23rd August 2016 - 4 mins read
Message: I am in a serious relationship with a man I truly love.. he is the one and we plan to marry and our parents are involved.
Yet, he has this dark side in which he shuts down completely and shuts me off if he is ever having a problem (like at work or the death of a relative).. it has been happening very frequently and I feel like the days we are having in which he is sad and not talking to me is more than our happy talking days..
It is bothering me and I don’t know how to deal with him and his attitude and how he deals with tough situations in life.. we will be announcing our engagement soon and this thing is actually making me think twice, because I need a man I can rely on and life is tough and full of bad things and what if he shuts down on me like this when we have kids and families involved?
(PS: I talked to him about his attitude and he just said this is me and this is how I deal with stress and sadness.. I stay away until I have a clear mind then I come back)
Dear Female, 24
Believe it or not, it’s not the first time I hear about the nature of your problem - both in a personal and professional setting. Naturally, when we are in a relationship we want to feel connected to our partner. It is certainly irritating when we see them struggling with something and they will not open up about it. It can also be hurtful, especially when we only see the situation from our angle because we are not allowed to see it from theirs.
I do not want to get too much into stereotypes by saying, he is a man and he reacts differently to loss through death and stress, but I will say that we are all different and we all handle situations differently. Some people have the tendency to go into a bubble and isolate themselves while they are trying to find solutions for challenging situations, and others find relief by talking about it all the time. Simplified we can say: It is a preference like some like apple juice and others like cranberry juice. In no way is that a guideline or an indicator of how reliable a person is. Since you have not mentioned any situation in which he actually let you down by isolating himself, I assume, this has not happened before and you are just insecure because of the fear of it. And by letting you down I mean, leaving you hanging in a situation you really needed help and not only a person to talk to.
But I understand your concern fully. When we get married, the plan is to spend the rest of our lives with that person and we tend to fall into doubts a lot before we actually tie the knot. Every flaw the partner has will be viewed under a magnifier and we ask ourselves more than once if this is what we really want. But fear leads to over thinking hypothetical situations. You cannot know how he will react or change once he becomes a father. Same as he cannot know how you will change after you become a mother, as a matter of fact even you cannot foresee how you will change when you become a mother. It is part of the journey to discover that along the way. So far you can only judge how he presents himself and his tendencies.
Right now you see him as “the man you truly love” and as someone who tends to isolate himself when he is upset or struggling with loss. I am sure you know, that we cannot make other people change, no matter how much they love us. They need to want to change. So the question will be: Is him “isolating himself occasionally” something you can live with? Let’s look into that.
Ask yourself: What do I love the most about him? What made me think that I really want to commit to him? Only you will know the answers to that. I suggest, write those answers down and I guarantee you, you will come up with a few wonderful things about him. It will lift your spirits greatly. And in the end, ask yourself again. These are all his positive traits, is the isolation he puts himself in something I can live with? I am almost certain the answer will be yes.
You see, you did not describe him as a person who loves to flirt or as someone who lies all the time or cheats. Because trust me, there is no easy fix for the flaws just mentioned. It requires a lot of determination and effort of both partners to overcome a situation that evolves from dishonesty.
How about you just tell him, I recognise that you deal with certain situations differently than I do, help me understand when I need to give you space. Tell him that you do not want to take it personally when he shuts down but that you also cannot help it sometimes, and that he needs to help you understand what to do about it. If you approach it like that, in 99% of all cases, you will earn a positive response. Maybe not one that satisfies you, maybe not one you can relate to, but definitely one that will make you feel his love for you, just by understanding that it is indeed not your fault. Tell him, that you are happy to give him the space he needs as long as he comes explaining afterwards why he needed it; just for you to understand.
I really hope that helped a bit.