Photo of a couple on two sides of a door feeling frustrated around their communication. In an article by Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC on how to communicate with a man who won't communicate.

How To Communicate With A Man That Won’t Communicate

You want a happy and successful relationship, but do you ever think-my husband stops listening as soon as I start talking; my boyfriend’s face turns blank as I start to talk, or my partner shuts down and won’t talk to me. If you feel like you have tried everything, learn the answers to how to communicate with a man that won’t communicate.

What is Communication?

Communication occurs when individuals send or receive information, but in a relationship, communication is much more than an exchange. Communication is an expression of your thoughts, feelings and intentions and is vital to feel connected to your partner.

Keys to Successful Communication

What you say and how you listen are the keys to a healthy relationship. When you are sharing your thoughts and feelings, you may need some time to think about what you want to say to be clear and succinct. Your goal is for your partner to understand you and be able to listen to your entire message. When your partner is willing to listen with compassion, curiosity and openness you will more likely feel heard and understood. As the listener, you can encourage your partner to talk more freely by showing interest, such as leaning towards your partner or using eye contact.

Effects of Poor Communication

Poor communication begins by partners not taking turns listening and speaking with each other. Also, communication breaks down when couples interrupt, call names, label, disrespect, or yell or scream at each other.

Poor communication erodes the foundation of your relationship. Over time, when couples stop communicating or poorly communicate, the effects damage their relationship in the following ways:

  1. Conflict Increases-Each time your conversations are unresolved, the more likely you are not to resolve the next issue. Usually, couples stop cooperating and create lose-lose situations which increases conflict management.
  2. Loneliness Increases-Poor communication means that you will talk less and less, creating a sense of loneliness and distance in your relationship.
  3. Feel Unhappy/Negative Emotions-Communication is key to any relationship so the less you share your thoughts or feelings or the more you miscommunicate, you may feel unhappy, sad, depressed, or angry.
  4. Fight, Flight or Freeze-When couples ineffectively communicate with each other, usually it creates the 3F’s which stand for fight, flight or freeze. The 3 F’s are the body’s response to danger or threat. Partners who fight back in an argument are utilizing the fight response. Partners who want to leave the situation are using the flight response and partners who freeze need to physiologically stop their thoughts and body from reacting and are ready to protect themselves.
  5. ResentmentResentment builds when couples argue and do not repair and fix the problem.

Poor communication and ineffective communication create a lot of stress in a relationship.

5 Reasons Why Your Spouse Won’t Communicate With You

  1. The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Criticism)-Dr. Gottman found that the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling, are detrimental to relationships. Your partner may not want to continue a conversation with you because he felt criticized and attacked. When a partner feels like he can’t do anything right then it may difficult to continue having a conversation. Sometimes when he feels like he’s never right then it feels hopeless and pointless to continue a conversation.
  2. The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Stonewalling)-The stonewaller has difficulty processing an overload of emotions and shuts down and disengages from the conflict to calm down.  This reaction can be very frustrating for the partner who wants to communicate. Unfortunately, when the stonewaller is in overwhelmed and flooded (emotionally dysregulated), your partner will experience physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, raised levels of stress hormones and possibly even a fight-or-flight response.
  3. Stressed-Some men do not want to talk about stress or their feelings around stress so they won’t communicate and will not talk with you. You can ask your partner why they are not talking, but if he might not want to discuss it.
  4. Tired-Sometimes, when your partner is tired he is not in the mood to talk. It’s not something you did or said, but it’s the mere fact that he is exhausted and may just need to sleep.
  5. He Is Avoiding An Argument-Any topic that may lead to conflict your man may not want to discuss. He may deflect, ignore or become distracted so not to talk about an issue. Avoidance is not the best way to deal with a conflict, but some men might not want to talk because they are scared, worried or nervous it may lead to an argument.

How Do I Get Him To Communicate?

Try being patient about his lack of communication and give him space when he does not want to communicate. You can also try being supportive and understanding. Ask to schedule a better time to talk. Finding a time both of you are comfortable could be the answer to how to communicate with a man that won’t communicate.

As a couples counselor for over 10 years, I find when a partner tries to provide space and is patient with the non-communicative partner the partner really appreciates it. Many partners describe when a partner is trying to get them to talk, follow them around, or texts them a hundred times a day, they feel like the “communicative” partner is on their back, and they feel trapped and backed against a wall.

Honestly, you can’t force him to communicate because he has to be willing and want to share with you. Therefore, you may need to accept that you picked a partner that is less expressive than you would like him to be.

How Do You Talk To Your Partner When He Shuts Down

Dr. Gottman studied 1000’s of couples for over 40 years to understand how successful and unsuccessful couples manage conflict. He reported that criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling (shutting down), negatively impacts communication.

You will need to understand why your partner is shutting down.

Sometimes partners don’t know what else to do or how to stop the argument, so they withdraw.

When your partner shuts down, you need to stop talking and give him some space and time. You might wonder, “Why do I need to wait for him when he shuts down?” or “Why can’t he talk about this issue?” I’m not suggesting that you sit and do nothing while he calms down, but you need to take a break.

Dr. Gottman found that when couples took 20 minutes to 1 hour to calm down, they were more likely to return to the conversation and discuss the issue more successfully.

During the break or pause in conversation, each of you should take time to self- soothe.

Examples of self-soothing are taking a walk, listening to soft music, playing a game, doing yoga, performing meditation, exercising, being in nature, taking a bubble bath, working on a project or journaling.

When you are upset you should be careful if you call a friend or family member and share with them all the details of what your partner did or said because when you start communicating again with your partner, then it might be difficult for these friends and family to forget what you told them. Of course, if you are in an abusive situation you need to get help and rely on friends, family and professionals for support.

You need to find what will help you calm down and relax.

When you are unsure how to communicate with a man because he is not communicating with you, take time to slow down and reflect on how you want to communicate and how you can work together to improve your communication.

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

How To Discuss Relationship Problems Without Fighting

Why Do We Keep Having The Same Arguments?

ADHD & Relationships

7 Tips For Improving Communication In Marriage & How PACT Therapy Helps


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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