They say that communication is the key to a healthy, lasting relationship. Communication acts as the air we breathe when involved with another person. Without it, the relationship suffers. Good communication can be compared to a house with a solid foundation. This house should be able to withstand even the worst natural disasters. For even if the house itself is destroyed, you at least have a strong enough foundation upon which to rebuild the house.
So what happens when one person in the relationship refuses to communicate about an important topic? Let’s call this “hush syndrome.” This occurs when one person continuously rejects talking about a certain topic. This can kill relationships because it cuts off communication. Mira Kirshenbaum’s book “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” talks about some of the ways to both spot and repair bad communication.
Here's how you can diagnose “hush syndrome”:
"It’s off the table"
This occurs when someone takes something “off the table” and prevents you from ever bringing it up again. He doesn’t just say once that he doesn’t want to talk about an issue, but he keeps doing it. When your attempts to talk about something are constantly rejected, that shows he is taking it off the table and is a sign of hush syndrome.
He makes you feel stupid, weird and wrong for wanting to talk about this issue. You are discouraged from discussing it because you are afraid he will get upset. So to prevent any future fights from occurring, you hold back from voicing what’s really important to you.
Hush syndrome might not always be so easy to detect. Sometimes he will say something polite like, “I need time to think about it.” But when you realize that he keeps putting it off and never brings it back, you know your boyfriend has a case of hush syndrome.
You might be reading this automatically thinking, “That’s totally what my boyfriend does!” But don’t be so quick to judge. There are several cases where what might come off as hush syndrome really isn’t.
Your relationship does NOT suffer from hush syndrome if he is simply reluctant to speak about it at that moment. Maybe he’s in a bad mood or the timing isn’t right. Assess whether or not it might be too soon in the relationship to discuss something like meeting his family. If he feels unwilling to talk about it at that moment, it’s still okay voice your opinion and make it known that it’s important to you. Now that he knows it’s on your mind, he should initiate the conversation when he’s ready.
The issue is hard for him to talk about. This requires a quick fix. Show him you understand that it might be difficult for him to talk about this topic. Be supportive and encouraging and he will feel more comfortable talking openly about it. You have to ease him into rather than forcing it on him.
Sometimes he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. To you it appears that he has no interest whatsoever talking about a specific issue with you. But he might not even realize he’s making you feel that way. You might say to him, “You never want to talk about sex.” If he replies with, “I’m sorry you feel that way, let’s talk about sex,” this is the complete opposite of hush syndrome. When you point out his lack of communication to him and he changes, that is a very good sign.
You’ve talked about it
This is one of the more common acts among women. Your boyfriend has already agreed to talk with you about what’s bothering you. Yet you continuously refer back to it even after it’s been openly discussed. In this case, he no longer has the onus of contributing to this conversation. This is not hush syndrome. This is you obsessing and being unable to let it go.
Refusal to communicate is toxic behaviour in any relationship. If you are still unsure whether your boyfriend has a case of hush syndrome, don’t fret just yet. Talk to him about it. He might come around and surprise you. But if you are certain that your relationship suffers from a case of hush syndrome, get out now. It’s a definite deal breaker.