“Honey, did you hear what I said?”
“Seriously, did you hear me?”
You know the drill. One minute you feel like things are fine, the next you and your sig-o are apparently speaking different languages. Short of a knock-down, drag-out disagreement — for which the reasons for said silence would be abundantly clear — there are less obvious times when the miscommunication meter spikes and you’re not sure what happened.
Here are some reasons why your honey might be hushed and how to get him to open up again.
1. Your sig-o has gotten in the habit of tuning you out
If you don’t feel heard when you talk to your partner, or you get curt, short or no answers and don’t want to feel like a nag, it’s possible you’ve become background noise.
What to do: Monosyllabic grunts or short responses that sound dismissive are a turnoff, but whatever you do, don’t yell. “While it’s instinctive to talk more loudly when you’re not feeling heard, try being quieter when you speak,” says Bryn Collins, MA, LP, author of Emotional Unavailability. “When your partner speaks to you, look at him. Listen and react appropriately. You might even respond with ‘I hear you. I’m happy when you’re happy.’ Be engaged.” By taking all of these actions instead of getting upset, Collins says you are instead demonstrating the behavior you wish to receive, which is ultimately more effective than shouting for attention.
2. Your sig-o is angry and waiting for you to acknowledge it
Uh-oh! If you’re getting the distinct feeling that your sig-o is mad or hurt for some reason, heed your gut instincts. You’re probably right.
What to do: Better to get to the bottom of things than letting it fester. “Waiting for an apology before speaking up or giving the sig-o the silent treatment sends a message that a person is ruminating on bad feelings, but it is not the best way to move through the conflict,” says Don Desroches and Dana Greco, authors of Conscious Coupling. “If you know there is something on your sig-o’s mind, then ask him to tell you what’s bothering him and commit to yourself that you will listen with an empathetic heart — that means no judgment or criticism.” By communicating rather than withdrawing (or sweeping things under the rug), you can help keep the relationship on the upward track.
3. Your sig-o feels he/she has tried to communicate with you in the past and it’s like you’re speaking different languages
If your sig-o feels like nothing ever gets resolved when you argue, or that he’s attempted to have conversations with you in the past about things that are important to him without you “getting it,” he may have given up trying. Oftentimes, couples do not communicate in the way each partner needs to be heard. “Like the Tower of Babel, words are being said but the interpretation and translation is nil to just frustration,” says Desroches and Greco.
What to do: In this case, Collins suggests working on your reflective listening skills. If there is something you’d like to discuss, state it clearly, starting the sentence using your partner’s name (Collins says this is specific and attention getting); something like, “Jeremy, it bothers me when you leave your wet towels on the bathroom floor.” Then have your partner repeat the sentence back as they have heard and interpreted it (i.e., “Jenny, what I’m hearing you say is you don’t like it when I leave my wet towels on the bathroom floor”). After that, you affirm if he got it correct (i.e., “Yes, that is what I am saying and I’d like for us to find a solution”).
“Obviously this takes practice and cooperation,” says Collins. “You might need to write down the single topic of your conversation, and if you get off-track or things get heated, remind yourself and your partner of the one topic at hand.” Also, keep your tone neutral and non-aggressive while you look for a solution on which you both can agree.
4. Your sig-o is totally tech-zoned
There is actually a term for this now, it’s called “technoference.” This happens when you find yourself having to repeat details or information several times because your sig-o is focused on the TV, his phone or his laptop. It can get very frustrating and recent studies have actually shown that it can negatively affect a relationship.
What to do: If you need an answer immediately, try being tactile. In other words, touch your partner gently in order to take his attention away from his tech toy and ask your question again (or if it’s a TV show or sporting event that’s got him zoning you out, you could always wait until a commercial and then hit mute for a second).
However, if you find that technology is interfering with your relationship on a regular basis — which nearly 75 percent of women think is happening according to recent research — consider making a date for some data-free quality time together. “Ask for what you need, but do it gently and no pouting,” says Collins. Try something like, “Can we schedule some time for the two of us without our phones or computers? When would that be convenient for you?” Ask for a commitment, put it into your online calendar, and when that moment arrives, put your phones away!
5. Your sig-o honestly doesn’t know he’s not communicating
Ah, that old Mars/Venus thing. Yup, men and women communicate differently and while you think he’s been ignoring you, he may think he’s been completely clear in other ways.
What to do: Tune in to your partner’s behavior. “It may feel like your sig-o is not be communicating with you because he’s not normally a verbal communicator, but he may be communicating with actions and body language,” says Desroches and Greco. You may find answers you need in some of the things he has done or how he expresses affection towards you. Learn to key into these silent communication styles and see what his patterns are.
Also, many men tend to think and process their thoughts before they speak out. “If this is the case with your sig-o, then patience and accountability is required,” says Desroches and Greco. “When you need to actually discuss something, ask him to get back to you in a fair amount of time and make sure there is follow up.”
With a little back and forth, you and your sig-o can speak the same language more often than you think…and that’s something to talk about!