Why does he shut down
In this weeks’ newsletter, we are going to talk about fighting.
A married friend of mine and I were chatting a while back and she asked me “Kemi, can you please explain something to me…I don’t understand why my husband shuts down and won’t communicate with me when he’s angry with me”.
And I replied her by simply saying ‘He’s scared of you’. The reason why I’m so confident in saying this is because I have a partner who is exactly that way. And I realized its because he hates confrontations.
It scares him or he’s super uncomfortable with back-to-back arguments and confrontations. Not saying he fears me but I’m saying he’s scared of both of us saying the wrong things in the heat of an argument or becoming monsters.
Now the first thing that comes to mind when trying to clear an issue with your partner is…
To Fight or Not To Fight?
Opinions are all over the board on this one. Some people think that when you fight in a relationship you clear the air and are able to move on. Others think that one fight (or consistent fighting) means their relationship is ending.
Honestly, both are correct, depending on how you fight. That’s right, there is a right way and a wrong way to fight with your partner. And, honestly, most of us fight the wrong way.
Now let me share with you the problem men and women have with fighting.
Most men, when confronted about a problem either barely respond, holding in their thoughts to simmer until they explode or are too intimidating/lose control. Both are terrifying to women.
Most women, when confronted about a problem either instantly becoming screaming demons or break down into a river of tears. Both are terrifying to men.
Can you see the similarity? Both men and women are scared of the reactions of their partners. So, why does he shut down? Because he’s scared of you.
He’s scared that you’re going to break down in tears. He’s scared you’re going to yell at him. He’s scared he doesn’t know the reason why you’re fighting. He’s scared to say, “This is a really dumb fight.”
He doesn’t want to bring things up when he’s angry because he is unsure if the dump truck of pent up problems is going to be unloaded on him when he just wanted to know why the house is out of an item that’s very important in the house, even though he asked you to pick some of that item up on the way home. All this boils down to something I’ve talked about over and over again…communication.
The key to a long lasting happy relationship is communication. Communication when it’s easy to express your feelings and most importantly, communication when it’s hard to express your feelings.
So How Do You Fight?
Well first off, stop holding things in. Both men and women are guilty of this. He doesn’t flush the toilet well after a visit, but you don’t say anything. She doesn’t wash her panties every night, but you don’t say anything. We hold it all in until someone forgets something as little as putting toilet paper in the bathroom and suddenly we’ve got a world war on our hands between the two of you.
Because it’s not about the toilet paper. It’s about 400 other things that we just let simmer inside us. And we’ve all been there. We’ve all had the thought “If I just told him that when he does that it makes me feel like he isn’t listening to me, right then and there we would have taken care of the problem and we wouldn’t be fighting right now.” And that’s one trick. When something happens that hurts you or bothers you, talk about it. Don’t yell about it. Talk about it.
“Sweetie, I noticed you forgot to brush the toilet bowl after you used the toilet, even though I asked you. I understand that things get in the way, but it makes me feel like you aren’t listening to things I say. Logically, I know that isn’t the case, but I wanted to let you know what I’m feeling so you’re aware.”
He might come back with a snarky response, but keep your cool and keep talking so you two can have a discussion about it, not a fight.
Working on this yourself is easy. Getting your partner to work on it? Much harder.
So How Do You Get Your Partner To Start Talking About Things Right When They Happen?
Now for this question, I had to seek advice and answer from a therapist friend of mine. And she answered thus: “The best compliment I have ever gotten from my partner was “You’re really good at not fighting.” I was confused. Not fighting? I had a distinct memory of the previous week where things turned sour and we absolutely had a fight. But then I realized, the fight lasted about 3 minutes.
I had asked him a question and he gave me a snarky response that I didn’t appreciate. I have one of those faces that give everything away and boy did it react. He saw the tears start to bubble in my eyes and gave me another snarky response. That was all it took to put me over the edge. There I was, crying in my kitchen because of two snarky responses.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. Right there, I had a choice. I could have unleashed hell but I quickly had this conversation with myself: Why are you crying? Because he was unbelievably rude.
Why was he rude? Because… well… oh wait, earlier today he got that bad news about work, and…I quickly dried my face and said “Baby, I’m sorry I instantly broke into tears, it was a reflex reaction to what you said, which wasn’t nice and isn’t cool, but I don’t think it was about me.
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