Why We Shut Down

By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service.

Men and women may take different paths, but both can arrive at the same destructive destination of shutting down emotionally.

Many couples live in this life of disconnection for many years, some forever. But avoiding a relational chasm really isn’t all that hard to do. The key is to understand and work with how each other operates emotionally. It does require that you invest some time and put all your feelings on the table to get things resolved, and that’s a big risk for a lot of folks. But the alternative is a painful and lonely way to go through life. So if you think you are ready, here are some tips for both men and women on how to avoid living like housemates.

It’s not that men don’t listen; they hear the women they love. The problem is that men are much more sensitive than we are given credit for. It is the cultural norm for women to want men to be men, and it’s also normal to want to test your partner (especially when you don’t agree). But when you put a guy down, the little boy inside gets hurt, and most men don’t have the words to give you what you need when they are feeling that you don’t admire or even like them.

If you are nice to a guy, he will be there for you; if you are mean, he will find a place to hide. It’s not fair to be critical and expect an open heart.

When a woman sexually rejects the man she is with, most guys take it fairly well (we get used to it). Unfortunately some men (and women) demand sex and aren’t shy about it. Look, no one can be badgered into wanting sex. That’s just biology. The psychology is that being sexually demanding will shut down anybody, so a balance has to be found in the bedroom. Some just give in, but by doing so, they end up feeling compromised and so become even more distant. This is a cycle that will end a relationship. Sex is important, but if your partner isn’t in the mood, that doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t love you; it means nothing more than she or he just isn’t feeling it at the moment. Accept it gracefully, and in an hour things could change. Fight it, and no one is happy.

No one responds well to being pushed away or to a partner running and hiding to avoid interaction. It doesn’t matter why. What does matter is you are no longer having a relationship when you refuse to open up and communicate what is going on for you. I have counseled many, many couples who have just gotten into this bad habit, finding it more comfortable to avoid each other than to resolve their issues (which are usually minor).

Tell the person you love that you are tired of the distance and you believe that he or she is too. There are many ways to reconnect. Start by reading this column together, and if you agree, you are instantly on the path to being the close couple that you used to be.

(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top