Sometimes the reason for a guy’s silence is obvious: He’s engrossed in work; he’s concentrating on Angry Birds; he’s crammed so much burger into his mouth that he’s incapable of making a sound. But there are also times when his tight-lipped state is a total mystery… and that’s when it can have a negative effect on your relationship. ‘A women will often take a man’s silence to be a bad thing because she assumes it means that he doesn’t want to communicate with her or that he just doesn’t care,’ says Dr William July, author of Understanding The Tin Man (Broadway). It doesn’t help that when he sees that his silence is hurting you or making you angry; he just feels even more pressure to say the right thing… and becomes even less likely to talk. Luckily, you can break the cycle by understanding why he shuts up in the first place.
Think about it: Boys are taught that when they’re hurt they’re supposed to simply dust themselves off without expressing pain. Then, when they start dating, women convey that not being emotional is bad. This leaves guys not only ill-prepared for dealing with feelings, but also completely frustrated with the mixed signals. ‘Being emotional is a frightening place for many men to be,’ July says.
And it’s not just the thought of himself breaking down that mortifies a guy. It’s also the possibility that you’ll break down while the two of you discuss an important issue and he won’t know how to comfort you. ‘A man can be afraid of not just his own emotions but his significant other’s as well,’ says Dr Alon Gratch, author of If Men Could Talk. ‘Growing up, many boys are taught that they should disengage from their feelings. So they don’t know what to do when a girlfriend is emotional or when she tries to put them in touch with their own feelings. If you get the sense that your guy is afraid of being mushy, there are things you can do. Firstly, go easy on him. ‘A woman helps by not giving ultimatums or criticising him for not being a good communicator,’ July says. ‘Most guys come around in a relationship… They just need time.’