She Wants To Talk, He Doesn't
Q: My wife and I are real different. She's always focused on getting things done. I like to lay back and not make a fuss. The problem is that if I come home from work and need some down time, she wants to know what's wrong. If I just shrug my shoulders and chill in front of the TV, she gets mad and starts in on me. She says I need to talk about what's wrong. She says I'm not being loving if I don't communicate. She says I'm shutting her out. But she's shutting me out of who I am. Just because she wants to talk doesn't mean I have to. That's not how I deal with stress. I need to just get away from everything and then get over it. How can I get her to stop nagging me and leave me alone? Kenny-32
Dr. Pamela: It's a loving sign that you care enough about your relationship to ask for help. And lucky you, the communication breakdown between you and your wife is repairable. It will take a little time, effort and understanding, but the good news is that this will pay off.
In a perfect world, every couple would have a "How I like to deal with stress" talk early in the relationship and again whenever needed. That way when one partner notices a change in behavior, such as becoming preoccupied, the issue wouldn't escalate to faultfinding, name calling and stamping out of the room. It seems it's time for you and your wife to have that talk.
We all react to stress differently. You and your spouse each have a unique combination of feelings, thoughts and values. Rather than the two of you taking each other's actions personally, you each need to understand the other.
Let your wife know that your need to be alone does not mean you don't want or need her. In fact, it is no reflection on her or your feelings for her. Explain in a loving way that you just need a little space and that you'll let her know when you are ready again to interact.
It's essential that you also back up your words. Show you care by making time for listening and by respecting your wife's right to feel bad at times.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.