One of the first things I do with couples in marriage counseling is to help them identify the pattern they’re stuck in. This awareness is the first step to changing the damaging habits that have formed in their relationship.
In almost every relationship, at least 1 partner is shut down, withdrawn and emotionally unavailable. In heterosexual relationships, this person is usually a man, though not always. He often feels poked and prodded, so he retreats, like a turtle. I’ve worked with countless women who are either desperate to get their partner to open back up to them, or have given up and pulled away. They’ve often tried many things, but it seems like the harder they try, the worse it gets.
My experience with couples counseling has shown me that men (or the avoidant partner) may shut down for 1 of these 3 reasons.
1. He doesn’t feel connected.
Most men I work with tend to feel most connected to their partner when they are respected, appreciated, and touched. Touch usually ranks in the top 2-3 of a man’s love language, however, not always. Appreciation and respect are sure ways to help your partner come out of his turtle shell.
2. You’re acting like his mom.
Ouch! I know. This is a rough one to acknowledge. Chances are, you’ve already been feeling this and it’s a relief to finally admit it. Many times, women feel justified in nagging, complaining, or reminding their partner because they otherwise wouldn’t do it on their own. The more you parent your partner, the more they’ll act like a child and the nasty parent-child cycle will continue. Treating your partner like an equal by allowing them to feel their own mistakes will start to change this cycle.
3. He’s not going to get it right anyway, so why try?
When women talk and ask questions, men often feel scrutinized. They feel like their partner is the judge and they’re on trial. No matter how they answer, they’re wrong. This is a difficult predicament for women who are truly just curious.
Another possibility is that your partner is silently beating himself up. He sees that you’re unhappy, or knows you want something from him, but he doesn’t know how to do it, so he clams up. This is a difficult challenge to negotiate. Be patient. Listen. Let your partner voice their needs without any commentary.
If your partner is shutting down and feels emotionally unavailable, something has likely hurt him. He’s either felt criticized by you, or by his own inner critic. Remember, shutting down is a defense mechanism. That’s how a turtle keeps itself safe. Your partner is no different. And once he starts to feel more confident, the shell will open. Allow him those successes and you’ll really start to see the needle move.
Are you struggling in your relationship?
Marriage counseling can be a helpful way to work through your problems and strengthen your relationship. We specialize in helping people who have been deemed “emotionally unavailable” change the way they interacOur counselors are trained to listen, understand and challenge you both to change behaviors that might be destructive. We especially love working with people who have been deemed “emotionally unavailable”. We want you to feel empowered by identifying a problem, understanding it better, and finding ways to solve it.
Marriage counseling sets the stage for a healthy relationship. Take the first step by scheduling free consultation today!