Inside His Head: Husband walks away, gives her the silent treatment

Relationship advice from husbands

Dear Inside His Head,

It’s usually the wife who’s accused of giving the silent treatment, but in our house, my husband is the master of this one. It drives me CRAZY. When we argue I try to talk through a problem, but he ends up clamming up and walking away. Then he won’t talk to me for hours, saying he doesn’t want to argue again.

I’m not sure what to do here, but we need to talk things out when one of us has a problem with each other. I don’t want our issues to cause a deeper issue in our marriage later. From a guy’s point of view, what’s a better way to talk to him when I’m upset about something? How can I explain how frustrating it is when he walks away and refuses to talk to me? This is making me really unhappy.

Inside His Head husbands answer anonymous questions from NWA momsGRAY: My parents argued nearly every day when I was growing up and it can be a very ugly thing.

When you’re upset you can exaggerate, resort to idle threats and generally be disrespectful when attacking your spouse and none of that addresses the real reason you’re fighting. Or worse, in the heat of the moment you’ll start on one issue only to have it spill over into dozens of gripes all at once.

Though it’s hardly appropriate for either of you to turn your back on the problems the other is facing, sometimes it can feel like all you are doing is spewing venom at each other and not actually fixing things.

Start by not getting into an argument when you feel upset. Take a few breaths to calm down and think about your issue and why you feel things need to be changed. Nothing is wrong with a civil talk about important issues, but minor peeves can seem huge when you’re caught up in the moment. With cooler heads we realize some issues might not be as important as we initially felt.

There are other ways to resolve issues than through confrontation. Asking him to put dinner on the grill because it’s going to take ½ hour for you to pick up his dirty laundry can show him the problem you’re dealing with without yelling at him to pick up his clothes as if he was still a child. It may be a little passive-aggressive, but sometimes it drives the point home.

If you absolutely can’t avoid the argument, make sure it’s for the right reasons and not about empty paper towel rolls or which way the toilet paper is facing. Respect each other, make sure you’re not picking fights with each other on days when you’re already feeling like a train wreck and always try to have more hours of happiness than ones spent butting heads.

MAVERICK: In these situations men clam up because they don’t want to say something they might regret. We walk away for the same reason — to remove ourselves from the temptation to get angry or say something hurtful.

If your partner is doing this stuff a lot you’re facing two possible situations:

One: Your style of “argument” is petty, aggressive and pushes him into a fight or flight state of mind, and he’s choosing flight since he’s afraid of what he might say if he stands his ground and fights.

Two: He’s trying to manipulate you.

Assuming he’s not playing you, you need to really examine situations where your husband stopped talking or walked away. To see if maybe things had simply become too heated for anything constructive to happen.

Maybe in his mind he was smart or being considerate by shutting his trap rather than reacting with anger to what you’ve said during the argument. Men don’t tend to just say things for the sake of saying them. We tend to take the things we say pretty seriously. That’s why chatty dudes are really pretty rare creatures.

Also, simply consider where you’re coming from here. Your insisting he stay and “talk” to you when clearly the situation has escalated so much a grown man (who we have determined isn’t trying to manipulate you) thinks he needs to walk away from it. Just because you’d rather stay there and I expect scream at each other, it doesn’t make him an uncommunicative jerk not to play along.

So, I guess,  in simple terms try not to be aggressive during an “argument” that he feels the need to clamp his mouth shut or put some serious space between you and him.

Second, if he does go silent or walk way, let him. Allow him to cool off. Maybe you should be cooling off, too. Maybe saying everything on your mind isn’t the best way to go. Then bring up the subject again later when you’re both calm and feeling objective. Maybe after a cocktail. Don’t do it when you’re getting ready to go to bed or during a meal.

A bad way to bring up the subject might be something like: “Gee, you tick me off when you shut up/walk way from me when we’re having a big fight. What’s your deal? Did you have to go cry or something, you big baby?”

A better way might me: “Crap, sorry things got so bad you felt you had to stop talking all together/leave the room. What did I say to make you that angry? Can we talk calmly about issue X now?”

The bottom line is you both clearly have different ways of dealing with conflict. You might want to look closely at yours  and see if it’s counterproductive.

If you really do want to have a honest discussion with your husband, give his concerns and needs equal value. Maybe you should take your husband’s hint and change your tactics.

Got a question for our anonymous panel of husbands? Send it to mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com