Help! My Partner Won't Talk About Our Problems!

Author: Cheri Timko

Posted On September 9, 2022

Help! My Partner Won't Talk About Our Problems!

You love your spouse, but they won't talk about the problems in your relationship. You know that your lives could be better if you could just fix a few things. But, every time you bring something up, they refuse to engage with you.

Instead of talking, they:

  • flip it back on you.
  • leave the room. 
  • get angry and defensive. 
  • refuse to talk. 
  • criticize you.

When this happens, you feel alone and angry. Sometimes you wonder if they love you at all. After all, how could someone claim to love you but not be concerned about your well-being?!?

Research reveals that women bring up 90% of the problems in relationships. So, I'll fess up that we are talking about husbands who shutdown. This behavior comes from a misguided intention to avoid arguing. In an average marriage, this is his attempt to avoid a fight.

"But it leads to epic arguments and deep rifts in the relationship!" you argue. Of course it does. That doesn't change the fact that their intention is to avoid an argument.

There are some specific things that you can do that will make talking with you less scary. They would never admit to feeling scared, but that is REALLY what the problem is.

Help! My Partner Won't Talk About Our Problems!

Tips to Get Your Spouse (husband) to Talk about Problems

1. Make it safe to talk. These tips aren't only for them; they are also for you.

  • Give them a choice when to talk about a problem. 
  • Set a time limit and follow it. Talk about one problem for 10-15 minutes. That might be all that the two of you can handle.
  • No criticizing or blaming. If you are angry when you start the discussion, this will be hard to do. When you assign blame to them, they will react with defensiveness 100% of the time.
  • Ask their opinion and validate what is important to them. That doesn't mean that you have to agree or do what they want. Acknowledge their point of view and tell them the parts that make sense to you.
  • Don't have difficult discussions right before bed. This is a recipe for disaster. If it becomes an argument then you have to choose between going to bed angry or staying up late to resolve it. Both are bad choices. Choose a better time to deal with problems.

2. Talk about problems in small, regular bites. Most people get overwhelmed by too many words and too many problems at once. It is more productive to talk about a problem 10 times for 10-minutes each than to have a single 100-minute discussion. At the end of the discussion, sum up anything that you both agree on and what still need to be resolved. Most problems cannot be "one and done" conversations.

Many couples benefit from having a regular "business" meeting to discuss problems. A business meeting is a scheduled time to plan and troubleshoot your lives. These can take the pressure off of everyday life. They are time and space to tackle problems so you don't have as many pop up issues.

3. Choose one topic to talk about at a time. Most people can name 3-5 problems that happen repeatedly in their relationship. When they try to solve a problem, they try to tackle them all at the same time. They tie them all together so that they can emphasize the importance and impact of the issues. For your partner, this is overwhelming. They quickly conclude that it's impossible to fix everything. So they give up.

Focusing on one piece of one problem at a time helps them see that the problems are manageable. Once you accept that you will have many short conversations, you can focus on the biggest or the easiest to solve. The rest will come soon enough. Epic conversations rarely solve much. (Unless they are relaxed and free-flowing--which is a different discussion.)

4. Know your boundaries. Know what you can live deal with. If your spouse will turn the problem around to blame you, know the point when you will end the discussion. Discontinuing the discussion doesn't mean it's over--you will get to it another day.

It's important that you protect the relationship and yourself by ending discussions that will lead to hurting one another.

5. Plan fun, relaxing activities between discussions. It's so easy to get locked into conflict. When we do, it hard to see the good parts of the relationship. You become hyper-focused on the problems. Then you give up the fun. When you connect through fun, it turns down the conflict by building goodwill. So, don't deprive yourself of dates, affection, and playfulness.

Following these tips will open up conversation in a way that hasn't happened since your early days of dating. But, there are three things that will tank even these suggestions.

  • Your partner is unlikely to immediately respond when you change the rules and try it once. It will take a few times when you REALLY keep it short and focused before they will start to see the difference.
  • Your partner won't acknowledge the extra work that you are doing. In fact, they will be suspicious at the beginning. If you want real change, you will have to do it anyways. The payoff will be worth the effort.
  • Once your partner starts talking, you will be tempted to break your rules. You will think, "This is going so well that we can talk for longer and solve more problems." Don't fall into that trap. Otherwise, you will be back where you started.

Remember that your goal is to get your partner to sit down and talk with you about problems. In the beginning, these changes will feel like a chore. It won't take long before it feels effortless. And your spouse will help you maintain the changes.

If you are ready to let go of the built-up disappointment and resentment so you can feel close and connected with your partner, then work with me in couples coaching. Changing the way you tackle problems is just one of the tools we use to change how you and your partner relate to one another.

Through coaching, you can get individualized support to fix the problems in your relationship. Together, we will:

  1. Identify and repair the past hurts that block feeling connected.   
  2. Practice communication and problem-solving skills to solve any problem so you can stop bickering and battling with one another.  
  3. Develop a personalized plan to connect with one another on a daily basis. A successful plan works well within the busyness of your life.   
  4. Support your changes over an eight-week period to implement and troubleshoot your personalized plan.
If you are ready to reclaim a deep and enduring connection with your partner for a close and satisfying relationship, email me at ctimko@cheritimko.com.  We'll chat to see if your relationship is a good fit for this program.    
Cheri Timko - Couples Relationship Coach

Hi! I’m Cheri. I help seasoned couples ditch the disappointment so they can dare to date again. When disappointment, frustration, and hurt builds up, it can weaken or kill the feeling of being “in love.” I help you to release the resentment so that you can rekindle the romance, work as partners, and have fun again.

If you're ready to get to work, email me at ctimko@cheritimko.com to chat about the next steps.