What to Do If Your Partner Shuts Down During Arguments

We all prefer kisses and hugs to discussions. However, when the time comes for confrontation, some people shut down and refuse to face the situation. Here are some strategies that can help in these cases.
What to Do If Your Partner Shuts Down During Arguments
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Does your partner shut down during arguments? Do they refuse to say anything, leaving you speechless and frustrated? This type of behavior isn’t uncommon. In fact, it often happens, demonstrating how much we still need to advance and develop in matters of communication and emotional intelligence.

Cicero said that practical experience sharpens the skills required to win an argument. However, the truth is that many people appear to be almost allergic to confrontation. They reject discussions and the exchanging of ideas in order to reach agreements or conclusions.

Indeed, many see discussions as threatening situations. They’re people who are either mentally blocked, have feelings of accumulated anger, or simply don’t have adequate skills in assertiveness.

Obviously, we’d all like relationships to be like a dance. With measured movements and perfect harmony. However, even in dance, it’s necessary to know how to master the movements, both the easy and the difficult ones. In this way, it becomes easier to move with greater poise and temperance, facing any unforeseen events and complications.

Woman of when the couple closes during the discussions

What to do if your partner shuts down during arguments

Do you know how to argue, or are you one of those who loses your temper or shuts down? As a rule, there are three types of dynamic.

In the center is the person who’s skillful and effective in the art of discussions. On each side of them are the problematic extremes. There’s the one who loses control and ends up screaming, and the one who refuses to speak and walks away.

It’s not easy to be a partner of the one who gives you the silent treatment. They block the conversation and refuse to respond. Consequently, nothing gets resolved. As a matter of fact, it’s knowing how to communicate that guarantees the survival and quality of an affective relationship.

This is what a study conducted at the University of Georgia (Greece) revealed. It claimed that the quality of communication processes predicts the satisfaction of any affective bond. For this reason, if your partner shuts down during discussions, it’s something you must work on and learn how to manage.

It’s not good to leave problems in limbo. Because small disagreements soon become large ones and everything starts to collapse.

Understand the reason

Each one of us is the result of a complex upbringing. Some people grew up in a family environment in which nobody spoke much and where their emotions weren’t taken into account. This means that they’ve spent a good part of their life swallowing their needs, desires, fears, and frustrations like swallowing a stone. Indeed, it isn’t easy for them to put into words what they’ve spent a lifetime silencing

If your partner shuts down during arguments, it’s good to know why. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming, ask them.

  • They may not know how to conduct a dialogue in which they can defend their own position and argue emotional issues.
  • They may feel overwhelmed by emotions and lack the skills to manage them.
  • They might think that arguing will get them nowhere.
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Time out: give yourself a few hours and resume the discussion at another time

It happens to everyone. Sometimes, your emotions are so overwhelming that you can’t express yourself as you wish. Therefore, if your partner shuts down during arguments, it’s a good idea to give them some time. Tell them “I understand how you feel. We can leave this for now and talk later because it’s important that we approach the issue calmly”.

Giving them time allows them to relax their emotions, clarify their ideas, and adopt a new perspective. Talking to your partner affectionately while you propose postponing the conversation, without criticizing them in any way will be a useful tactic. Nevertheless, it’s important that you do eventually have the discussion. It’s not worth letting it go and then spending all day being cross about it.

Discussions that are blocked by one partner end up being like a stagnant pond in which frustrations, resentment, and unsaid words accumulate.

Look for other options

There are also other channels with which you can encourage dialogue. For instance, you can suggest that they write down what they feel. Give them a pencil and a piece of paper. There are also other resources you can try:

  • Ask them nicely what they feel and what they think.
  • Suggest doing something that breaks up the tension. For example, going out to dinner or for a walk. Sometimes, introducing another activity and a different context calms nerves and encourages dialogue.

Finally, it’s true that these situations are never easy. Some people encase themselves in armor, close in on themselves, and are extremely difficult to reach. Knowing how to argue and discuss is paramount to emotional well-being and it’s an art in which we should all become skilled in order to live together successfully.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.