Processing After a Fight? It’s Different for Men – Here’s Why

Processing After a Fight? It’s Different for Men – Here’s Why November 2, 2016

Dear Shaunti,

I feel like my husband is a total avoider. When we get into an argument, all he wants to do is ignore the situation and escape to the TV room. He doesn’t care that we need to talk it through. What can I do to get him to talk to me?

— Wanting more words

Dear Wanting more words,

Boy, can I feel your pain! In fact, in the research I’ve done with thousands of men and women, I know that most women can feel your pain! Getting everything out on the table and resolved right now makes total sense, right? Right…to everyone, that is, but most men. I’m guessing that it’s not that your husband doesn’t want to communicate, but that he needs to go about it very differently.

If you are like most women, you are a verbal processor and think something through by talking it through. And with lots of connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, you can talk and think about many thoughts and feelings at the same time.

But most men (perhaps including yours!) are internal processors. In most cases, it is actively difficult for a guy to think something through by talking it through. His brain is wired to process one thing at a time, going deep within each one, as he tries to figure out what he’s thinking and feeling – and what you are thinking and feeling. Pressing him to talk before he’s had a chance to process all that makes it harder for him to think things through. If lots of emotions are swirling around, he’ll struggle even more. I am guessing that when he “escapes” to the TV room it isn’t really to “ignore” the situation but to get space to process it.

So although you innately feel a need to talk right then, try a different approach and see what happens: at some non-emotional time (in other words, when you aren’t arguing), ask him if he’s the type to need time to process and express your genuine interest in understanding what that is like. Explain your own need, and ask if you two can try an approach that works for both of you. You’ll give him the time he needs (for example, until the next morning), but can he then agree to try to talk about it at that point? Then when you do get into a conflict, take a deep breath and (as hard as it is) don’t press your husband to talk. Wait and see what happens when you come back and talk about it later. Although it may take a few tries to find the timing that works for both of you, I suspect that if you get into that pattern, you will have much better communication in the end.

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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit for more.

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