We need to talk: How to make him open up

While women feel better once they open up about a problem, for men it’s exactly the reverse.

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What you need to know:

  • Men just don’t get subtle hints and suggestions either.
  • Step one is to avoid ambushing him.

Is your husband happy to discuss difficult issues with you? Probably not. But it’s not just you. Because all through their childhood, men are socialised to keep their thoughts to themselves. So, your husband probably doesn’t reveal all that much to his male friends either.

And even if he can be persuaded to talk, he probably isn’t as comfortable discussing personal matters as you are.

His perspective on the world is also very different from yours. So don’t assume you understand his point of view. Or assume that he shares yours. Because he probably doesn’t.

Men just don’t get subtle hints and suggestions either. And ‘if he loved me, he’d know what I was thinking’ doesn’t apply to men at all. Instead, always be 100 per cent clear. He really doesn’t know what you’re thinking, so if you want him to know something, come right out and tell him.

And don’t wait too long. Because most problems in a marriage get worse rather than better if you don’t tackle them.

Open up about a problem

So if there’s something on your mind, start thinking about how to get him talking. Step one is to avoid ambushing him. Because while women feel better once they open up about a problem, for men it’s exactly the reverse.

They need time to sort out their thoughts before they discuss an issue. So give him plenty of time to think things through. Pressing a man to talk before he’s ready rarely works out well.

Instead, set up a meeting. Say something like: ‘I think we should talk about this, that, and the other. Can we sit down together tomorrow evening?’ Agree the agenda, and he’ll come prepared. And be less likely to try to wriggle out of the conversation.

Sit at a table, with cups of tea, your agenda, and notepaper. You’ll be surprised how much better the conversation will go.

Partly that’s because the agenda makes the conversation predictable. And breaks it into bite-sized chunks. But it’s also because the meeting format creates a set of expectations about politeness and so on.

Not listening

Things might still get tense, of course, but don’t meet anger with anger or you’ll both end up yelling and not listening. Instead talk about how the two of you can lower the temperature.

Men often feel that their views are not respected by their partners. So ask yourself if you tend to give him a hard time in your discussions. Because he’ll soon stop talking to you if you do. Or start telling you an edited version of the truth, rather than the real thing.

So work on being less judgemental and easier to talk to. And be really nice to him any time he opens up. Especially if he’s listening to you without criticising or offering advice.

Because if talking with you is a pleasant experience, he’ll gradually do it more often. But if you always give him a hard time, he’ll go on keeping quiet.

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