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What to do if you or your partner shuts down?

Updated: Mar 10

Communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship. However, there are times when we may find ourselves or our partner shutting down during a conversation. Shutting down can be defined as withdrawing from communication and emotional connection during a discussion. This can happen due to various reasons such as feeling overwhelmed, feeling attacked, or simply not knowing how to express oneself.

If you or your partner shuts down during a conversation, it can feel frustrating and can even cause resentment over time. It’s important to recognize that shutting down is a common defense mechanism, and it’s not a reflection of the relationship or the individuals involved. Here are some steps you can take to navigate this situation:

  1. Recognize the signs of shutting down: When someone shuts down during a conversation, they may stop talking, avoid eye contact, become defensive, or even walk away. If you or your partner displays these signs, it’s essential to acknowledge them and take a break from the conversation.

  2. Take a break: If either you or your partner shuts down, it’s essential to take a break from the conversation. This can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or stepping away from the conversation for a while. It’s important to communicate this to your partner, so they know that you’re not avoiding the conversation but taking a moment to regroup.

  3. Show empathy: When someone shuts down during a conversation, it’s crucial to show empathy towards them. Instead of attacking them or pushing them to speak, try to understand their perspective and validate their feelings. This can help them feel heard and understood, which can encourage them to open up.

  4. Practice active listening: When your partner is ready to talk, make sure to practice active listening. This means giving your partner your undivided attention and reflecting back what they are saying. This can help them feel heard and understood and can encourage them to continue the conversation.

  5. Seek professional help: If shutting down is a recurring issue in your relationship, it’s essential to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you and your partner develop communication skills and work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to the shutdowns.

In conclusion, shutting down during a conversation is a common defense mechanism, but it can have long-term effects on a relationship. It’s essential to recognize the signs of shutting down, take a break, show empathy, practice active listening, and seek professional help if needed. With patience, understanding, and communication, you can overcome this challenge and strengthen your relationship.

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