When I Want to Talk, My Partner Shuts Down!
I hear this concern frequently from couples as they struggle to discuss and try to resolve important issues. Often it goes something like this:
A disagreement occurs; it may then become intense. One of you seeks answers, maybe gets more upset than the other. As the volume increases, your partner seems to become more emotionally distant -- or even leaves the room. This increases your concern about not being able to connect and your may frustration grow. And, your partner then shuts down even more.
Over time, the more vocal partner sometimes feels their withdrawn partner does not care about the relationship. In fact, the quiet partner cares deeply, but may not want the argument to escalate and often is lost about how to calm his or her spouse. This may cause the vocal partner to feel their concerns are being ignored or invalidated.
What is learned in counseling is that both partners are very concerned about the security of the relationship and want it to improve. They just express themselves differently.
In therapy, we call this the "negative cycle," and this pattern of one partner being more vocal and the other reticent to engage is the most common. This unintentional cycle creates emotional distance between you, and even small issues can build into big arguments. Over time, couples find that concerns and problems rarely get resolved.
When couples first learn about the cycle and its variations, there is relief: "Aha! We're not so unusual." Indeed, the patterns are not atypical, and identifying the negative cycle and each couple's pattern is the first step toward improving the relationship.
In counseling, using the most-proven and effective method, I help couples learn to exit the cycle and then to talk in a new way about their concerns. Couples learn to identify their secondary emotions -- the ones most visible, such as anger, irritation, frustration. Importantly, couples learn to reach to their primary emotions, such as hurt, isolation and sadness. When learning to express those all-important primary emotions, couples reach new levels of understanding and clarity and can learn to resolve issues from a new, positive perspective.
To learn more, I invite you to call me for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I look forward to talking with you.