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.
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 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 want to be faithful, but I’m being tempted by another woman
- 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.