When Our Partner is Silent


Is your partner silent instead of opening up about their feelings? The man pictured zipping his mouth keeps a tight seal on his feelings.

As a couple’s therapist I find it so reassuring that almost each couple I help has two different types of people in the relationship. One person is expressive and forthcoming and the other one is silent and isolates.

In the beginning of any relationship these traits are not seen. We are all so busy just finding our person that we are entranced with them and they are for the moment, perfect.

Our Competing Needs Come to Light After the Honeymoon

We can feel exasperated when our partners don't meet our needs or expectations, just like the woman pictured being upset with her husband.

But after several months we all start to see that what we thought about them is not exactly who they are. You see what we do is put them into our minds as the perfect person. We fit them into what we have been wishing and waiting for.

Of course they aren’t going to fit our desires. But really, this person you love didn’t grow up thinking that he or she was going to just walk into your brain and then everything will be exactly right.

No, they probably have their own idea of what they are looking for and it might differ wildly from yours. And this is when the difficulty begins.

Our Partner Being Close Makes Misunderstanding and Hurt Challenging

The closeness we have with our partner makes misunderstanding hurt that much more, leaving us upset like the pictured couple.

Maybe they didn’t get you the way you thought they should. Maybe they got mad at you and you were astounded that they could get so angry over something so little.

It doesn’t matter what sets you off, because in relationships it is bound to happen. We open our hearts so wide to fit in our person, but when we get hurt we don’t have the capacity to close down like we do in other parts of our world. And as a result, we get crushed.

This is a common occurrence. But actually it is a sign that you are touching some old wounds and this is the time to work and improve and heal them. But because there are no mandatory relationship classes we often don’t know how this is supposed to happen.

I had to go to counseling before I was a counselor to learn this. Now I help others.

Silence in Relationships is a Habit Learned Elsewhere

Childhood can teach us that the best way to cope is to be silent, like the boy pictured shh-ing. These habits don't serve us well in most relationships.

But back to having a partner who is silent. For those of us who are verbal when we get our feelings hurt, well I feel for you. My husband is a silent one. He is not the one to raise the alarm when hurt. He might just have a sad look on his face and that is all. It is very hard to understand someone who doesn’t speak about what is happening inside of them. But I want to give you some understanding. People who are not able to speak about their feelings are not doing this to make us mad.

They are initiating a habit that has been with them a long time. Staying safe on the inside is something they have been doing since they were little. What they might have been worried about is getting the love they desire. But since getting consistent love was unavailable when they were small, it was probably better to hide inside instead.

Be Loving: Your Partner Will Open Up More as They Feel Safe

Being loving can help you and your partner be more open, like the happy elder couple pictured.

See your partner as deserving of love from you. Try not to label them as uncommunicative. When they know you are a safe being and they can depend on you they will learn to be more comfortable with themselves and open up.

So if you want your silent partner to join you, try being loving to them, to let them know you are always there for them because you love them. This is their healing, and when healed they can fly.


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'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

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