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DH has always been a quiet man but now it feels worse

(51 Posts)
ladyluckylula Tue 22-Oct-13 23:30:57

I'm so worried about my relationship with my dh. He has always been quiet. I knew that when I married him. But now it feels like we don't communicate very well at all. I end up asking all the questions and making all the effort. I feel like he comes in from work with nothing to bring to the table. No stories, no jokes, no questions. Its baffling.

I can't understand and get so cross about it and then end up blurting it all out which I know must make it worse. He says he can't change and 'that is the way he is' but I think it's got worse. He's got lazy. All of the romantic gestures have disappeared as well. It's like he's lost his imagination.

We have two kids (4 and 2) and he's fantastic with them. He chats and plays and jokes with them. Sometimes I hear him ask my dd a question. Might be something simple like 'what was your favourite bit of today?' and I think.... He wouldn't dream of asking me that! I don't want him to treat me like a child but I just wish some magic and wonder and excitement would come back.

18 month ago I remember having a conversation with a friend who had got divorced and actually thinking 'I can't relate to that happening at all' and now here I am wondering if he is the right person for me. I keep thinking as he gets older its going to get worse and worse.

I love him but it drives me mental and it's such a massively important part of the relationship. I work from home a lot and although have a fabulous support network of amazing friends I still want that intimate, happy, fun wonderful thing with my husband. I told him to many times now ... he just gets angry, goes even more quiet, doesn't look at me. But what else am I going to do? I just think he needs to learn how to be more active in a conversation. It all starts with questions but also an interest and desire to learn more from the other person. If he doesn't have that then we are truly screwed.

OxfordBags Wed 23-Oct-13 14:30:36

My DH is very shy, very quiet, although he is cripplingly shy and quiet with everyone, doesn't really like to go out with friends, etc. It does get me down at times, and I am quite arsey with him about certain things now we have DS: I do not find it acceptable for him to not acknowledge that I am speaking, or have spoken, to act as though I've not just asked a question, to mutter or grunt a non-commital sound in lieu of an actual answer,and think this is bad behaviour for him to model for our son. He also never pays me compliments, acknowledges things I've done, says encouraging, romantic or flattering things, etc., which I also think isn't a good example to set. The most enthusiastic comment he has about anything is that is was 'alright' or 'quite nice'. When pushed for an opinion on the birth of his only child, he struggled for several minutes, then came out with 'lovely' in an unsure tone.

He isn't negative, unpleasant or insulting in any way. None of this comes from malice, being uncaring or whatever. But it is getting increasingly... I don't know - exasperating? Boring? Upsetting? We do have a good laugh about stuff and interesting discussions, which is wonderful, but it just leaves me even more frustrated that he can be so expressive and vibrant in areas he is confident in,and so grey and shut down in other ones (more important ones, actually).

Could your Dh's background play a big factor, OP? My ILs are the most emotionally shut-down and inexpressive people I have ever met. Again, not horrible, but they struggle to even be as descriptive as naming the colour of someone's hair! FIL is also an incredibly silent man, as both his parents were deaf and he is hearing. My poor Dh and his siblings just never experience being talked to, complimented, encouraged to express themselves, talk about problems, nothing, only a bit of light chitchat and discussion suitable for the dinner table. And, importantly, not taught how to 'give' verbally to others, either, as they were not given to verbally themselves.

I have to accept that DH will always be quiet and not a verbal Casanova, but he does try, and he is wonderful in so many other ways. It's about assessing the balance and seeing if taking that rough with the smooth is enough. I know, for example, that I prefer my quiet and unflattering but very supportive DH who truly sees and treats me as his equal, to my gobshite dad, who never shuts up, who can be v funny and charming, but he is an annoying, lazy, shallow egotist a lot of the time.

Dahlen Wed 23-Oct-13 14:38:12

It doesn't have to be either/or though. You can have a happy medium. You don't have to be an extrovert to ask someone how their day has been, listen to the answer and offer a comment in the appropriate places. That's just basic good manners and a minimum level of social skills, surely?

While you should be loved warts-and-all by your spouse/partner and be able to let them see you at less than your best, I think it's a good rule of thumb to establish a rule that you treat your loved ones with the same common courtesy and respect you would afford your colleagues. If some people treated their colleagues in the same way they treat their partners, they'd be out of a job or called up on a disciplinary.

OxfordBags Wed 23-Oct-13 14:39:02

Lurking, your post strikes a chord, as DH won'y engage aocially, not even his own family. This means that to not only stop him looking like a rude weirdo, but to stop them being annoyed with me because convention expects women to grease the wheels of socialising, I have to waffle on like a twat, when I don't know alot of them that well,don't necessarily like them a lot and don't actually know the answers to some things they ask whereas silent Dh does. I'm not one to acquiesce to bullshit sexist expectations of women, but I don't want to spoil big family get-togethers with there being loads of awkwardness and feeling rejected, etc.

I tell Dh how this humiliates me, and that it's not acceptable to expect me to speak for him (and that it infantilises him), but he just clams up and mutters sorry and says he doesn't know what to say. And I genuinely believe he doesn't know what to say, as no-one expected or indeed wanted him to have anything to say, growing up. But on the other hand, lots of people, me included, had shortcomings in our childhood that we work at to overcome so they don't impact (too much) on our lives and on others, so I feel that he should try harder. He has had several lots of CBT but it did zero to help.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 23-Oct-13 14:41:18

Try not to think in terms of greener grass. This is about you as an individual being unhappy with him as an individual. You're both probably perfectly nice normal people in your own right, you just don't happen to make a good couple from what you describe.

As an extrovert myself I have in the past been attracted to quiet solid types like my Dad that I thought were deep thinkers but actually turned out to be quite boring and a bit of an energy-drain. My latest beau is a bit shallow but he's very attentive & enthusiastic to the point that I often can't get a word in edgeways. I'm actually finding it a) hilarious and b) refreshing!

it's funny how differently we go though isn't it?

i wasn't 'given to' in that sense either but it has made me want to make others feel comfortable and give to them because i know how it feels to be with-held from and have one's inner world or life in general ignored and never be asked anything.

it does mean i can find being with people too much tiring and need time to myself to recharge though and it means the people i really let in need to be givers too really or life would be utterly exhausting.

my parents stun me with their absolute disinterest in me - to the point of i had a big job interview last week and haven't even been asked how it went - then again i went back to work after several years off and have never been asked how that's going either.

sorry bit of a waffle from me but now i have thought about how this applies to me, how i was treated and how it's made me feel about myself i actually wouldn't recommend staying in it unless you are incredibly resilient and the material and practical means more to you than other than stuff. it wears you down and makes you feel invisible and worthless or alternatively makes you seethe with resentment and disgust at other people's basic lack of....??

if we love people we should show interest in them, we should want to know how they are, if they're ok, how they feel and think about things. if that's withheld from us in as major a place as our own home it's no good.

DontMentionThePrunes Wed 23-Oct-13 14:48:26

"the people i really let in need to be givers too really or life would be utterly exhausting."

This is so true, bit of an imbalance in my life at the moment (not only dh really) and it is exhausting, you are right.

I would love to be an extrovert for a while just to see what it's like on the other side grin

sorry for the me me me post. feeling a bit sad and drained at the minute. don't pay too much heed to my viewpoint as it is probably skewered by my own need to get away from people who hurt me with their.... lack.

Mumsyblouse Wed 23-Oct-13 15:06:20

I just wonder though, if you started working out of the home, if to a large extent that need for interest/social interaction would be fulfilled. It is for me, and I'm quieter at home as a result.

I do agree though that is is tiresome if someone isn't interested in you. However, I now just don't wait for my husband to say 'wow, lovely to see you, how was your day?' with lots of animation, because that's not his style, I just start chatting and then he starts chatting and so on. But if he's truthful, he does listen to be polite on occasions, not because he finds the minutiae of my work life really fascinating, just as I look at things he shows me on the computer/news items when they are not that interesting to me.

I just think you either reconfigure this as a positive or get out. And no one person meets all your needs really.

OxfordBags Wed 23-Oct-13 15:22:04

Swallowedafly, don't put yourself down, please. Don't presume others aren't interested in you, my sweet. DH's parents never ask him or his siblings anything about their life. Or anyone else; they didn't even know my surname until I told them I was keeping it, and we'd been together years at that point. I don't think they know what my job was before I became a SAHM. If it upsets me that, I can't begin to imagine what it's like for people like you and my DH.

I do believe my DH is interested in me and appreciates me, he can't show it verbally, which I would like sometimes. He does show me this in other ways at times, like I told him once about a folk song a non-British relative used to sing to me as a child, and he got me a Cd with it on for Xmas that year, even though it was pretty obscure and I wasn't even sure of the correct title.

OxfordBags Wed 23-Oct-13 15:24:15

I meant to add, does your Dh ever do stuff like that for you, OP?

schmohawk Wed 23-Oct-13 15:38:49

I think there is a big difference between being on the quiet, introverted side and any kind of blanking/ passive aggressive/ stonewalling behaviour. Also OP it sounds as though working from home may not be best suited to your personality type, meaning that (even subconsciously) you are expecting more stimulation from him. And at the risk of medicalising a personality trait, is there any chance he could be a bit depressed?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 23-Oct-13 19:27:25

He does have a lot of qualities like being calm, logical and trustworthy...
To be honest I used to get a lot of stimulation from working and the amazingly funny and witty individuals that I worked with. I miss that. I just sometimes wonder why on earth I choose him. I hate to say that out loud. I do love him.

I think you pinpointed the difference yourself ladyluckylula and Mumsyblouse highlights it:
I just wonder though, if you started working out of the home, if to a large extent that need for interest/social interaction would be fulfilled. It is for me, and I'm quieter at home as a result.

Those qualities you mention could be pretty desirable to other people. He is also an able dad and loyal friend. I see the irony in asking this as he's not fond of chatting (!) but has he ever commented on what it was about you attracted him? Perhaps confidence, openness, gregariousness?

Obviously I'm not saying, just because he doesn't verbally abuse you, you should be grateful. But perhaps what he offers gladly and you want are very different. I think by nature he sounds a reserved person and the situation you allude to regarding finances was traditionally "the man's concern". Not in the 21st century clearly but it doesn't sit well with him and maybe he doesn't know how to express that without admitting a vulnerability he prefers not to admit. Rather than bottling it all up to be irksome. Could it be that he wants to be confident and capable for you but lately he's been struggling?

jamaisjedors Wed 23-Oct-13 19:48:40

You have my sympathies, because DH can be like this too - if I go out with friends, he never EVER asks me anything about it the next day for example, which infuriates me.

I have bought this book: www.amazon.co.uk/Seven-Principles-Making-Marriage-Work/dp/0752837265

which is really interesting and has lots of practical exercises to do with your partner (mostly about reconnecting and building a strong base to get you through the tougher times) and I'm going to try it with DH - just have to find a time when he is not "too busy"...

MumblingMummy Wed 23-Oct-13 19:48:41

De-lurking to say this sounds like my DP and we don't even live together. He never asks any more than 'how are you?' and never shows any affection outside the bedroom. Never buys me flowers either. With friends and acquaintances though he's life and soul of the party. Very affectionate with DC. I think with your DH its a case of taking you for granted/cant be bothered with the effort of maintaining a good relationship. I know one thing; it's incredibly draining always being the one driving the relationship. like dragging a dead weight behind you. Do you think there may be any resentment lurking?

garlicvampire Wed 23-Oct-13 20:20:44

You're already getting advice, so this is is just a sympathy post. There were a lot of things wrong with my second marriage, but one of the moments that stick in my mind epitomises his 'closed' quality ... closed towards me, that is, he wasn't the same with everyone! We were on holiday, on a diving course. On the boat, with a few others, an instructor said "Did H tell you he found a necklace today, Garlic?" Apparently this had been quite an event: they'd all been excited about his find, wondered where it came from, etc. He did not say a word. At her prompting, he repeated that he'd found a necklace. End of; like a sullen child being made to tell Aunty about his spelling score. It was such an awkward moment that everyone moved the conversation along. I never saw this flaming necklace, nor even knew if they'd kept it or left it down there.

It's not very nice, being excluded from your husband's life, is it? sad

Northbynorthwestnorthernline Wed 23-Oct-13 20:26:41

Nothing useful to add but reading with interest. Mrsmindcontrols post up thread really resonated...he's told me he is not interested in my friends or news of who I have seen on the school run or me talking about my family and only asks about my day if I ask about his first. Long car journeys in silence and me having to make effort to instigate chat or plans.

It is so bloody draining and makes me feel like a disliked irritant most of the time.

He has no friends that he sees regularly either.

Twinklestein Wed 23-Oct-13 20:27:39

There are two factors at play that aren't necessarily related: 1) a taciturn nature & 2) getting lazy & not being romantic any more.

The second should be fixable but I don't think the first is.

It seems like previously when you were travelling a lot the exterior stimulation provided interest & perhaps masked this aspect of your relationship dynamic.

I agree with mumsyblouse that if you were working outside the home it may not feel like such a disaster that he's so quiet in the evenings. Would that be a viable possibility given that you've got kids?

My dad was quiet, my & sis & I reckon he's Asperger's spectrum. When I read detailed information on the condition, it was like a light went on, and random aspects of his behaviour & habits suddenly all pulled together & made sense. I don't think there was much stimulation in his family growing up, children were very much seen & not heard.

Scientific literature over the past 40 years has documented the superior language skills of girls, and I think boys who aren't specifically verbally stimulated as children are more disadvantaged by this than girs.

It's funny because, perhaps as a reaction to my dad's reticence, part of my husband's attraction was that he talks a lot.

MillyRules Wed 23-Oct-13 20:49:17

Have you asked him if he is happy with your relationship? Have you asked him if he is still in love with you?

lurkinglorna Wed 23-Oct-13 20:50:31

This kind of person often strikes me as emotionally playing hard to get - trying to create the illusion that they're awfully sophisticated and above small talk, and full of deep, wonderful ideas which they are keeping hidden.

Unless the audience is "oh my god, you're so clever and impressive" they refuse to participate - they want a situation where the partner basically has to beg for their attention, make them feel important?

When I think of the two men I'm emotionally closest to, we communicate loads and they're very "open" with their thoughts and their bad jokes Of course, sometimes I'm thinking "huh, you're dull and/or I'm not really listening?"?

But that's part of the hurly burly of a normal social interaction? Just as I myself sometimes, often, get ignored or spoken over or someone thinks I'm dull? It stings a bit, but I don't close off cause I'm not ten any more.

Its passive aggressive to then throw one's toys out of the pram and go:

"YOU don't like me! I'm going to punish you by ignoring you and only talk to other NICE people who provide me with a gold star for approval and hang onto my every word"

PerpendicularVincentPrice Wed 23-Oct-13 20:55:25

DH's dad is very similar, it's always puzzled me. MIL is a lovely, chatty person and I can't imagine how they got together.

FIL is good with small children but with adults - nothing. It's almost as if he finds adult relationships and conversation too stressful.

I don't really know what the solution is but am wondering how many more years you can keep feeling this way. Could you see a councillor to clarify your feelings?

Charbon Wed 23-Oct-13 20:59:16

Have you ever read anything about Transactional Analysis and specifically the controlling parent and the nurturing parent roles?

Because it strikes me that your husband operates from the parental ego state in your relationship. Before the children, maybe that was more nurturing (the tickle fights) and now that you're a mother yourself, it is more controlling.

I agree with a lot of what Lorna said about silence and disengagement being controlling behaviour and I'm often struck by how many times people get it wrong when they describe the extrovert, driven half of the partnership as the one with more power. The reverse is often true.

The person with the most power is the one who does less, invests less in the relationship and controls events through their disengagement. It's often described as the 'stingray and clam' couple-fit where the stingray is seen as aggressive and powerful but in fact the clam is more powerful because of his impenetrability.

This is often gendered too and I was interested to see that he talks about his role as a provider male, an incredibly restrictive and old-fashioned role.

It's also gendered because men who don't engage are often described as 'strong and silent' whereas the same behaviour in women is described as 'sulking' or 'giving people the silent treatment'. An extrovert man is described as 'outgoing and sociable' whereas women's socialising is often reduced to 'gossiping' or 'inane chatter'.

You don't mention how he is with friends, colleagues or extended family members? Is he the same with them or is it just you for whom he makes less effort?

This might give you more insight into whether it is a role he has assumed in your relationship, or whether this is his personality.

In TA terms, the adult-adult ego states are what you are aiming for. Parent and Child roles will always cause problems.

HogiBear27 Wed 23-Oct-13 21:49:54

Is it worth considering some counselling?

It sounds like is a lot of good stuff to work with here - the support he gives you and how good he is with your kids.

I think the finances thing has made a big impact on him - and blokes deal with things differently from us.

I know it may be difficult to get him to agree to it but if you are considering such a big decision like leaving, then it may be worth suggesting. It could open you both up in a neutral environment.

I hope things work out for you all.

Northbynorthwestnorthernline Wed 23-Oct-13 22:10:19

Charbon - thank you. I am off to google now. Just your summary makes me feel saner.

CharityFunDay Wed 23-Oct-13 23:27:22

OP:

If he's always been like this, then caveat emptor applies.

If he's grown to be like this, you need counselling. Or a divorce.

JoylessFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 13:05:00

Reading this thread, there were mega resonances for me. My ex was a good, decent and kind man who was just very shy. He could be funny and good company but seemed to surround himself with extraverts so that he didn't actually need to. My friends stopped socialising with us as a couple because he did not engage and appeared to make absolutely no effort to socially interact. The Aspergers boxes were all ticked and for a while I was made to feel that it wasn't his fault he couldn't communicate and that I needed to suck it up. But his behaviour became more and more extreme and I finally couldn't take it. Since I left, I have had mega challenges (including cancer) but I am so much happier, have been more "me", more valued and appreciated since leaving than during our 14 years together.

One book I read after we split up was on the subject of EQ (emotional quotient/intelligence) by Daniel Goleman. I thought it was going to be a bit Mars & Venus and so wasn't taking it seriously, just couldn't sleep in a friend's house and picked it up. When I hit the chapter about zero EQ, I sat bolt upright and re-read it over & over. In the morning, I asked my friend to read that chapter and they said "oh that's your Ex to a T". The book I read just described the various levels of EQ and the possible causes. The same author has written another book on working with EQ see here and I wonder if that might be helpful to you OP.

Whatever you decide, good luck and don't be guilted into staying if you know you need to leave for your own emotional wellbeing.

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