Marriage

Sometimes It Hurts to Be Silent in Marriage

I am pretty chill about most things. This can be a good quality to have for marriage and a bad quality. On the one hand, I am more flexible than my husband who is more defined in his opinions. He likes to think about dinner—I don’t really care where we go to eat.  There are times when he likes quiet—I am game for 5 kids spending the night any time. On the other hand, he is clearer about what is important to him and we all know it. I am not clear. There are some things I do care about, but my family doesn’t always know what that is because I tend to do the wrong thing—I remain silent.

It hurts.

And it can hurt in different ways.

Sometimes I am silent about my desires because I don’t want to be a bother.

For example, my birthday is just a few days after Christmas and the exact same day as my husband’s. So, it’s tough to feel special because gifts have already been given ad infinitum and who is going to spearhead the “party?” Me or Mark…it’s his birthday too. Normally I don’t really mind, but recently I had a big year birthday and felt quite forgotten. Should I have felt left out? I never made a big deal about my birthday before, so my kids and husband didn’t make it a big deal. But it was a big year, so I had a different expectation in my mind.

I was silent when I should have said something. Ouch, it hurt my feelings. I should have told my family I wanted to do something special for my special birthday. They would have done it—they love me and would never want me to be disappointed.

Sometimes I am silent because it does not seem worth the discomfort of a sticky conversation.

My husband, Mark, is a born and raised attorney. His dad is an attorney, and he and his brothers all went to the same law school. They are good, really good at point, counterpoint, case closed. I am not. My passions are deep, my emotions are high, and my thoughts are not always well organized when they come out of my mouth. Mark is more articulate than me, and it is a lot of work on my part to make a point. So when I weigh the cost of silence versus expressing my opinion about a sticky situation, I often choose the lesser of the two and remain silent.

When I am silent in these situations, it often hurts my heart because my passions run deep. When I feel deeply about something and I stuff it, it really hurts. What’s worse is that, at some point, that passion will erupt. Not pretty. It comes out venting and angry after building up for long periods of time. Rather than silently stuffing, I should speak up.

I have learned that silence in marriage may be costly in the end.

If I don’t speak up, I hurt myself in the end. I have found one little trick to my silent dilemma. I write an email. It sounds a little chicken, but it works for me because I get the chance to really organize my thoughts. And I can get it all out without being questioned or side tracked.

I just used this trick the other night with awesome results. Mark had been allowing our youngest to do something that we never let our other kids do. I mentioned it to him but he didn’t see my point. It was late at night and I was not feeling mentally alert enough for a stimulating conversation, so I went silent. But I was very convicted about the parenting of our son, and I didn’t want to let it slide. I went downstairs, wrote it out, and emailed it to Mark. He opened it the next morning (always better in the morning) and came to me and simply said, “You’re right.”

Ahhhhhhhhh, so easy. My heart felt so good.

It can take years to find tricks that make a marriage work well. What is your tendency? Are you silent or outspoken? And do you have a trick to make either work?

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  • Alvin

    No im the same my husband has a huge job and i remain quite silent when hes at home when he is at work he cant talk on the phone so ive been emailing him for a few years now and he loves it and i can feel more open we are more on the same page ! X

    • Awesome! I am not the only one who emails her husband. It seems so counterintuitive to have to email someone you live with 🙂

  • Kerry

    Susan/Mark-I am so silent and non-confrontational that it, at times actually causes problems for me and my long-term boyfriend. I’m trying to learn a way to break this habit. It drives him nuts that I am so indirect…and my indirectness often causes confusion and misunderstandings and well, it all ends up blowing up in my face! Any tips for this? I have always been called a people-pleaser. And i do the same thing always downplaying myself and my needs and going out of my way to meet or exceed the needs and wants of others! I read your posts and emails daily and love taking your advice-it applies to all relationships that are to be long-lasting and healthy, of course, not just marriages. Thanks for any advice that you or your readers can offer!

    • Kerry, I am of the same–a people pleaser. So is one of my daughters. The funny thing is that I almost learn about myself from watching her. It is easier to see in someone else. Try the trick of writing down what you are trying to say. It may only work for me but the more I write the more it becomes clear to me what I really want to get across! You can do it. And because you are a pleaser you will be really happy when you do.

      • Kerry

        Thanks so much for your reply, Susan! I will take that advice and give it a whirl!

        • Let me know how it goes and if you have any other inspirations on how to express well!

  • Ramona Daley

    Oh wow! I’d love to have a face to face conversation with you. I can so relate to everything you said. Been married 30 years and sometimes I feel like he isn’t all the way tuned in to the really important things. I could write you a novel. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Lynz Wellman

    silence is painful, but then, so is speaking out

    • True! Loving well with words is an art and a science.

  • Caren Jones

    Very helpful.. My husband and i are both ‘hedgehogs’ when we withdraw and say silent instead of arguing/sticking by our point. We have learnt that its much better to discuss things and keep things in the open. We have both written letters in the past. It does mean our side of things is understood better and when written sown shows its v important to us. Its the hard conversations that are sometimes difficult to discuss…but so worth it. No secrets. We find the love languages to be extremely helpful and in the uk the marriage course and parenting courses that we host in our church. Keep communicating, being each others biggest fan and no secrets is the key. Thank you for all the wonderful advice on here! And your honesty x

  • Diane Samson

    I loved your post. Found you on twitter and for some reason decided to check out your website. I was surprised to find your post on being silent in marriage. I have come a long ways (married now 30 years) since I was first married. Because of the way I grew up and living with so much conflict, I often chose to be silent. I was ridiculed as a child and teenager for it, but it still felt safer than to speak my mind. When I entered my marriage I did the same. And my husband didn’t understand my silence. After hours of working through it, stepping out in faith, and knowing my voice does matter, I have moved leaps and bounds from when I was a child. Thanks for your post and your heart laid out on the page. Blessings to you!

  • Lisa

    This is MY life :/

    • Lisa

      Right down to the attorney husband who can get his point across like a pro. Plus, he is type A. I have always felt I needed to be more flexible to balance us out but now I am feeling hurt and dissatisfied WAY TO OFTEN because my needs are rarely met. And we have been in this pattern for SO LONG that it is difficult to break. I may try the writing just to organize my thoughts. I don’t think he would read an email as he would think that was weak move on my part which is kind of ironic because when I try to actually VOICE my opinion his initial reaction is to cross-examine and shut me down.

      • Lisa K.

        I relate with what you said about intentionally being flexible to “balance us out.” 21 years into my marriage and I’m tired of being the one to be flexible/give in just to keep the peace. I feel like I have no voice – with my spouse or my kids. I’m just not sure how to break the cycle at this point.

  • FaithfullToHim

    I suspect the reason you had success in this situation Susan is because your relationship dynamic includes the ability for your husband to hear you, respect you, and respond in a constructive way (yes, timing, tone, method, etc. all play a part and there are probably times when things don’t work out as well since we are all growing in our faith and our relationships). But, I would suggest that the outcome here is the fruit / product of the underlying dynamic and anyone who does not have the same relationship foundation and dynamic might employ the same strategy with a very different outcome (ie: someone with a spouse whose relationship with the Lord is much more immature). In short, I believe the marriage advice given in your family of ministries often gets it backwards and points to the fruit, ignoring the root.. and it becomes a bit like preaching to the choir (and I am sincerely happy for all those singing along joyfully). However, based on results, families are in crisis (divorce, unhappily married, projecting a curse instead of blessing on their children, feeding division and dysfunction that bleeds into mental and physical maladies that infiltrate families, churches, politics, educations, healthcare, welfare, eating disorder, addictions, suicide, etc.). The roots of those trying to survive in these environments (much less thrive, contribute, and function as a healthy part of the Body of Christ) are a mirror opposite of the dynamic you describe in your experience. So, where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, of everything that is seen and unseen, and NOTHING is too hard for Him! He tells us that we have not because we ask not, which points to how important it is to be asking for the right things, And, it’s not “either” “or”. It can, and often is, both. We can pray for the choir and also pray for those in the trenches at the same time. Fifty percent of solving any problem begins by properly defining it.. and the enemy would prefer we all be offended by each other. If we don’t take the bait and we stop lining up on opposing sides (we are on the same team!) we can ask God to bless and multiply our resources and help hurting families. The difference between a cynic and a skeptic is that a cynic already has their mind made up, while a skeptic is still open to the Lord’s teaching and His truth. The enemy has succeeded in turning too many into cynics, who are no longer teachable, and are not teaching others how to operate and walk in the (Holy) Spirit of Truth.. feeding the deceptions/dysfunctions of this age… Bless you and your family of ministries and you grow and serve the Lord+

    • Susan Merrill

      FaithfultoHim, Thank you for sharing. I am blessed to have a dynamic with my husband that I know many do not have. It is one that did not happen by accident. We have had to work hard to maintain our love and respect for each other. Part of the work has been through faith, fellowship with like minded friends and good solid Biblical teaching and counseling. Even in my circle of like minded friends, deep painful crisis has struck many marriages. There is a slow, slippery slope that even the best relationships can slide down, eventually crashing in crisis. The path often begins long before the crisis from sometimes simple things like remaining silent in your communication with your spouse. The silence grows, hearts become frustrated and bitter, and the marriage grows cold. You are so right about our help comes from the Lord whether you are trying to keep a marriage strong or take steps toward marriage recovery. Thank you for sharing.

  • Michelle Roma

    I have always been very Outspoken, always spoke my mind. After marrying my husband who is the complete opposite I started to less and less speak my mind. Sometimes it’s for the best but others I feel like it bothers me not to actually say it and be freed of that feeling. So I send texts or emails or write a letter to him. It works very well. Since when I’m mad I become pretty rough with my words and when I write it I read it and I can adjust it so the message gets through without the roughness. But being silent is not always a bad thing I’ve learned.

  • Shannonfabulous

    You and I are 2 peas in a pod. And Michael sounds a lot like Mark. I have often written things down just to get them off my chest to see if I’m right or not. I have, on occasion, sent an email. I thought it was chicken too, or reverting back to when we dated long distance. Thinking that I was not “woman enough” to face him and deal with the situation. I’M SO GLAD I’M NOT ALONE! LOL!! Thanks for your honesty! I so love ya, sister! 🙂