A lack of emotional intelligence may be why men pull away during fights, but learning how to have effective communication skills while arguing can help.
Many relationships suffer from a lack of emotional intelligence, which can harm the emotional health of your connection with your partner. In every relationship, there will be conflict; either arguments that escalate or disagreements that leave you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by your emotional states.
But if your relationship has a “pursue-withdraw” dynamic, as many men and women do, then you might be causing each other emotional distress without realizing it.
This dynamic, where one person reacts emotionally and the other pulls back, might be one reason why your man seems to “shut down” whenever you need him the most.
It might seem like he’s he in the room but definitely not in the conversation. Do you get frustrated when he doesn’t respond to your need to be heard?
The majority of couples in conflict polarize, which means they may separate and adopt two very different ways of coping with relationship struggles. Emotionally focused therapists use the terms “pursuer” and “withdrawer” to describe these positions.
The “pursuer” is the one who engages and continues to try and work out the conflict or issue. The withdrawer, however, pulls away. And the more the pursuer pushes the issue, the more the withdrawer removes themselves emotionally.
This kind of behavior is a sign that you and your partner need to increase your emotional intelligence and learn how to give emotional support for each other.
Often, pursuers are female and withdrawers are male — which may explain why when you’re upset your guy seems to “shut down” emotionally. Though the opposite is sometimes the case, it’s more common for men to withdraw and women to pursue.
Relationships with two withdrawers can find themselves immobilized; rarely do you find two pursuers in a relationship.
When pursuers feel insecure, they express their emotions in an attempt to gain emotional reassurance from their partners. They want to know that their partner feels as deeply about an issue as they do.
If their partner does not respond with emotional authenticity and accurately mirror their emotions, the pursuer becomes even more insecure. They try again with even more emotional intensity to get the point across.
The expectation is that more emotion will surely pull at the heartstrings of their beloved. But that’s not the case.
If the lack of emotional response persists, the pursuer often expresses emotion by going on the offensive. They may use exasperation — doggedly continuing their argument — to try to get the withdrawer to engage, and the conflict escalates.
Withdrawers become immobilized when confronted by their pursuing partner’s heightened emotion. They tend to be uncomfortable expressing, or even feeling, emotion in the first place.
They’ll often try to come across as unaffected by the emotion aimed at them. In the withdrawer’s mind, expressing emotion will only make the situation worse.
He may be afraid that if he allows himself to express his feelings, an angry outburst could result, and that will not be productive. It’s certainly not what the pursuing partner is going after.
Why does your man shut down emotionally?
Well in most cases, a withdrawer feels overwhelmed and does not know how to use emotion to respond to the angry protest of his pursuing partner.
The way to break this cycle is by increasing your emotional intelligence and awareness.
This pursue-withdraw dynamic creates the perfect storm in nearly every troubled relationship.
The pursuer’s emotional flooding, or overload, causes the withdrawer to almost automatically flee and shut down emotionally rather than fight for the relationship. This pushes the primitive panic button in the pursuer.
Pursuers must see their partner’s emotion. They must know that their partner cares about their pain by responding with emotion. If this does not happen, the pursuit will continue on and on.
Couples caught in this negative cycle of interaction repeatedly fall into the same pattern of conflict. This is confusing and painful, and often hurts the relationship.
In time, the smallest disagreement can send you into the spiral of another negative cycle.