By Jenna Birch
nervous man paying bills From friends' secrets to details on workplace drama, you may feel like your husband tells you everything, but there's at least one topic he probably doesn't broach with you: his fears. "As problem solvers, men look for the fastest, most effective way to work through an issue, and many think the best approach is to do it alone," says relationship expert Charles J. Orlando, author of The Problem with Women... is Men. Here, experts explain what fears men keep quiet about and how to get your husband to open up.
1. "I don't make enough money."
"Men have so much ego attached to being a good provider," says licensed clinical psychologist Adam Sheck, PhD, author of 101 Ways to Bring Back the Passion. So if your husband feels his monetary value doesn't measure up, he may not discuss his bruised psyche with you.
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*Samantha of Houston, TX, had a feeling money was holding back her husband from taking a new job he wanted. "After their offer wasn't what he expected, I could sense he was starting to worry," she says. "He was probably thinking about our family, trying to save money and pay all of our bills."
What can you do if you're in Samantha's shoes-or think your hubby's concerned he's not earning his keep? "Pay all the bills together, regardless of who makes what paycheck," suggests Orlando. "A joint effort means you both address success and challenges." One more idea: Whether his title is CEO or science teacher, "let him know you're proud of him," says Orlando. "It's a small thing, but it means a lot."
2. "I haven't accomplished enough in my life."
"Men look back often and wonder, 'What's my legacy? Is the grass greener somewhere else?'" explains Orlando. So if your husband suddenly wants to quit his day job to become a pro golfer, it may be because he feels he isn't living life to the fullest and time is running out-though he probably won't admit this to you.
Odds are you don't want him to hit the links instead of heading to work, but be supportive when you address his hankering. "Come to him with actionable ideas instead of an emotional plea," says licensed marriage therapist Carin Goldstein, creator of BetheSmartWife.com. Men respond better if you nudge them toward reasonable goals instead of complaining about a midlife crisis, she adds. So ask him what his short and long-term aspirations are, suggests Orlando. "What does he want for himself, and what does he need from you to make it happen?" Then, work on a timeline to achieve it-together.
3. "I'm about to lose my job."
If he's seeing his co-workers getting axed, he may secretly fear his position is in jeopardy. "Subtle, low-grade depression is typical for a lot of men with this fear," says Goldstein. "They get irritable or apathetic."
*Katie from Austin, TX, helped her man through a difficult period at his workplace. "A lot went down at once, and it was breaking his spirit." Once he filled her in a little, she came to his rescue. "He said he never wanted me to worry about his problems, but I reassured him that his problems are my problems." Stressing that you two are a team reminds him of his safety net at home when he feels vulnerable at work.
4. "I'm getting old."
"Thanks to societal pressure and self-evaluation, men worry about their age and attractiveness," says Orlando. Even if you don't see the physical changes, you may notice an attitude shift in your husband. Look for "anger, withdrawal and road rage," says psychotherapist and intimacy expert Mary Jo Rapini. "He won't use words. The more he's afraid, the more he'll withdraw."
Don't let him become that grumpy old man. Remind him he's plenty young and getting better with age. "Just as you do, he wants to know you still find him attractive. So tell him and show him," advises Orlando. Also, make sure he doesn't stop living. "Keep your marital bond strong and do more things you don't normally do," like new activities and sex positions, suggests Goldstein.
5. "I have a health problem."
Studies have shown that men put off visiting the doctor. Your husband may not want to worry you or deal with the "what ifs" of a potential illness. "Or it's pure procrastination or the fear of invasive tests," says Orlando.
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If you're concerned about that persistent pain in his side, tug on his heartstrings. "Remind him that if he wants to see his grandkids graduate, he needs to get yearly checkups," says Orlando. "Then, make it something you do together." Every year, if need be.
6. "If something happened to me, my family wouldn't have enough."
It's that protector instinct: He needs to watch out for his brood. But making preparations may be difficult for him because of the emotions associated with it.
Try asking this: What would be the plan if something happened to either one of you? Help him verbalize if he's struggling. "Labeling the feeling-frustrated, not feeling valued, whatever it is-opens it up for guys," says Rapini, who suggests you frame future provisions as something to act on. Whether it's making a will or setting aside money, "explain it in a way so he feels he can fix it" to up the odds of putting a plan in place, says Rapini.
7. "My wife isn't sexually satisfied."
If you're not clearly loving making love, your husband may fear he doesn't meet your expectations. "Men want to feed their wives sexually," says Rapini. "If a woman has a sexual hang-up, men often think it's their fault, even when it's not."
Orlando recommends using positive reinforcement to get what you want in bed. "Your husband wants to know that he's 'doing his job,' but he doesn't want to know if he's not," he says. So if you're satisfied? Speak up! "But if he's not doing it for you, focus the conversation on what you like. The more fun and 'no biggie' you make things, the less likely his ego will take a hit."
8. "I'm not a good dad."
Your young son would rather go shopping with Mom than watch the game with Dad. Typical for little kids, but your husband may think he's to blame. "There are moments when they're like, 'What am I? Chopped liver?' It's an ego thing," says Goldstein.
Related: Find out 10 things your spouse's friends won't tell you.
All you have to do is tell him what a great father he is. "Appreciation is so important," says Goldstein. "Women forget to show that." Say, "You were a big help on Matt's science-fair project. He loved showing it off at school." It'll give him that boost he needs.
9. "I'm afraid to die."
Your husband may not be worried about death itself, but rather the dying process and its impact on you-which is why he may not bring it up. "Men want to be remembered as strong, vital and powerful," says Dr. Sheck. "So having that fall away in the dying process is a challenge."
Make things non-threatening for him; share your fear first. Admit you worry about death sometimes-and ask if he does. Then, while talking, weave in how much he means to you and others. "Mention what he created and contributed that will live on beyond him," recommends Dr. Sheck. If you assure him he's made an impact-on you, on your kids, on whatever he's passionate about-he's more likely to feel better.
*Names have been changed.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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