by Jenna Birch
If he messes up and ‘fesses up, take a deep breath and address it without getting angry. And if you do fight, tell him after that you nevertheless appreciate his honesty.
Mum’s the Word
Ever feel like your opinionated hubby’s holding something back? Men aren’t naturally gifted at expressing themselves like women, so they may keep quiet about sensitive subjects. But those secrets can cause marriage problems. “If it’s safe for him to speak honestly, that might improve his experience in the relationship,” says clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, PhD. Here’s what your husband may be hiding and how best to handle it.
1. “I need you to make me feel like a big, strong man.”
Your husband may feel insecure if his masculine qualities, like physical strength, never impress you. “This isn’t the ‘50s anymore, but there are still some genetically determined pieces of men’s self-worth,” says marriage therapist Mike Dow, PsyD. Since he’ll feel even less like a tough guy divulging this need for extra attention, he’ll stay mum. So compliment his brawn—even if it’s just for popping the lid off the jam jar. Also, give him a chance to assemble that dresser before offering your expertise. Dr. Dow says if you take charge instead of letting him take care of it, he’ll feel emasculated.
2. “Yes, I was checking out that woman.”
The male brain is hardwired to notice pretty young things, since they’re likely to be fertile and capable of producing healthy children, says Dr, Dow. In fact, your hubby’s head may turn before his brain realizes! Call him out for ogling or flirting, but let him off the hook for the occasional quick glance. “His brain is closer to an animal’s than yours,” explains Dr. Dow. “As long as you’re the person he dotes on, sleeps with and adores, that 25-year-old has nothing on you.”
3. “It’s not that you look fat in that dress. They just all look the same to me.”
4. “Making love is great, but let’s just have sex on occasion.”
When it comes to doing the deed, men are microwaves and women are slow cookers, says Dr. Dow. “Your female brain is swimming in oxytocin, which gives you a peaceful high throughout the day, but men’s testosterone depresses oxytocin production—but he gets a big oxytocin dose right after an orgasm,” says Dr. Dow. While he enjoys the romance of making love, sometimes he’d prefer to get to the big O faster. It’s tough for him to delicately explain this, so if he’s normally eager to please you, return the favor every now and then with a mind-blowing quickie.
5. “I have particular sexual fantasies.”
Whether it’s innocent or risqué, he probably won’t make these most private wishes known—but not because he wants to keep them to himself. “Many men have a difficult time communicating what they prefer in bed,” says Charles J. Orlando, author of The Problem with Women… is Men. “He might want it, but doesn’t know how to ask or let you know.” Help him by sharing one of your fantasies, Orlando suggests. “Nothing like showing your vulnerability to encourage him to do the same.”
6. “Sometimes I’d rather you be quiet.”
Although you’re perfectly capable of listening to him while you’re relaxing, he can’t multitask as well. “The male brain is more linear, moving from task to task,” says Dr. Dow. Plus, “communicating at work all day exhausts his brain more than yours.” But admitting he needs alone time as you spill your office problem doesn’t seem supportive, so he doesn’t bring it up. Try giving him some space when he comes home. Once he’s had the chance to unwind, “conversation will come more easily for him,” says Dr. Dow. It will be more enjoyable for you too.
7. “I lie to keep the peace.”
If he doesn’t know what’ll set you off, he may fib to avoid a potential confrontation. “If we get that this secrecy is about fear, we can be more compassionate and help our mate with his anxieties,” says couples therapist Sue Johnson, PhD, author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. If he messes up and ‘fesses up, take a deep breath and address it without getting angry. And if you do fight, tell him after that you nevertheless appreciate his honesty.
8. “I wish you took better care of yourself.”
Yes, he loves you the way you are, but he also wants you to like how you look and feel. But he might not know how to suggest you get a new haircut, join a gym or take a day off from the kids. Instead, he “doesn’t say anything until it builds up to the point of coming off mean,” says Dr. Brosh. Show him you value his opinion by asking him about your look or health habits. “Men need to hear that sharing their secret is welcomed.”
9. “I don’t want to do all the dirty work.”
In a world of gender equality, your husband probably gets mixed messages about what’s expected of him. So he’ll kill every spider and do all the yard work if he assumes you feel he’s not pulling his weight in the relationship. Divide and conquer, lest he have ill will about handling the traditionally male chores solo. Pitch in raking leaves with him and deal with the occasional spider. “Tell him that you want him to share with you,” says Dr. Johnson. “If he hates spiders, that’s OK. But if killing the spider results in resenting you for
10. “We’re struggling financially.”
Men equate financial stability with their provider skills: The more unstable things are, the more he feels like he’s failed as a provider. “If he’s making less than he used to and the bills aren’t able to be paid, he might hide it,” says Orlando. “He may not want to look at himself, much less look poorly in your eyes.” While losing his job is too big of a secret to keep, he may not divulge exactly how much is going out and coming in. “Stay involved in the finances, so life’s curveballs don’t surprise you,” Orlando advises. “And let him know regularly that you love him—the not the cash that comes in.”
Read this article in Woman’s Day
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