A Couples Therapist’s Thoughts on Navigating “Shutting Down” in Your Relationship

Shows a woman comforting her partner. Represents how a couples therapist in atlanta, ga can help navigate shut down in your relationship.

You and your partner are trying to decide on important decisions and navigate through difficult situations. But you feel overwhelmed by the conflict you’re being presented with. To you, it seems like you can’t get through to each other. You find yourself “shut down”. This can be due to feeling unheard, fearful of isolation or separation, or feeling like you can’t talk this through with your partner.

As a couples therapist, I see couples where one partner tends to shut down in response to conflict. There are ways to avoid shutting down while working through difficult situations, and I want to share some of my tips for navigating being “shut down” in your relationship.

Understanding  Being “Shut Down”  Shows a man thinking. Represents how couples therapy in atlanta, ga can support you in your relationship

The first thing to understand about being “shut down” is that it’s a reaction to something going on side of you. Shutting down doesn’t eliminate the argument between you and your partner. Rather, it keeps the argument going and intensifies your feelings. The argument will be going on inside of you. Replaying over and over again. Where it intensifies and becomes a vicious mental cycle. Understanding how being shut down works will help you take the necessary steps to care for yourself. It will also help to address your triggers so that you can come back to communicate effectively with your partner.

Self-Care and Understanding Your Triggers

You won’t be able to work through the conflict effectively if you are constantly shut down. It’s important to take time for self-care, reflect on your triggers, and take time to understand them. As a couples therapist, I recommend you reflect after the conflict on why you became upset. What triggered this reaction? Then take time to cool off before engaging with your partner again. This can be by listening to music you enjoy, going for a walk, or even journaling your thoughts to get them out of your mind.

Reflect on Your Contribution to the Problem

Understanding how you contribute to the problem is also important. Reflect on your own behaviors and words that may have escalated or fueled the conflict. By doing this, you can recognize these patterns and stop this from happening in future conflicts before they get out of hand.

For example,  if you tend to get defensive when your partner is talking to you, try to calm down before responding. Instead of shutting down, take a step back and try to really listen and understand your partner’s point of view. This will help you to better communicate and avoid shutting down in the future.

Communicating Effectively Instead of Shutting DownShows a woman holding her partner's hand. Represents how marriage counseling in decatur, ga will help you and your partner communicate more effectively.

In addition to self-care, one of the best ways you can avoid shutting down is by learning how to communicate with your partner more effectively. By practicing techniques to communicate more effectively, you can get through the conflict without shutting down. This may involve using reflective or engaging listening, speaking in “I” statements, and avoiding defensiveness by validating your partner’s feelings.

Couples Can Use “I” Statements 

One way to help communicate more effectively with your partner is by using “I” statements. These statements allow you to express your feelings without assigning blame or putting pressure on your partner. For example, you might say “I feel really upset when you criticize me for not doing the laundry” or “I feel sad when you get angry at me for forgetting to buy milk”. These statements leave out the blame and defensiveness and help you to be more open and honest with your partner.

Reflective or Engagement Listening

Have you ever been in a conflict with your partner only to be told that you’re not listening?  By practicing reflective or engagement listening, you can avoid this and come across as more understanding. Engagement listening involves repeating what your partner said back in paraphrased form, while reflective listening involves reflecting your partner’s underlying message or meaning.

For example, you might say “So what I’m hearing you saying is that you feel like I’m not pulling my weight around the house” or “It sounds like you’re really frustrated with me right now”. This helps to let your partner know that you’re listening but also how you’re interpreting their message. Which could be a key to opening up the lines of communication in your relationship.

Communicate Understanding by Validation

Another way to improve communication with your partner is by validating their feelings. When you shut down, it can make your partner feel invalidated and unheard. By validating their feelings, you are letting them know that you understand where they’re coming from and that you hear and see them. For example, you might say “I know that this is frustrating for you” or “It might be helpful to take a break right now and try to come back to this later”.

This not only shows that you’re listening and understanding your partner, but it can also help avoid future conflicts where you shut down. It allows a segue into how you’re feeling. You can say, “It may be helpful to take a break right now and come back to this later because I’m feeling overwhelmed”. Your partner then can understand how you’re feeling and in turn expresses how they’re feeling, thus not shutting you down.

Couples Counseling Can HelpShows a married couple in Marriage counseling in decatur, ga. Represents how couples counseling can help support your relationship.

If you continue to struggle with shutting down in your relationship, it may be helpful to seek the help of a couples counselor. A therapist can help you identify and navigate your triggers, help you to work through conflict more effectively, and provide support and guidance in navigating the complexities of your relationship. They can also give you tools to use and can provide guidance on how to communicate more effectively with your partner.

Begin Couples Counseling in Norcross, GA

Couples Counseling can be the resource for you and your partner to navigate the challenges of being “shut down” in your relationship. From helping you figure out your triggers to using tools to communicate effectively, we are able to provide you quality services through online therapy or in person at our Atlanta counseling practice. When you’re ready to begin couples counseling, in Norcross GA, follow these steps:

  1. Contact me to schedule an initial appointment
  2. Learn more about anxiety treatment
  3. Begin communicating more effectively with your partner today!

Other Services Offered at Faith and Family Empowerment

Couples Counseling isn’t the only service offered at my Decatur, GA-based therapy practice. I’m happy to offer a variety of in-person and online mental health services. These include Christian counseling, and depression support groups. Other mental health services include premarital counseling, discernment counseling, counseling for anxiety & perfectionism and counseling for affair recovery. Learn more by visiting my about, blog, or FAQ pages today!

315 West Ponce de Leon Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030, suite 1045
Starting August 12, 2021

(678) 257-7831



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