I have been married for about a year and a half. When we first started dating, my now husband got a kidney transplant as a result of an accident he had some five years before. He has told me the overall story — he fell from a tree and not only suffered kidney complications but also had trauma to his back for which he's had numerous surgeries, but yesterday after I asked more details about it, he got defensive and said he doesn't like talking about it.
I just don't know how to react to that. In general, he has a really hard time talking about things that I consider important, and I guess this is only the tip of the iceberg. I have opened up to him about my own issues and feel that if he is avoiding that subject, it will just keep hurting his confidence and self-esteem (he had to drop out of college temporarily afterwards). I want to support him and love him for who he is. Am I overreacting? How do I approach this again?
— Communicator Caila
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Dear Communicator Caila,
While opening up and expressing your feelings may come easily to you, you have to realize that it's not so natural for your husband. As frustrating as it may be for the rest of us, some people are just not comfortable vocalizing emotions that may bring up feelings of sadness or, in your husband's case, pain. Though I tend to agree that avoiding these issues will only make things worse, you can't force him to talk about something that he doesn't want to.
What your husband went through and continues to go through is traumatic. Learning to live with physical pain, as I'm sure he deals with, can take a toll on a person and requires a certain level of understanding from those around them. Thus, instead of pressing the issue, make it clear that you're ready and willing to listen when he's able to talk about it.
It's perfectly reasonable to let him know that his inability to open up to you is hurting you and making you feel cut out of his life, but know that change overnight is unlikely. This is probably something you'll both have to work through over time and with each other. Start opening up the lines of communication about smaller issues that you encounter. As he learns to express himself and trust you as a listener, he might be more inclined to delve into some of these darker memories.