Ask Ann

Welcome to the interactional question and answer service provided online by psychotherapist Ann Klein. She provides users with practical answers to commonly asked questions about relationship struggles. Ann will answer one of the most commonly asked questions that she receives from her website users.

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Question

Dear Ann,
When I bring up an issue with my husband, he refuses to talk about it and 'clams up.' I become so frustrated that I begin screaming, but he refuses to discuss it and says I'm too emotional. What should I do?

Answer

Dear Joan,
This is a common problem with many couples. Perhaps your husband is feeling 'attacked' and is going into his 'shell' to protect himself. With many couples one spouse brings up many of the issues and it can come across as critical to the other spouse. The more the spouse insists on resolving the issue immediately, the more the other spouse goes into their 'shell.' One thing to try is to tell your husband you have an issue to discuss and would he be willing to make an appointment within the next 24 hours. Be sure that you are both coming from a calm place when you discuss your issue. Before you bring up your issue, ask him if he would listen without comment to the whole thing, so you can develop all your thoughts and then you would like to hear from him. Tell him your intention for bringing this up is to understand where each of you is coming from and to improve the relationship. Then bring up the issue using the 'I message,' which means coming from your own feelings and thoughts without blaming your husband. For example: "I feel sad when you... (be specific, not judgmental)." Be sure to listen to your husband with an open mind. The key is to develop a 'safe, non-blaming' way of communicating.