How to Deal with an Unresponsive Partner

A feeling of being ignored by your partner is one of the most painful experiences you can have in a relationship. If your sweetheart becomes emotionally distant or refuses to communicate with you, you may be tempted to plead with them, chastise them, or demand that they tear down their walls of denial and communication. While these approaches are rarely successful, the good news is that there are a variety of other approaches you can try. In this article, we’ll walk you through a few approaches you can use to try to communicate with a loved one who isn’t responding.

1. Stay calm.

You must resist the temptation to lash out at or “punish” your partner. When you act on your emotions rather than explaining them, your significant other may feel less comfortable opening up to you. Whenever you notice yourself losing your cool around your partner, take a few slow, deep breaths to calm yourself down and regain your equilibrium. It’s possible that you’ll need to take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and feelings before approaching them with your concerns.

Remind yourself that their actions are motivated by them, not by you. Typically, when someone is emotionally unavailable, it is because they are using it as a defence mechanism to help them deal with unpleasant feelings.

2. Tell your partner how you are feeling.

Make use of “I” language to ensure that they do not feel attacked. If your significant other is acting distant or shutting you out, calmly explain how you are feeling as a result of this behaviour. Just tell them what you’re going through without making any demands or attempting to coerce them into opening up.

Consider the following example: “When you refuse to make eye contact with me, I become sad and frustrated.” “I get the impression that I don’t matter to you.”

Stay away from making statements that attack your partner as a person or that make it appear as if they are to blame for your own emotional reactions. Don’t say things like, “You always act so cold!” or “You always act so cold!” “You’re making me delirious!”

3. Own up to your part in the relationship dynamic.

Take a hard look at your own actions and reactions. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes for a moment. Think about whether anything you’re doing could be causing your partner to go into “defence mode.” As an example, do you have a habit of interrupting or tuning them out when they’re speaking? Is it your nature to lash out or become overly critical when they do something you don’t agree with? If this is the case, acknowledge it to yourself as well as to them. Inform them that you are aware of the problem and are willing to put forth the effort to improve your own behaviour.

For example, you could say something like, “I am well aware that I have a tendency to lash out when I am criticised.” Nonetheless, I want you to feel comfortable enough in your relationship with me to confide in me when something is bothering you, so I intend to improve in this area.”

This can be extremely difficult to accomplish. You are most likely feeling extremely hurt by your partner’s actions, which is completely understandable! However, being empathetic and accepting responsibility for your part in the situation is a huge step toward assisting your partner in feeling more secure and less defensive.

4. Explain your needs and expectations clearly.

It’s possible that your partner doesn’t understand what you’re asking of them. You must remember that no matter how obvious it appears to you, they are not able to read your thoughts. Make a specific, gentle request that expresses what you want them to do differently than they are currently doing.

Try saying something like, “The next time you’re angry with me, would you mind sharing your feelings and what’s bothering you?” or “How can I help you feel better?” Alternatively, “I understand that you are upset, but it would mean a great deal to me if you would look at me or acknowledge me verbally when I speak to you.”

5. Ask how you can make them more comfortable.

If at all possible, schedule this appointment during a time when you are both calm and relaxed. Admit to yourself, in a non-judgmental manner, that your significant other has a tendency to shut down when they are unhappy with you. Talk to them about what you can do to make communication easier and to put them at ease if this happens to you.

If you’re feeling stressed, you could say something like, “Sometimes I’ve noticed that you kind of check out and don’t want to talk.” When that occurs, what is the most effective way for me to communicate with you?”

In order to truly understand your partner’s response, you must make an effort to truly listen. Try to rephrase what they have to say in your own words if you have the opportunity. Consider the following: “Okay, it sounds like you get quiet because you’re worried about losing your temper and yelling, and you just need a few minutes alone in order to relax.” “Does that sound correct?”

6. Create strong boundaries.

Make it clear that intentional stonewalling is not acceptable, but do so in a gentle manner. If your partner regularly isolates you from problems in the relationship, calmly explain that you will not engage with them in the future if they continue to act in this manner. Make a list of specific consequences and be consistent in following through with them.

For example, you might say something along the lines of, “Okay, if you’re not willing to talk to me, I’m going to go out for a little while…” It’s too difficult for me to be in the same room with you when you’re acting in this manner.”

7. Set a good example with your own behavior.

Compassion and responsiveness are contagious, as is the ability to empathise. According to research, people who make an effort to be compassionate, open, and responsive to their partners report higher levels of satisfaction in their romantic relationships. Regardless of how frustrated you are with your SO at the moment, try your best to treat them the way you would want to be treated. Pay attention to their needs and do everything you can to approach them with compassion and empathy.

Always acknowledge and reward your partner when he or she opens up to you or acts in a responsive way. For example, you could say something like, “I appreciate you sharing that with me,” or “I’m grateful that we were able to sit down and talk about this.”

8. Look for other ways to connect.

Some people are more naturally open and affectionate than others, and this is a learned trait. When there are negative feelings in a relationship, distant or unemotional behaviour may be exhibited as a reaction. In other cases, however, your partner may simply be incapable of expressing affection in the same way that you are capable of. Consider whether or not your SO is uncomfortable expressing their feelings verbally. If this is the case, you can devote your efforts to learning (and speaking) their “love language.” For example, they may prefer to express or receive intimacy in the following ways:

Spending quality time with you.

Performing or receiving acts of service.

Giving or receiving gifts.

Expressing affection physically (e.g., through hugs, handholding, backrubs, or sexual intimacy).

9. Be patient with your partner and yourself.

You should avoid pressuring or coercing your partner into responding. At the same time, allow yourself to take a break if you find yourself losing your cool. It will take a significant amount of effort and time on both of your parts to change the way you interact with one another. Allow your partner the time and space they need to process their emotions, and gently remind them of your needs and expectations from time to time.

10. Practice self-care.

Being in a relationship with a partner who does not respond is extremely difficult. It is true that the stress of dealing with constant stonewalling from a romantic partner can have a negative effect on your physical health. When you’re feeling upset or overwhelmed as a result of your SO’s behaviour, take some time to relax and engage in activities that you enjoy doing independently of them. You might, for example, do the following:

Go for a walk

Eat a healthy snack

Take a relaxing bath or shower

Call a friend or family member to chat or vent

Work on a hobby or creative project


Do light stretches or yoga

11. See a therapist if you’re not making progress.

It is possible that you and your partner would benefit from an outside perspective. If you feel like things aren’t getting better, or if the situation between you and your partner is so tense that nothing is working, talk to your partner about going to a counsellor together. If they refuse to accompany you, you may want to consider going by yourself. The assistance of a therapist can help you develop stronger coping skills and provide you with advice on how to deal with your partner’s behavior—or even assist you in determining whether it is time to end the relationship.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for a therapist, speak with your doctor. They may be able to refer you to someone who has previous experience dealing with relationship problems.

When it comes to relationships, stonewalling or being unresponsive can be extremely damaging. In the event that your partner does it with the intent of hurting or manipulating you, this is considered abusive behaviour. It is critical for them to recognise the problem and express a willingness to work on it as soon as possible.

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