Men are often raised and socialized to respond to stress and emotional situations differently than women. That is to say, most men don’t vocalize their feelings. This can result in something that many women have experienced with their partner from time to time: he shuts you out. When a man goes silent and shuts down, it can leave women feeling uncertain and confused on how to react.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been dating him for a few months or a few years, when a guy shuts down women are often at a loss on how to deal with it. Before you know it, he’s simply shrugging off every question that you ask or giving you nothing but monosyllable one word responses. So what do you do? How do you communicate with a man who has gone completely nonverbal? There are some right ways and wrong ways to deal with a situation like this.
1. Don’t jump to conclusions
If your partner is feeling upset and has started to shut you out, don’t immediately assume that it’s something you’ve done. This could cause problems where there aren’t any, and it does nothing but make you feel stressed out about your relationship when you don’t have to be. It’s logical to worry that you’ve done something to upset him, but if that were the case you would most likely know before he started to shut down. Unless you specifically tells you that it’s something you’ve done to upset him, then carry on under the assumption that whatever is causing him to shut down is an outside influence.
2. Don’t badger him
Even though it may be tempting to just hound him until he tells you what’s wrong, the only thing that you’re going to do is drive him further into his shell. He may not be able to communicate exactly what’s wrong the minute you ask him, which can, admittedly, be frustrating. But remember that it’s not only frustrating to you, but it’s also probably frustrating to him that he’s having a hard time verbalizing his feelings.
So, if he has a habit of shutting down, try to resist opening up the interrogation with, “What’s wrong now?” Imagine how you would feel if something was bothering you and that’s how your partner decided to ask what was wrong. It doesn’t feel good, does it? Approach the situation how you would like to be treated. Instead, observe the shift in his mood. Let him know that you can tell something seems to be off or bothering him, and that he seems shutdown. Open up a line of communication rather than demanding one.
3. Give him space
If he isn’t ready to talk, it’s okay to give him space. In fact, he might need it to figure out what’s going on in his head. Men sometimes have problems being in-tune with their emotions the same way that women are. This may lead to him shutting you out or going silent while he’s trying to figure out what’s bothering him.
Or, he may just be upset and not able to verbalize it. This happens to the best of us, even women. Rather than sitting around and nagging him to tell you what’s wrong, give him space to work it out on his own. When he’s ready to talk about it, he’ll tell you. Don’t forget to check in with him. It may feel like you’ve abandoned him if you give him space without letting him know you’re there for him when he needs it.
It’s important to communicate to him the boundaries that you have when it comes to relationships. Let him know what you need from him, even if he’s insisting that nothing is wrong and shutting you out. Communicating is one of the most important parts of a relationship, and letting him know the things that you need from him can help keep you from feeling emotionally abandoned as well.
On the flip side, when he does decide to tell you what’s wrong, it’s important to listen to him. Really listen, and see if you can validate his thoughts and feelings, especially if he feels like you’ve done something to upset him. After all, it doesn’t have to be an argument. It’s important that you listen to what he needs from you out of the relationship as much as you do a good job communicating to him what you need.
Men can go silent for a number of reasons. Sometimes there’s something deeper hiding beneath their silence – other times, they may just really be tired or have zoned out for a while. The best thing to do is to assess the situation and give your partner the space that he needs to talk about it, or think about it. Being open and honest with your partner without jumping to conclusions will help you get his gears turning again so the two of you can move past this roadblock in communication.