When a man shuts down emotionally, you immediately feel the frustration. The one person who’s supposed to openly communicate with you decides to keep quiet. Ouch, this has to hurt.
Maybe you got into an argument and right now, you genuinely feel like you’re the only one trying to resolve it. Your partner refuses to respond to your questions and he completely detaches himself from the situation.
Instead of helping you find a solution, he’s decided to stonewall you.
This behavior repeats every time the two of you should have an honest conversation about certain issues. Instead of being present and willingly trying to help both of you move on and overcome the obstacle, your partner emotionally withdraws and makes you feel left alone.
In those moments, the conversation turns into a monologue led by you. And instead of feeling understood by your partner, you end up feeling like you’re talking to a wall.
There’s no feedback, no eye contact, no sign that he gets what you’re talking about. The distance between the two of you grows and the more you talk, the less it feels like he’s paying attention to your words.
Why does this happen? Why do men decide to ignore us the second we hit an obstacle? And what can you do if you find yourself in this situation?
Well, here are the answers you’re looking for.
Why does a man shut down emotionally?
When a man shuts down emotionally, there must be a reason for him doing so, right?
Actually, there are many different possibilities that explain this kind of behavior. Once you get a better understanding of why your partner acts the way he does, it will be easier for you to put yourself in his shoes.
After that, you’ll be able to work on finding the solution together as a couple.
1. He hates conflict
A man may shut down emotionally because he detests conflict. So, he simply does whatever it takes to avoid any situation that could lead to an argument.
He’s probably been doing it his whole life since this behavior is usually caused by upbringing. If he grew up in an environment where things were always swept under the rug and conflicts were avoided, then he’ll likely act the same way.
He’s used to keeping quiet about situations that bother him since that’s how he’s been raised.
His parents probably discouraged conversations that required vulnerability and didn’t solve issues through open communication. He’s so conditioned, he doesn’t know how to do things differently.
If emotional withdrawal has been his reality all his life, then it’s impossible to expect him to change overnight. Still, it doesn’t mean that he can’t work on it. There must be a solution that’ll make both of you happy.
2. He’s afraid of your reaction
Another reason a man shuts down emotionally is that he’s afraid of how you’ll react. He doesn’t know how you’ll take his words and if you’ll be willing to work on finding the solution.
If he’s insecure by nature and struggles with low self-esteem, then he’ll rather keep quiet than say out loud how he feels about the whole situation. What if he hurts your feelings? You would probably leave him right away, right?
Or what if he says something wrong and you get mad at him?
These are all things that go through his mind the moment you two enter an argument. So for the sake of saving the relationship, he chooses to rather keep his mouth shut.
But if only he knew that every time he emotionally withdraws, he actually pushes you away from himself. If only he knew that you would like him to tell you whatever is on his mind rather than keep quiet about it.
Once again, these feelings could be rooted in his childhood. If his parents or people from his surroundings made him feel like he couldn’t speak freely about things that bothered him, that’s why he’s used to keeping everything in.
And now, even though he’s a grown man, he still suffers the consequences of what he experienced growing up.
3. He thinks the two of you can’t find a solution
Is your partner a pessimist? Does he always see the glass half-empty?
If this is the case, then there’s your reason for him stonewalling you the moment you try to have a talk with him.
When a man shuts down emotionally, it could be that he’s convinced himself that there’s no solution for your problem. He believes that the two of you could never solve the disagreement.
To him, it seems a far better solution simply to keep quiet and ignore the issue at hand. Because he thinks that expressing his feelings wouldn’t change things anyway, he’s resigned to not saying anything at all.
In his head, there’s really no point in arguing as it’s obvious that there’s no solution that will work for both of you – at least, that’s what he believes.
So, even though you’re willing to find a compromise and you’re not afraid to communicate freely with him, he still thinks there’s no use even trying.
4. He’s manipulating the situation to get things his way
The reason a man shuts down emotionally could be that he wants to manipulate you to get things his way. He knows that giving you the silent treatment will make you act exactly how he wants you to.
This usually happens when a man realizes that his partner is a people pleaser. He knows that you can’t stand disappointing or saying “no” to people.
So, he uses this to his advantage and slowly, without saying a word, guides you to do what he wants you to.
He makes you feel bad for expecting a different outcome from him, and by refusing to communicate his feelings with you, he subconsciously bends you to his will.
This behavior has no excuse as he’s playing dangerous mind games with you. The more he keeps doing this, the harder it will be to get him to have a normal conversation with you.
He’ll realize that he can always get things his way if he keeps quiet, so it will become a routine part of the relationship.
5. He doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions
A man who’s emotionally unavailable won’t know how to deal with his emotions. He won’t know how to express them or how to properly react once his feelings accumulate.
At some point, he won’t even be able to pinpoint or describe the emotions he’s feeling.
When this happens, a man usually decides to shut down and ignore everything that’s going through his mind. Instead of sharing his feelings with his partner, he rather decides to stay quiet about the topic in the hopes it’ll all just disappear.
This inability to express the way he’s feeling is usually tied to the way he was brought up. If his culture or household nurtured that stereotypical belief that men should always be tough and that they’re not allowed to express their vulnerability, then this would be deeply embedded in him.
So, every time he feels an emotion coming on, he’ll push it down and rather stay quiet. Instead of telling his partner what’s bothering him, he’d rather not speak at all.
Even though your man thinks that he’s doing the right thing, he’s actually doing more harm than good.
He’s slowly cracking the foundations of your relationship and making you feel like you’re the reason he can’t be vulnerable with you. And without those two things, you can’t really expect to have a healthy relationship.
6. He’s not interested enough in you to be willing to work on the issues
Let’s be honest. One of the possible reasons a man shuts down emotionally is because he’s simply not interested enough in you.
He doesn’t really care about making your relationship stronger since he doesn’t plan on staying with you in the long run. I know it’s harsh to hear, but chances are you’re not the one for him.
If you want to be sure that his feelings aren’t real and that he’ll be out of your life sooner rather than later, then you should pay close attention to his behavior.
Does he prioritize you or is he only with you when it’s convenient for him? Does he show you that he loves you in the little things or is it rare for him to express his care and affection?
These are some signs to look out for if you want to determine whether he’s with you because he truly loves you or because he just doesn’t want to be alone.
If it turns out that he’s not actually that into you and that’s why he emotionally withdraws, then there’s not much you can do. You can’t help him change his behavior or feelings for you, no matter how hard you try.
What to do when a man shuts down emotionally
Seeing your man shutting down emotionally is one of the hardest things to endure. While you desperately want to have a talk with him, he chooses to stay quiet.
What do you do in situations like this? Do you try to talk with him and get him to open up? Or do you set him an ultimatum that he must start communicating more with you or you’ll walk away?
Well, here are some tips you can use when your man shuts down emotionally and refuses to talk with you.
1. Keep calm when you see him shutting down
While you’re doing your best to lead a healthy conversation with him, he doesn’t say a word. I understand how frustrating this can be, but in this situation, you must choose to stay calm.
If you raise your voice or start blaming him for how he always reacts this way, he’ll only close himself off to you even more. He’ll completely withdraw from you and you’ll have zero chance of getting through to him.
But if you stay calm and treat the whole situation with maturity, without pointing fingers, you’ll show him that you’re willing to give him time to process and express his feelings.
You won’t blame him for reacting this way because you understand it’s not something that’s easy to solve. You’re aware that it will take both of you a lot of time and energy to work on the issues, but you’re not about to give up.
2. Let your partner know that it’s okay to be vulnerable
A man most often shuts down emotionally because he believes that being vulnerable isn’t something guys are allowed to do. That’s why you must show him that he’s wrong.
Instead of blaming him for the way he’s been behaving, allow him to see your vulnerable side.
Let him realize that he has nothing to hide from you as your relationship is a safe zone. Both of you are allowed to express your feelings freely without getting judged for them.
Show him that you understand that he hasn’t been treated that way before. But also let him know that this is his chance to outgrow his fears of being vulnerable.
You won’t ever turn against him for anything he says, the same way he won’t turn against you. He needs to know that you want him to start sharing his feelings with you instead of emotionally shutting you out.
3. Stop blaming him and try to focus on the solution
We all have our flaws. We all have our own sets of fears that make it hard for us to move on and grow as people.
And just because your partner doesn’t know how to open up emotionally, it doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to blame him. It doesn’t mean that he deserves you pointing fingers at him, making the whole matter even worse.
But if you focus more on the solution to the problem, then the whole situation will be easier for both of you. Your partner won’t feel like he’s the one at fault for every misunderstanding between the two of you, and you won’t get upset every time he decides to stay quiet.
Together, as a couple, you’ll be able to overcome this obstacle and strengthen your relationship.
4. Remind yourself that you’re not the one to blame
When a man shuts down emotionally, you instantly start to think that it’s something you must have done wrong. You criticize yourself for not being able to make him feel comfortable enough around you to open up.
But you must understand that this is not your fault. Most likely, his behavior has been a part of his personality since childhood.
People from his environment didn’t show him the importance of sharing his feelings and that’s why he emotionally withdraws every time he’s supposed to speak up and share.
The sooner you realize that you didn’t cause him to act this way, the easier will be for both of you to move on from there and focus on the solution.
Trust me, it’s not your fault, and blaming yourself will only make the matter even more complicated. So, cheer up! And remember that you can help your partner through this in many different ways, but putting yourself down isn’t one of them.
5. Give your partner enough space to process his feelings
When a man shuts down emotionally, he needs some space for himself. He needs to get a chance to process his feelings in his own way and to figure out that he should’ve reacted differently.
If you don’t give him that space but instead hover around him, sitting with your hands crossed, angry for what’s just happened, he won’t feel comfortable around you.
Instead of gearing himself up to share his emotions with you and let you know what’s been bothering him, he’d rather keep quiet because he hasn’t received support, only judgment and criticism.
You haven’t given him a reason to want to express his vulnerable side and that’s why he’d rather not say anything at all. He would rather choose to act as he’s used to because of your reaction.
But if you give him enough space to figure out his mistake, the whole situation will become a lot less tense. He’ll know that he can talk to you whenever he feels ready and that will make everything much easier to deal with.
6. Set some boundaries
Even when your partner decides to shut down emotionally, there are some boundaries that he should never cross. By making that clear, you’re showing him that you won’t allow him to treat you however he likes – you’re a human being with feelings, after all.
If he doesn’t want to talk to you right now, then you might not want to be around him since his presence currently isn’t making you happy. In that case, you can let him know that you’re about to walk away and do something for yourself so you can feel better.
Also, your partner should know that there’s only much you can tolerate. If you do your best to help him overcome the issues he’s facing but he still decides not to work on his behavior, then you’re entitled to ask him to visit a couples therapist.
If that can save your relationship, then you have every right to request it. It’s the least he should give you if he truly wants this relationship to work.
7. Postpone the conversation if needed
When you stumble upon an issue and your man emotionally shuts down, you can give him some time to process it all. Instead of pressuring him to hash it out right now, you can easily postpone it until he feels ready.
This will show him that you understand where he’s coming from and that you’re willing to give him enough time so he feels comfortable opening up to you.
It also shows him that you truly want to make the matter easier for both of you. You want to find a solution that will allow the two of you to be happy in the relationship.
Just because you feel ready to talk to him right away and work on a solution, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s ready for the same step. And by giving him some more time, you’ll show him that you respect his process of dealing with things.
He needs to feel safe and at ease in the relationship and if you can’t make him feel that way, then you don’t deserve him in the first place.
So, consider postponing the conversation for as long as he needs it if that’ll increase the chances of him opening up to you. At one point, you’ll see the benefits of this step.
8. Let your partner know you’re willing to help him overcome issues
You should be his greatest support. That one person to be the wind at his back, no matter what.
So, when a man shuts down emotionally and doesn’t feel like opening up to you, show him that you’re there for him. You’re willing to help him work on all of the issues he’s currently facing because that’s what you’re there for –to support him.
He doesn’t need to suffer in silence or look for solutions on his own. Instead, he needs to know that you’re there for him, in every moment of the day.
Reassure him that he can talk to you whenever he wants and he can be sure that his secrets are safe with you. Whatever he shares will stay between the two of you.
This way, you’ll strengthen your relationship, but you’ll also make him realize that he can trust you. You’re a person he can confide in, no matter what, and you’d never laugh at him for anything that he’s feeling.
Let him realize that it’s always easier to fight your battles with a help of your partner than on your own. Once he understands that, he’ll feel more confident to open up to you and express his feelings freely.
Personally, it is the most frustrating thing in the world when an adult man is so immature and totally lacking in empathy for the hurt he is causing.