Dear Amy: I have taken a sort of "vow of silence" around my husband of 40 years. I am not giving him "the silent treatment." I respond to questions, provide the occasional benign observation and try to make statements of support.

He finds a way to contradict virtually anything I say. I could observe trees swaying gently in the wind, say, "It seems breezy today," and he would reply, "No, it isn't. The wind velocity must be such and such for it to be breezy."

I would like to be able to communicate openly about that issue and other issues in our marriage. I'd like to be able to discuss my hopes and dreams. I'd like to be able to share silly, fun thoughts and creative ideas.

But if I brought up my feeling that my husband often contradicts me, he most certainly would reply "No, I don't!"

I would like to break my vow of silence, feeling secure that I won't immediately be contradicted, but I'm at a loss for how to do that. Can you help?

Amy says: If your husband's contradictory reactions are confined mainly to his interactions with you, then it would seem that his entrenched negativity is expressing hostility toward you.

If he tends to be "Mr. No" with everyone, then I'd say his hostility is directed toward himself. He seems quite unhappy.

Actually, you are giving him the "silent treatment." Avoidance is a natural response to being continuously shut down, so it is important for you to recognize that you do have a voice and have a right to use it.

I hope you will try to start a conversation about the effect this is having on you. If you use "I" statements, such as, "I feel sad when you respond to me with such negativity" and he shoots back, "No, you don't," it will bring the whole process into the realm of the absurd and might catch his attention.

Therapy could help you two to make great strides. There also are many books and resources offering ways to communicate better. One book you might read is "Dealing With the Elephant in the Room: Moving From Tough Conversations to Healthy Communication," by Mike Bechtle (2017, Revell).

This problem stinks

Dear Amy: Since my husband retired, he showers once a week, if I am lucky. He walks five miles every day for exercise and perspires a great deal, but he doesn't change his shirt.

I have tried humor: "Gee, honey, you're kind of fragrant." I've also reassured him that washing many shirts is no problem. I have requested directly that he change his shirt, and even handed him a clean shirt.

I've taken to burning candles and incense to improve the air. Can you think of something more effective?

Amy says: Don't you wonder why your husband has stopped showering? Ignoring hygiene is sometimes a sign of depression, but with his daily exercise, he sounds like someone who is trying to take good care of himself.

So why is he neglecting his hygiene — a vital component of self-care?

When your body and clothing stink so much that your partner is burning incense to try to mitigate the stench, it starts to smell like a deliberate and hostile gesture.

You've been responding to your husband as if he is an unpredictable bull, waving clean shirts in his direction. Stop hinting around. You might tell him, "Honey, I'm not merely asking you to shower. I'm telling you that it's a requirement for us to live together."

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