What Do I Do When My Partner Won't Talk To Me?

Part of the reason we enjoy being in a relationship is the verbal connection. We thrive when we are letting others know what’s going on inside of us. The relationship is deeper and more intimate when the verbal connection is two-way. In a marriage, intimate partnership, or dating, we need verbal communication to keep the relationship growing. If we are not connecting by sharing who we are, the relationship becomes stagnant. We easily slip into a routine of little communication…it’s a slow death.
If you are frustrated because your partner isn’t communicating with you there are things you can do that may help. First, own the fact that you are only responsible for yourself. You do not have control over others, including your partner. Your job is to own and deal with your emotions, thoughts, words, attitudes and actions. Not anyone else’s. That one step is surprisingly hard for many of us, especially when we want to see change in another. I recommend finding a group you can attend or having a few safe people in whom you can confide and process your frustrations with this piece. The role of the group or friends is not to help you bash your partner and point out all of her flaws. Instead, the people in this context will support the work you are doing in yourself to let go of trying to manipulate or control your partner.
It can be helpful to have a productive conversation with your partner. Productive implies that you have this conversation when emotions are not heightened. It’s during a calm time. It might sound like this: “I would like to talk with you about our communication. Would you be open to that?” Hopefully this is received with a positive response. If not, you could say, “Having this conversation is really important to me. Is there a time that would be better for you?” Again, if this is not met with a positive response, “It would mean a lot to me if you would be willing to have this conversation but I cannot make you do that. When you are ready, let me know.” And wait. For days or weeks or…
Give the person a chance to decide she wants to talk. Don’t pout, slam doors, stop talking to her, tell others how awful she is, or focus on all of her faults. This is a time for you to reflect on yourself. Ask yourself the question, “What is it that I might be doing that is contributing to my partner not talking to me or even wanting to have this discussion with me?” Ponder that, ask safe trusted people to give you their thoughts on what you might be doing that is contributing to the situation. The point isn’t to take all the blame for the situation. Often we get so focused on the negative in our partner that we miss the things we are doing that are adding fuel to the fire. It feels so much better in the short run to blame, but you will not see healing or growth in your relationship if you remain in that stance. If you are a praying person, you can ask for guidance on seeing your part. You can pray that your partner sees her part, too. Give the other person and yourself the gift of time before taking any next steps. I’ll address those next steps in a later post.
If the response is positive, then let your partner know how you feel when he doesn’t communicate with you. You might say, “I feel sad because I experience distance between us when we aren’t talking about what we’re thinking, doing and feeling. What I’d really like is for us to talk more.” Again, assuming the response is positive, you might ask, “Is there anything I can do differently that would help?” Let’s say the two haven’t seen each other all day, when they do reconnect, one of them wants some down time first before entering into a conversation. The one who wants this down time could ask for it. “Yeah, actually, when I get home you start asking me questions about my day but I’m not ready for that. I would like about 15 minutes to just detox from my day. Would that work for you?” That would be the start to a productive conversation and hopefully healthier future dialogue.
I know this rarely happens on its own. Few of us were taught healthy communication skills. You both may need the help of a counselor or marriage coach to get the tools you need to have a more connected relationship. The investment will pay off in the benefits you experience which could last a lifetime!

Getting Your Needs Met Part 2: What Are Needs?

OK, I know it’s been a few weeks since my last post…I’m one of those people who has big dreams, limited follow through and poor organization…but that’s for another post. Back to needs!
I think the best place to start with the topic of needs would be: What are they? Some may say all we need is air, water, food and shelter. If we are merely talking about physical survival that is true. It starts to get a bit more complicated as we look at the deeper layers of what it means to be human. Research has shown that emotional and physical connection with others are as important to surviving and thriving as the basic life sustaining ingredients of air, water, food and shelter. So now the list of needs may read: air, water, food, shelter, emotional connection and physical connection with other human beings. The additions raise some questions. What kind of emotional and physical connection with human beings is necessary for survival? Prisoners in concentration camps had physical and emotional connections with human beings which resulted in death. No, those don’t count. We need certain kinds of connection with others. Connections that breathe life, hope, and healing into us. What does that look like for you?  Just as each of us is unique, so are our needs.  There may be some similarities from person to person, but there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to needs.  What works for one person may not work for another.
I want to create a bridge here between needs based on mere survival to needs that enhance the quality of our lives and relationships.  The latter are the type of needs we will focus on for the remainder of this series of blogs on needs.  First we’ve established basic needs for survival.  Now we will look at how those needs manifest themselves in our relationships.  Although we can survive without some of our relational needs being met, we are not truly thriving or reaching our full potential.  I can live without touch in my marriage, but the quality of my connection with my husband plummets when a hug, handhold or some sort of body to body contact are non-existent.  There is something about this type of non-sexual physical connection through touch that increases the intimacy in our relationship.  On the opposite side, one of my daughters does not enjoy very much physical contact.  Hugs are seldom given or received.  She needs me to sit and connect with her verbally.  She wants me to listen to her, to interact with her through conversation.  That is how she experiences an increase in intimacy with people.
Mmmm…I’m hearing something about my use of intimacy.  I’m not using it with any sexual reference.  Intimacy in this case refers to deeply knowing and connecting with another person.  It’s the space in relationships where we let our guard down.  I feel safe with the other person and allow her in to the secret, well protected parts of my heart.  Because she is safe, I allow myself to be fully exposed in the relationship.  Typically this type of connection is two-way.
Now to you.  What are your needs in relationships?  What elements are necessary for you to connect and feel connected to another person?  Is it touch, verbal connection, spending time together?  There are many needs, not just the few I’ve pointed out.  Each of us also has more than one need in relationships. We’ll delve into our individual needs more in the next part but for now, begin to simmer in understanding what your needs are.