THE BLOG
11/02/2007 05:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Men Talk About

The biggest complaint I hear from wives these days is that their husbands don't speak to them. They don't share their emotions, they don't let them into their hearts. Marriages that suffer from a lack of intimate communication, focusing on the practical at the expense of the emotional, are destined to corrode. Even if they survive, they will leave both partners lonely. Here then, are the 10 reasons why husbands don't open up to their wives.

1. Most men feel like failures: Immersed in a culture that judges them solely by how much money they have and how professionally successful they are, most men feel inadequate. The last thing they want to do is talk about how they don't measure up. They would rather retreat into themselves, into a world of either self-pity or non-feeling.

2. Men feel emasculated: Because men, by the middle of their lives, mostly feel like their professional dreams have been crushed, and all they can do is read about truly successful giants like Steve Jobs or George Clooney, they feel emasculated. They don't feel like men. So they can't share their feelings with their wives because, when they do feel, all they feel is pain. Better to escape the feeling of emasculation by obsessing over sports or endlessly discussing business. For the same reasons of emasculation, they also often don't make love to their wives. They become porn addicts instead, addicted to fantasy women whose fictitious eroticism serves as a drug that boosts the macerated male ego.

3. Men are trained not to feel: Men are successful professionally specifically by burying, rather than expressing, their emotions. Whether it is the soldier in Iraq who has to kill and watch his buddies die and still continue the mission, or the doctor who has to operate on a child with cancer, or a Wall Street trader who makes money specifically by not reacting emotionally to the volatility of the markets, men are trained to deaden their emotions. Suddenly, when they come home, their wives want them to talk and they are at a loss as to how.

4. Men feel that they have to be providers: Men don't think that what their wives want from them is feelings. On the contrary, they are trained to believe that a wife wants a provider rather than a companion, a moneymaker rather than an intimate soul-mate. Throughout the day he becomes a human doing, rather than a human being. No one is interested in his being. Bosses are interested in men for their productivity. Even when he dates women before he marries, the first thing the woman asks him is, "What do you do?"

The message he gets is that it is his hands rather than his heart which is valued.

5. Men put action before emotion: Men, in their friendships with each other, almost never talk. They do things together rather than talk to each other. Women are always sharing conversation with their friends, mostly about relationships. Not men who typically play cards together, watch the game together, or go fishing. They seldom talk. So when they come home to their wives they don't understand that this isn't just another male friendship. This is a woman. She is softer, gentler, and she wants to hear your heart.

6. Men focus on subjects they can master: Studies show that there are five subjects that men discuss. They are, in order of importance: money, sports, women, politics, and cars.

Notice that emotions isn't on the list. That's because men talk about subjects they can master. They are goal-oriented rather than means-oriented. For them, the journey is not the reward. Conquest is the reward. They are interested in subjects that make them feel powerful. Emotions, by contrast, often overpower them. So they don't see the point of talking about their emotions. It's not going to help anything, is it? It simply not practical enough. So they close up and instead talk about the purely functional with their wives, like picking up the dry-cleaning.

7. A wife who marries a loser is a loser squared: The average man who feels like a failure looks at the woman dumb enough to marry him as being an ever bigger loser than he is. If he is a nothing, then she, who is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, is a double nothing. He will not speak to someone who is even more worthless, even less consequential, then he is.

8. Husbands use sex, rather than conversation, to mend arguments: When husbands and wives have arguments, the husband mistakenly believes that he can paper over the argument with sex rather than dialogue. He sees a crack in the pavement and rather than digging it up and fixing the foundation underneath, he believes that the quick fix of adding concrete will suffice. He goes into practical mode and lays down a superficial covering over the breach. There, problem solved. Of course, it's sure to crack again, but heck, for now it worked, right, and I can go back to watching football.

9. At home, men are lazy: A lot of husbands don't speak to their wives out of sheer, selfish, laziness. Immersed in a culture that judges them by the quantity in their bank accounts rather than the quality of their relationships, they put all their energy into the office and come home a broken, tired shell. They simply have no energy to talk and whatever energy they still have they reserve for their fingers to work the remote.

10. Conversations between spouses have become boring: Husbands and wives have lost the art of erotic talk and intimate conversation. They don't talk to each other because often the conversations are predictable and boring, dominated as they are by the most practical issues. The antidote is for husbands and wives to declare 9 p.m. and on, after the kids are in bed, a function-free zone. No practical conversations about school, the kids, or planning family vacations. Husbands have to learn that their wives have a subterranean erotic dimension that they rarely witness. Wives are surrounded by men who flirt with them at work and stare at them at the grocery store. But rather than the husband give his wife an erotic interrogation that would spark an exciting conversation, he assumes that she is as boring as he believes his marriage to be. If only he were to engage her as a woman -- and not as a wife -- the sparks would fly and the tongue would be atwitter.

The writer's upcoming book, The Broken American Male (and How to Fix Him), will shortly be published by St. Martin's Press.