Why Do Guys Shut Down?

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I just got this in my email from my husband, Jeffrey Mark Levine, and it’s pretty heart-piercing stuff…with some serious answers.

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From Jeffrey:

“I’ll start with why I used to shut down.

It’s only with years of working on myself, and practicing new habits that I can speak about it with some clarity. So, here’s my current understanding of “old me.”

All I’m feeling is anger and I’m afraid to dig underneath to figure out why.

I’m scared of my anger because in my family of origin, I saw no examples of anger being expressed healthily.

I could use my silence as a weapon, to keep my partner unsure of what was going on with me.

I really had no clue what was going on internally. I just knew I needed to isolate.

I was depressed, and when I was faced with difficult feelings that I didn’t understand, shutting down seemed like the best option – which would lead to a cycle of depression-shutting down-depression, etc.

I didn’t feel safe to express what was going on with me, even when I had an inkling of what the problem was

Once I was able to speak, it would often come out as blame, sarcasm, defensiveness, deflection, avoidance or attack.

Why am I telling you this?

Because in my practice, I recognize this behavior in my clients.

Guys are worse, for sure, than women, at navigating tough feelings.

And I’m going to venture a guess, if you’re reading this (and you’re on my email list), it’s because some of this rings true – either for you, or for your partner.

Before I was married (and even early in my marriage), these situations would snowball. Because my partners weren’t skilled either.

What is the skill I’m talking about? Reconnection. After disconnection.

There was so much ego involved. We want to be seen as “right.”

Completely forgetting about the other person, over there who is also going through something difficult.

Completely forgetting about the relationship and what it takes to nurture closeness and connection.

So, what happened with me?

A lot of things – too many to go into in a reasonable amount of time here. (Though if you have specific questions, please write to me and I’ll go into more detail.)

The skill needed to reconnect after a disconnection is one you’ve probably heard of, “Holding Space.”

Here’s a clear definition of Holding Space: “Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment for the other person to express themselves.”

The opposite of Holding Space is defending and explaining. (I’ll go deeper on “defending and explaining” in a future newsletter.)

So, how do you create a supportive and non-judgmental environment?

With your words.

By saying things like: “I care about what you’re going through.”

“Feel free to share as much or as little as you’re comfortable with.”

And things like: “I’m here to support you in any way you need. I’m not going anywhere.”

And then stopping. Don’t say anything else afterwards. Let those words hang in the air and sink in.

Invariably I get the question: “Why should I do that if he won’t do that for me?”

Fair question. And I can’t answer that for everyone reading this, for every situation.

However, I know this: changed behavior has to come from somewhere in order to create the change in the relationship.

Since you’re reading this, I know that you’re interested and willing to figure out how to shift things.

For sure, this won’t fix everything. It’s a door in. A step forward.

By choosing to handle things differently, you’re saying the status quo is no longer an option.

At the end of every newsletter I invite you to reach out, tell me your story, ask me your questions. Not a lot of people do that. But the offer still stands.

Until next time,

Jeffrey

P.S. If you have a topic or question you’d like me to cover, please tell me about it. I’m committed to making these emails valuable for you.

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And when you’re ready, here are some ways I can help you >>

If you’re in pain and frustrated and not sure what to do next, I offer Urgent Care coaching – I can usually meet with you within 24-48 hours. Book an appointment now.

Some couples are ready to jump in and begin the healing together. If that’s you (and your partner), book a Free Discovery Call and let’s create a custom coaching program, tailored to your specific needs.

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