Understanding a Passive Husband during Conflict

Posted on 06/10/2015 by



Sometimes, being a passive husband, I sit back and think about just how hard it must be for my wife to understand me.  I have so many quirky things about my personality and the way I communicate that in all reality probably do not make sense.  For many things, I react very much under the foreign language that could be called the “man code” system of honor and respect.  If that isn’t confusing enough, throw in my passive tendencies and you get a hyper version of honor and respect where most of the battles take place in my head and little comes out of my mouth.  It might be better described by saying that everything I say and do is extremely thought out and measured to cause the least conflict.  I protect the thoughts that go on in my head and I find security and safety in limiting how much knowledge I share.  Yea, see I told you it was pretty screwed up.  It cannot be easy for my wife to try to figure me out with all of that dysfunction going on.  Surprisingly, though, I find that many of you and many of the husbands of the wives that read her blog are very much like me.

In a national survey conducted by Decision Analysts, Inc. they asked the question, “In the middle of a conflict on a day-to-day issue with your wife do you feel that your wife doesn’t respect you or doesn’t love you?  Four out of every five men chose that their wife didn’t respect them at that moment.  It may seem odd that men would choose respect as the broken link in the chain and not love.

In my own experience, I find that during a conflict with my wife my own dysfunctional communication style often battles with my ability to resolve the issue.  My attempts to limit what I say will often lead me on a path that gets quieter and quieter as the conflict increases.  This usually frustrates my wife and she may even turn up the volume (words, emotions, sound) during the conflict.  The increase in volume creates a feeling where I just want to remove myself from the conflict.  My mind says that the honorable thing for me to do is to withdraw and shutdown.  That seems innocent enough because I do not say anything I might regret later and I am not pushing the conflict higher.  The problem is that I haven’t resolved the conflict, my wife is feeling incredibly unloved, and the thoughts in my head haven’t gone anywhere.

Ladies, I know that you are probably thinking at this point, “Why should I even try?  Am I just supposed to take care of everything in the household and then not say anything to my husband because he might feel disrespected?  Will I not just be a doormat by coddling his stubborn demeanor?”  The best that I can do to describe the difference is that where as a woman has a deep desire to feel loved a man has a deep desire to feel respected.  When a man doesn’t feel respected it is extremely hard for him to show love.  So, likewise, when a woman doesn’t feel loved it is hard for her to respect her husband.  There lies a big problem because as each feels the kryptonite from the other spouse it is harder and harder for them to get out of the cycle (Crazy Cycle).

Is it fair?  Truthfully, no.  Should a spouse go out of their way to try to bring out the best in their partner?  Hopefully.  It would be best if it was a two way street.  To get to a two way street situation it usually takes one spouse dying to self. 

What are some things that women can keep in mind to help a passive husband during conflict?

Treat him as an emotional equal

I think sometimes women look at their husbands as being physically bigger and stronger and take the approach that they should be able to handle anything that they throw at them.  Words hurt him as much or more so than they do you.  He may not respond in a very vocal fashion but I can assure you that the thoughts that you have relayed are filling his mind.

Treat him like a man and not like a girlfriend

Women friends will often talk their way through a conflict.  This will usually involve putting some very personal issues on the table and then finding resolution.  When a man works through a conflict with another man it is conducted under an unwritten honor code.  Men are careful to keep the discussion within the boundaries and are careful to keep from drawing a flag.  While it might seem normal for a wife to go about a discussion in the same way she might a girlfriend, it can be taken by a husband that she is being disrespectful.  So, the idea is to be able to state the problem in as unemotional way as you can and then let it go.  If your husband doesn’t give you an immediate reaction, then that is okay and he is probably processing it in his mind.  His failure to show a reaction is often frustrating but it is not a good time to twist the dagger by adding an insult or lash of anger.  His approach to the issue may be resolved completely different than you and may take more time.

Understand your weapons

When a man feels that his wife is either unhappy or disappointed with him he is ready to stop the conflict.  Those weapons are like a punch to the gut or sometimes a knockout punch to a husband.  He feels like a failure and this may quickly lead to his withdrawal.  This doesn’t mean that a wife should put on a fake smile all of the time.  She should just understand that expressing those feelings in a strong way will have detrimental effects on her husband.  He truly usually wants you to be happy, so while the disappointment may be over an issue the feeling that you are unhappy or disappointed in him is the problem that he fears most.

Negative emotions and combative words are overpowering

While not all men may respond this way, passive men feel overpowered by negative emotions and combative words during a conflict.  While this may not be apparent during the discussion, the passive husband will have a ticking time bomb of thoughts, feelings, and emotions going on inside his head.

Loaded Questions

After all of this, it probably seems impossible to communicate with a passive husband.  While I will admit it is difficult I do not think it is impossible.  A passive husband needs lot of time during a discussion that may make a simple issue take a few days to conclude.  The more the discussion is kept on a factual basis and not from an emotional stance the easier it will be for him to participate.  Sometimes, a wife will work through an issue for a long time before bringing it to her husband’s attention.  If the issue is presented to him where he would feel like a dummy to favor the other side of the argument, then he may feel agitated that he is put in a position where he may favor the other side of the issue but not have the time to provide a clear argument.

I hope there might be something here that might be helpful in understanding the passive thought process.  Passive men rarely want to be part of the problem but sometimes that dysfunction is the problem.  The more we can learn to understand the thought processes and the quirks the better we might be at communicating with our spouses.