“Without good communication, a relationship is merely a hollow vessel carrying you along on a frustrating journey fraught with the perils of confusion, projection, and misunderstanding.”
~ Cherie Carter Scott
In this day and age of instant gratification we are faced with new and different challenges when dating.
If you have just started dating someone and they have stopped returning your texts and/or calls it can be a very frustrating experience.
We immediately start to wonder what WE did to garner this behavior. It is a hard reality to accept that some people can just walk away without saying a word.
However, we live in a time where there are as many dating apps as there are flavors of ice cream! With the advent of so many dating options it leaves us navigating a whole new world of what it means to connect, respect, and when to commit.
Chances are that his attention may be pulled in other directions; but is this permanent or temporary?
His silence could mean a lot of things; none of which ‘assuming’ has ever made more palatable for those of us on the other end!
In some incidents, the silence may be situational, perhaps they’ve recently were promoted or had a traumatic life event.
You may also consider if there have been any recent changes in the relationship that might have sparked the distance. Our minds have a field day with uncertainty!
If you still find yourself staring at the phone after a week or two I suggest implementing the three strikes and you’re out rule.
This gives him the benefit of the doubt that he was busy, forgot your number, or was in the hospital with two broken hands unable to text.
After trying to reach him three times- it’s time to manage your emotions and expectations as you move forward to someone that is emotionally available.
Ultimately, in these dynamics I encourage the one left waiting to draw a line of when they will decide to stop waiting and start living.
You cannot control the behavior of others. Yes, it is rude and tacky to essentially ‘ghost’ someone. Those feelings are very valid and also you can continue your journey with or without a message of closure from the other person.
You deserve respect and for the person you have chosen to share your time with to return the social etiquette of making an effort to respond.
If he doesn’t?
Remember – its ok to be picky with whom you give your time and energy to because not everyone is going to be deserving of your time.
Sometimes saying nothing speaks volumes. Know your worth.
Dana Hall, LCPC, MA, TF-CBT – www.danahalltherapy.com
The desire for a person to resolve a conflict in his or her relationship is healthy.
Repairing a rupture maintains trust and allows a couple to feel good moving forward.
However, when one partner shuts down or withdraws, he or she is defending against intense emotion.
Withdrawing is a defense mechanism, and although defense mechanisms are necessary, universal, and human, they render a person less capable of resolving conflict when ignited.
There are four options which may help a partner who withdraws.
First, wait for the defense mechanisms to soften.
Do not allow too much time to pass before broaching the subject, however, because it may be tempting to sweep the issue under the rug. It is important to remedy issues in a relationship in order to preserve the closeness.
Second, attempt to circumvent the partner’s defense mechanisms.
This approach is most effective when the person remains calm, uses a soft tone, and begins his or her sentiment with a positive statement. Next, state your feelings and identify the problem. For example, “I love you, honey. I get so hurt when you take your mother’s side and do not stick up for me.”
Third, get outside and broach the subject while in nature.
Getting outdoors naturally reduces anxiety and release endorphins. Being in nature subtly grounds and soothes a person. Taking a walk and asking to talk about the topic during the walk may decrease a partner’s defensiveness.
Fourth, observe the partner’s relationship with his or her parents.
Attachment styles provide a great deal of knowledge about how a person resolves conflict. If the person seems to settle arguments productively with his or her parents, there may be a greater chance of him or her positively resolving conflict in a romantic relationship.
If not, the person may need therapy in order to address childhood shame and his or her uncomfortableness with intense feelings.
A partner who grew up feeling ashamed of how he or she felt may be more defensive than a partner who received consistent empathy from a parent.
A partner’s comfort level with the more difficult emotional capacities like, empathy, accountability, and insight, may dictate whether he or she is able to diffuse heightened defenses and address issues realistically.
Using the four tactics above may be a good way to assess his or her emotional availability.
Erin Leonard, PhD, LCSW, LLC – www.drerinleonard.com
Often times when we feel like our partner has shut us out or is quiet, we start to wonder that something is wrong.
We ask questions or try to get them to talk and get more silence and then we are left wondering or worrying that something is the matter.
The more we pursue the more they withdraw.
One is stop and breath.
We can’t take it personal that our partner is just being quiet.
- Ask yourself if there has been a growing distance between you two or does your partner just like to process things before, he speaks?
- What does it trigger in you? Helpless or powerless? What is in your control?
Keep in mind that you are only in control of you.
If you push for more control, if you push to talk, you both dig your heals in and conflict is created.
It’s ok to talk about how you feel or what boundaries you need to feel “safe” in the relationship and your partner also gets to talk about what he needs.
Research does show that generally it is easier for women to talk about their feelings then men.
Remember or understand that you are your partner are different and that is ok. Different isn’t bad it is just different. Ask yourself, if I need to discuss something how do I let my partner know in a way that isn’t critical or attacking?
Make a request for a couples meeting or time to talk instead of demanding it.
Go for a walk and talk instead of on the phone or through text messages. Stop pushing and ask for him to let you know when he is ready to talk. I know some of this may be hard but remember that you are only in control of you.
Here are some tips to consider if your feel shut out by your partner:
- You are only in control of you. If you are feeling distant state how you feel and make a request to discuss instead of a demand.
- Practice self-care to help with the anxiety of the quiet in your relationship
- Listen to understand, maybe he needs time to process and decompress before he talks to you.
- Create time to talk through a couples meeting, walks together, playing a board game or cooking together.
- If you feel like there is distance in the relationship or your partner continues to withdraw and shut you out consider meeting with a therapist to discuss how you both can improve your relationship or if it’s time to end the relationship.
- Remember that a relationship is made up of two people not one. It’s up to the couple to come together and honor the needs of both, the needs of the individual and work on creating compromise.
Monica Burton, MS LMFT – www.monicaburtonlmft.com
When the man you love shuts down and doesn’t want to interact with you, it’s difficult to know what to do.
- Sometimes it happens after an argument or a contentions interaction.
- Sometimes he won’t tell you why.
- Sometimes he won’t tell you what he’s feeling, and often he doesn’t even know what he’s feeling.
- Sometimes it’s for only a short while, or it may be he wants time apart.
- Sometimes you had a part in what he’s feeling, and more times than you know, you had nothing to do with it.
Fighting, badgering, demanding, and begging rarely work, and very often cause resentment and pressure that adds to whatever was originally going on.
After an Argument.
When he shuts down after an argument or conflict, usually it’s best to leave him alone until both of you calm down. It gives you time to think, consider his point of view, and clarify what’s really important to you before you talk with each other again.
If the shut down goes on for more than a couple of days, then I recommend that you calmly and caringly offer to listen to whatever he would like to say.
Don’t restart the argument. Try to look at your differences and see if you can find a solution that helps both of you get your needs met.
Men as well as women use the tactic of saying something is wrong but not telling you what it is. Saying, “If you love me, you should know,” is really a cover for the fear of talking about a deeply vulnerable issue.
One of the biggest fears we all have in relationships is the fear that that other person doesn’t love us.
When a person is insecure in a relationship, they can interpret all kinds of actions, words, and voice inflections to mean that the other person doesn’t really love them.
You can open a discussion with,
- “I do love you, and I really want to know what’s making you hurt right now.”
- “If I can help, I would like to.”
- “If you’re willing to talk with me about what’s upsetting you, I’m willing to listen.”
If he starts talking, then really listen. Let him know what you’re hearing.
Only after he’s finished, if you can calmly do so, share your feelings with him. Don’t let this turn into another argument, because then you may both want to shut down.
He Doesn’t Know What He’s Feeling.
Too often people think they can’t share their feelings until they know exactly what they are. In addition, many people (men especially) never learn any words to describe their feelings.
Instead, I often ask clients to describe how different parts of their body are feeling. And then, I ask if that body part could talk, what would it say?
This very often gets to feelings a person has little awareness of. When one’s head, or shoulder, or back is talking words flow out more easily and in a less guarded way.
Ask more questions to get a real sense of how things feel for him. Try not to judge or get too anxious. Just listen. Then ask, “What would that part of you like to have happen?” The idea is to increase awareness and get connection happening.
It’s Not About You.
Many times, a man shuts down because of where his life is going, rather than anything you have contributed to.
- He’s worried about situations at work,
- He’s disappointed about not achieving goals he’s set,
- He’s conflicted about what he really wants in life,
- He’s disillusioned about choices he’s made,
- He feels insecure about his abilities,
- He’s worried he’ll be a failure.
These internal issues can lead him to feeling distant, depressed, and shut down. He doesn’t want to disappoint you, so he may feel that it’s nearly impossible to talk with you about these things.
Suggesting that he talk with his medical doctor, a mentor at work, a career coach, or a good male friend may help him open up about these kinds of issues.
In turn, that person may be able to convince him to talk with a counselor or therapist, whereas he may be more resistant when you want him to see a therapist.
It’s Really About the Past.
Too often a man’s way to cope with past hurts, traumas, and negative memories is to “put it away”. The past is gone, and should stay there. As a therapist, I know that people who do that, find those feelings usually fester and contaminate many perfectly good situations in the present.
A nagging, mentally ill mother can have a huge affect on how he sees you. A critical, judgmental father can damage self-esteem and slow down promotions at work. A childhood illness, abuse, past traumas, and significant losses can all impact how well a man copes in the present.
Humans transfer what they learn from past experiences onto present interactions that seem similar.
If you’ve ever felt like he was not “seeing” you or was accusing you of feelings and actions that aren’t yours, then it’s likely he is dealing with hurts from the past. These are issues that are hard to change quickly. Therapy helps a lot. New experiences and new reactions from others help. And time helps.
So, be you. Tell him about what you feel, think, want, and need in kindly tones over and over without judgment or hostility.
Be considerate that he is emotionally in the past and present at the same time. Give him time to respond. Accept his apologies without retaliation. But, also notice if any change is occurring.
What Is About You.
Tune into yourself about your own responses. Do his past responses trigger your own past responses?
If you feel judgmental, defensive, or find yourself getting angry or hurt, when he shuts down, then it’s time to take some space for yourself to understand what your own feelings are telling you as well.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
If you want to keep your relationships intact, strong and open, there is something you must consider. How effective are you as a communicator?
Communication is the most important element of a successful relationship.
Good communication should build trust, improve your physical and emotional connection and enhance your intimacy. However, if communication is poor, it can do just the opposite and destroy the foundation that holds a relationship together.
If you are feeling shut out, it means you are not communicating effectively.
He doesn’t understand that he is out of touch. He doesn’t understand that you are experiencing loss, separation or abandonment. How can you get him to understand that you are lonely for his attention, caring and love?
1. Speak from your heart.
Let him know how important the relationship is to you, but that you are feeling apart, not connected. Suggest you discuss what he’s feeling and hopefully, you will get some insight that will improve the relationship.
If he’s unwilling to share, there is nothing you can do and that may be the motivation to move on and find someone who truly cares.
2. Explore your common threads.
Encourage him to plan activities that are fun, engaging and bonding, so you can get enthusiastic and grow in new and exciting ways.
3. Consider your roots.
- What brought you together in the first place?
- Are you still able to see some of those qualities that you loved in the beginning of your relationship?
- Can you bring those back by sharing positive memories of people, places and things?
4. Don’t judge or criticize.
Use this challenge as an opportunity to make him feel comfortable when he speaks. This could have a significant impact on how the relationship progresses, if he feels accepted.
However, if you notice a pattern and he continues to shut you out, your relationship will be one sided and resentments could build.
If you made a commitment to stay focused on what you want, take actions daily to make it happen, keep your confidence that it will happen and maintain your self-trust, you will move forward in creating your desired and fulfilled relationship.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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