Marriage Counseling: What if I’m the Partner Who Shuts Down?

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Talking with Terri at Take Charge, Inc. might be a good idea if you are seeking marriage counseling because you have trouble communicating in your relationship. It’s never easy when someone you care for goes into an emotional shutdown, and you might even ask yourself if marriage counseling is the way to go. Marriage counseling aims to produce healthy conversation and facilitate changes to unhealthy patterns.

Marriage counseling, also known as couples therapy, is a specialized form of therapy designed to help couples address and resolve various issues within their relationship. Marriage counseling can benefit couples facing challenges or seeking to enhance their partnership. Suppose you’re the partner who tends to shut down in your relationship. In that case, it’s essential to recognize that this behavior can be challenging for you and your partner, as it can hinder effective communication and connection. When discussing love, you can’t have a healthy and lasting relationship without regularly showing your emotions. At the end of the day, love holds a relationship together, and if you’re not showing that love for one another, something probably isn’t right.

When someone goes through an emotional shutdown, they will gradually retreat from life and become socially isolated and unable to maintain normal relationships. If this continues, they start losing interest in the things they used to enjoy, their relationships become meaningless, and their career is no longer rewarding. An emotional shutdown like this may happen when there’s constant exposure to bad or unpleasant news, abuse, or a traumatic experience, or even the side effects of certain medications or due to parental or societal expectations. There are steps you can take to address this pattern of emotional shutdown and improve your relationship:

  • Self-awareness – First, become aware of your tendency to shut down in certain situations and try to identify the triggers or situations that lead to this behavior. Understanding why you shut down can be an essential starting point for change.
  • Communicate your needs – Let your partner know that you are aware of your tendency to shut down and want to work on it. Open and honest communication is crucial; explaining to your partner that you’re shutting down may not reflect your feelings for them but rather a coping mechanism.
  • Take breaks, not withdrawals – Instead of completely shutting down and withdrawing from a conversation or conflict, consider requesting a break. Let your partner know that you need some time to collect your thoughts and emotions before continuing the discussion, and set a specific time to reconvene so that your partner doesn’t feel abandoned.
  • Develop coping strategies – Work with a therapist or counselor to develop healthier coping strategies for dealing with difficult emotions or conflicts. These strategies may include deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, or journaling. 
  • Practice active listening – Make a conscious effort to actively listen to your partner when they express their thoughts and feelings. Validate their emotions, even if you disagree with their perspective, creating a more open and supportive environment for communication.
  • Seek marriage counseling – Marriage counseling can be a valuable resource for you and your partner. A skilled therapist can help you understand the dynamics in your relationship and guide you on improving communication and resolving conflicts.
  • Identify and address underlying issues – Sometimes, shutting down in a relationship can be a response to unresolved personal issues or past traumas. Exploring these underlying issues in individual therapy may be helpful to address them more effectively.
  • Set boundaries – Establish healthy boundaries within your relationship. Communicate your boundaries to your partner and respect their boundaries as well. 
  • Practice patience and empathy – Be patient with yourself as you work on changing this behavior. Changing long-standing patterns can take time, so try to empathize with your partner’s frustration and concerns about your tendency to shut down.

Some ways you can support your partner if they are shutting down emotionally include: 

  • Expressing Empathy and Understanding
  • Respecting their Space
  • Opening the Door for Communication
  • Avoid any Pressure or Criticism
  • Validate their Emotions
  • Educate Yourself
  • If Necessary – Seek Marriage Counseling

It’s important to remember that marriage counseling is a collaborative process, and both partners must be willing to participate and make efforts to improve the relationship. The therapist serves as a guide and facilitator, but the success of counseling largely depends on the commitment and effort of both individuals involved. Marriage counseling provides healing social support both from your partner and your counselor. If you are in Johnson County, KS, including Overland Park, Olathe, and Leawood, contact Take Charge Inc. today to schedule at (913) 239-8255.

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