Dynamics: He withdraws, I need to come and bring him back

Postby MidnightTheCat » Tue May 15, 2018 8:53 pm

Hello guys!

I (a female) have been together with my guy for about 8 years now (we're in our late 20's), so you can hopefully assume that we have some knowledge of one another's psyche by now and a meeting of minds that makes up for any problems I might discuss here. Please excuse the simplified, black-and-white way in which I'll attempt to describe the main recurring issue in our relationship ;)

The issue (a loop from hell, described from my perspective):
He never opens up about anything. He's constantly aloof and emotionally stingy. He struggles with the idea of reciprocation and creating a win-win scenario. He feels it's unsafe to show emotional vulnerabiliy and assumes that if he opens up, he'll be annihilated and invalidated by the other person. He doesn't know how to communicate, and whenever there is a conflict or tension between us, he stops speaking to me altogether and just stares resentfully or engages in some compulsive activity. He's highly passive-aggressive without ever explaining what it is that bothers him or how I could change my behavior next time. He never expresses anger or discontent, but instead resents me for reasons unknown to me and gives me a cold shoulder. He never expresses his needs, wants, and preferences.

For me, his withdrawal feels like abandonement, a big life-long issue of mine. It's so easy to hit a wall of resentment and ice, even when I'm just describing my thoughts or sharing an idea with him. Even though I believe I'm decently atuned to his emotional state in real time, I feel it's impossible - most of the time - for me to know what made him feel bad and where I over-stepped one of his boundaries. I just see the resentment flare up in his eyes, and then I feel him leaving the situation emotionally. When I ask him about it, I get no answer. I'm still calm at this point, but the familiar, dreaded despair starts nagging at me. The problem is - he's already withdrawn, and not even a change of topic can erase the tension. I'm spiralling into my abandonemt issues. He's building a thicker wall. I try to communicate. He remains silent. On and on like that, until I burst into tears because I'm in my personal hell of isolation. It can go on for a long time without any resolution, but eventually, I become vulnerable enough that he lowers the wall a little, and we end up making up.

That said, the original issue that had started this hellish loop of tension is brushed under the carpet. I feel like I'm the only one who wants it resolved, but I can see no way how it can be done. I'm sick of this by-default relationship setting where a fight is made into a dogma and where I'm expected to be a hyper-atuned mind-reader who never has a problem with anything concerning the relationship or the other person's attitude. I'd love to find ways to open up the communication channels so that we can reach resolutions and closure and keep moving forward toward an ever-improving, connected relationship.

Our major childhood conditioning/traumas are a "perfect" match: I re-live the feeling of abandonment/exclusion every day while he re-experiences how it felt to not to get to have oneself, to not to get to have a unique personality and own preferences and dislikes, all the while neither of us tries to make the other one feel bad (or wants the other one to feel bad). A trauma triggers a trauma.

He said that I have not personally really given him a reason to feel unsafe to open up to me, but there were more than enough reasons in his childhood. Likewise, due to my childhood, it is very, very difficult for me to not react to his withdrawals as much as I do and just 'wait them out' because I feel that he'll never come back to me emotionally.

It's a continuos ebb-and-flow, him often pulling away and me feeling like I have to bring him back.

My questions to you guys: Should there be a shift in our dynamics, I feel like I'm the one who will take the first step towards making any change. So what can I do to make this man feel more safe around me? How can I create a more receptive atmosphere? Also, how can I make myself feel more safe during the periods of his 'emotional absence' so that he has enough time to process things at his own speed and perhaps even come back to me on his own? Any other suggestions?

Our backgrounds: While his childhood home was one with a bulldozing, controlling mother and a passive-aggressive, bystander father, I was raised by an unreliable, codependent mother and her psychopathic mother while my father was as good as absent.

If he (my partner) expressed a desire or a dislike or exhibited a specific tendency in his childhood, it was immediately criticized, invalidated, and overruled by his mother, and so he developed this attitude of either faking emotions and behaviours or keeping all that is true and real about him to himself. I had no one to depend on or turn to, and on top of my total loneliness, I was constantly betrayed by my mother who was my main attachment figure (my mom used me as a 'leverage' to gain approval of my psychopathic grandma, her mother).

And for you typology etc. freaks:
He's an INTP (5w4) with a slight tendency towards schizoid behavoir. His childhood attachment style was on the avoidant side.

I'm an INFP (4w5) with a tendency towards depression. My attachment style was ambivalent-anxious.
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue May 15, 2018 9:35 pm

What are your specific behaviors that trigger him shutting down? What was the last specific event that caused him to withdraw?
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Postby quietvoice » Tue May 15, 2018 11:02 pm

My main feeling that I get from reading this post is that you are chasing this man. From your description, this person doesn't seem to want to be in a relationship.

MidnightTheCat wrote:I (a female) have been together with my guy for about 8 years now (we're in our late 20's)

. . . Likewise, due to my childhood, it is very, very difficult for me to not react to his withdrawals as much as I do and just 'wait them out' because I feel that he'll never come back to me emotionally.

So, you get with this guy when the two of you were young (was he your first?), and you continue to go after him for fear of being alone, and he puts up with it because he's too weak of a man to make it any different.

Why don't you be kind to yourself, get away from having to deal with another person's life issues, and help yourself to some alone time with some good counselors or personal development teachers or whatever floats your boat for getting mentally and emotionally healthy yourself. GO FIND YOU.
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Postby Candid » Wed May 16, 2018 9:17 am

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