? Let’s look a little closer.
When A Woman Doesn’t Open Up To Her Husband, It’s Because She Has Learned Not To
This man didn’t understand why his wife would only reveal her feelings after multiple requests from him. He just didn’t get it; many husbands don’t. In my research, I’ve conducted thousands of interviews for the books I’ve written on relationships between men and women. I’ve found that when a woman doesn’t open up easily to her husband, it’s because she has learned not to. At some point along the way—whether it was her father, an old boyfriend, or perhaps her husband even now—a woman learns that to open up about her emotions equals a negative reaction.
He needed to consider if he had ever overreacted or reacted negatively to his wife when she did share how she was feeling. So many times, wives try to talk to their husbands about something important to them, and husbands view it as criticism, reacting suddenly and harshly. This teaches wives that their marriage is not a safe place to share their true feelings.
To Rebuild Your Wife’s Trust, Apologize . . . And Be Patient
If you’re struggling with a similar issue in your own marriage, try doing what I advised this man to do. Apologize for whatever it was that hurt your wife. In this particular husband’s situation, it was having to be on the phone when his wife needed him. The important step is to say something like, “I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t needed to be on that conference call either. Your feelings are important to me.”
Over time, this kind of response—expressed without an undercurrent of irritation—will help your wife heal from her past experiences. It slowly rebuilds trust that she can share her emotions and know that you will be able to calmly receive them. You can’t usually control a circumstance or how your wife feels, but you can control how you respond. And that can make a big difference in how you comfortable your wife feels opening up to you.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.