My husband was brought up in a family where there is not a lot of communication—such as being open with others about their feelings and thoughts. I, on the other hand, had somewhat of open communication with my family, so when I try to get my husband to open up to me I get very frustrated that he does not seem able to do it. I do let him know that it bothers me and he is trying.
What are some ways to get him to talk with me?
In this counseling answer:
• You have to be patient with your husband and help him understand that you appreciate him and that you sincerely want to know what he is thinking or what he is feeling about a certain matter.
• If you like details, you can encourage him by asking specific questions that would bring out such details. If he asks why those details are important, then let him know that you actually focus more on details and that helps you understand the larger picture.
• If you find on the other hand that he is just not motivated to open up, or perhaps he is saying he does not know how to open up, consider going to counseling together.
Thank you so much for writing to us. We appreciate your thoughtful attempt at trying to improve your communication with your husband. Here are some thoughts for you to consider.
First, we are relieved that you say your husband is trying to open up. It seems that you have been able to express your concerns to your husband in a manner that has motivated him to try to change, as opposed to blaming him for not being more open in his communication with you. Do not abandon this approach in the months and years to come because blaming someone or being resentful of them for who they are will never motivate them to attempt to change.
Second, communication is an art and learned behavior. People learn to communicate and continue to want to communicate their feelings when they sense some benefit from doing so. You have to be patient with your husband and help him understand that you appreciate him and that you sincerely want to know what he is thinking or what he is feeling about a certain matter. Be very careful that you do not already have in mind the way your husband should communicate with you because you will then give off signals that you are not satisfied with his attempts to communicate.
For a person who is not used to opening up, it will be very difficult to articulate certain feelings and emotions. Your husband might appear terse or cold at first, but you have to keep on encouraging him and letting him know that you are listening to what he says and that you appreciate his efforts. Do not patronize him by bringing attention to his efforts to open up each time he does so. Just appreciate him for who he is.
Third, over time, as you find that he is talking more and opening up more, you can work on coming to some common understanding about how each of you communicates. For some men, the larger picture is more important than the details. If you like details, you can encourage him by asking specific questions that would bring out such details. If he asks why those details are important, then let him know that you actually focus more on details and that helps you understand the larger picture.
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Some men also want to solve problems rather than just listen. So if you find your husband attempting to offer solutions to issues you are raising, let him know that sometimes you just want him to listen to you and reassure you that things will be alright, rather than focus on solving the issues. For someone who is not used to communicating or opening up much, you might come across as wanting to talk too much or to delve too much into feelings and emotions. Monitor yourself and take spoken and non-verbal cues from your husband. Be patient with him.
Finally, we know that at this point you are excited and want to help your husband to open up more. We want to encourage you to remain this excited, no matter how long it takes for your husband to open up more. Be patient with him. If you find that he is regressing to his old, closed-up habits, then remind him gently. Let him write down his feelings if that helps. Just work with him, in sha’ Allah. If you find on the other hand that he is just not motivated to open up, or perhaps he is saying he does not know how to open up, consider going to counseling together. Make du`aa’ (supplication) to Allah (swt) to help you and your husband to learn to communicate with one another.
Allah (swt) knows best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.