When Your Partner Stops Giving: The Silent Pain of Emotional Withholding.
There’s only one way to deal effectively with a partner who withholds from you, and it’s this: You must make it clear that the relationship is OVER, FOREVER, if your partner does not start acknowledging you and communicating. This is the only tactic that has a chance of working, because the withholding partner doesn’t actually want the relationship to end. Your tormentor is deriving too much satisfaction out of dispensing punishment and seeing you suffer. Why you might want to remain with a sadist is your own business, but if you do want to try to save it, you have to threaten to leave and be willing to make good on your word if things don’t improve quickly. And if they do improve, you have to insist that you will be out the door if it ever, ever happens again.
Right up front, this dynamic is going to apply to kids as well as spouses. Swap out “child” or “teen” for “partner” above – think it will still work?
Unless you’re doing this the right way, demanding that your partner/child opens up to you will backfire badly. First, it puts the ball in their court to either concede or not, giving them all your power. That only makes it worse.
More importantly, BOTH you and the other person are probably withholding. I have always liked Gary Smalley‘s powerful analogy on a closed spirit:
The single most prevalent cause of disharmony within a home is what I have labeled a closed spirit.
What do I mean by a closed spirit? What causes it? Let’s begin by saying that every person is born with a spirit, soul, and body, and all three are interrelated. I will define spirit as a person’s innermost being, similar to one’s conscience. It’s the area in which people can have fellowship with one another and enjoy each other’s presence without a word being spoken. Our deepest relationships are built on the spirit level. The soul would include our mind, will, and emotions. The body is, of course, our physical makeup. Together, we’ll say the three comprise a total person. But the soul and the body are within the spirit.
Very Sensitive Tentacles
To help us understand how the spirit, soul, and body operate together, let’s look at an example from nature. When I was a child, I enjoyed observing sea anemones on the California coast. They were often found in tidal pools among the rocks. About four or five inches in diameter, they look like colorful flowers with soft, wavy tentacles. But I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes I’d take a stick and poke one of them. Immediately the sea anemone would withdraw its sensitive tentacles and close up until it became a shell. It was similar to a beautiful flower closing. Now it was protected from further injury.
What happens with the sea anemone illustrates what happens to a person when he is offended. The tentacles of that sea anemone are similar to the spirit of a person. The sea anemone is completely open and vulnerable. But when the stick pokes him, he closes up. In a similar way, when a person is offended, he closes up. When his spirit closes, it in turn closes his soul and body. If the spirit is open, so are the soul and body. In other words, when the spirits of two people are open, they enjoy talking (soul) and touching (body). If the spirit closes, the soul and body close to the same degree. A person with a closed spirit will usually avoid communication.
And then, soon after, the relationship death-spirals.
Be assertive with love and honor. Only fools demand what their loved one is afraid to give.