If you shut down and don’t talk to your partner, it’s the same as giving them the uncomfortable and hurtful “silent treatment.” It means you don’t want to talk to your partner or you shut down during an argument so you don’t have to talk about your feelings or dismiss the concerns of others. You are “shutting down” or “stonewalling” if you don’t give your spouse or partner any kind of verbal communication cues, like eye contact and physical affection, or if you leave a stressful conversation.

It’s no surprise that this method will only work to make your partner angry and rile them up.  Instead of taking care of one problem at a time, this makes it harder to solve conflicts.  Simply put, shutting down makes things harder in relationships that are already hard for a number of reasons.  But it’s important to remember that you and your partner can still fix your relationship if you’re both willing to put the relationship before yourself.

Learn What It is Not!

It’s important to know what stonewalling is, but it’s just as important to know what doesn’t count as stonewalling and should never be called that. For example, let’s say your partner wants to talk about something, but they need some time to think about it. If that’s the case, you should know that they’re not shutting you down or saying no to you in any way. In fact, the key to good communication is for you and your partner to take your time and think about what you want to say before you argue. Also, insisting that they talk to you right away is probably never the best thing to do, because it makes you seem bossy and insensitive to your partner’s needs.

Two Major Types of Shutting Down

Shutting down or Stonewalling can become an unhealthy part of a relationship when it is not tackled headfirst. However, many people make the mistake of assuming that it’s only fair for their partner to take the initiative because they’re the ones with the targeted problem. If that’s the case with you, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the two basic types of stonewalling before you come to any conclusion regarding who is the one at mistake:

1- Intentional Shutting Down

Stonewalling is sometimes used to control someone in a relationship. But even though this isn’t a common way for couples to deal with toxic behavior, it’s still a problem that shouldn’t be ignored. Stonewalling is a way to control someone by hurting them physically or verbally in order to keep a certain level of dominance.

When that happens, it’s best to realize that your relationship is bad for you before it hurts or hurts you even more than it already has. Also, waiting for your partner to change might make things worse, since they are rude and bold with you on purpose.

2- Unintentional Shutting Down

On the other hand, unintentional shutting down is usually a way for partners to deal when they want to avoid difficult situations or keep from making emotional drama.  Most people think that by not talking about uncomfortable or sensitive topics, they are just saving themselves from having to talk about them. However, they don’t realize that their silence is hurting them more than they could ever imagine. You can also use this method if you’re afraid of how your partner will react and don’t want to deal with the possible consequences, like if they get angry or break up.

Impact of ‘Shutting Down’ in Relationships

Shutting down and refusing to acknowledge your partner’s concerns for whatever reason can damage your relationship from the inside out, especially when it becomes a habitual occurrence. Couples that are often stonewalled are bound to feel demeaned and abused, which leads them to begin questioning their self-worth. Moreover, even when your intention behind taking this path is to avert a drastically problematic situation, it inadvertently escalates the frustrating build-ups between you and your partner instead to the point of no return.

The act of denying your partner the basic right of communicating through stuff is a sign of unwillingness to heal your relationship. That’s why this toxic trait is usually a boundary that’s never crossed among couples involved in healthy relationships.

8 Factors That Lead Couples to ‘Shut Down’

Constructive communication is one of the most crucial factors for relationship survival.  Case in point, it’s essential not to sabotage your bond with your partner and get rid of toxic communication patterns that weigh down your relationship unnecessarily.

Here are eight things that should be eliminated from your love life at all cost for giving way to happy, long-term relationships:

1- Guilt-Tripping

All relationships require some extra effort, like using romantic gestures to keep your partner interested. However, that doesn’t mean you can use the same technique to coerce them into doing something that’s against their values. For example, guilt-tripping them with statements, such as, “If you really love me, you will do this for me,” and casting doubt on their love for you is a kind of toxic manipulation that shouldn’t be a part of any relationship.

2- Ultimatums

Moreover, imposing your decisions on your partner by giving them ultimatums pressures them into taking their relationship to the next level when they’re simply not ready. This is similar to talking about your rights while neglecting theirs because it serves your needs, which is also considered a form of stonewalling.

3- Anger Spasms

The moment you opt to raise your voice in anger instead of talking about the subject matter calmly, it makes your partner retort back in the same way. The immediate reaction is to respond with more yelling or walking away, leaving the issue hanging in between them.

4- Complete Silence

Most of the time, couples use the silent treatment or completely ignore their partner with the intention of hurting them so they could feel the consequences of their mistakes. However, doing that only makes it harder for you and your partner to find a mutual ground where you can effectively communicate with them to resolve the impending conflicts.

5- Guessing Games

You can’t expect yourself to know what your partner is thinking all the time, and the same goes for them. That’s why trying to read their mind or unrealistically expecting them to read yours under stressful situations turns a moderately unhelpful case into an extremely complex one in a matter of moments.

6- Emotional or Physical Violence

Degrading your partner with abusive language or using physical violence is a big ‘no,’ no matter what the current circumstances entail. Moreover, subtle aggressive actions, including turning your back on your partner, denying them physical affection, or giving them intimidating looks, are just as unhealthy forms of destructive communication as the prior behavior.

7- Interruptions

Interrupting your partner by cutting them off mid-sentence or not giving them the chance to verbalize their thoughts at all is not what couples do in healthy relationships. In reality, effective communication involves letting your better half speak and listening to their concerns before you even start thinking about saying your piece.

8- Wrong-Timed Conversations

Lastly, raising sensitive topics at the wrong time is another thing that leads couples to stonewall each other. Maybe there are other people around, which makes your partner feel uncomfortable, or perhaps it is something else altogether. No matter the reason, you may know your partner better than anyone else, so use that to your advantage and choose to converse at a time when both of you don’t mind talking comfortably.

8 Things to Do When You or Your Partner Shuts Down

You can easily avoid the things in the last section that make you or your partner use the “shutting down” method in relationships. But let’s say the issue is already a big problem between you and your partner. In that case, you can use the following tips, which were given by experts, to get your love life in order and get back on the right track:

1- Recognize When You’re the One Shutting Down

Many people don’t even realize when they’re stonewalling their partner simply because they’re not in tune with their own emotions. By paying attention to your bodily sensations, which are actively connected to your emotions, you can prevent yourself from saying or doing anything that you may regret afterward.

2- Know When It is Not You but Take Responsibility

It is vital to understand that it is not all your or your partner’s fault individually when you opt to shut them out. In the same way, you must realize that when someone unintentionally stonewalls you, it might be because of something that you both did that led them to behave that way. So, contemplate your actions and take responsibility for them before you confront your significant other with accusing fingers.

3- Practice Vulnerability

Instead of waiting on your partner to take the initiative, you can help them confess their feelings by allowing them to see your pain. Moreover, you should not hesitate to express how you feel about everything with complete vulnerability and dig under the anger to find the problem’s actual crux. You may even feel overwhelmed when doing that. But by accepting your frights and making yourself seem more approachable, you instinctively encourage your partner to take part ineffective communication.

4- Consider Being Diplomatic

People don’t like to be subjected to direct criticism, whether they’re the one at fault or not. That’s why it’s a much better option to address concerns that might seem like a judgment and turn them into halfway requests. Simply put, you can sandwich them in between two positives to avoid any unnecessary nagging. For instance, you can remind your partner of something that you especially like about them and then casually convey your point before ending the cause by telling them your reasoning behind it.

5- Don’t be Intimidating

Trying to get your partner to do what you want by talking to them in a healthy way is much better than being scary and saying “my way or the highway.” The truth is that shouting to be heard might not help your case at all. But your partner will listen to you if you stay calm and show them you care while you talk. It might be hard to keep your cool, especially if they don’t want to talk about stressful things. But they would come around once they realized that the situation wasn’t going to get loud or dramatic.

6- Focus on Finding Solutions in a Positive Way

Pointing fingers and making allegations will only put your partner on the defensive.  On the other hand, when you steer your conversation such that you’re not grinding away at complaints and only focusing on finding solutions, that’s when a mature relationship starts to blossom.

7- Reignite Your Relationship

The moment you stop counting your partner’s mistakes and instead conversing with them regarding how to re-spark your relationship, it gives way to all things positive, including trust, fidelity, and romance.  Moreover, when working with your partner to reach a mutual endpoint while setting some essential limits and boundaries, there’s nothing that remains unobtainable.

8- Get Support and Talk with Professional Relationship Coaches

Lastly, if the issue of shutting down and refusing to communicate with your partner is persisting with time, we suggest talking to professional relationship coaches to encourage constructive behavior.  While conflicts between couples regarding trifling matters can often be resolved without a hitch, you can’t deny that conversing with experts is sometimes all you need to get back on track when things aren’t working in your favor.

How We Can Help

You call your doctor if you have pain, you call your accountant if you have trouble with your taxes, you call a mechanic when car is broken.  Now you can contact a Relationship Coach today to get help with your relationship and marriage needs.  Schedule an Appointment now!

Lastly, you can check out our book, How Communicating Saved Our Marriage. It talks about every part of a relationship and how effective communication can help you deal with problems more confidently.

Written by Antonio & Laura Moore  | August 24, 2022 | All Rights Reserved Marriage Means Moore Inc

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