This post was updated on Apr 22, 2023
Mark and Sharon used to seem like an ideal couple. They were madly in love and it seemed they would never have trouble communicating their feelings for one another. But then it happened: they hit a rough patch and it now seems that it will take nothing short of a miracle for them to get back on track and for things to go back to normal.
She feels he is distancing himself from her and becoming emotionally withdrawn, which is making her confused and causing her a great deal of emotional pain. All in all, it feels like they’re stuck at the point of no return, with a separation being the only viable option. Sharon recommended attending a couple relationship management workshop but Mark refused. She feels neglected and fears abandonment is what happens next.
What went wrong and who or what is to blame for the emotional intimacy issues? And is it possible for a couple in this situation to overcome emotional withdrawal and withholding?
What Is Emotional Withdrawal?
Being emotionally withdrawn basically means keeping your emotions bottled up. This can naturally take a toll on any relationship, especially a romantic one. Emotional withdrawal is typical of the avoidant attachment style.
Your childhood experiences can affect your adult relationships. Being raised by emotionally distant or neglectful parents or caregivers can lead you to develop survival patterns you rely on to navigate emotional pain in adulthood. And when both you and your partner start to fall back on your own survival patterns, this can put a great deal of stress on the relationship.
What Is Emotional Withholding In Relationships?
Emotional withholding is a situation when a person uses their love and affection, praise or even their presence against their partner. It could be their way of staying in charge, avoiding humiliation or even hurting their partner, deliberately or not. It is important to understand that emotional withholding represents a type of emotional abuse that must be dealt with.
How To Deal With Emotional Withholding
Emotional withholding is a form of passive-aggressive behavior which qualifies as emotional abuse. Partners often resort to withholding affection as a form of punishing the other person even if they might not realize it. Giving someone the silent treatment or the cold shoulder, if you will, can cause a communication breakdown and irreparable damage to the relationship unless both partners are willing to work on resolving the underlying issues. As hackneyed as it may sound: communication is key.
How To Deal With The Silent Treatment
Most of us have been there: you desperately want to have a heart-to-heart with your partner but they just give you the silent treatment. You’re banging your head against the wall trying to understand whether you did anything wrong. You are also willing to do everything in your power to resolve the issue but you feel you’re the only one who wants to work towards a resolution.
This can only be dealt with if both partners are willing to communicate. And that’s the thing: neither partner is supposed to be a mind reader. It is impossible for one partner to figure out what’s wrong unless they can establish communication.
How Do You Fix A Broken Relationship?
One way to facilitate this is to constantly seek alternative ways of working on their relationship. Partners can learn about themselves, about each other and ultimately build trust in a relationship intensive workshop, such as the ones we have at The Glass House.
Aside from attending our 5-day workshop, you can also work with a PIVOT advocate separately or as a couple to help you heal. All of our programs are designed to accommodate the specific needs of every individual and guide them toward building intimacy in a relationship and developing healthy relationship patterns and coping skills.
How To Break Pursuer-Distancer Cycle
Back to Mark and Sharon and what they’re going through. Try this on for size.
Sharon: What’s wrong?
Sharon: Then why are you being like this?
Mark: Like what?
Sharon: You’re ignoring me all the time.
Mark: I’m not.
Sharon: You are and you know it. You’re doing it right now.
Mark: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Sharon: Oh, I bet you don’t!
Mark: You’re overreacting.
Sharon: I’m so not!
Mark: I really can’t get into this right now.
Are you the pursuer or the distancer? In other words, are you Sharon or Mark? And how do you break the vicious circle?
When two people in a romantic relationship are having a hard time seeing eye to eye, they tend to misinterpret everything that the other person means to say, which could then push them further apart.
The pursuer is seen as needy and nagging, an impression made all the worse because of their growing frustration and uncontrollable tendency to criticize. They can’t help it because they are unable to shift perspectives. The distancer is seen as emotionally unavailable, cold and distanced, whereas, in reality, they are vulnerable and feel they are being treated in a way that is unfair.
How Do You Overcome Emotional Distance In A Relationship?
The pursuer-distancer cycle that is left unresolved turns into a pattern that the person is likely to repeat in every new relationship. But how do you bridge emotional distance? Here are some ideas you can use to resolve the situation:
- Learn to recognize recurring patterns that lead to conflict.
- Set up and stick to a conflict resolution plan.
- Stick to a single topic until it is resolved.
- Focus on togetherness and the ‘We’: We need to work this out.
- Get to know your own communication style and learn to tweak it.
- Learn to manage your emotions and not let negative emotions wash over you.
- Create an atmosphere of safety, trust and understanding.
- Find optimal ways to communicate: write each other letters if you have to.
Our Emotional Intimacy Coaching Can Help You Get Back On Track
Are you giving your partner the silent treatment? Or are you on the receiving end? Do you feel that you are responsible to smooth things over whenever someone is upset with you or is it your partner who is a people pleaser? So what can you do?
Taking simple steps like joining a relationship building skills workshop could ultimately be good for your own emotional development and for your relationship. It could help you learn how to shift perspectives and truly understand where the other person – in this case, your partner – is coming from. Call today and let us know what’s troubling you!