If you're losing your mind trying to figure out what's going on in his head, our guide to male moods will save your sanity!
Does your partner's mind sometimes seem as hard to read as ancient hieroglyphs? Before you let your imagination wander into scenarios involving his younger secretary, we asked David Cutler, manager of the Men and Family Relationships Program at Relationships Australia, to help us decipher what his moods mean.
Ah, the dreaded retreat into the "man-cave". What is happening in his head when he's silent and sullen? "Perhaps there's a lot of stress going on," says Cutler. "Could it be something happening at work? Are you moving houses or are there life changes going on? Those are all likely to lead to a sense of anxiety which can lead to withdrawal because guys aren't terribly good at owning or naming their feelings."
So what should you do? "Try to identify the current behaviour rather than getting defensive or adding to the anxiety by interrogating," says Cutler. "Have a guess at something such as 'It seems like you're under a lot of stress' or 'Is everything okay at work?' You don't want to question because guys will close down if they're being interrogated."
He's not interested in sex
Women assume that men have sex on the brain all the time, so they can go into panic mode when their partner isn't as interested as usual. "They think there's got to be another woman involved or he doesn't find me attractive anymore," says Cutler. "They jump to conclusions, and then he might get defensive."
There could be a number of underlying reasons for his sexual withdrawal. "If they're feeling powerless or inadequate at home or the workplace, they close down in a state of confusion," explains Cutler. A non-confrontational approach will get you the best results. "Do some active listening, not pushing. Try to tease out what might be going on."
He gets defensive when I suggest how to look after the baby
According to Cutler, this reaction ties into his sense of inadequacy. "They say for every baby that's born, a father is born," he says. "In that situation, we tend to defend ourselves and anger is our way of dealing with it because it's a much more empowering emotion than inadequacy."
A nurturing attitude towards both your child and your partner can help alleviate these feelings. "A 'let's do this together' [approach] is really helpful," says Cutler.
He doesn't want to discuss the future
Instead of pushing him for answers, try to read between the lines he might be trying to tell you he feels anxious or scared about what lies ahead. "That takes the wind out of the sails of the argument because it gets down to the core stuff that's going on, 'I don't want to lose you, I want to keep this together,' but that's difficult for guys to say."
"One of the guys [in a counselling group] said, 'If I said that, my partner would say, 'Get yourself a skirt'. It can make the guy feel pretty rubbish and it puts the cap on the bottle. He thinks, 'I'm never going to tell you how I'm feeling if you make fun of me or if you don't acknowledge and don't listen.'"
Cutler believes communication is the key to a healthy relationship but it takes practice. "Doing some of the courses at Relationships Australia can enable couples to talk in a new way. They're really helpful."
For more information on these courses and other counselling options, contact Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or go to www.relationships.org.au.
Related video: What men want.