When you and your partner aren't getting along it's easy to feel like they don't give a flip about what's happening between the two of you in that moment. In the heat of a discussion your partner might glaze over and tune out, they might go into another room or they may even leave the house and go for a drive. So, what the heck? Do they just not care?
One thing to remember in those moments is that something IS happening for your partner during that time. It can be natural for you to end up feeling like you are in the relationship alone, that nothing can be worked out and that, if your partner really cared, they would stay there with you and hash things out. Well... not so fast!
What often happens for partners who shut down is that they simply become overwhelmed. If your husband or wife is the "shut down" type, you might think they are made of ice or that you've married a robot. The reality is, their wheels are turning and things are happening inside that make them feel so uncomfortable they have to try and move away from that discomfort.
These emotional moments can be especially overwhelming for partners who like to "fix." If they see you hurting and they have no idea what to do, or they feel like they're trying to help and nothing seems to be working, then they might assume it would be best if they leave (emotionally / physically) until the dust settles to not "make things worse." Unfortunately, in their attempt to not make things worse, they often leave their partner feeling alone, unloved and unimportant.
In these difficult moments of your relationship, try to remember that there is something happening in your partner and they are not made of stone or ice (even though it can easily feel that way). Your partner likely doesn't have a clue how to put words to what they are experiencing, or would even recognize it as overwhelm, but there is something happening. For the partners wanting to remove themselves anytime things feel heated, try to remember that not everything needs to be "fixed" and sometimes just being present means more than any attempt at a solution. Don't worry about being perfect... just be present!
If you and your partner could use some help navigating these situations, I'd be happy to help. We've all (well, the majority of couples have) been there! The patterns of relationship don't have to leave us feeling confused or alone, but can help us gain understanding and find meaningful connection with each other. No blame or shame necessary, just a little dedicated time and the willingness to learn.
Have a great week!
Licensed Professional Counselor