MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Silence can be golden, but not in a marriage, according to Dr. John Buri, a University of St. Thomas professor.
In his weekly blog post on the website Psychology Today, he issued a warning to women who are self silencers.
“A self silencer is someone who would rather keep their mouth shut rather than rock the boat,” said Buri. He says his wife taught him the key to lasting love early on. “I hadn’t been ready for what I got myself into. She would speak her mind. … I began to participate in the process of having a marriage.”
Today they have been married for 38 years. He has written a book titled, “How to Love Your Wife.”
Buri says newlywed women often remain silent to keep their marriage intact, but it leads to trouble later on. He sees the opposite for women who speak up.
“Things are a little rocky early in the marriage, but by about five, six or seven years in the marriage, they have much better marriages,” said Buri.
He says studies show women who bottle up their concerns have an even greater risk for depression, abusive relationships, heart problems and, even worse, a higher mortality rate.
“Over a 10-year period, those women who are self silencers, who tend to just keep the peace without bringing up what is on their minds, or concerns they have in the relationship, have four times greater probability of dying during a 10-year study,” said Buri.
WCCO took the concern to couples at the Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul.
Tonya and David DePriest of St. Paul, who have been married for 10 years, say they are rarely silent.
“We don’t fight, because we talk about everything as we go along. It’s not that we don’t disagree, we talk about it and move on,” said Tonya DePriest.
For many, date night is the key to putting it all out on the table. Dorothy and Scott Paxton of Minneapolis, married for seven years, say they make an effort to put aside time to communicate.
“I have to credit my husband with not making me a self silencer, because you have told me before, spit it out,” said Dorothy Paxton. “I don’t subscribe to the ‘he should read your mind’ theory.”
“I know her, she knows me, and we were able to get past that,” said Scott Paxton. “It’s easier if you get things on the table, put them right down and talk about them.”
Buri points out that couples should know the difference between criticism and a complaint. Criticism can begin with a harsh, “We need to talk,” said Buri. A complaint is less accusatory — a reminder to do the dishes, for example.
“If you want to slowly bludgeon it to death, criticize. Eventually it will kill the marriage. There is a huge difference between a complaint and criticism. You have to leave the door open for complaints.”
Bottom line, Buri says disagreeing with your partner isn’t detrimental. One way to overcome self silencing is setting time aside each week to talk, something he and his wife have done every week for 35 years.
“That could be the best thing you could do for your marriage. Do not avoid,” said Buri.