The Distant Spouse: I Don’t want to Talk

Words can control, confuse and hurt.

If you are the reluctant spouse, you may have a big problem with “talking.”

In our culture a huge emphasis is placed upon “talking.” Those who are most verbose and “communicative” seem to dominate, whether it be the boardroom or the bedroom.

I’ve been a professional Marriage and Family Therapist since 1981 and my supervisor used to say, (with tongue in cheek), “your clients gotta come, they gotta talk and they gotta pay!”

“Talk” therapy has been the rage. The subtle message is: You are defective if you can’t talk about your feelings or significant issues.

Communication is king!

However, here you are: tongue-tied, reluctant to say what you think for feel, wanting to be quiet and feel that seething frustration of not being heard. And, yet, you don’t know what to do with your situation.

Others seem to scream at you: say more, get it out, express yourself!

And, you, plain and simple, just don’t feel safe.

Words or “talking” can confuse, hurt, control and you want to clam up.

I want you to consider these dimensions of “talking” or communication and see what you can apply to you and your relationship.

1. “Talking” is often perceived as a means to an end for your partner. The ultimate desired end is not merely talking but effective communication. Further down the need scale is the desire to be deeply and emotionally connected to someone. “Let’s talk about this” means, in essence, I want you to know me and I want to know you better. I want to feel closer to you. I want to experience that emotional connection, that closeness. S/he is approaching you out of his/her personal need system.

2. That emotional connection or closeness can happen WITHOUT talking. A look, a facial expression, a glance, a touch or a warm movement of the body may “connect.” I prefer to use the word engage rather than talk. I want to engage you.

3. Your spouse may be more of a “talker” than you. S/he relies upon verbal acumen to get what s/he wants. You may feel inadequate verbally which often leads to a one-down position in the relationship which precludes the development of intimacy or a desired emotional connection.

4. The more desperate your partner feels in terms of meeting his/her needs, the more s/he may revert to “talking.” S/he is afraid. You may not know how to respond helpfully to his/her fears; or may not be aware they exist.

5. Talking often serves as a fertile ground for triggering upset. If words can’t kill, they can certainly trigger negative thoughts and feelings. What one says, how one constructs his/her words, the tinge of judgment or accusation in a word, although not intended, may quickly and powerfully destroy any positive momentum and good feelings in the relationship. Words are a powerful trigger.

6. “Talking” may have the purpose of persuading. Your partner may have rigid expectations of a marriage and who you should be. S/he wants to persuade you to meet those expectations and create a marriage or relationship according to his/her ideas. You may see it differently.

7. We need to “talk” may mean, “I need to tell you how you must change, what is wrong with you or how you are not acting appropriately in this marriage. It’s scolding time. “Talking” is often focused on the other person; what s/he is or is not doing, feeling, thinking, etc.

8. “Talking” may be used to maintain distance. A couple “talking” does not necessarily mean you are engaging him/her at a significantly intimate level.

Please know that “talking” may not be the panacea for all your relationship problems. And your lack of “talking” is merely a sign that you have concerns that you truly want to express, but want to do so in a safe atmosphere and be fully heard, valued and respected.

You want to find your “voice.” You want to express, perhaps quietly, but powerfully, what is important and of concern to you.

You want more than “talk.” You want resolution. You want movement. You want validation. You want acknowledgement. You want to be heard.

You want space between the words!


This entry was posted in Emotional Distance, Emotional Infidelity, Infidelity Marriage, Rebuilding the Marriage or Relationship, Relationship Communication, Surviving Infidelity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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