I have a problem with my husband who simply shuts himself down at the slightest disagreement between us or even the one that doesn't really exist. There is absolute silence in the house for weeks at the time and if it wasn't me who breaks the ice finally it would probably go on longer.
But I simply refuse to be the first one to make a move at all times. Yet he says it drives him crazy too. I wonder how much but I am at the end of the rope. What is it with him?
A. I usually suggest that we look at our own behaviour when confronted with a problem such as yours but in this case, it does seem to be an issue your husband has. I'm afraid he will need to work with a therapist to come to grips with his inability to deal with even slight conflict. Do you know if he grew up with one or more dominating parent? Perhaps he learnt at an early age to shut down due to continual criticism or shouting. He obviously isn't choosing this behaviour so it's probably a conditioned reflex.
One thing I can suggest to you personally is that when someone builds up a wall around himself as your husband has, it's very frustrating and the temptation is to want to pull it down. That's the worst thing you can do because all it will achieve is to force him to build a higher wall. You must continue to be true to yourself, speak your truth quietly and if he retreats, just let him. Don't dream of apologizing or making peace even when you've done nothing wrong. Stand your ground and you might find the silences get shorter and shorter. However, in the long-term, if he's willing, get him to seek professional counselling.
Body Talk Column is hosted by Charmaine Saunders. www.charmainesaunders.com
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