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How to deal with someone who emotionally withdraws

Community Member
This feels like a complicated issue, so I'm hoping I can get some advice on how to deal with it.

I'll start off by saying I'm in a long term relationship with someone I love. Our relationship is great most of the time however emotional scars are starting to surface and I'm feeling lost on how to deal with it.

Some back story: my partner and I went through a rough patch at some point in our relationship. It was at a time when we were both emotionally immature and didn't know how to control our emotions properly. Minor arguments would suddenly turn into explosive, angry attacks. Things would get thrown and broken. Temper would rise. Voices would yell, scream and shout. Tears would flow. It would escalate and get very intense. Like two raging fires with gasoline on top. We knew this was a problem and did our best to fix our issues. Through talking we identified alot of hidden resentment and communication issues that had caused our arguments to get so intense. Once we got to the root of the problem our relationship got back on track and we've been great ever since. Things are calm and happy, it's nice. We both feel emotionally stronger.

However, there's one issue. We don't argue often but when it does happen and I do have a legitimate concern to talk about, my partner shuts down. At any sign of me getting emotional about a topic he shuts down. He goes cold and distant and it hurts. Even if he is in the wrong and his the one who has hurt me and I have tried to discuss it, he will shut down. This is so hurtful for me because all I want to do is do the right thing and communicate but he just withdraws. It seems like he doesn't care about me at all.

I brought this up with him and he says he shuts down because when he gets emotional he makes things worse so he becomes cold to deal with it. He said it's like a emotional callus his built because of our bad arguments in the past so if it happens again it doesn't affect him as much. His basically desensitzed himself but as a consequence he has become emotionally withdrawn. It makes sense but at the same time it's worrying because were not who we used to be anymore. Is this permanent damage? How can it be fixed? I feel Like We're being held back.
2 Replies 2

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Auschic~

Both of you sound as if you have made great efforts to keep disagreements from escalating into disasters. This is a wonderful thing and gives stability, and probably increases confidence and trust too.

As you would know this does not mean there are never disagreements or mishaps between you in the future, just that the over-reactions and loss of control are gone.

Your partner has found something that sort of works. No comment, so no argument. So he appears to withdraw. It may well be those previous arguments leave him in a position he never wants them to happen again.

Can you handle matters in a different way?

My partner shuts down when I start to go on too much and I've learned firstly I'm not being fair and secondly in time and a peace offering (cup of tea?) allows her to put forward her point of view.

We do have a pact and never say anything in the heat of the moment to hurt too deep, or something that cannot be taken back. If for example my partner was tired over time then it would be far to hurtful to refer to her as lazy in an altercation, similarly one cannot threaten to leave -that can't be forgotten ever.

It may be one of you is better with words, or one loses temper easier, both inequalities and dangers htere.

Have you considered writing a note and getting one in reply? Takes time, but allows consideration of one's position. I'd not expect it would start out with long detailed replies, but it could be a start

What do you think?


white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

I have a thread I recommend you read


Beyondblue topic relationship strife? The peace pipe