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Dear Dr. Yael,

I am married to a good husband, but he cannot deal with any conflict. If I get upset about anything, even If I speak in a nice tone, my husband will either start his silent treatment or just walk out in the middle of the conversation. I know that he comes from a family where there was a lot of anger and fighting, and before we married, he told me that he never wants to fight. I was young and in love, and I agreed with his idea. I come from a loving family, but my parents did disagree, and I learned from them how to work out a disagreement. Please help me. Is this behavior normal?


A fan of your column


Dear A Fan,

Your husband’s behavior sounds like stonewalling, and I will mention some types of behavior that may help you assess if in fact you are being stonewalled.

1) Does your husband refuse to talk about or give you reasons not to discuss an issue?

2) Does he leave in the middle of a conversation? (You mentioned that he did.)

3) Does he dismiss your concerns?

4) Does he engage in Passive aggressive behavior?

5) Does he give you the silent treatment? (You mentioned this as well.)

6) Does he avoid nonverbal communication and not give you eye contact?

7) Does he change the subject or give one word answers?

As I write this column, I wonder if in fact he is stonewalling you or if he just does some things like stonewalling. The wish to never fight or disagree in a marriage is unrealistic. Your husband’s wish to never fight seems to cause this behavior; thus, it doesn’t sound like his behavior is ill-intended. Perhaps your husband is acting like this because of fear, anxiety, and frustration.

According to your letter, your husband desperately does not want to repeat his parents’ tense fighting at home. People who come from such homes sometimes avoid conflict at any cost because conflict is the ultimate failure for them. Perhaps your husband is trying to reduce the tension by walking away or refusing to engage. He may not know how to disagree and/or “Agree to Disagree” in a healthy manner in your marriage. If he was never taught to fight appropriately, then anger and fighting is something he is seemingly trying to avoid. It is possible that you need to help your husband learn to be ok with conflict and how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Anyone who is happily married knows that all couples argue at times and disagree on issues. It is necessary to learn to discuss issues respectfully. Your husband may also be uncomfortable discussing feelings in general if feelings were never discussed in his home. He may feel attacked by questions and uncomfortable in disagreeing about issues.

You talk about your husband. However, where are you in this picture? Do you argue too much? Are you sensitive to the fact that he is afraid of conflict? He may be unintentionally stonewalling since he is so frightened of conflict.

Since you note that you come from a healthier home, you can possibly be a positive influence in changing the dynamics of this marriage.

However, it may be difficult to do without professional help. Please seek the appropriate help to improve your special marriage. Hatzlacha!


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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at