Written by Antonio & Laura Moore | April 10, 2021 | Marriage Means Moore Inc
Shutting down and not communicating is the same thing as subjecting your partner to the uncomfortable and hurtful silent treatment. It means you are refusing to communicate with your partner or shutting down between arguments to avoid discussing feelings or dismissing others’ concerns. Denying your spouse or partner any type of verbal communication cues, including eye contact and physical affection; or walking away from stressful discussions can is also labeled under the same category – “shutting down” or “stonewalling”.
Unsurprisingly, this technique will only be effective to get a rise out of your partner and fuel anger. Hence, reducing the chances of resolving conflicts instead of tackling issues one at a time. Simply put, shutting down creates complexity in relationships that are already struggling due to several distinct factors. However, it is essential to note that you and your partner can still fix your relationship if you are willing to put yourself first as part of a couple rather than as an individual.
Learn What It is Not!
While it’s vital to realize what constitutes stonewalling, it’s just as important to understand which actions don’t and should never be declared as that. For example, suppose your partner asks you to discuss an issue, but they need some time to gather their thoughts first. In that case, it should be understood that they are not shutting down or denying you in any way. In reality, that’s the key to having constructive communication when you and your partner take your time and assemble your thoughts before getting into any debate. Moreover, insisting that they speak to you right then and there is probably never the best route to take, as it makes you come off as dominating and insensitive to your partner’s needs disrespectfully.
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
In a few cases, stonewalling is used for manipulating partners in relationships. However, while it’s very rare for couples to do that when they demote toxic behavior, it’s still one that should not be neglected. The purpose of intentional stonewalling is to control someone by inflicting physical or verbal abuse to maintain a certain level of dominance.
When that’s the case, it’s better to realize the destructive nature of your relationship before it causes you any more hurt or harm than you’ve already suffered. Moreover, waiting on your partner to change themselves might only put you into an even stressful situation, considering that they are rude and audacious with you on purpose, to begin with.
2- Unintentional Shutting Down
Contrarily, unintentional stonewalling is mostly used as a coping mechanism when partners try to avoid getting into challenging situations or keep from stirring emotional drama. While most people think they are only saving themselves from discussing uncomfortable or sensitive topics, they don’t realize that the silence is doing more damage in the meantime than they could imagine. The other reason for practicing this approach is when you’re afraid of your partner’s reactions and don’t want to deal with the potential consequences, like broken marriage 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:
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.
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.
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 conveniently practice avoiding factors mentioned in the last section that lead you or your partner to use the stonewalling approach in relationships. However, suppose the issue is already a ponderous complication between you as a couple. In that case, you can follow the given experts-recommended tips to get your love life sorted and get on the right side of the tracks:
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
Pursuing your partner with constructive communication is an unmistakably healthier option than being all intimidating and taking the my-way-or-the-highway approach. The truth is that yelling to get yourself heard may never help your case. However, your partner is bound to listen to you when you calm yourself down and maintain a caring demeanor while talking to them. It may be tough to compose yourself, especially when they’re already resistant to talk about stressful topics. However, once they realize that the situation is not about to get loud or dramatic, they would eventually come around.
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.
At Marriage Mean Moore, we aim to reestablish the right foundation for your relationship within 90 days! You can start this journey with us by taking our scheduling an appointment or you can also visit our website blog and go through the resources we have put together to help you resolve conflicts with your partner more conveniently. Lastly, you can check out our book, How Communicating Saved Our Marriage, which details each aspect of a relationship and how you can deal with the stumbling blocks more confidently through effective communication.