Dating the Silent Type

Sometimes, getting a guy to express himself can be like trying to open a sealed pistachio nut: You know (or at least you hope) that there's some tasty morsel of affection or information locked deep inside, but short of taking a swing with a mallet, you don't know how to extract it without doing irreversible damage. Since refusing to talk is mostly a guy problem, we asked a guy expert - Marty Friedman, author of Straight Talk for Men About Marriage - to weigh in with advice for all you frustrated women out there.

"Men have an undeserved reputation for not talking," Friedman says. "It's not that guys don't want to talk; it's that they don't want to talk about the stuff women want to talk about. Guys want to talk about things like sports, work and movies, while women want to talk to about feelings.

Women have a need for connection, intimacy, harmony, and communion, but to expect that kind of openness and open-ended conversation from men is a bad fit. It's doomed to failure."

Sounds grim, huh? Not necessarily. Here are Friedman's tips for getting your guy to (at last partially) open up:

Ask About a Subject He's Interested In
"If a guy is talking about something going on at work, that can be a window into a conversation that's more to your liking, if you just let him go on. Ask him some open-ended questions, or say something like -Help me understand more about that.' Men like to tell stories, and they'll show you how they're feeling from their gestures and expressions." The more you let him talk, the more opportunities there'll be to segue into a conversation that holds more mutual interest.

Work on Your Timing
If your boyfriend clams up when he's upset, Friedman says, "Sometimes you're better off letting him not talk for a while, which requires patience. You need to wait until the tension subsides. A guy will purposely withdraw because he doesn't want to be critiqued." By the same token, if he's engrossed in his Sunday football game, give him some space. "A man wants a sense of independence, meaning he doesn't like to talk on command. To him, at that moment, watching the game is really important." In other words, wait until halftime to ask if that dress makes your hips look big.

Know When to Give Up
If you've been going out for a little while, you and your guy should be getting attuned to each other's moods-and if he's not in the mood to talk, pestering him to do so will only make a bad situation unbearable. In the most evolved relationships, Friedman says, a guy might say, before a dinner party, "I don't really feel like talking tonight, but you go ahead and have a good time." In this case, do exactly what he says: Talk freely to other people, and leave him to simmer by himself. Trying to cajole him into conversation is only likely to make the situation worse.

Perfect Your Opening Lines
Here are three questions never to ask when you want your boyfriend to talk: "What are you feeling?" or "What do you think about our relationship?" or "Why do we never talk any more?" Consider them the conversational kiss of death. A better bet, Friedman says, would be any of the following: "What's going on at work?" or "Hey, how are the Giants doing?" or "What do you think about that new iPod/Chevy SUV/telecommunications merger?" Get him started on these topics, and soon you won't be able to shut him up. Remember, you want him talking, and you can achieve that-but talking about your favorite topics… well, that's another matter.

New York-based writer Bob Strauss is the author of Who Knew? Hundreds & Hundreds of Questions & Answers for Curious Minds. Email him your thoughts here.

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