My Husband Shuts Down When We Argue: When Your Partner Shuts You Out

Q: "I need some marriage advice. Is arguing bad for a marriage? My husband says it's healthy to argue from time to time but I try to avoid marital conflict at all costs. Can you shed some light on this for us?"

A: Relationship conflicts are a natural part of marriage or a long-term romantic relationship. And marital conflict isn't necessarily a sign that your relationship is in trouble. As someone married over forty years recently shared with me, "A good argument makes for a good relationship!"

So I agree with your husband's view that an argument (periodic marital conflict) can help keep your marriage running on all cylinders, but I'd like to add a few caveats.

We need to make a distinction between a "good argument" and a "bad argument"-since not all conflict is healthy. The good news is that there are signs that can help you and your spouse/partner figure out if conflict is benefiting your relationship or hurting it.

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Let's look at what distinguishes a healthy conflict from an unhealthy one.

Characteristics of a healthy argument

A healthy conflict:

1. Clears the air and brings important issues out into the open;

2. Informs you about what is important to your spouse/partner;

3. Informs you about what isn't working for your spouse/partner;

4. Gives direction to any changes that maybe needed;

5. Doesn't deteriorate into name-calling and hostilities, even when emotions run high.

Characteristics of an unhealthy argument

An unhealthy conflict:

1. Shuts down communication;

2. Doesn't lead to any insight into each other's needs/viewpoints;

3. Consists of hostile verbal attacks (a total lack of respect for each other in the moment);

4. Causes emotional wounding and defensiveness (and little else);

5. Keeps the status quo of the relationship and prevents growth.

The reality is that couples will have both healthy and unhealthy arguments during their relationship. To help you determine if an argument is healthy (useful to the growth of the relationship), you and your spouse/partner can engage in a post-conflict analysis. You'll need to let time pass to allow the ambers of heated emotions cool before this analysis occurs.

Any post-conflict analysis should start with a recognition that you love and care about each other. Never minimize your positive feelings toward each other. Then ask yourself the following:

~What was accomplished by this most recent conflict?

~What did I learn about myself?

~What did I learn about my spouse/partner?

~How can I use this information to strengthen our relationship?

The answers to these questions can help you shape and strengthen your marriage or relationship.

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I don't believe you can have "Constructive" Criticism between husband and wife.

Criticism kills passion, love and closeness.

In the same way Self-Criticism diminishes self-esteem, confidence and overall happiness.

Even in business, surveys and statistical data show that frequent Criticism is responsible for millions of employee sick days, job dissatisfaction and resignations. Which in turn contributes to a decrease in productivity and profits.

Ongoing Criticism between parents and children can lead to built-up resentment, rebellion, rows, and long-term fall out.

Having seen the damaging effect frequent criticism has in a relationship as well as to a person, where an individual loses their sense of who they are and happiness. I wanted to share some insights and new ways of expressing complaints.

This is especially important if you are someone who really values and needs words of affirmation, admiration and appreciation. As criticism is the opposite of what you need, it is likely you will want to distance yourself, seek attention outside, and even dread seeing that person.

Another mistake equally as hurtful as the criticism can be, is when one in the relationship states: "you're too sensitive" or "don't be so emotional" or "you're over-reacting" whilst you may believe this to be true, it only ever exasperates the problem, it's like pouring petrol onto a fire. Pain will flame up inside of them and the friction between you may last days, weeks, months or longer.

This is where small disagreements can become long-term grudges and drive a wedge between a couple. To resolve issues like this a couple needs to look not only at the person frequently doing the criticizing but also at whether self-criticism is playing a role. How we react to others and treat others has a lot to do with our own BS, issues, past history and this is a sign we need to work on ourselves, which I will also address below.

Now, I am a realist, that offers practical strategies and recognize that you will always have some complaints about a person you live with. But there is a HUGE difference between a complaint and a criticism. The difference is in how much damage it does to the relationship and person.

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A complaint focuses on a specific behavior or event. It does not attack the person's character. For example:

"I'm really annoyed that you didn't clear up the living room after you last night. We agreed we would do it after ourselves. Could you please do it now?" Like many complaints it has 3 parts to it:

1. Here is how I feel, "I feel annoyed"
2. A specific action, inaction or situation: "clear up the living room",
3. Here is what I need you to do now, instead, want, prefer "could you do it now?"

In contrast a criticism is global and expresses negative feelings, judgments, opinions about the others personality, character, or intent.

"Why are you always so forgetful? You never do anything and I hate having to clear up after you all the time. You just don't care."

You can see in the example: a judgment that the person doesn't care is being made. As well as the use of "always" this is a form of criticism rather than a specific one off complaint. The use of the word never is another.

The statement "what's wrong with you?" also is best avoided, as this can turn any complaint into a criticism.

Here are some more examples:

Complaint: "I wish you told me earlier that you were too tired to make love. I'm disappointed and a little frustrated, I guess. Please just let me know next time when you're not in the mood, I'm fine with a "no".

Criticism: "Why are you always so cold and selfish? It's not fair to lead me on. What is wrong with you, maybe you need to get yourself checked out?"

Complaint: "I get scared when you drive fast. Please can you drive slower, there are so many idiots on the road and driving so fast makes me feel uncomfortable."

Criticism: "You're driving like a maniac again, why are you so aggressive, you are going to get us killed, I cannot stand being in car with you. You just don't' think or care about us at all, do you?"

Complaint: "I feel like you're not interested in me anymore. When you come home, you are always on your phone, lap top or watching TV. I'd love it if you spent some time with me first or we went out and did something. I'd like us to interact and share more."

Criticism: "Everything and everyone else comes before me. I am always last on your list. Why are you so selfish? Always got your head buried in your lap top or phone, you make me feel like crap and am I that boring? What's wrong with you?

If you are hearing echoes of yourself in these you are not alone, criticisms are very common in relationships. We hear and see them everywhere, movies, sitcoms and comedy shows are rife with criticism and sarcasm. But it is far from humorous when it becomes an every day occurrence. Criticism can destroy love and can also destroy a person's confidence and sense of self-worth.

Using the above 3 part formula, you can learn to state a complaint instead of criticize. The odd one or two that slip out in the heat of the moment is natural but if you recognize it's becoming frequent you need to take action now. My hope is that through this article you will be able to transform the way you and your spouse relate.

Change from criticism to complaints and benefit your marriage.

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My spouse wants a divorce! I wasn't expecting this and now I don't know what to do! In this article I will discuss 5 critical mistakes that you must avoid if you want to save your marriage. Time is not on your side, so please read the following and then click on the link at the bottom to save your marriage.

I speak from experience on this matter because few years ago my wife hit me with the devastating news that our marriage was over and that she wanted a divorce. I was shocked and hurt beyond my ability t describe! You probably know exactly how I felt if this has happened to you.

Not being prepared for this news and being very emotional, I reacted in ways that seemed natural to me at the time. There are a number of extremely common mistakes that most people seem to make when they are hit with a divorce that they don't want. The following are 5 critical mistakes you must avoid:

1. Do not beg and plead in an attempt to try and talk your spouse out of the divorce.

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2. Do not argue with your spouse, place blame, or become outwardly angry.

3. Do not keep calling, emailing or texting your spouse.

4. Do not keep apologizing for everything they are accusing you of and do not make promises to change.

5. Do not let your spouse see you sad and depressed.

The problem with all of these reactions is that they are counter-productive to saving your marriage from a divorce. They make you appear desperate and actually surrender any power you may still have in your relationship. The net effect of this is to drive your spouse even further away!

There is a way to begin saving your marriage right now! The real truth is that there are specific things you must say and do and specific ways you must behave to change the environment you are in and save your marriage. Don't worry too much if you've made some of the 5 critical mistakes already. Just stop doing them at once. It is vital that you get yourself in the most resourceful state possible immediately to take the necessary steps for saving your marriage.

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Going through a separation and divorce can leave you exhausted, in grief and filled with mixed emotions. There are often so many changes to face and important decisions to make, that it can be a time of intense stress.

During this period you may feel like your life is falling apart. However, the end of marriage can be the beginning of personal growth - after you get your stress under control.

To help you get your life back on track, I recommend tackling stress by working on yourself from the inside out first. When it comes to handling stress - we can be so focused on the outer world and solutions we want. Amina came to me and said "I just need him to change his attitude and behavior towards me and the children" Many others say to me "Nicola, I just need more money, a new job, a new car, holiday then I will be less stressed" Time also comes up often, "I need more time, then things will be better and then I will be less stressed" Whilst these may be true and I do help my clients save money and time, as well as devise ways to create more income and handle difficult ex's. I also like to emphasize that the fastest way to reduce stress can be achieved by focusing on what we can change now and what we have control over - the inner world.

Challenge Negative Thinking
When we are feeling low it can put a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future. In my early 20's I went through a really difficult time and I appreciate that you cannot get out of a pessimistic frame of mind by just "thinking positive" Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won't cut it. Rather the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts and challenge them. Challenge your thinking, when negative thoughts use to enter my head I would ask myself "how is this helping me?" Then I would think "it's not, so move on". If you catch yourself thinking negatively stop yourself and either challenge the thoughts or focus on something else. For example, what one thing can I get done on my to do list today etc.

Meditate
You can choose to meditate or simply have alone time where you are doing nothing. Ensuring you are interruption free, I suggest turning off your mobile. You can simply sit in silence as a way of closing your eyes and letting your body relax, even 10 minutes can make such a difference. Taking time for yourself is an excellent way of keeping things in perspective and not over reacting to stressful situations.

What do I really need to do to make my spouse love me again? Is it possible to build massive attraction in my spouse?

To learn the killer, advanced strategies to save your marriage, simply click here!

Surround yourself with Positive People
Another inner thing to do is to ensure you don't isolate yourself. Maintaining relationships and social activities are important to replenish you. Most people fear they are not good company so they think they are better off staying at home alone. But often getting ready and going out can change our moods, plus that's what supportive friends and family are there for, to lift your spirits and change your state when you need it. Whether your depressed, stressed or in a bad mood having a different perspective or environment can help you focus on the present.

Eat Mood-Boosting Foods
Many studies have shown that eating healthy and ensuring you get all essential vitamins can help the body's natural defenses fight against the emotional wear and tear of a divorce, such as lack of sleep, low moods, exhaustion.
I researched and studied about depression and food in order to help Barry. He came to me for coaching because he felt depressed after his wife left him and was having panic attacks. Whilst in our VIP day together we cleared his past baggage and addressed his concerns, I also wanted to provide other support, as I take a holistic approach to coaching. This is the quickest way to ensure my clients go from surviving to thriving as soon as possible. The below comes from the Mental Health Organisation in the UK. Many of my clients are reporting benefits from these tips. So I hope the below are of use to you.

1, Don't skip meals. I remember when my relationship ended, I didn't feel like eating and many of my clients report the same. But missing meals is the exact opposite to what your mind and body needs. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours. The last thing I want in my life is to be irritable or feel tired. I deserve better and so do you, so have healthy snacks handy. I am always on the go from one coaching appointment to the next, running VIP days and working on my pod cast series (to be launched soon). So I always ensure I have hummus and vegetable sticks, seeds and nuts available to snack on.

2, Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta, french fries but these "feel good" foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

3, Try super-foods rich in nutrients that can boost mood, such as bananas (magnesium to decrease anxiety, vitamin B6 to promote alertness) In fact aim to boost your B vitamins as studies have shown that deficiencies in vitamin B such as folic acid and b-12 can trigger depression. Eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans or take a B complex tablet.

4, Omega 3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood, according to studies foods rich in certain omega 3-fats can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), Vegetable oils and nut's especially walnuts, flax seeds and tofu.

Sweat it out
You may be sick of hearing it, but exercising regularly does more than keep you fit. It also releases endorphins and is a great outlet for frustration or bitterness. I get that finding time can be difficult, studies have shown that even a 10 minute walk can boost your mood for 2 hours. Can you walk at lunch time or 10 minutes when you first wake up?

For anger I run, it really helps me release it. I just run and run until it's gone. For stress I like walking, it helps me to relax. Other men I have coached found Bikram yoga and cycling a good release. Farah came to me for children and co-parenting divorce support. She couldn't afford her gym membership after she got divorced, she needed every penny she had for family outgoings. So I suggested she try "friends of yoga" they have yoga sessions outdoors free daily. She also likes walking around safa park to distress. I'd love to hear what you do to help work off a bad mood, share them with me and I will post them on my blog. Worrying about your children and divorce can be a major stress - you may find my free e-book on parenting and divorce useful.

Get some support
If you are overwhelmed by your to do list don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're finding it hard to let go of the past, make decisions and get back peace of mind, then talk to a good friend or family member. If you don't feel comfortable sharing your thoughts because you don't want to bother them or feel you will be judged then consider hiring a coach. A divorce coach is your dedicated thought partner during and after separation and divorce.

To reduce stress or any low moods you need to focus on things you can control and things we want to change (the Inner and Outer). The outer increasing finances, handling a difficult ex, dealing with lawyers, co-parenting challenges, telling others about your divorce are all important areas I cover with clients but also important is the inner work you can do.
I hope this has been useful to you, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saying or doing the wrong thing can actually cause your spouse to feel even more distant from you. You can make your spouse fall back in love with you, all over again.

You don't have to worry about whether your spouse is on the brink of asking you for a divorce. You can control the situation and use specific techniques to naturally make them fall hopelessly in love with you.

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