Some time ago I wrote a post about how wives can deal with an emotionally distant husband. That post was mostly on how to understand why your husband is so closed off and how to use that knowledge to extend grace. In this post I will share some tips on how you can actually help him open up to you.
Be A Safe Haven
The first step in encouraging your husband to open up to you is to understand why he is closed off in the first place.
Like the turtle, you husband uses his emotional shell as a defense mechanism. This is normal. We have two preprogrammed instincts that automatically fire when faced with a threat, which psychologists have characterized as “fight or flight”. If your husband is emotionally distant, flight is probably his usual response.
You’ve heard of the Proverbs 31 woman, right? The virtuous and noble example of godly womanhood? Did you know there is also a Proverbs 21 woman? Look at this quote:
It is better to live in a corner of a roof
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. Proverbs 21:9
Nothing will send a husband ducking for cover under his emotional shell faster than a “contentious woman”. How are you treating your husband? Are you respectful? Do you extend patience and grace? Or are you demanding and controlling? Are you highly critical of him? Do you nag him or treat him like a child?
The words you use, your tone of voice, and your body language can all go a long way to either tear your husband down and cause him to build up his emotional walls, or to build him up, encourage trust and bring those walls tumbling down.
Show Interest in Him
Be interested in him. More importantly, show interest in what interests or is important to him. You could just ask him how his day went when you come together after a day at work, but my wife could tell you that this won’t do much to start a real conversation. One or two word answers are typical for these kinds of questions.
Instead, you might try asking him if he’s working on any interesting projects, or follow up on a project he already shared. Or you could encourage him to pick up a new hobby he’s been thinking about.
The key here is to avoid sounding like your pushing or prying for information. These are violent words, and will once again activate his defense mechanisms.
By showing interest in him you are opening the door and inviting him in for a conversation. He may not step through that door. That isn’t up to you. But the more often you make the invitation, the more chances he has to step through.
Have More Sex With Him
For men, sex is the gateway to emotional intimacy.
And it isn’t just a physical need, contrary to popular belief. Sex is how he shows his love for you. It is also how he receives your love for him, and how he deepens that emotional connection. Sex helps him fall even more in love with you.
Sex is so important, it will be very difficult for him to feel emotionally close with you if he is unsatisfied, which makes it very difficult for him to open up.
But regular, engaged, passionate sex will open the door to his heart. It isn’t enough to “give him” regular sex. He wants you to want it as much as he does. If it’s something you simply tolerate, that’s a huge turn off to him. He’ll feel undesirable, unwanted.
Do you initiate? Do you suggest or entertain suggestions of doing different things in bed? Or are you close minded about certain activities? A big component of sex, for him, is the adventure, the exploration.
So, how often should you be having sex?
Studies show that there are several health benefits to regular sex. These benefits increase as sex becomes more frequent. They increase sharply for up to three lovemaking sessions per week, and continue to increase more slowly beyond that.
I consider 3 times a week at minimum as a pretty good benchmark for healthy couples in normal circumstances.
Don’t consider this to be a hard rule, just a guideline. Kids, sickness, hormonal issues, difficult days or difficult life seasons are some things that can get in the way of this. But you should still make an effort to support your husband and offer you body to him sexually as often as circumstances allow.
This is probably the most important tip in this post. You can do all the things I suggested above, but that might not result in him opening up emotionally. These are all things you should be doing already as a loving, respectful wife. If you do them just to get him to be more emotionally involved, you’re missing the point.
Studies show that we are more inclined to do nice things for people when they do nice things for us (as if we needed a study for that). This is why marketers often give away something valuable for free. This builds trust and goodwill, and makes it more likely for the prospect to buy something in the future.
Following the suggestions in this post will build goodwill with your husband. He’ll naturally want to do nice things for you if you treat him well. But the nice things he has in mind might not be what you want. The best way to get him to reciprocate the way you want him to is to be assertive.
I’m not talking about being demanding and controlling. It’s possible to be assertive without being contentious. Simply let him know your needs and desires confidently. There’s no need to beg, demand, or manipulate. This is attractive, and it is good communication.
Doing all these nice things and just hoping he’ll magically understand that you want him to open up to you is bad communication, and it is unfair to him and to yourself.
Remember Esther? She came to the king, her husband, on his throne even though she could have been killed for coming unbidden. She didn’t beg or plead or demand. She confidently told the king what she wanted, and left it in his hands. Because of the love and trust between them, he responded favorably.
If your husband is emotionally closed off the best way to draw him out of his protective shell is to show him respect, be interested in him, meet his emotional and sexual needs, and confidently let him know what you want from him. It may take some time, but as you continue to work at building trust and intimacy you will find that he responds to you more and more.
Melt Your Man’s Heart (*aff link)
Draw your man out of his emotional shell and build deeper love and intimacy in your marriage by learning use confident communication to thaw out his heart.