Therefore, it may be that a husband may have tried on occasion to share the facts of his life (his day, his hobbies, etc.) or the feelings he has (frustration, happiness, anger) only to find that his wife responded with a lack of interest. Though her lack of response is a minor negative in the grand scheme of things, it may be enough to cause him to clam up. If she reacts in a more intense way (like arguing, or telling him how he needs to fix the situation he just described, or laughing at his emotions), he probably won't share more of himself at all. The scenario above is often why we hear from many wives that they don't understand why their husbands won't open up: "We don't argue. He just doesn't say anything!" It may well be that a minor rejection keeps him from ever risking a more painful rejection. If he decides to risk it and shares again, a moderate level of rejection could ensure his future silence.

Such a dynamic is how spouses "teach each other to lie." When a loved one reacts negatively to honest, open sharing, they shouldn't be surprised when the sharing ceases or at the least goes through a careful editing process before being spoken in their presence.

Yes, I remember what I wrote a few paragraphs above about not stereotyping. I've seen many, many women who would love to share openly about their lives and emotions with their husbands, but who don't dare because of some level of received rejection. But lots of writers mention that situation. I would like to open eyes to the reality that men also want to share but will only do it when they perceive permission. In countless cases I've witnessed even the quietest most reticent man talk endlessly when someone listened carefully, encouragingly, and nonjudgmentally. He may have started more slowly than a verbal female, but as he "tested the waters," felt true acceptance, and believed in the genuine interest of the listener, he shared just as much as any female would have.

When husbands and wives allow their spouses to open up their deepest feelings and most sensitive history, deep levels of sharing and understanding will happen. "Allowing" means avoiding behaviors that will make you spouse feel that you are responding with punishment for what he or she reveals. It means accepting that the event being communicated happened, or that your spouse genuinely feels as he or she does, even if it breaks your heart to hear it.

There is a crucial difference in disliking what you hear and punishing the person for sharing it.

Punish -- and stop the flow of truth. Live with lies or deceptions. Accept, even when it hurts, and you'll find wonderful intimacy. You may discover that your "silent" spouse suddenly shares in ways you've always hoped for.

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Originally posted on February 5, 2008

Joe Beam founded LovePath International and is a best-selling Christian author and internationally respected marriage expert.