Women can talk a relationship to death, and prodding their man will only provoke them to distance.
How many times have you asked the man in your life "what's wrong" in an attempt to draw them into communication? This, says Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, is the biggest mistake women make. Contrary to what women are trying to do with that question, it is actually the best way to shut their man up and make him withdraw.
Instead, advises Dr. Bonnie, when you perceive that something is upsetting your significant other, give him his space while also letting him know that you are available to talk. "Be empathetic to what's going on in his life. Say something like, 'you look tired, let me take the kids and when if you want to discuss anything that's going on, just let me know,'" suggests Dr. Bonnie. She calls this a "time out" - time and space for the man to process what, if anything is going on.
Women can talk a relationship to death, and by prodding their man will only provoke them into declaring that nothing's wrong. Men will likely answer the "What's wrong" question by saying "I don't know," which only makes women angry. Unlike women, men don't want to share what's going on when they're upset, they're more likely to do so when they're relaxed and less stressed. In actuality, they often don't know what's wrong! "My husband once told me, 'If I knew what was wrong, I would tell you!'" shares Dr. Bonnie. This is why women are typically the guardian of connection in a relationship, and why Dr. Bonnie developed Smart Heart Skills and Dialogue to help communication. This dialogue is outlined in the book Make Up Don’t Break Up, New York Times readers choice Best Relationship book of 2010.
For this reason, it may also be helpful to suggest a diversion, like a movie or dinner out. You could make his favorite food or run errands to help him out. "Instead of saying 'what's wrong,'" advises Dr. Bonnie, "women should say something like, 'I'm not sure you're ok, it seems like maybe you had a hard day, would you like to take time alone'?"
Dr. Bonnie suggests that then, women can make an appointment to "tease" it out of him. By telling their significant other that they're available when and if they want to talk, women can let their man know they care about them without smothering them or attempting to over-talk things. Men have a physiological reaction to women's emotionality, it often makes them uncomfortable so pushing to talk about a topic will only make matters worse.
If you do suggest talking about what's bothering him at a later time or date, make it time-limited so they know you're not looking for an open-ended discussion. Having ten minutes of communication time each day is a good place to start. Just be sure that it's not in the evening. "This is a bad time to have a discussion," cautions Dr. Bonnie, "after a long day blood sugar can be unbalanced, people are tired, and it's not a great time to start a conversation. Additionally, men's testosterone is lower at night making him more tired and less likely to be receptive to a discussion." Instead, make sure you've both eaten, and can be relatively relaxed.
If your significant other does divulge what's bothering them, give them positive reinforcement. "Try not to over-react or become overly emotional," says Dr. Bonnie. "Often, men are wary of expressing their feelings or problems because they're worried of the backlash. Be prepared to be supportive and relaxed about whatever issues may come up."
Conversely, if your significant other decides not to tell you what's going on, it's important not to get angry or sulk about it. Again, this can have the opposite of the desired affect says Dr. Bonnie: "Reward your man if he does open up, but don't punish him if he doesn't. This will only mean in the future he will be less likely to let you know that there's any thing wrong at all."