I am an American-born Latina married to an American man. I hold nothing back, he holds everything back. After nearly 20 years of marriage, I am a little cansada of asking him how he feels and asking him to be honest about what is in his heart. He usually refuses to admit anything is wrong, but his actions — he isolates, gets gruff in tone — and my gut tell me otherwise. He is a good man and a good father, but like I said, I am tired of asking him to share and feel emotionally distant from him right now.
So, how does one live with a person so emotionally different? Am I supposed to learn to let things go more? Or, is it my job in this relationship to push for the betterment of it?
This is such a common struggle for many women who are in relationships, but, I’m sorry to break it to you: Often times, this is more about us, than about our man. Here me out, here. Have you ever asked yourself why you need to know what your husband is feeling or thinking? What are you afraid of not knowing? What’s your fear? Are you afraid he’s feeling something really bad (e.g., anger, depression, frustration — with himself, you, the marriage)? And if that were to be the case, what’s the worst thing that could happen if he was feeling these really bad feelings? Are you afraid he might leave? Abandon you? Are you desperately trying to prevent or control something bad from happening? Where does that fear come from?
These are all good questions to ask ourselves, so that we can gain insight into how our “stuff” can get in the way. Sometimes it’s a control issue, and sometimes it comes from growing up as the family’s problem-solver, the go-to person, the one who prevents bad things from happening…as it is the case with many smart, strong-minded second generation Latinas — who are commonly the connectors, the cultural bridge, the life navigators for others.
You also mentioned on your question that you “hold nothing back, he holds everything back.” I wonder how you deliver your expressions…what types of emotions do you use. Are you angry, loud, upset? Self-expression is hugely important, but we do need to monitor our delivery, especially when self-expression doesn’t come naturally for the other person. If you want a conversation, you will need to provide a safe and comfortable opportunity to do that.
I have a few comadre consejitos to give you my friend (and take this from someone who’s been there):
- Focus more on actions and less on words. What are his actions telling you? You say he’s a good guy, that he’s kind, that he’s a good father. Listen to that. And if he does something you don’t like or makes you feel uncomfortable, wait a little while before you confront him. Give him time. Give yourself time to reflect on your thoughts and fears.
- If you notice that he is isolating himself (as you mentioned above), give him the space to do so. But also ask yourself how are “you” isolating yourself in a different, yet, similar way. Could he, too, be feeling like you are isolating yourself from him?
- Remember that men and women feel and think very differently in many ways. Be careful not to interpret his behaviors based on how we, women, think or feel.
La Comadre, Angelica Perez-Litwin, founder and writer of ModernFamilia, is a Certified Professional Life Coach and has a Family Life Coaching practice. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and over 15 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist and counselor.
Her Tiki Tiki column runs every other Tuesday. Email your questions to: [email protected]