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1. Don’t be accusatory. For a guy who’s afraid of conflict, even an innocent-sounding question can seem like a test. So if you have a request, voice it in a way that gives him a chance to succeed. Instead of asking, “Have you taken out the garbage yet?” say, “If you haven’t already, would you mind putting out the garbage when you take the dog for a walk?” It’s a simple switch that makes it clear that you’re not looking for an argument–you’re just enlisting his help in getting a chore done.

2. Treat him like a pal, not a husband. A recent study found that strangers sometimes communicate better than couples. It sounds crazy, but hear us out: Imagine you were telling a colleague where the work gang was headed to happy hour. You’d give her specific directions–or send her a Google map. But if you were sharing the same info with your guy, you might say something like, “It’s that place where we went for Nadine’s 30th birthday.” The less specific you are, the more room there is for error–and anger. And if you feel a miscommunication creeping up as you and he are talking, gently make sure that you’re on the same page.

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Ways to Keep Your Husband from Shutting Down  was originally published on