Silent Men

Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.

Rosalind Russell

how to communicate with menI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Joy is attractive. Foster joy in your life any chance you get.

My personal belief is that joy emanates from a deep sense of meaning and purpose more than anything else. Yes, you need to have certain basic needs met before you really care about a sense of meaning and purpose, but even in hardship, a sense of meaning and purpose can sustain an ember of joy that warms your heart.

With meaning as the foundation of joy, relationships are the houses built on that foundation. Most of us find the greatest meaning in our lives through the relationships we are in. I think that’s a good thing, but it can be frustrating to women who find themselves in a relationship with a man who lacks the knack for sharing his thoughts and feelings.

The joy of living can sometimes be interrupted by the frustrations of dealing with a man who sits in silence, failing to share his thoughts. You can teach a man to reflect on his thinking more often and to do a better job of verbalizing his thoughts. But there’s a line you should be careful not to cross. It’s the line between wanting something, and wanting something so badly that you fail to appreciate what you currently have.

What you currently have is a man. As such, he is neurologically predisposed to periods of extended silence and compartmentalized thinking. He’s not broken. He supposed to be that way.

I have always loved dogs. I love the way they accept you unconditionally with wagging tail and a cheerful greeting. In the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie talks about the marvelous way a dog seems to become friends with everyone it meets on the street.

Yet a dog has no conversational skill whatsoever. It may look at you with concern or interest when you talk, but it does not irritate you when a dog fails to reply. Why? Because you have accepted it is a dog, so you are grateful for what it is, not what you think it ought to be.

how to communicate with menMen and women are more similar than they are different. Nonetheless, certain differences really stand out when men and women try to have deep, meaningful relationships that are satisfying to both. It is my opinion that one of the differences that stands out the most is the tendency for men to communicate less. I encourage you to invite him to communicate more, but don’t let yourself get stressed out or discouraged about your relationship when he seems to enjoy periods of silence.

You will find men are sometimes refreshed by the silences and actually feel closer to you after spending some time in your presence, but not directly communicating with you. He may even retreat to another room for a time, only to come back with a smile on his face.

If you find this to be true for a man you are with, appreciate this characteristic of who he is. Don’t let yourself become stressed or angry if you choose to help him grow his communication skills. Instead, start with acceptance, then move toward the goal of gradually inviting him into patterns of deeper and more frequent communication about his inner world.

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63 thoughts on “Silent Men

  1. Rayan said:

    Hello James
    I’m having this identical problem right now. We broke up then we got back together again but he doesn’t express what’s bothering him about me directly and as a result it became a lot of points in addition to that he is not a good communicator via phone. He prefers face to face. We don’t get many chances to meet frequently because of his busy schedule. When I finally realized that sometimes he doesn’t answer my messages we agreed to meet. When I asked why he doesn’t reply to messages he started to mention a lot of points most of them were just that he misunderstood me and didn’t ask for explanation. I was happy to hear it was only that but I was very frustrated and I had the feeling that he wanted to count my mistakes and he wants to end the relationship. He said he didn’t mean that he just said what he said so he can be respectful for me I still didn’t get what that means.
    And also he texted me when I went home that he was very happy to see me and the last thing he wanted was to hurt me but he has to say all what he said otherwise he will be disrespectful for me.

    The other thing that is confusing me is I don’t think when we meet we reach meaningful conversations we are both very attracted to each other and he said he is 100% attracted to me and he is a physical person I’m afraid it’s only physical attraction rather than we are compatible people I’m kind of conservative person and there are a lot of things it’s not acceptable before marriage and I don’t know what to do and how to explain that without him thinking that I’m rejecting him or something. I believe he used to care for me as a person. He used to be my work coach before but now I see there is no good communication and we can’t arrange to meet frequently. I feel there is no balance, he is a busy guy. I applied the theory for your book he loves me but he is too busy the suggestion of saying good morning or good night to keep in touch and he didn’t reply. I discovered recently he didn’t like the suggestion and he said he didn’t contact his dad for two months and he is 42 years old and when he was teenager he didn’t do that so I was surprised !

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Rayan. It’s difficult to know what he meant about trying to be respectful of you without more context, but I find myself wondering if he may have been thinking something like, “I’m not sure what she means, and if I point out the ambiguity of her message it may seem disrespectful, so I’ll just wait till I see her in person.” It doesn’t seem like a very good communication policy, but maybe that’s how he approaches text messages.

      In situations like these, some people find it helpful to focus on just one root question: What does he want, and does it match what I want?

      Sometimes that question leads us to the realization that we are not right for each other. At other times it leads to resolution of problematic assumptions…allowing both partners to relax deeper into the relationship. It almost always moves things forward one way or another.


  2. Jean said:

    Hello James
    This is Jean again. Man you nailed it with this article, this is the man I’m seeing to a T. He holds me with love and admiration in his eyes silently. Smiles through his heart and soul, much resemblance of a dog, happy to see his best friend. Also, reads my emotions in the same way. He is a very silent man which used to confuse me , as well as scare me that he didn’t care. Then I carefully watched and learn to read them, now it is a confirmation and comfort through unspoken communication . He speaks openly as well, but his actions and eyes say world’s.
    He confessed the last time I saw him that it wasn’t fair,because he couldn’t hide how he feels for me.
    The one thing I have always had is strength and tons of joy. And I quit telling him trigger words that scares him. It made a world of difference.
    Thanks for all your articles and caring about others. I have been told I should give up by friends, but I believe in him that he can love again. And it shows when you look for it.
    God bless and have a great day
    Jean 🙂

    • Shakitha said:

      Hello Jean,
      My name is Shakitha. I too am in a similar situation. The guy I am dating is the strong silent type. So at times I have difficulty trying to read his emotions or understand his silence. I read your comment and I wanted to inquire what are “trigger words” that scares a man?

  3. ann said:

    Hello there,

    I’m a 3 month long distance relationship (5 hours away).
    Now its beginning to feel like I am slipping into the “friend zone”? The pet names have mostly fallen away.

    He says we have a weird relationship where I am his “go to” person (where he is getting over his ex and he will share stuff like “she is seeing someone else.” He says he knows, even today, he is still screwed up.)
    He is out 6+ mos. I have been out of mine 8+ months — and the beauty of it is we are like old friends – that had heat, friendship, laughter, chemistry and romance.
    Yet, things slipped after a surgery. Is it because I visited to help out?
    He says he isn’t comparing me to his ex, yet I realize she still has a pull on him, she ignores him.

    We were sweet and romantic and cute, until surgery and until he had to pet sit for his ex. As he had major eye surgery. Yesterday he says he feels pulled in so many directions. He called me 4 times and was sweet and funny.
    99% of the time we laugh. He even sings to me often (which surprises him – to which a guy friend says “the dummy is in love with you!”) he just doesn’t know it!
    Tonight he recanted that what we have is weird and he only calls me from his driving and that he must be confusing.

    1.) nothing is bad yet, he wants you in his life, have no expectations (it is what it is) – something may come of it! (says therapist mindfully)
    2.) Tell him you’d love to have an exclusive relationship with him and ask him if he would like to give it a real Shot. Yes or no question. (says a guy friend)
    Is it really a thing of let them go and they will come back if meant to be?

    Intimate body and mind still confuses him. Am I too available? Whereas the ex gives him the silent treatment and cold shoulder?

    Thanks so much,

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Ann. For personalized questions that do not directly relate to the blog post, please submit the question to our professional relationship coaches. They are able to provide personalized responses based on your unique circumstances.

      I’ll just add a quick thought here. You seem to assume that everyone knows exactly what you really want from this man (since you did not tell us in your question). I wonder if he knows what you want from him.
      Do you think he has a clear picture in his mind regarding the possibilities for the two of you? Do you know if he has even considered it? That’s where I would start if you do not already know the answers to those questions.

  4. marie said:

    i have been in a long distance relationship for 10 months we just met one month before he was transferred and still have kept in touch and he will drive to see me but every time we seem to get closer he withdrawals for weeks no text nothing and then i will hear from him telling me how much he loves and misses me…it is a very confusing relationship…i never harass or demand things from him i let him think he is in control..but i always express how grateful and happy i am when he visits and text me to try to encourage more of that behavior…beginning to think he’s married..but of course he says no…time to move on???

    • James Bauer said:

      He may be operating under the belief that long-distance relationships don’t work…even though he keeps giving in and trying to make it work for short periods of time. Rather than giving up completely, I advise you ask him. Yes, it will change the nature of your relationship if you ask him to explain his behavior, but it’s a last-ditch option before losing the relationship entirely if you walk away.


  5. Ali said:

    Women are generally born communicators. We feel free to express ourselves, and we like to know what’s going on for our guy. One thing I have learnt is that when my guy goes quiet, the absolute worst thing I can do is to push him for conversation or reasons. Maybe something IS bothering him, but more often than not if I just leave him to go into his ‘cave’ ….. watch tv, have a sleep, go for a run, etc … he usually comes looking for me when he is ready to connect again. And yes, I find it really hard not to feel pushed aside when this happens, but it’s really not about me …. and it’s very natural.

  6. Robyn said:

    Hi James, this is unrelated to last subject but was wondering if you could give me some advice. Online dating. I was chatting to a guy for a week or so on line and then talked on the phone every day for a week for over hour each time some had lots in common with each other, I met for lunch and went well but was not attracted to him. But felt we could be friends anyway. He still called everyday but start to complain about an ex girl friend he had only recently spilt from. So I said to him I didn’t think he was over her and should call me when his mind was in a better frame of mind. I seemed to get the negative energy from what was happening to him. Anyway a week later I called to see if he ok no answer and left message asking if all was ok as I thought we at least were friends. No answer so left another message and got back a message from his fiancé asking what did I want. I explained we had been communicating for a while. I also told her to run girl as that’s not a man either of us deserve. Yes I was angry with him but I was more angry at myself, I feel I’m a good judge of character but did not see this coming at all, as he was very generous with offering to help me with things. Yes I think my instinct told me not to go there and I didn’t but still was shocked by it all. My question is what do you think makes people do this to others, what are they trying to achieve do you think? In Australia we call these types dickheads. I’m grateful I learnt a lesson but not sure what that lesson is.

    • James Bauer said:

      Well, there are many lessons that could be learned from something like this. One is to obey your instincts, as you did. But the main lesson is to take things slow as you get to know people, especially when you meet them outside of a social network.

      When you know someone through a friend or an acquaintance, you can learn a lot about them from the context of their social circle. You can see how other people treat them, see how they treat other people, etc. And most importantly, you know whether or not they are currently in a relationship with someone else. Meeting people online often goes better on Facebook because you can see a person’s social network (but even that can be faked with a significant amount of work).

  7. Deb Cottrell said:

    Hi, thank you for your insights, they help me to reflect and hopefully not get things so wrong (wish I’d known about you before I screwed things up with someone I value so highly a while back…). I understand you’re saying to accept that men communicate less. But is that the case for those men who did it so much more in the chase phase? The man I’d love to communicate more with me (we aren’t together but were for a while) does so infrequently and in much less depth now (though he invariably initiates contact with me and drops some lovely compliments in every so often). It’s confusing as it doesn’t help me to move on; I’m wondering if this less frequent communication is just him as a man and not a reflection of him just not being into me, yet I can’t help thinking back to a time when we would write messages to each other all night – so I assume he no longer feels the same. Any thoughts?

    • James Bauer said:

      Deb, that’s a good question. Yes, it does apply to men who were more vocal in the chase phase. Men often leave their comfort zone while “on a mission” to impress a woman early in the relationship. As the relationship becomes comfortable, he tends to slip toward his baseline way of communicating.

      However, your situation seems to imply that the two of you are no longer in a defined relationship. Yet he is reaching out to you. Perhaps he also wishes the relationship could be rekindled. If you end up together again, communicate openly and often about how it makes you feel when he opens up and talks with you about his inner thoughts, hopes, fears, wishes, and dreams.

      • Lorna (LaLa) said:

        I agree with you James, it sounds a bit fishy to me, Deb, that he “invariably initiates contact and drops some lovely compliments every so often” – don’t you think he is just waiting for a sign from you that you are still interested? And you are not taking the bait. James has written articles relating to this situation (or maybe I’ve picked them up elsewhere) that men are very sensitive and are often afraid to “show their cards” before they get an encouraging sign from the woman – he doesn’t want to be rejected, in other words, and is afraid and holding back. Why don’t you contact him first, next time, if you DO want to rekindle the relationship. What have you got to lose? You say you “would love him to communicate more with me” – maybe he is thinking the same. In which case you will never get anywhere. It takes two to communicate – it can’t be all one-sided. Give it a go – go for it – and best of luck!!! And don’t forget to throw him a few nice compliments too – they love it. Just see how well he responds – like a puppy-dog – tickle his tummy for goodness sake! . Lorna

  8. Jo said:

    I think it’s funny how women all seem to think that men should know how we feel. It is so difficult just listen to the silence? Most things are said best when nothing is said at all.

  9. AG said:

    This is insightful, but kind of weird to me because my most long-term relationships have been with men who talk WAAAAAAY more than I do. I was with a guy for 7 years who drove me nuts and never gave me peaceful time to go into my own deep state of inner calm concentration. But we could just chalk that one up to his insecurity.

    But strangely, my 4 year old son is also a big talker. Sometimes he just won’t stop. Maybe it’s something bout me? I don’t know, but I really like spending time with a guy when we don’t have to talk all the time.

    I just find it really hard when someone goes away for an extended period of time and I have no idea what they are thinking or feeling about the relationship.

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