How to React to an Avoidant Partner

Mature couple fighting at home sitting on the sofa.

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The silent treatment, dismissing, ignoring, putting up a wall: “Stonewalling” happens when one partner shut down the communication process in a relationship for self-protection.

• Stonewalling is one of four communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship or divorce.

• Dr. Gottman has found four destructive patterns of interaction which he refers to as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which can lead to relationship meltdown and divorce. Stonewalling is one of the four. Criticism, defensiveness, and contempt are the other three.

• Practice self-compassion. It is understandable to feel angry, powerless, hurt, panicky, or even desperate to receive acknowledgement or a response. Know that you aren’t crazy or bad for having a negative emotional response. Focus on taking good care of yourself and practice self-love. Talk to a friend or therapist.

• Resist the urge to chase them down and shout. Ignore they behavior. Practice healthy detachment. When somebody shuts down and refuses to communicate, it often provokes the other person to up the ante to try and get a response (by raising your voice, making aggressive or passive-aggressive statements or nonverbal communications such as slamming doors).

• Choose healthy ways to process your feelings. Exercise, meditate, yoga, deep breathing, talk to friends. • Write them a letter. Try communicating with them in a written format, but avoid text bombing or firing off angry emails. Speak in terms of yourself and how you are feeling by using “I statements'' rather than “you statements,” which can trigger defensiveness.

• Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they may be feeling. Perhaps they are experiencing some shame, hurt, or anger that may be rooted in previous life experiences but was triggered in your relationship. Consider how your words or actions might have made them feel.

• Wait.

• See a therapist!

For more information check out Psychology Today!

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