Why Men Don’t Share Feelings (Part 2)

Author’s note: This is the second in a series of blog posts on the inner lives of men. The following is adapted from my newest book, What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You.



Angry Woman
Photo – Shutterstock.com

In my previous post, I explained the many ways society forces men to remain silent about their true feelings. But here’s the shocking truth: wives silence their husbands as well.

Most men do not tell their wives what they really feel because if they did, their wives would punish them for it. When men tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, their wives often become upset. Very upset.

I’ve spoken to lots of men who decided early in their marriages to open up and speak the absolute truth. And their wives freaked out, withdrew, cried, threw tantrums and plugged their ears. These men learned very quickly that their wives didn’t want to hear the truth – and that the key to marital bliss was to carefully manage what they did and didn’t tell their beloveds.

Men, imagine what might happen if you told your wife one of the following:

  • I’m being tempted by another woman
  • I disapprove of one of your friends
  • I’m thinking of quitting my steady job to open a restaurant
  • I’m unhappy in our church
  • I think you should dress differently
  • I feel unsupported by you
  • I think you’re wearing too much makeup
  • I’m feeling a little bored by our sex life and I’d like to try some new things
  • There won’t be enough money for the vacation you’ve been planning
  • I want to buy a boat
  • I wish you’d lose weight
  • I feel you’re spending too much money
  • I’m struggling with pornography and I need your help and prayers

Honestly, what would happen if you said these kinds of things to your wife? Would she remain calm? (maybe) Would she smile at you and thank you for being honest? (not likely) Would she haul you into the bedroom and make love to you? (not for at least a week)

Most wives would descend into a funk upon hearing these kinds things. Many would blame themselves – “I’ve failed him again.” Some would cover their ears and go running from the room. Some would curse or even assault their husbands (it’s more common than you think).

So what’s a man thinking after his wife reacts this way to his truth-telling? “I’ve made a colossal mistake. I told her how I really feel and she’s angry. So I’m never going to do that again. Instead I’m going to carefully manage what I say and what I don’t say. And I’m going to keep the deeply personal stuff locked inside.”

Congratulations, women. You’ve just trained your husbands to keep secrets from you.

Imagine you’re housebreaking a puppy. Every time he soils the rug he gets a swat. But if he does his business outside you lavish rewards on him. Eventually the puppy does what he’s trained to do—not because he wants to, but because it’s the only way to avoid punishment.

Now, imagine you’re training a husband. Every time he tells you the absolute truth he gets a swat. But when he conceals his true feelings, you lavish rewards on him. Eventually he begins carefully managing what he tells you—not because he wants to, but because it’s the only way to avoid punishment.

If you penalize your man each time he reveals his true feelings, here’s the message you are sending: “If you want your life to be hell, tell me the truth. But if you want things to go smoothly, lie to me.  Tell me only those things that won’t upset me.”

Don’t misunderstand: I am not blaming women for every communication glitch in marriage. Husbands do the same things to wives. I know women who can’t tell their husbands the truth because they’re afraid their men will explode. Women suffer too. I get it.

I’m simply asking women to open their eyes to the possibility that they are contributing to their husbands’ silence. And I’m asking men to be more courageous in telling their wives the truth – no matter the cost.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

A few years ago my wife and I entered an intense period of counseling to deal with this issue. I was deeply frustrated because she would not hear my true feelings on a number of issues. Whenever I brought them up, she instantly shut me down. Wouldn’t listen. Accused me of being controlling, suspicious or ungodly for even thinking such things.

But now she’s learned to listen to what I have to say – no matter what it is. No topic is off limits. Instead of carefully managing what we say to one another, we simply speak it out. Our marriage has never been stronger. The truth has made us free.

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  • John Gallion

    Women want a husband who will listen and not talk. They want to live in a fantasy world. They see the gross immorality in the world and they imagine that their husbands are deep into it – even if they aren’t. Women live in a constant state of denial and fear. They pass this on to their children. Husbands quickly learn that truth is a thing best left unsaid because most women simply are unable to live in reality and immeasurable damage is done when a husband is truthful – even about small things. Why do you think the favorite rooms in a house for husband is the garage and basement? Wives create the problem and only they can fix it. Every husband I know finds out quickly in marriage that sharing one’s feelings is a one-way street right from day one.

    • http://leftcheek.wordpress.com/ Jasdye


      • John Gallion

        Been married to the most beautiful, brilliant wonder wife a man could ever ask for for many years. But unlike yourself, I actually understand what marriage is and the true beauty of a woman. And it isn’t how manly she can be or how “strong” she can be. If you disagree, you have zero idea what real femininity really is. Please lord jesus, tell me you haven’t procreated!

    • Wyrd Wiles

      Wow. I didn’t know that much sexist B.S. could fit into one tiny little comment box!
      Dude. You’ve got issues.

      • John Gallion

        Yes, I do have issues. I have issues with trans-genderd turd licking man-hating leftist slime reprobates like yourself. You are of no more value than something I would find stuck under my shoes.

        • Wyrd Wiles

          Point 1- There’s nothing wrong with being transgendered (One Word); However I was born male and will remain male.
          Point 2- Turd licking? Seriously? What are you, five?
          Point 3- Believing in equality, and treating women with basic human respect and dignity does not mean I “hate men”.

    • Jason Hunt

      Reminds me of Bill Cosby’s joke: “Women don’t want to hear a man’s opinion; They want to hear their own opinion in a deeper voice.”

  • Bobbi Raffin

    Could a woman’s reaction Possibly have anything to do with HOW a man speaks to his wife or how he treats her in all other areas of their life? Yes – some women just have issues, but sometimes – sometimes – it is the man not treating his wife with tenderness and compassion and respect. Yes – women need respect as much as men do.

    • quietglow

      I suppose this is what I get for browsing patheos’ main page, but I’m with you because that list is hardly things that concern only men. If a lot of women flat-out said a lot of the things in that list, their husbands would react in the same way attributed to wives.

      Learning how to bring up issues with your spouse is a big part of building a relationship.

  • Mike55_Mahoney

    And so was born the all too true cliche, 90% of American men live in quiet desperation.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

      ~Henry David Thoreau (1854) Walden

  • Liralen

    Arguments about money are common among married couples.

    Do you really think most men would react calmly if their wives announced “I’m being tempted by another man.”?

    I think that there are a lot of items on your list that men would not react well to if it was their wives who raised the issue. The major exceptions would be the appearance ones, which is easily explained because women are taught that appearance is part of their self-worth, which men aren’t to the same degree.

  • gimpi1

    There’s a lot to be said for learning HOW to put things:

    “I wish you would loose weight” could be “I’m worried about your health. How about a walk after dinner most nights?”

    “There’s not enough money for the vacation you’ve been planning” could be “We need to look at costs. Lets figure out how to do this less expensively.”

    “I’m thinking of quitting my job” or “I want to buy a boat” or “I think you spend too much money” should be the opening of negotiations, not a demand. Tone matters.

    “I disapprove of one of your friends” or “I think you should dress differently” or “you wear too much make-up” are in the not any of your business zone. Married people don’t get veto power over their spouses having friends, individual tastes or a life outside of the relationship. If you feel the need for that kind of control over your wife, I think you need to look more closely at yourself.

    “I’m being tempted…” or “I’m struggling…” or “I feel unsupported by you” represent real problems. Pick your time, and be ready to have a real conversation, not just dump-and-run. Tell her your feelings, and listen to hers. It’s a two-way street.

    If my husband phrased things the way you stated them, He would most likely upset me. Fortunately, he talks to me like he really cares about me. It makes a difference.

  • Wyrd Wiles

    If most of these are HUGE issues, then your marriage might need some work.

    I’m being tempted by another woman

    – My wife and I have had this one. It was basically a non issue. She knew I wasn’t going to sleep around without her permission, and she thought the woman was attractive as well.

    I disapprove of one of your friends

    – I’ve never really encountered one of my wife’s friends that I didn’t like, but there have been instances where one of them did something unfriendly, or just flat out stupid, and she’s never gotten angry with me for pointing it out.

    I’m thinking of quitting my steady job to open a restaurant

    – For me this was “Solar Farm” instead of restaurant. My wife told me if I could generate the capitol and a business plan approved by a professional that she would back me up. Neither of those things HAPPENED, so I’m still a security guard…

    I’m unhappy in our church

    – My wife is Jewish, and I’m a Pagan. She knew I didn’t like Church/Synagogue going in. I still attend on the holidays though, because it makes her happy.

    I think you should dress differently

    – First off, that’s a terrible way to say it. It comes off as abrasive and judgmental. If this upsets your wife, that’s nobodies fault but your own. If I WERE to mention negative thoughts on my wife’s fashion, she would promptly remind me that out of the two of us she is the only one who has worked in the industry, and probably tell me to shut up. LoL

    I feel unsupported by you

    – We’ve had this conversation too. This was a rough one, and VERY emotionally charged. She DID get upset, and she DID cry, but she LISTENED. Just because somebody gets upset doesn’t mean they aren’t listening, or aren’t trying their best to help. In the end we aired our dirty laundry, figured out solutions, and fixed some of our problems.

    I think you’re wearing too much makeup

    – Done this one. My wife wiped off her lipstick and changed colors. Total non-issue.

    I’m feeling a little bored by our sex life and I’d like to try some new things

    – Yup, been here too. Our schedules were super crazy and we just hadn’t had time for good sex. When I brought this up, my wife made a number of suggestions for new activities that didn’t require much time/setup. She’s significantly more creative than I am 😉

    There won’t be enough money for the vacation you’ve been planning

    – Yup. Sedona, 2011. We didn’t have the cash to do everything she wanted, and I told her so. She was sad, but she adapted quickly. She cut some items, found some groupons, and we worked together to shift the budget and make it work.

    I want to buy a boat

    – No idea here. She’d probably just tell me that it’s a terrible investment, but I can’t be sure as I’ve never tried! LoL

    I wish you’d lose weight

    – Again, that’s a TERRIBLE thing to say. If this upsets your wife, that’s nobodies fault but your own. This is a difficult topic, and one I’ve struggled with. It’s never going to be easy, but you can do a hell of a lot better than “I wish you’d lose weight”. Seriously? How would YOU respond if your wife said that to you? It’s one thing to say “I think we should eat healthier, and maybe get more exercise. Do you want to go on a walk with me?” and quite another to just smash somebodies Ego with “I wish you’d lose weight”.

    I feel you’re spending too much money

    – Been there! This one was rough, and it took a few weeks to resolve. We argued on and off over the topic until I made a household budget to show where our money was going. With the numbers in front of her, my wife agreed that we had to change our spending habits. Over the next few weeks we worked on plans to accomplish that.

    I’m struggling with pornography and I need your help and prayers

    – This one is another Non-issue, and I can’t imagine why it would require prayer… My wife doesn’t care, so long as we’re still having sex.

    Note that at no time did my wife “freak out, withdraw, throw tantrums or plug her ears. Women are not just hormone powered emotion machines, out to make the world more confusing for men. They’re human beings, just as capable of reason as you are. My wife has 6 part time jobs, and is about to get her masters degree. She’s not some overly dramatic teenager…

    In addition, given how many of these topics we’ve covered, do you know how long my wife and I have been married? ONE YEAR. One singe year and we’ve covered ALL of this. Even if you count our time together before the wedding, we’ve still only been together for under 3 years. If you don’t think your relationship could handle any of these, you might need to reassess your marriage…

  • Elin Hunt

    Another reason why men do not share feelings is that they feel that women will always misunderstand them.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      If you don’t think your wife could possibly understand you, then you probably shouldn’t be married. That’s kind of the point of marrying somebody in the first place, so you can spend you life with somebody who understands and support you. (And Vice Versa)

  • Oda Dudo

    People don’t share their feelings because they know that it will only become a source of an argument. :)
    pc hardware parts

  • Mary Lou Myers

    IMHO most of the statements are not delving into using words to describe true inner feelings but are stating opinions? Not sure if anyone else would agree but true feelings are words such as fear, hurt, frustration, shame, lonely, vulnerable, angry, unimportant, abandoned and I agree for both spouses tone of voice is very important. If we are not secure of who we are in God’s eyes and in our own all kinds of issues are going to come up. Example: I am frustrated or afraid we are not going to have enough money for our vacation ~ could we sit down and discuss some options that we might have? ~ would be discussing a true feeling and hopefully a right tone of voice ~ non accusing and coming from a place of security in ourselves.