When he clams up, do this.

how to help your man open upMen sometimes clam up.

Try as hard as you want, there are times when it feels impossible to get your guy to talk.

You’ve likely been there. You know something is bothering him. You’re sure of it. Maybe you know of a specific issue he’s dealing with, or maybe he’s just being distant. Either way, all the signs are there. He’s got a lot going on in his mind, but he won’t let you in.

If you try to pry information out of him, he doesn’t respond well. When you ask how he’s doing, he answers in a single word: “Fine.” It can be infuriating, and even scary.

If he won’t talk to you, what does that mean about your relationship? Is this a sign that something is really wrong?

The most important thing to remember at those moments is that guys and girls handle emotional stress very differently.

When you’re working through something, you likely feel compelled to talk it out. A lot of women do. Men, on the other hand, tend to wall themselves off. They tinker with the issue in their heads, trying to find a solution to the problem. But they rarely share their thought process by default.

It may sound crazy to you, trying to tackle big issues all alone like that, but many men prefer this approach.

This leaves you in a tough spot. What do you do at those moments? How can you be supportive? How can you encourage your guy to open up? And, just as important, how can you determine if the issue involves you?

First and foremost, don’t panic. Just because he’s not talking to you doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem between the two of you.

It may help to understand where he’s coming from. When facing a problem he doesn’t know how to solve, your man feels out of control. That’s a very uncomfortable feeling for a man.

Men don’t like to open up when feeling the vulnerability of having no plan. To try to regain a sense of control, he may opt to seek a solution on his own. When you think about it that way, it makes a little more sense.

Still, what do you do?

Brute force certainly isn’t the answer. If you push him to open up, you’re only emphasizing that he’s out of control. You don’t want to do that!

how to help your man open upInstead, you need to find ways to affirm your faith in him while also inviting him to share when he’s ready. Simple statements like, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” can go a long way.

Follow that up with, “If I can help, let me know” and you’ve effectively told him two things: you believe in him, and you’re there if he wants to talk.

Just keep in mind that there’s no right way to handle emotional stress. You have your patterns and he has his. Both of you may have to bend a little to accommodate the other. You can help him by voicing support and extending a nonthreatening invitation to share.

Always on your side,

James Bauer

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23 thoughts on “When he clams up, do this.

  1. Miss inga uterus said:

    Hi James. I love this! You really hit the nail on the head. With my best friend/lover/fwb (of 2 years) when he is upset, I know when to walk away. We are co-worker and co-own a business as well. We are on a business trip together right now and went out to dinner last night with a friend from high school who has recently divorced. This guy asked us: “if you see each other at your 9-5, then own a store together, how do you handle seeing each other soo much? Don’t you ever fight?” We laughed. Said “of course” and my guy said, “yes, but we BOTH know how to read each other and give each other what we want and need. She knows that if I am upset about something when to walk away and give me space and time to think it and I know when she needs a hug or sometimes she needs space too. We give each other 15 minutes or 2 hours, come back and can either be fine or talk about it. That is what is great about us and why we work so well together. We never get sick of each other that way.”
    I was sooo shocked, I nearly fell off the bar stool. He knows I am in love with him and I hv always known he cared deeply about me… in that moment, I knew he loves me too and feels respected without him having to speak the words. (We are both single but I can’t have children and that is why we don’t have a relationship, yet neither of us dates… we have been monogamous for 2 years so I am still perplexed by him.)

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s very interesting. And you’re right; it’s a perfect example illustrating this aspect of how many men react when stressed. Apparently, you’re a natural…recognizing this instinctively.

  2. Happy ex-wife said:

    If you are divorced, stay divorced and move on. If he does not see that he is partialy to blame for the course of your marriage, he is selfish self centered ass. I was married to one of these jerks and you are better off without him and his poisoning your relationship with your family, friends, self-esteem, and trust. You desrve better and he can be bitter and alone. If he cannot take responsibility for his choices and actions by now, then he won’t. To him, he has done no wrong.
    10 yrs divorced and my ex still blames me for what is wrong in his life..

  3. Vicki said:

    My ex-husband and I are officially in counseling together. The divorce was final las August. We still love each other, we are both still hurt. He has accused me of not standing up for him and taking my daughters side ( age 24). When in fact I did defend him and told said daughter that our marriage is our marriage and to not interfere. As she claimed he was treating me poorly. I did not see this. So divorce came when he gave me the ultimatum it was either him or my daughter If I did not fix the situation. I personally feel he was simply nit picking on her constantly to get between my daughter and myself. He actually wanted me to toss her out on the street. Mind you, my daughter is a full time collage student and works two jobs. She is exhausted when she comes home. There were also a number of occasions she ignored him. Intentionally. I did speak to her about this as well. I feel I was put in the middle as he claims He comes first and she comes second. I get this today. I don’t need to cater to my daughters every whim. I just felt she works her butt of and goes to college that she needed a break from doing other things around the home. I also suspect he had an affair, as I found items that did not belong to me in his vehicle. On three separate occasions. Of douse he denied this by the third time I found something in his car, I finally asked, where did this come from? His reply was… who has been in my car. I left it alone. There is much more to all this. I will stop now and continue later. Again, we still love each other and are on our 3rd counseling session. He tends to be nasty accusing me of being 100% at fault while he takes none. I take some, not all. Any advice?

  4. maria said:

    My boyfriend and I have hit quite a snag and looking back, it was inevitable. I was not at my best when we met and he wasn’t either, yet we managed to build this connection that has a strong foundation of trust, fun, passion and integrity. We both determined that what I want and what he wants are not lining up and it is best not to be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore. I started out sad and devastated, then as if by magic, it changed to appreciation and gratitude for all the time we did spend together and all the lessons I’ve learned from this experience. I am back on track to the confident, vibrant woman he met but of course still very much in love with him. I can see where the real issues are and quite honestly, they are not that big and easy to fix (from my perspective). Here’s the thing though, he says he doesn’t want to be together but yet his actions and his signals all say the opposite. He is calling, attentive and the more I pulled away, the more he is actually doing all the things that I needed to connect in a good, honest way now. I’m giving him space, more space than truthfully I would have been comfortable with prior, but I am also taking this time to get back to me and truly evaluate the relationship. So here is the question… I can see now that I gave him every reason to be confused about the woman I really am-from being needy to critical to changing my priorities to him instead of me and my life. That has already changed for me and now he is sending every sign that he may want to be together after all. Was he just confused and these issues can be worked out or is it better to follow through on the breakup and move on? My gut tells me we are likely both still in a highly emotional part to this so time won’t hurt anything to get some clarity but at the same time, if this is just an example of us working through issues in a positive way, why not keep on that track? Thank you! M.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Maria. It sounds like you are doing a lot of things right. Keep up the good work. I agree that right now time is working for you, not against you. But the necessary background needed to answer a question about whether he was just confused by your actions before is not present here in your question. Consider submitting your question to one of our coaches where you will be guided through the process of submitting the necessary background information.


  5. Casey said:

    I’ve been married 13 years and a d all of a sudden my husband doesn’t know If he wants to be married. He says that he loves me but he is not in love with me. He says he doesn’t know if he ever has been . So hard to believe we have had so many great times together and he is my best friend. I have been with him thru the roughest times of his life loosing his dad then his mom. We would talk about everything and all of a sudden he has shut down. Now while telling me he loves me but is not in love he is crying and saying he is confused and doesn’t know what he wants. At first my approach was tell me tell me why. I asked a thousand times was it someone else he swears it isn’t. I just purchased your ebook on yesterday and have already started feeling better. I going to give him his space and try the respect rule in hopes that it works. I don’t wanna loose my husband any advice I would love. By the way we have 3 kids and he said when he married me he felt it was the right thing to do not necessarily because he was head over hills in love with me. All our friends and family look up to our relationship and think we are the idea couple. To hear this is like a shot in the heart!

    • James Bauer said:


      Ask him if he remembers the feeling of being in love. Help him to remember that it is just that, a feeling. (Couples in relationships fall in and out of love many times over the course of their marriage when the marriage lasts for decades. Normalize that for him. Tell him it does not mean he needs to flee.) Help him to retrace the reasons he decided to make a commitment to you long ago.

      Ask him to date you again instead of trying to fix feelings. Feelings are a byproduct of choices and life experiences. Tell him this is an opportunity for the two of you to make the relationship a fun priority again and something beautiful that can enrich both of your lives. Challenge him to join you in rebuilding the love and passion. This will give his mind a direction and soothe his anxiety if he accepts.

  6. Gio said:

    i found this very helpful, im going through a situation where my bf of one year is going through something with supposedly who he thought was his best friend. I think he’s coming to terms of him letting go of a friendship he thought was unbreakable and him clearing his life from a lot of drama he was put in. I saw he was greatly affected by it and hitting a realization. Im happy for him yet also feel he’s been asking for space and time to digest it all. I have felt pushed away and it has also made easy and reading this article, reminding me not to panic and over think things because to be honest i have been. I sent him the message that was mentioned here and i got a response back of him being warm back. Truly wise words, sometimes all you can do is show your there for someone and let them simply be.

  7. hawa said:

    You are a mind organisers James! Love disorganises the mind when it is not understandable, which on my side you have always.turned round.thank you

  8. Nikki said:

    How does this concept work in a long distance relationship. It’s really hard to bond and figure him out. Can you give me tips on building emotional intimacy when the relationship is long distance.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Nikki. This is a question that requires a more in-depth answer. I recently released a special report with tips and strategies for building intimacy in a long-distance relationship. Check it out here.


  9. Emmzie said:

    This is another excellent post. What jumped out is ‘Don’t panic’. That’s so easy to do. I have tried the reassuring, ‘I’m here if you need me’ and telling him ‘I know he’s got it’ … You are spot on it works. He didn’t tell me what was up in that particular situation, but I could feel him relax (if that makes sense). And I find that he shares more with me now even without me asking. Your advice and knowledge is always much appreciated.

  10. Lifera said:

    Why is it that most tactics that work with men involve caring less & disengaging? If he won’t talk to you: leave him alone, if he doesn’t call you: don’t call him, and if he does pursue you: play it cool, etc.

  11. Joan said:

    Great insights! Good communication skills are helpful for relationships to thrive and survive. It is important to be mindful of the fact that just because a partner is quiet doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something to say but wants to be heard in a way best suited for his style and temperament. This is true for both men and women. If a partner is more introverted, they may need space to think things through (whatever it is) before talking, while a more extroverted partner might think things through out loud and say things on the fly. This can cause hurt or confused feelings if one is not aware of what is going on when on the receiving end of a different communication perspective. Since opposites often attract (why is that??!!) there can be that element of miscommunicating communication which can be tough to work through sometimes. Too much silence could mean that a partner has given up on being heard, understood and affirmed………which fortunately, or unfortunately, only talking about can heal. It is wise to be aware of these communication styles so to not pry when someone is closed down for whatever reason, but be approachable when the time is right when each feels safe to express themselves and be heard so to feel validated, appreciated…..and irresistible. Maybe men and women should take a sign language class to learn how to communicate silently in their relationship during challenging times….uh, oh…maybe not because there are some hand signs that could be offensive, unless it is a finger motioning come here with a sweet, sly smile.

  12. jabeen said:

    It sounds ok but does not work in long term relationship when other things involved like money,parenting and family issues. I did everything with my husband and at last we divorced

    • caroline said:

      Hello I hear you. I have a man who I am having terrible problems with trying hard to understand, following tip bits from James but it’s so hard.

  13. Kay Nalla said:

    Hi James,

    I read all your emails and view the videos. Thank you! ! I am currently going thru a tough time with my bf of 1 year. He is in a financial situation and has been distance for nearly 5 months. We don’t meet at all although we r 30mins away from each other. He calls n text daily but it’s all about himself and his feelings. No questions asking me on my day. N when we talk he puts me down.
    I wanna leave him but as you said, every man handles problem differently. What is your advice?
    Also, he acted like an angel the first 4 months we first met even though he already was in the financial situation since then. Please help.
    K N

    • James Bauer said:

      Honestly, Kay, it sounds like this man is not enhancing your life. If that is true, you have nothing to lose by kindly explaining why the relationship is causing you more pain than joy. If he cares, he may ask for some time to show you he can do better. If he does not care enough to change, then you have already made the right decision in beginning the process of pulling away from him. No one wins when you spare him the truth about how he makes you feel.


  14. Anna said:

    Thank you for this article. It helped me to understand better and to be a lot less frustrated. I tried this the other day and it worked beautifully. After a long moment of silence he began to open up and explain what was bothering him. I put invisible duct tape over my mouth and just let him talk without interruptions. I think he really appreciated my quiet listening.

    • James Bauer said:

      Glad to hear you had a positive experience like that.

  15. Renee said:

    Thank you James for the excellent article. I’ve actually tried this concept with my husband and it works fantastic. Again thank you for this and every article and video I have received, you really do assist women with understanding men. You’re the greatest!!!!!

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